For added enjoyment, rewatch episode 95. But hey, do I need to tell you to do that? ^_^ Please give me C&C, since this is my first SxM fic, it can help determine if I should continue writing. Hasta!
Disclaimers: You've read them before. On with the story…
The Untold Story
"Well… they went to go visit a grave." Megumi frowned slightly at the obvious stupidity of the question. After all, Kenshin and Kaoru had swung by the clinic to announce that they would be leaving. And Sanosuke was right there with her too! Is he just doing it to make small talk?
"It's a little bit off season though…" His words died off. Yes, definitely small talk.
It didn't make any sense. This was the man who had a million retorts under his sleeve, and here he was talking about… appropriate grave visiting times? What a great way to get the conversation rolling.
She shifted her attentions to wrapping the cloth around his wrist, pretending to ignore the silence that followed. After all, I am a doctor first and a woman last. This is how it has always been. Megumi could see that his hand had actually started the healing process, a sign that Sanosuke was actually listening to her please to leave it out of trouble. Underneath those bandages, she could run over his calluses from the giant zanbatou he used to carry around, and the jutting edges where the bones haven't quite connected. Despite these imperfections, they were the hands of a good man. Strong hands. The hands that gave me a blanket…
That night was the one that stood out in her mind the most. One of Sanosuke's friends was shot by a wooden cannon, blood dripping down his legs and onto the clinic floor. "What happened?" she rose from her desk in alarm.
"Some Hishi Manji shot him with a wooden cannon. They're crazy!"
"Give her the details later!" The voice of reason rang through the room. Sanosuke's voice.
My, that was an odd case of role reversal…
"Lay him down on the bed. Kaoru-san? Get some bandages. Yahiko, go boil some water." She pulled her hair into a loose ponytail and wrapped a bandana over it, anything to get her hair out of her face. With her hair down, there was the possibility that it could infect the wound. She walked over to a corner of the room where a basin of water waited. Megumi washed her hands and didn't even bother to wring them out. This man could die from blood loss at any moment. The time to act was now.
"I'm going to start the operation now." She reached into her smock and pulled out a small metal case, filled with a myriad of knives and scalpels.
She heard the young man beside Sanosuke voice his opinion. "Hey, are you sure this is ok? She's a woman."
The young doctor had no time to feel hurt. She made a quick assessment of the damage. "The gunshot passed right through his body. This is going to be difficult. Megumi held taut a piece of fine wire, needed to cut away the burned flesh. "Hold his arms and legs down."
And there began one of the longest nights of her life. Well into the darkness, nothing wandered through her mind except to get this patient to live. With a doctor's patience, she snipped, sewed, patched, and disinfected until he was out of harm's way. Although her body and eyes ached for sleep, she would not allow her mind to become tired. Megumi ignored the pain in her lower back to concentrate on the task at hand.
And he was there with me.
Long after everyone else had fallen asleep, Megumi succumbed to her feelings of exhaustion. "There. That should do it…" Her arms mechanically removed her headband as she sank to the floor. "He'll… be fine…" All she could see in her mind's eye was blood, nerves, and muscle. Then she lapsed into blackness.
She awoke the next morning, finding to her surprise that she was the first one up. Kaoru still had her head down on the desk, Yahiko was slumped against the wall, and Sanosuke…
She struggled to her feet, feelings in a tangle. Disappointment? Anger? What? A tattered brown blanket feel to the floor and landed in a heap at her feet. Did she put that there? Did she reach for it in her sleep? She picked it up and put it on Yahiko. No matter.
She didn't even consider the possibility that maybe Sanosuke put it on her until later that week…
What am I thinking? I'm always a doctor first, then a woman last…
She snapped out of her daydream and broke the silence. "Hai… that's all for today. You can come again next week." Come again next week? Why? He's already almost healed… she frowned and closed her eyes. Would he think of her as nothing but a doctor? When his hand healed, would he just dismiss her as one of the doctors who treated him, or did he somehow see a woman underneath? A hurt woman. A lonely woman. But a woman nonetheless. Inside, she gave in to her conscience. She did have feelings for him, though she couldn't quite put her finger on it. Was it love? She had not been taught what true love was, the feeling was as foreign as some of the patients that she had to treat.
Where do we go from here?
"Aa." Sano had finally replied, and the doctor could hear him rustling. She didn't dare look at his face, lest she reveal what she had been thinking. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Sanosuke deeply engrossed in relocating a particular strip of gauze.
"Sensei, is that man your boyfriend?" Megumi flustered at the memory, and replayed it in her head. She had smacked a nosy patient on his injured leg after Sano had dropped off that dog at her house. "Of course not! He'll never be!"
Well then why… the doctor wondered… did I care so much about another person's opinion?
Feeling suffocated, and wanting to end her thoughts, she broke the silence. "What's wrong? You can go home now." She bit her lip at her comment, almost making it sound like a command. She turned her head to look at the shoji, praying he would stay to protect her from her own mind.
"Well… Kenshin and jou-chan are going out today… so I was wondering…"
Yes? About what? Her heart raced.
