Title: Bring Me Back
Authoress: Ladya C. Maxine
Summary: A sudden shift in political power grants an embittered politician the chance to finish off what he had started during the Meiji revolution: complete eradication of the Sekihoutai. Sanosuke is taken into custody and the only person who can help him now is the man he hates the most…
Warnings: yaoi, language, violence, torture
Disclaimer: I do not own Rurouni Kenshin or any of its characters. Any and all unrecognizable characters belong solely to me and are not to be touched. I am not making any money off of this and I write with the sole intention to entertain.
A/N: Many of you are probably thinking something along the line of: 'Huh?' Yes, this is my first ever Rurouni Kenshin fanfic, which is ironic since the first yaoi fic I ever read was a SaitohxSanosuke story. So, basically, this is the anime that put me on the path of writing yaoi fanfiction. Bow before the awesomeness! (referring to the anime, not myself, though feel free to worship me too :P )
Obviously, the SS pairing (Saitoh/Sanosuke) was at one time my obsession and to this day it remains on my list. Two completely different characters that share so many interesting interactions on screen; it seems almost a sin not to draw conclusions.
Two things you ought to know about this story. One: it takes place a couple of months after the Shishio-timeframe, and two: everyone now already knows that Saitoh survived and that he has returned to working for the police in Tokyo. Yeah, I know; major bummer, but I don't want to go through the whole re-introduction of the guy.
Saitoh was and still is the ultimate epitome of coolness in my book. Yes, even more so than Kai (Beyblade) and Sesshoumaru (Inuyasha). I have never watched a scene with him in it that didn't bring a big smile to my face. I love his sharp features (those eyes!!! faints), I love his skills (Ha! Kenshin has yet to beat him!). I love his sarcastically blunt remarks (Sorry, but Kai has got nothing on him there!). I even love his smoking!! (Sexay, at least, when he does it) To sum this up: I LOVE Saitoh Hajime!!
(P.S: Saitoh's original Japanese seiyuu/voice actor, Hirotaka Suzuoki, tragically passed away last year, at age 56, of lung cancer. R.I.P. Thanks for the great character!)
Sanosuke…A lot of my friends wonder why it is I love him so much since he is basically the exact opposite of my usual preference (mainly the cool, calm, collected, serious, silent types; i.e. Saitoh). I myself don't get it. Sano is cool (though not always calm and collected, especially when dealing with Saitoh) and is sometimes a rather serious character, but he is also very brash and loud and tends to make stupid mistakes. But that's what makes me like him so much; he tries and tries and never gives up! Compared to the older, more experienced fighters in the anime (Kenshin, Saitoh, Aoshi, Hiko, etc.) Sano is relatively weak and unskilled, but he gives his all every time; you've just got to admire that. Besides…he's so HOT!!! (Yeah, I saved my most shallow argument for last. Go me.)
Bring Me Back
Ladya C. Maxine
"No fair, Ugly! Why do I have to clean the floors? Those are your big footprints!"
"Who you calling ugly?! And my feet aren't big!!"
Catching just part of what was another dispute between two of his friends from within the dojo walls, Sanosuke smiled around the fishbone between his lips as he sauntered over to where a small redhead was happily sweeping the mat in the gate entry, humming as if a rather loud crash hadn't just sounded from within the compound.
"Oi, Kenshin!" the tall teen hailed, drawing purple eyes towards him.
"Sano, beautiful day, isn't it?" Kenshin beamed, looking up at the bright blue sky while shielding his eyes with a slender hand. "A perfect day for travelling."
Leaning in the arch, Sano crossed his arms to regard his friend with a suspicious expression, the fishbone sticking upwards in alert tension.
"Travel? Are you going somewhere, again?"
"Oro?" Kenshin blinked but ended up laughing at the look on the ex-gangster's face. Chuckling, he waved the accusation off. "No, not me, Sano. I think that I'm done with wandering."
"This coming from a rurouni?"
The redhead grinned, motioning for the other to follow him into the yard since he was done sweeping the entrance. Hands in his pockets, Sanosuke cautiously looked about but was unable to locate the source of the distant ruckus.