"So I'm wondering about lunch today…'cause…you know…"
Megumi tried hard not to smile, he always had to find a way to work food into the conversation. Her eyes grew serious as the nagging voice repeated over and over: Doctor first, woman last, doctor first, woman last…She searched his face for any kind of sarcasm but found none. All that she saw was a goofy grin, like the one he always wore when he was making fun of her.
Making fun of me?
She thought of her wish, the one she had made a few weeks ago, along with Kaoru and the three Oniwa-Banshu. "I wish… I wish that idiot would get smarter… but I can't hope for miracles." The sarcastic side of her said that she had only wasted a yen in making that wish, but her optimist side begged to differ. He had not once said a spiteful word since that day, no more biting comments at her expense, no more "Fox Lady". He appeared more thoughtful and considerate of his surroundings, something very unlike Sanosuke. She weighed the circumstances while staring, transfixed, at his face. Doctors are not to become emotionally attached to their patients… but… has the person who made that rule ever… fallen in love before? Megumi realized that unless they have walked the path themselves, they should not be giving do's or don'ts concerning the situation.
"Wakatta wa. Just stay outside until I finish my job for this morning."
"Really? Alright!!" A thud, then a remark of "Ow ow ow ow…" was her answer.
God, you really let me down concerning that wish… I specifically asked for him to get smarter, and I don't think this qualifies…The corners of her mouth twitched into a smile.
"Well, gimme' your promise. Don't forget it."
"Hai hai…" Some noises in the direction of the door had signaled to her that Sano had left. And just in time too. She didn't want him to hear what she wanted to say next. "I wish I could forget about it…"
"There, just remember to keep that leg still for a couple of days, and then you should be able to walk around." Megumi tied a splint around the elderly man's left calf. "If you do what I ask, then you should never have to come back."
Never have to come back? She stopped. Is it possible that the chicken-head purposely break his hand just to come back and see me? If this was the case, she growled at his impudence. There were better ways of getting attention than breaking hands. And if he liked her, why didn't he just come out and tell her?
Yeah, just as soon as you would.
But if you love him, why are you hiding it?
Love? Was it love? Could it be love? A growing blush spread over her cheeks before she could realize what she was thinking.
The man noticed her and gave an approving smile. "Still thinking about that young man, sensei?"
"Huh? What young man?" the tone had already given it away. Her earlier days, such a patient would be given a good beating, complete with fox ears. But now…
"Yes…" he chuckled. "He's very handsome, of course, not that I would know anything about what women want." Megumi laughed, a sound that sounded foreign to her ears, just a regular laugh. Not the one that Kaoru called "the hand", but a genuine one. She covered her face with her hair.
The man smiled kindly, one that showed all his yellow teeth. "Megumi-san. I know you've been through a lot in your life, even more so than us old folk who have seen the Bakumatsu and lived through it." His eyes turned serious as he leaned on the small table for support. "If I could offer you some advice…"
Is it that blatantly obvious? She scolded herself for acting so foolish.
"Love never changes. It can make you do some pretty stupid stuff. The prize you get when you don't get rejected weighs so much more than if you never ask at all." How can one with so many years can still hear the beating of young hearts? He got up to leave and flashed a toothy grin. "Arigatou gozaimasu sensei, I'm more than willing to offer some peals of wisdom if they will pay off my medical bills."
The last comment didn't register in Megumi's mind until long after the man had walked out of the door. The outcome is greater than the risks… The edges of her mouth twitched upwards, love never changes… The doctor sighed, got out of her seat, and walked towards the shoji. Looking back at the room that she had spent most of her day in, she realized that she was hungry.
Hungry? Oh God.
How could she forget? She had been thinking about him all day! Heart sinking, she ran as fast as her wooden clogs would allow her, thundering on the hollow wood of the house's support. Please… not too late… Sanosuke would be furious. She had gotten so preoccupied with the patients; she didn't even remember a promise she'd made earlier that day.
What time is it? Please, don't let me have missed this. Not that now…
"Sanosuke!" Megumi slid the shoji open with a bang, nearly knocking it off its hinges.
The sound of his name didn't deter him from looking up from his rice, spading in the rice with his chopsticks. A stack of dishes by the sink had betrayed her fear. Lunch was over.
He didn't seem to acknowledge the fact she was standing there, hair disheveled from the pace of her running. That made Megumi furious. I tried, I really did! Is it my fault that I have other commitments than a lunch with an idiot? I'm a doctor first, and a woman last, why can't you understand? "Don't just stand there, notice me!"
"Sanosuke, don't you dare give me the silent treatment."
"Stop ignoring me! Please…" Megumi had begun to think that she had single-handedly shattered all her hopes to be happy.
So is that what you want, happiness?
Movement. Thank God. Her eyes watched as he got up and walked to the sink, setting his bowl down so it wouldn't touch the other dishes. He strode past her, not even attempting eye contact.
Why is he acting like such a baby?
Why are you still putting up a front? He has every right to be. The conflicting sides had started to wage a war inside, and it didn't look like anyone was going to win.
Her eyes shifted to what seemed to be his target. The door. Sanosuke swept past, and Megumi could smell the sweat and the musk that was him. Only him. Against her mind's wishes, her arm grabbed him by his sleeve and tugged him back into the room. "Please…don't ignore me anymore…"
His face was pinched, as if having to eat alone was one of the biggest hardships he had ever suffered. "Likewise." His eyes were still glazed and transfixed on the door, not once wandering off to comfort her.
Megumi's heart felt like it was going to split in two, she had just trampled all over a person. "I'm sorry… Sano, I'll make it up to you, I promise."
"Another promise fox?"
Finally, she'd gotten a reaction. She noted his face was still staring at the door, but that didn't matter right now. She'd gotten him to speak. "Yes! Dinner, I'll make you dinner…please?" She didn't realize how loud she said that until Ayame lifted her head from inspecting something in the ground.
Boy, I feel like an idiot…
"Um… of course…" she hastily added, brushing stray strands of hair out of her eyes. "That's only if you…"
"Forgive me…" she finished. If that wasn't enough apology...
"Ah onna…" Sanosuke looked down at her, grinning broadly. "You missed our date." Their faces were separated by inches, but doctor was already smiling with joy.
Date? Well… I'd never thought of it like that…
So relieved was she at his acceptance, she didn't even think about what he said. I seem to be doing that a lot today, especially when Sanosuke is involved… Feigning mock horror, she pushed him away with one hand, feeling her former arrogance take over again. "There's no way I'd go on a date with a chicken-head dressed like you. For one thing…" Megumi leaned closer to his gi. "… you smell like a drunkard."
Sano put his hands in his pockets, and Megumi saw the downcast look on his face. She'd instantly regretted her arrogance taking over, what he did in his time made not a bit a difference to her. Sano will be Sano. It was unfair to expect more.
Then why don't you say that?
In a desperate attempt to break the barrier that her egotism had created, she let out a small sigh and touched his arm. "Really, I promise. You just chop the wood over there and I'll start heating the water for your bath."
Am I really saying this? This isn't me…
Sano glanced up, eyes shining. He looks just like a little kid… He seemed genuinely touched by her sudden kindness. A grin crept over his face, eyes slanting evilly. Megumi knew that look… "Only if you get in with me."
Her face was flaring again, she'd never admit to herself that that might seem like a good idea. Her haughtiness returned, with a vengeance. "Out, out!" She shoved him out the door and threw a white rag at him. "And I don't want you to stop until you're done with the whole stack." She slammed the door shut in his face, which was still smirking.
"Remember our deal fox! You'd better not forget again!" Sano called through the bamboo. "'Cause if you do…"
From a slit in the bamboo, she watched the fluid movement as Sano swung the metal with such ease and straight into the log, cutting it perfectly down the center. Sweat glistened off his bare back, and Megumi never realized that he was so…
Built? She breathed softly, there's a new term. Sure, she'd seen him without his shirt on before, with some of the injuries she'd had to treat on him, not taking it off seemed like an impossibility. But this time… She recoiled, staring at the slits in dismay. Actually, it was more of a shock than anything else…
The log split in two, along with it's own accompanying noise. Her hand drifted up to her temple, where it stayed, almost keeping her head from falling off her body. That's what he wants you to do, can't you see it?
Love can make you do some pretty stupid stuff…The old man's words were ringing in her head.
She laughed ironically at her situation, now she was the one acting just like Sano. At least the old man had gotten the stupid part down right. "I'm a doctor, I shouldn't be acting like a child." Not wanting to listen to her mind chastise her for being a baby, she slid open the door, careful not to disturb the man chopping wood.
"Was it the smile? The looks? The charm? The way I'm always right?" Megumi could see him grinning, asking the very same question that she herself had wondered. "C'mon, there has to be something about me you like."
"Absolutely not!" Damn, I hate this holiday. She reasoned that the only purpose of Tanabata was to remind her of how she's going to be stuck by herself for the rest of her life. Feigning annoyance, she looked at the growing leer on his face and wondered just exactly why he had come. "I hate… I hate the way…"
"Hate the way I what onna?" His grin just grew wider.
"Why are you here?" She drew back at the sharp tone. An accusation. It's almost as if he's mocking me for being alone. She had to admit, he was a handsome guy, and being here on Tanabata, was a blow to her pride. This guy could get any girl he wants, so why is he here insulting my singleness?
When you're with me, at least I know that you aren't with anyone else.
Sano just stared back at her, blank look occupying his eyes.
Shit, now I've done it. Megumi slowly exhaled. Say something…
"Your hand is already almost healed. Presuming you're smart enough to stay out of fights, you shouldn't have to come back." Something clutched her heart, tightening, constricting. Fear?
It took her a bit of time to realize that Sano was asking the same question that her thoughts divulged. She tried to smile. I'm no good at hiding anything.
Have you ever considered the fact that maybe… he was there for you?
Megumi's mouth moved before her mind did. "Hey, don't stop working!" How long exactly had she been watching him? "You won't get a dinner is you can't finish your norm!"
Speaking of which…
"Working in the sweat of your brow. It's easy for a beast like you."