"Well, what's all this about travelling?" he persisted, now taking a seat on the chopping block in the shade of the dojo roof.
"We're expecting company soon," Kenshin explained as he began sweeping the stone path leading up to the training room. "Can't have a party without guests, right? Misao and Aoshi should be arriving by this evening. Of course, Miss Megumi and Dr. Genzai will be here too. And Tae said that she'll close the Akabeko early tomorrow so she and Tsubani can help out with the preparations."
The fishbone drooped and Sanosuke gifted his friend with a blank stare.
He didn't mind the party idea. It meant free food and drinks that he could indulge himself in without Kaoru or Megumi scolding him for being a free-loader. But what was the occasion? Sure, Kenshin defeating Shishio was something worth celebrating…but that had been months ago. So then, what could possibly be so damn important?
"Don't you know what day it is tomorrow?" Kenshin asked, seeing that the young man was seriously lost.
That was a good question. Days tended to get confusing when one spent them gambling, drinking and avoiding physical labour.
"Tuesday, the 7th of June."
"So I was half right," Sano shrugged, leaning back on his arms, allowing his loose jacket to fall away from his torso to avoid soaking up too much heat. "Fine then, what's so important about Tuesday the 7--Mphf!!
Kenshin, the fleet-footed man that he was, crossed the close space between the two and clasped a hand over the other's mouth, eyes wide as he looked around, making sure they were alone before he dared release the now stumped, and somewhat insulted, rooster.
"What the hell was that for?" Sano asked, wiping his mouth as the rurouni's hand was a bit dirty. "Aw man, I hope you didn't just cleaned the bathroom!"
"Good thing Miss Kaoru didn't hear you," Kenshin said, not listening to his friend's grumblings. "She'd be very upset if she found out that you had forgotten her birthday."
Sanosuke merely sighed, tugging on a loose end of his bandana.
"That's it? Jou-chan's birthday is enough to convince Aoshi to leave his precious meditation to walk all the way here with weasel girl? If the guy wasn't such a stiff I'd feel sorry for him."
"Well, Miss Kaoru is turning 18, so I suppose it's a very important event…isn't it?"
The young man shrugged.
"Never celebrated any birthdays," he said without much regret.
"Hmm, me neither. My past…activities never left me with much time to consider things like my birthday…" Kenshin trailed off, eyes growing dark.
Sanosuke sighed again, this time in exasperation. They all knew that look. The one when Kenshin's eyes took on a distant glaze. The former hitokiri was just too humble and guilt-laden to let go of his past. There were days when their redheaded friend would just zone out, staring out into space, barely eating. However, the man could just as easily snap back to his surroundings. Lucky for him, he did so today, sparing Sano the trouble of chucking a piece of log at his head to speed up the process.
"But Miss Kaoru is really excited. Yahiko and I went shopping with Dr. Genzai this morning to buy her presents. I hope she'll like it."
"Who are you talking to, Kenshin?" The object of their conversation stepped out onto the porch, holding a wet cloth in one hand and a struggling Yahiko in the other. "Oh! Hi, Sano!"
He raised a hand in greeting as she proceeded to drag the resisting boy over to the two.
"Excited about your big day tomorrow?" Sano asked.
A blinding smile spread across the young woman's face.
"Who ever can forget our little Jou-chan's 18th birthday?" he replied, trying not to grin at Kenshin, who was now standing behind Kaoru with a shocked expression.
Kaoru, who had gone all starry-eyed, didn't even comment on the hated pet name.
"Oh my god!! You actually remembered!! That means somuch to me! It feels so good to have at least someone congratulate me on my special day without me having to drag it out of them," she glared at Kenshin, who was now staring between her and Sano with a helpless expression.
"B-But Miss Kaoru, Sano--"
"Aw, I forgive you," she smiled brightly at his stuttering. "The last few months have been pretty tough. But that is all about to change because by this time tomorrow I, Kaoru Kamiya, will officially be…a woman!" she exclaimed, striking a dramatic pose before giggling madly, making the three males share worried glances.