Shoes clacking as she headed to the bathhouse, she was alone with her thoughts once again.
When are you going to stop pretending?
With a jolt, she yanked the faucet to fill the tub. Yelling at no one, the sound of her voice echoing off the walls comforted her. It's as if she was arguing with that little voice in people's heads that they call truth. "I have to be a doctor before I can do anything else."
You're sacrificing your own happiness for that of others.
Indignant, she clenched her hand, but let it float lazily in the trepid water. "I'm happiest when I see one of my patients happy. Knowing that I helped them live just one more day…"
Her anger flared. "I'm not going to throw away a promising career for… a man!" She spat out. "My life, my innocence, my… my being was taken away from me!" Beauty was a curse. Because of it, no one considered her gift with people, her blazing intellect, or medicinal talent. Men closed their doors to her, because she was a woman doctor, but would gladly open them again just for her "services". There had been many nights where Megumi had wondered where she would be if Kanryuu had never came into her life, if she had never gathered the courage to run away, if Kenshin and Sano had rescued her.
They pulled you back from the depths of hell.
True. Hell seemed like a better resort than Kanryuu. The water was starting to scald her hand, but it really didn't matter, she wasn't thinking about physical pain anyways. Men are scum. They take what they want, and when they're done, they throw you to the wolves. I'm not going to make that mistake again. Never.
You know that he isn't like that.
Somewhere, Megumi knew that Sano would never be like that, but if life had taught her anything, it was not to trust anyone. It took death to stare her in the face until she learned to put her faith in men again. He caught a knife in his hands for me. He gave me time to rebuild my shattered confidence. He was one of the few men who gave me real attention, not just for the beauty, but the person underneath…
The water had started to run over, and she was sitting right on the edge. She uttered a growl as she hurriedly shut the faucet off.
Stupid. Really stupid. She opened the door slowly, pondering what caused her lack of concentration. It really did bother her when she would think about something else while totally forgetting what she was doing. Must not have the discipline of a doctor…
Megumi sighed in aggravation, the overflowing water had left a giant streak down the middle of her kimono. There was no choice, she had to change. Besides, a doctor's smock really isn't appropriate date attire anyways…
It's a date, isn't it? Well, if so...
The new pink kimono felt alien to her skin, a testament to how she never got dressed up. Genzai-sensei had been gracious enough to pick her up this kimono, even though she had not asked for it. "Think of it as a thank you for helping me here at the clinic." She remembered the old man's words, "For being able to cure almost every illness under the sky… except…"
"Except what?" she demanded. If there was something out there had a cure that she didn't know how to, she would not rest until she found it.
The man's eyes sparkled. "Lovesickness."
She laughed and took the kimono out of his hands. "If there was a cure for that…" Megumi didn't know how she wanted to end that. "…I'd throw a party with all the money we would get."
"I have to admit, it's a little strange to be invited by Sanosuke." She put a hand behind her head. "Did you pay for this in your usual way? Because if you did, I would rather not eat any of this." Megumi had felt flattered to be invited, even though she though Sanosuke was an annoying lout at the time.
And by name too… The Kenshin-gumi had good reason to be suspicious.
Sano gave a small laugh. "I don't think you'll ever lose that nasty attitude."
"Oh… how about losing yours first?"
"You know you two really like each other, don't you?" Yahiko smirked. "Go on! I hear wedding bells! It's getting hot in here!" as the boy let out a mocking laugh.
Ugh. Stupid boy can't keep his mouth shut. She was glad that Sano and her both felt the same way and smacked that kid right into tomorrow. Of course, it was nothing against Yahiko, but just the thought of being married to Sanosuke had made her sick to her stomach.
Sagara Megumi…there's a livening thought.
She tied the purple obi around her waist, fumbling with the knot. Ugh, I'm not good at this at all. She smiled, even a tomboy like Kaoru could give her a few pointers on how to dress up. What else is missing? Megumi could feel her hair plastered to the back of her neck from sweat. Sweat? From what? Nervousness? That's it, my hair… Her hands instinctively went up to plait it loosely, fingers shuttling back and forth.
Wow, you're going all out for this aren't you?
The voice had once again asked the question she had been pondering herself. She stopped mid-way, and let her hands drop to her side. "It's not even that big a deal, just a dinner with one of my patients. It's not like he's asking me to marry him or anything, so why am I so nervous?"
Admit it, you're scared.
"What is that? Sano had asked her as she snipped a portion of a leaf off of a plant.
The hot springs…
He nodded in agreement, wondering what the sticky, oozing stuff could be. "Aloe huh…"
She gave a small smile and held a leaf up to him. "Do you want to touch it?" He seemed so intrigued by the slime, yet at the same time… almost afraid of it.
"Is it safe?"
He looks just like a little child…
Megumi almost felt like crying at his innocence. "Of course it's safe…"
I wouldn't hurt you for anything…
His brows formed a tight knot, fascination and fear all mixed into one new emotion. One new face. One the onna sensei had never seen before in him. In his eyes, she could see a new light shining, a light that was somehow rekindled after the torrent of his past gutted it out.
Yes, you are scared.
She nodded numbly and started to undo what she had done with her hair. The last thing she wanted was her looking too eager and her dinner partner looking like a slob.
A slob? I can fix that… Is that the only reason?
Her thoughts wandered over to those horrible years at the Edo Castle, the continuation of her mindset in the bathroom.
No. This is a happy occasion. You go stupid when you think of the past. Stop it.
She had to admit, her conscience did save her sometimes, even though it can be irritating. She smiled and started to walk down the corridor, hoping that no one would see her. Just run into Genzai-sensei room, grab something suitable that Sano could wear, and come back out like nothing happened. Simple.
"Megumi-chan? My my, you certainly look pretty…"
The woman froze in her tracks, all the blood in her body collecting in her face. She hurriedly turned around and acknowledged the aged doctor with a flourish. "Kobanwa Genzai-sensei. I see you're finally back from Nagoya."
He laughed, the one that gave a young sparkle to his tired eyes. "I see the kimono I bought for you is finally getting some good use. What's the occasion?"
Great. The one thing he chooses to talk about…
"I just felt like looking nice," she lied. "Can't someone dress up without people being suspicious?"
Bad. I can't think of anything better than that? Geez…my mind is becoming useless…
He obviously wasn't falling for it either. "A girl like you dressed like that on a Thursday night just because she 'felt like looking nice'?" Something clicked inside his eyes and they softened into a teasing glimpse. "My Megumi-chan has a date…"
"Then why is your face burning up?" It certainly doesn't look like a fever…" he smiled and pointed at her. "No matter, I wish you a good time."
"You do?" she tried to save what was left of her composure and hurriedly tried to explain. "I mean, I know I didn't ask permission to leave the clinic, so you might be burdened if a horde of people come in, and you must be tired from…"
"Megumi-chan…" He placed a hand on her shoulder.
"Go. You know
how long I've been waiting to get you out of my sight."
She laughed, that was Genzai-sensei for you.
He'd acted as her surrogate father, even going as far to buy
her a kimono. He may have
said it was a thank you present, but her heart told her that he wanted
to see her happy as much as she did.
He used to joke with her on how she would always stay at the
clinic while other girls were out with their guys.
Then she would straight-facedly remark,
"I have a question… do you think I could borrow some of your clothes?"
The doctor appeared stunned. "Why?"
"Well…" if she were to say the true intentions, he would deduce that this mystery man was somewhere in the clinic. How embarrassing it would be if the doctor would find out that it was Sanosuke. If she didn't say her true intentions, somehow, he had a six sense that would tell him, and he would find out either way. She opted for the second route, at least with that there was a chance it would fly over his head. "Because…"
"This man is in the clinic isn't he?"
What the heck—? Why does he know what I'm thinking?!?
He tapped his nose with a smile. "You should know better than to hide things from me Megumi-chan." His face turned serious. "Go ahead, you'll be late if you don't hurry." He retreated down the hall, leaving her stunned and speechless.
I've had enough of my share of old people today…
She walked into the room and slid open the closet door.
He was tall, so a long one would work for him. She frowned, the size difference between Genzai-sensei and Sano was way too noticeable. She even was taller than the elderly doctor, but Sano probably wouldn't be too pleased at having to wear a women's yukata. She grinned and grabbed the longest one she saw, a teal terry cloth one. He's going to have to deal with it. Megumi began the walk to the bath house, only a short way away.
He was humming. Incoherently and out of tune. She smiled, that was Sano for you.
"I'm putting Dr. Genzai's yukata here. Wear it when you get out, ok?" She heard a voice of approval, then bent down to pick up Sanosuke's gi and pants.
"Gosh… How long has it been since he washed these clothes?" Megumi plugged her nose with two fingers. So what, just let her mean side show through, there was no other reasonable reaction to this. "As a medical doctor, I shouldn't ignore such filthy clothes. They need to be incinerated!"
You wouldn't burn those. You couldn't even if you wanted to.
Once again, the voice was right. Smelly as they were, they were a part of who Sano was. She couldn't bring herself to dispose of them. Sighing, she started down the path back to her room.
Megumi nearly jumped out of her skin. "Ayame-chan! You scared me!" This whole deal with people popping out of nowhere… it's gotta stop…
The little girl held a pleading look in her eyes. "You're not going to burn it are you?"
"Of course not, I'll just… wash them…"
She didn't seem convinced. Must take after her grandfather… Her eyes widened, "How did you get Sanosuke's clothes?"
"Shh… Ayame-chan…where's Suzume-chan?"
"Is he still here? Where is he? Why are you all dressed up?"
A rousing game of twenty questions. What fun.
"Here, you can help me wash them."
"We can't, it's raining outside."
What? It can't be!
Beyond any reason, she broke into a sprint towards the dining room. No, it can't be raining, not now! Ayame's cries of "Oneesan" wafted through Megumi's mind without notice. She needed to get to the dining room and…
There was no mistaking the smell. It smelled fresh… it smelled of… She ran to the shoji and slid it open. Of rain.
No… she sank to her knees, both tiredness and exasperation was evident in the air. We can't go to eat in something like this… Sanosuke would be disappointed.