"Are you sure you're turning 18?" Yahiko asked, having freed himself, if only temporarily.
"Of course I am. I have been waiting for this day for…er, 18 years. Can you imagine? I will now finally be recognized as the refined woman that I am, and Megumi will no longer be able to make her 'little girl' comments! Ooooh, I can barely wait!"
"Only 18 and she's already getting demented," Yahiko whispered to Sano, making them both cackle.
"What was that?"
"Nothing," they answered in unison though she remained suspicious.
"Anyway, the party's tomorrow and there's still a lot to do. Kenshin, you continue sweeping and when you are done then you can polish the floors after Yahiko has cleaned them. I will finish off the washing and then go to the market to do some grocery shopping. And Sano, you can--"
"Whoa!" he cut in, standing up and holding his hands up. "I was just passing by. I've got lots of important stuff to do."
"Oh yeah, like what? Losing bets and sleeping?--OW!!"
"For your information," he continued, having dealt a punch to the brat's head. "I have to…to…to buy Jou-chan's present."
Any opposition from the owner of the dojo immediately dissipated at that but Yahiko, nursing the big lump on his head, merely glared sceptically.
"You? Buy something? With what? You never have any money. What can you buy with an empty wallet, if you even have one?"
"Not telling," he taunted. "That'll ruin the surprise."
"You're just trying to worm your way out of work!"
"Yahiko, stop being such a pain!" Kaoru, disillusioned with the thoughts of presents, berated. "If he says he's going to buy me a present then he will."
A sudden gleam in her eyes made Sano cringe as she turned to him.
"Right, Sano?" she asked in a voice bordering on threatening.
Unable to speak in fear that he might say something he would regret soon after, he nodded.
"Good. Well, let's get back to work! See you tomorrow at the party then, Sano. It starts at six."
Grabbing Yahiko, who had been trying to steal away, by the back of his haori, she dragged him off again, caught up once more in a heated argument concerning the size of her feet.
"Do you really have money to buy Miss Kaoru something?" Kenshin asked when the coast was clear.
The redhead slapped his forehead.
"Are you going to show up with nothing? You can't do that to her, Sano. She'll be hurt!"
'No more than I'll be once she's done with me,' Sano thought to himself but plastered a wide grin on his face. "Calm down, Kenshin. I'll think of something by then…Do you have any change on you?"
The wanderer rolled his eyes.
His grumbling stomach announced that it was dinner time thought the smell of cooking broths and meat were just as reliable. The heavenly scents crept out of the open windows and doorways he passed as he ambled down the almost deserted street.
'What rotten luck,' he scowled, kicking a pebble out of his way as he walked, hands stuffed angrily in his pockets. 'An entire afternoon wasted and I don't even have a penny!'
When it had become clear that Kenshin would not be able to lend him any money he had done what he did best: try to wheedle some cash out of friends and acquaintances from all over town. This technique, while risky, almost never failed him as he often paid back those he owed by beating up someone for them. Other failed payments had left him in some very awkward, and disturbing, situation in which those he owed (mostly people he knew only fairly) would get the nerves to demand he repay them some other way. The mere though made him want to either punch something or drink something.
"Okay, I'm straying from my main objective," he told himself. Stopping in the middle of the road, he looked around though was mainly in deep thoughts. "I've got to get something for Jou-chan. I could never face her if I came to her party with empty hands…"
A loud growl reminded him of his other, more prominent, problem. Food.
Again, he didn't want to go back to the dojo out of fear of screwing up and Kaoru finding out about his predicament. The Akabeko had a foot-long tab with his name on it so until he found a way to pay some of it off he felt it best to avoid it, which was going to make confronting Tae at Kaoru's party tomorrow difficult. His two primary meal suppliers were temporarily off limits for now, meaning…
Grinning, he turned around, feet taking him back where he came from though he ducked into a side street a few minutes later and once exiting it he found himself in the crowded row-establishment similar to the one he lived in, only a lot more respectable. The houses, though small, were pretty new and those who lived in them were mostly decent blue-collared workers whereas his own neighbours preferred to spend their days gambling, whistling at women and drinking.