"Oneesan!" Ayame burst into the room, her cherubic face flushed from running. "I'm sorry I couldn't wash it with you… is that the reason you're so mad?"
Megumi couldn't help but laugh at her childlike innocence. "Of course not Ayame-chan…" She extended her arms, an invitation for the little girl to come. She walked over and sat in Megumi's lap while the doctor stroked her long brown hair. "Of course not…"
"You're going on a date with Sanosuke aren't you?"
She felt like she was going to faint.
"Meg-neesan! I knew it!" The girl threw her arms around the doctor's neck and hugged it. "That's why you're dressed up and you have his clothes! Sano is still in the house…"
My, how amazingly intuitive these people are…
"…and you didn't want it to rain because you can't go anywhere, and…"
She's telling you what you're feeling…
"…and…" Ayame paused when she saw a bright blush creep over the doctor's cheeks. "And you like him."
Megumi felt like she was on fire. This family must have possessed some sort of ability to read minds, and the secret she so carefully guarded had burst out into the open. And what did it take to uncover it? A child.
"Can you keep a secret?"
The little girl's laughter rang through the room. "I promise! I won't say anything!"
"All right…" Megumi laughed, though giggle would probably be the more appropriate word. "It's just a secret between us two, right?"
It was nice to converse with someone openly about her feelings, a child better than anyone else. Megumi knew that Ayame wouldn't say anything, so she didn't have to worry about Sano hearing the wrong information. In all honesty, she would rather tell Ayame before Kaoru or anyone else, they would tease her endlessly about it.
"I think she's in your room."
"That's where we'll go then, right Ayame-chan?" she winked at the girl, making her burst into a fit of laughter.
This feels… really nice…
Now, doesn't that feel better now that you admitted it?
Megumi smiled as she walked out of room, Sanosuke's clothes in one hand and Ayame on the other. "Just a secret between us girls…
But… this is depressing… never thought the night would end up like this… Ayame and her had indeed found Suzume in Megumi's room, looking at a picture book she'd found. It had the legend of the giant catfish swallowing the earth, an old children's tale.
The young doctor had changed out of her pink kimono and enlisted the help of the two girls to help untie her obi. Suzume was too engrossed in getting back to her book that she didn't ask why Megumi was so dressed up. She and Ayame exchanged knowing glances and smiled. "Ayame-chan, you can go look at the book if you want."
In the meantime, she had hung Sanosuke's clothes outside so they could wash in the rain, and also brewed herself a cup of tea. She tried to shut out her disappointment by listening to the children's excited voices.
"Mr. Catfish, Mr. Catfish!"
"When Mr. Big Catfish gets mad, he can cause earthquakes!"
"Big, shakin', trembling, big earthquakes!" Suzume burst into peals of giggles while the shoji quietly slid open.
"Ah! It's short!"
"It's short, it's short!"
"Eh…" Megumi could see Sanosuke's face flushing.
"You look pretty in the bathrobe…" Megumi smiled. Her tongue was her master, no matter what she could do to control it, it never obeyed. It felt good to know that Ayame knew but didn't care, in fact, she'd cheered her on. Now… it didn't really matter.
"Sanosuke! You look good!" Suzume echoed exactly what Megumi what thinking.
What's that, a blush? From Sanosuke? This peaked her interest. "Thanks kid." He opened his eyes and addressed Megumi. "Where did you put my special clothes?"
Tell him? Don't tell him? She could feel her fox ears twitching, begging to come up. Let him think what he wants to think. Her mouth curled upwards with a "Hmph…"
She didn't even hear him floundering, demanding where his clothes where. She calmly raised the cup to her lips, and smiled at the wall.
The rest of the night went without much happening, Sanosuke was disappointed that the rain had cancelled their "date", but he brightened up as Megumi placed a giant bowl of rice before him. Genzai-sensei smiled as the onna sensei offered to make it up to him by cooking him breakfast, and then maybe they could go out for dinner. He set his bowl down and grinned. Ayame gave her a thumbs up and giggled.
Because he couldn't find his clothes and he would be more than mortified to go out in public in a bathrobe, Genzai-sensei offered Sanosuke a place to stay for the night. He didn't hesistate for an instant, but only under the condition that his clothes be returned in the morning.
"I'm not going to walk around with the fox-lady wearing this."
Now, it was nighttime, and Megumi relocated her pillow so it would cradle her neck. Ayame had insisted on sleeping in the same room as the men, all the time giggling and pointing at Sanosuke's yukata. Megumi blatantly refused, although her heart was laughing along with Ayame. "No. God only knows how much you snore at night."
"Hey! You're the one who invited me over!"
"That wasn't me…" she turned to give a glare at Genzai-sensei, who just smiled back. He knew that it wasn't real anyways. After much pleading on Ayame's part, Megumi reluctantly agreed. "But you're moving your futons in here. I'm not going to work any more than I have to."
"Fine…" Sanosuke grumbled, walked from the room, then reappeared carrying two futons. But not before she patted Ayame on the head and hugged the little girl. She really was a genius.