Easily locating his destination amongst the countless similar establishments, he knocked twice on the door before leaning against the wall, eyeing the sun setting behind the trees for a moment before he heard the sound of the door sliding open. Bleary blue eyes squinted at him from behind tussled black bangs.
Sanosuke grinned wider.
"Did I wake you?"
"Either that or this is a really bad dream," Katsuhiro Tsukioka mumbled, brushing his long hair out of his face as he stepped back to allow the other entrance, quickly shutting the door behind the ex-gangster though not before scanning the area.
"No one followed me," Sano assured, plopping himself down onto the other's futon. "Different times, Katsu."
"Time changes, people don't," was the cautioned reply as the man walked over to where his friend was lounging on the futon he had just been forced out of. "Did your landlord repossess your bed or something?"
"How can you sleep at dinnertime?"
The blue eyes widened, followed by a sigh.
"I suppose you're hungry."
"Damn right I am."
"Got into a fight with the mistress of the dojo?" Katsu asked, going about preparing something for the two of them.
"Ha! We've never been on better terms. It's her 18th birthday tomorrow and they're throwing a big party. She's expecting me to show up with some great present, though."
"And, of course, you don't have the money to buy one."
"I've been in tighter situations," he defended, sitting up and crossing his legs Indian-style, propping his chin on his hand. "You haven't seen Yuki around, have you? He's usually loaded at the beginning of the month."
"Can't say that I have. How much do you need?"
"I don't know. Enough to buy her something simple but nice, I guess. I heard her gushing over some hairpin a couple of weeks ago."
"Take it out of my wallet," Katsu offered.
"We both know you would have eventually asked me anyways."
"I owe you."
"A couple of hundred yens, but what are friends for?" Katsu answered, half-resigned, half-amused.
Laughing, Sano reached under the futon where he knew his friend kept his wallet when at home but found nothing.
"It's in my bag."
"Bag?" Sano realized, following the man's finger that pointed to the packed luggage sitting in the dark corner of the room. "Why is it in there?"
"I was going to pass by to tell you tomorrow before I left, but I'm going to be away for about a month."
"Where ya going?"
"Hiroshima. I got a letter yesterday from the editor of a newspaper that was interested in my writing concerning the government. He's invited me to join his group of writers so I'm just going to check it out."
Sano frown, turning dark brown eyes on his friend.
"Doesn't that mean that you're may have to move to Hiroshima?"
Tasting the food before adding some salt, Katsu shook his head.
"Can't say yet."
Sano found the wallet in the front pouch and opened it to find a rather handsome amount of money in it. Being artistic and well articulated certainly paid well. Had the wallet belonged to anyone else he'd have been unable to resist grabbing a few extra bills. But this was Katsu, and taking advantage of his best friend's generosity and patience was quite possibly the last (and lowest) thing he could ever imagine himself doing, so he took out what he roughly calculated was just enough to buy Jou-chan's hairpin.
"By the way, have you heard?"
"Heard what?" he asked, stuffing the wallet securely back in its place before returning to the raised platform on which the futon laid.
"What's going on with this pitiful government."
"I heard a couple of whispers here and there in the gambling houses earlier about some missing stooge. What about him?"
Pouring out some thick broth into a bowl, the artist handed it to his friend who eagerly accepted it.
"The Minister of Justice has reportedly gone missing."
"Good," he said without any regret. "That's one prick less."
"Word has it that they fear that he's been assassinated since they reportedly found blood in his house but there's no body. Police force is all over it. They've been stopping people in the street and asking them questions."
"Knowing those yellow-bellied politicians they'll probably come knocking at the dojo soon to ask Kenshin for help. The last time those jackasses crawled to him for help he almost ended up dead after fighting Shishio," Sano grumbled.