You wouldn't have thought of that…
"I know." Megumi pushed the blanket down and rested her head on her elbow. "Things are finally looking up for me…" She watched Sanosuke's face with interest, his sharply chiseled features gleaming in the moonlight filtering through. His snoring was of little concern to her now, the rise and fall of his chest was even more intriguing.
So you're finally going to admit it?
She smiled and closed her eyes. Yes…
What do you think started it?
Megumi opened her eyes and watched Sano kick off his blanket, one leg crookedly angled to the side. I know exactly when…
The night that Kenshin walked away from his life in Tokyo was the day that Megumi had been called to come to a patient's aid. Dr. Genzai was dealing with a small emergency in town and needed outside assistance. "I just wish I could see Ken-san once more tonight…"
Ayame tugged urgently on her sleeve "Grandpa said to hurry up." as they ran out the door of the dojo and out to the gate. Suzume was close on their heels.
"I'm coming with you." Sano waited just outside the courtyard. "I don't want the foxy doc and these kids walking by themselves at night." He started to walk in the direction of town. "I'm going with them to the station."
"Why do you have to be so crass?" Megumi sighed in mock annoyance as the two granddaughters ran to catch up with Sanosuke.
"Jou-chan… tell Kenshin I'll be back soon."
Only until now, did she realize that he was sacrificing his best friend just to make sure that she and the two children arrived safely at their destination. Sano was like that, putting others before himself, even if it was under the guise of common courtesy…
"What was he like?"
"Sagara…taichou..." Megumi had overheard him talking about 'his captain' to Kenshin, and was close enough to see… the same light she had seen at the hot springs.
That innocent look. The one that made him look like a child.
Sano stopped abruptly at the sound of the name. Ayame and Suzume were up ahead playing in the tall grass, watching the fireflies intently. Their delighted squeals cut through the still night air, breezy and dancing on the wind. The flickering june bugs lifted her soul, releasing her from a bondage she could feel but never touch. Just walking in the calm night air had freed her. Megumi lifted her eyes to the starry night sky, she thought she would have enjoyed the circumstances walking with someone else, but now she realized…
My heart couldn't have been more wrong…
"What's it to you, fox?"
Typical reaction. "Sanosuke… you don't have to be so defensive here." She waved her hand in front of her. "Just you, me… and the miniature lanterns."
He smiled wryly and closed his eyes. There they trod on in silence, not one daring to break the other's concentration.
Stupid… you know better than to ask nosy questions… she looked at him, staring straight ahead, hair waving back and forth with his stride. Honestly… I can be so prying sometimes… especially on issues that people obviously don't want to talk about… Sano didn't have to say anything, she realized, to know that he loved his captain dearly.
The pain you must have had…
How it feels it be utterly…And degradingly…
"You don't have to.—"
"He was a good man." Sano began. His normally gruff voice had lowered to that of a whisper, gentle and soothing. "I remember… when he told me the legend about the fireflies…" His voice grew even more hushed as he bent over to pick a blade of grass. "He said if you walk with the person you love while they are twinkling…" Sanosuke held the leaf up to her face, and it started to blaze with the intensity of a single firefly. Spellbound, she couldn't move from her spot, seemingly rooted. It didn't seem to matter that they were right in the center of a road, or that Ayame and Suzume had gone even farther off chasing the bugs. In the soft glow, she could see his face, wide brown eyes staring intently at her. The intensity of his gaze startled her, but try as she could, Megumi couldn't tear herself away. "…he said… that that person would stay with you forever."
Forever? Could God grant that wish?
The light on the blade started to die out, and she could make out an outline of a small bug spreading its wings and shuttling to another place. Sano dropped the grass, but continued to look at Megumi with the same thoughtful stare. For a brief, shining moment, neither said a word, just content to look at each other. "That's how I know… he's always with me…wherever I go…" His voice came in so softly, so silently, that she didn't know when it had started, or stopped. Underneath the brash exterior and snappy comebacks, Sagara Sanosuke was nothing but...
A little child.
"I…" The night air was cool, but Megumi felt like she was tossed into a fire. A trickle of sweat ran down her face, and she could feel it evaporating on her sweltering cheeks. Her heart ached for him, nothing she could say could take away the horror of his past.
Before she knew what happened, he wrapped his arms around her in an embrace. Strong arms. Warm arms. Time stood still, even the fireflies seemed to pause at this moment. Is this what Kenshin meant when you felt like you were flying? She could feel a tear coursing down her cheek, disappearing into Sano's shoulder.
So this… is love?
He was thanking her? For what?
He never got a chance to finish. "Meg-neechan! Hurry, hurry… Grandpa is waiting…" Suzume tugged on her smock.
Sanosuke pulled away from the embrace and started to continue walking down the road. Megumi had not even begun to move, and she watched his retreating figure with a sigh.
I will find out.
That's how I knew it was real.
Megumi turned over and pulled the covers around her arms.
… I fell in love with you.
Megumi couldn't help but feeling a small part of her heart being ripped away when she saw the red headed man and the "raccoon girl" together on that boat. Kenshin was the one who had saved her, who told her to become a doctor, to relive her life. Although jealousy was the initial reaction, her heart told her that she wasn't, and never has been, the one for Kenshin.
It's my turn to be happy.
She looked at the gangster, waving and smiling at the happy couple. Suzume was perched on top of his shoulders, squealing with delight at her view. Although Sanosuke had offered to do the same to Ayame, the brown haired youngster shook her head. She was perfectly content on the ground, next to Megumi. The doctor smiled and stroked Ayame's head, would this be what sisters would have been like? The bond between them deepened, all because of one overheard statement?
Little girls sure are strange…
Then again… I wouldn't take them any other way.
"Oneechan..." Ayame's voice dropped to a whisper. "When are you going to tell him?" Her mouth curled into an impish smile. "I can tell him!"
"Tell who what?"
Megumi raised her hand, ready to slap Sanosuke into oblivion. He merely grinned, pleased at himself for having startled the young doctor. "I have a bad habit for eavesdropping."
"Eavesdropping! Eavesdropping!" Suzume chanted and clapped her hands.
Megumi unwaveringly stared him down, "You also have a bad habit for being around when you are unwelcome."
"Oi, are you still mad at me for last night?"
She smiled, "No, of course not."
A snicker could be heard in the background. "Oh Sanosuke, I love you soooooo much! How can I ever stay mad at you for loooooonnnnggg?" Sanosuke snapped his head up, that voice... Even in the presence of Tsubame, Yahiko continued to torment Sanosuke and Megumi.
Perhaps he saw something before we both did... Megumi just bowed her head and looked at the water, Ayame shooting daggers at the Tokyo samurai.
"What was that Yahiko?" Sanosuke took Suzume off his shoulders and strode over to beat the young samurai into the ground.
Sanosuke seemed disappointed at my reaction. Why?
A sudden surge of daring overtook Megumi, and she knew better than to stop her mouth from moving.
Today is the day. It's now, or never.
"If we're going to dinner together, we should go clothes shopping then. After all, this isn't really proper date attire."
Ok, that's acceptable... telling him you're interested under the guise of sarcasm.
Yahiko looked at Sanosuke, trying to read his face for some kind of an answer. It seemed unbelievable that Megumi would want to go on a date with someone like Sano. But Sano just grinned. Feeling evil, Megumi felt her trademark fox ears twitching. "After that, we can sleep in the same room just like we did last night. Would you prefer my room this time or the dining hall?"
"It's more comfortable in your room." Sanosuke decided to join in the game, smiling broadly. "Those tables can really hurt if you lay on them for too long." He winked at Megumi while Yahiko just stared.
That was the same wink like he gave me at Raiko's house... Sanosuke may or may not have realized it, but she was making a statement about how she felt, allowing her long lost feelings to finally surface. And what a clever guise too, telling Sano indirectly by playing with poor Yahiko's mind.
Ayame interjected, "You'd better keep it down this time, I couldn't sleep all night..."
How could someone so small know what we are talking about?
"Couldn't sleep!" Suzume echoed.
There was a cloud of dust from where Yahiko ran as fast as his legs would take him, leaving Sanosuke, Megumi, and the two girls laughing madly. When he tells Kenshin about this… what will happen?
Did it matter anymore?
"Good job kitsune, girls..." He turned around and offered both his elbows. "I'm the only man I know of with three women instead of just one." Ayame and Suzume giggled and took one elbow, while Megumi took the other.
Are you finally happy?
She closed her eyes and laid her head on Sanosuke's shoulder, feeling the bright sun beat down on her face. Some excited whispering, then a shadow. She looked up to see that Sanosuke was shielding her from the light, holding his hand in the sun's path. Quiet murmuring behind her had confirmed: Ayame and Suzume had given up their hold on Sanosuke just to…
Give me shade.
Megumi needed to remember to thank Ayame later. The little girl had proven more than her weight in loyalty.
"Thank you…" she whispered. How good it felt to be loved. To be wanted.
She smiled and snuggled in closer. Let the townspeople watch one of their trusted doctors with a vagabond. Let them point fingers. Let them gossip. This is for all my lost years, all my tears, all my suffering.
Are you happy?
Without a doubt. Yes.
shoji: a sliding door used to separate rooms in houses
kobanha: good evening.
arigatou: thank you
taichou: captain, leader, someone to look up to
jou-chan: "babe", a nickname Sano uses for Kaoru
wakatta wa: all right, ok, I agree
-- I originally stopped at where Megumi went to sleep, but got numerous emails asking to write more to the end. I also felt it was rushed, so I added the bridge scene. I'm not too good at endings, ah well...
-- Yes, if you watch episode 95 again, you will see that she is originally wearing her doctor's smock. In the bathhouse, it has been replaced with an obi, then when Sanosuke rushes in to find his clothes, she's wearing it again. Most likely, the artists were having a field day and overlooked this, so I used it to my advantage ^_^
-- I tried to include all the moments where it was obvious they had romantic feelings for each other, but I realized this would become unreasonably long. I shall write the rest of them in a story with Sanosuke's point of view. It all depends on the comments I get =)