Though he had come to control his rage, thanks to Kenshin, he couldn't help hating this government more and more with every passing day. To think that he once fought for what they pretended to believe in. To think that Taicho died fighting for them…
"You never know," Katsu said, taking a seat next to his friend, putting down a large bowl of rice and two freshly cooked fish on a plate before them. "But I don't see it as something serious. I wouldn't worry about Himura if I were you. You yourself told me that he has never been defeated."
"Yeah, you're right…Wait, no you're not. Our friendly neighborhood asshole is still strutting about."
"Who?" Katsu frowned.
"Saitoh," Sano growled.
Sighing, Sano (painfully) reminded him.
"Goes by the alias Fujita. Tall cop, yellow eyes, cocky bastard. Ring a bell?"
At once the blue eyes narrowed.
"The man who gave you that scar?"
"Stick to the topic," Sano muttered around a mouthful of rice, not in the mood to discus that little event for…well, ever.
Katsu did not press the issue and returned to his food.
"I knew just by looking at him that he was a strong fighter," he mused quietly.
"Yeah, he and Kenshin battled it out before Kenshin left for Kyoto but they were interrupted before they could finish. He's the only person that Kenshin just cannot seem to beat."
He cursed as something struck home.
"Aw damn it! Since he's part of the police force he'll probably show up again at the dojo to talk about the investigation!"
"I take it you two still aren't friends," Katsu smiled over the rim of his bowl at the scowling expression on the other's face.
"Ya think?" Sano sulked. "Fucking cricket-faced bastard…And he'll probably have broom head following him like a trained dog. One of them is bad enough, the two of them is…Makes me want to break something."
"Not in here," Katsu warned, then smiled. "Broom head? Isn't there anyone in the police force that you are acquainted with by a first-name basis?"
"Bastards," Sano insisted, chewing viciously. "Made us think he was dead, then shows up one sunny day a month later, going about with his police duties, as if nothing happened. He's so full of himself…"
"Well, at least you're no longer hungry," Katsu sighed, collecting their bowls. "Sake?"
He always knew what to say. Sano's sour temper immediately evaporated.
"Took you long enough!" he grinned, sitting up straighter.
"Remind me why I support your lazy ways," Katsu said, carrying the cups and jug over.
"Because I'm your best friend and you'd do anything to keep it that way."
"Now who's a cocky bastard?"
Sano sat back, enjoying the warm alcohol as it went down and settled comfortable in his stomach. Katsu sat close by, sipping his with a content expression. They drank a few cups in silence. Sano would have preferred if they'd emptied the jar but Katsu (wisely) intervened.
"Gonna miss you," Sano said as he watched the other clean up, again.
"I'll be back before you know it. It's not like you actually keep track of days or weeks."
"True. Might not even notice you gone."
"Would you bet on that?" Katsu asked, rolling a couple of dice in his hands. "Loser has to wash up."
He could see the not-so distant lights of his neighborhood and Sano slowed his pace, realizing that he wasn't all that tired though once home he'd have nothing better to do than go to bed. So, slowly continuing on his way, he idly kicked at anything lying on the road. The day had ended good, he supposed. Kaoru hadn't yelled at him; he got away with not lifting a finger to help out for the party he was planning on enjoying tomorrow; he got a free meal from his best friend; plus money to buy something nice for Kaoru. Sure, he had to wash up, after losing badly to his friend, but that was just a minor detail. Now that he thought about it, the day had ended fucking great!
"I am so in control!" he said aloud, raising his fists in the air. No one was on the street to witness this, for which he was partly grateful, but that didn't stop him from giving the rickety fence he was walking alongside an artistic kick…which knocked a rather large section of the fence down. With a creak and a groan, the whole damn thing caved in like a deck of cards.
"Aw, shit! Really smooth, Zanza," Sano said. Oh well, not like anyone was there to hold him responsible—
"Destruction of government property can get you several weeks in prison, ahou."
A/N: Well, my first stab at Rurouni Kenshin. It feels so weird, writing for another fandom, even one I'm well familiar with. This should be fun! There are just too few good SxS fics on this site! We (as in I) need more!
Read & Review, please.