Title: Bring Me Back
Authoress: Ladya C. Maxine
Summary: see chapter one
Warnings: see chapter one
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 used without my permission. I am not making any money off of this and I write with the sole intent to entertain.
A/N: I'm not a fan of using random Japanese words in my stories (being hypocritical here since I used to do that in the past, now it kinda grates on my nerves), but, having originally watched Rurouni Kenshin in Japanese, Saitoh's "ahou" nickname for Sano is engrained in my mind. "Idiot" or "moron" doesn't have the same ring to it, so I'll stick with "ahou".
Yeah, "Saitoh" is actually an incorrect way of spelling "Saito"/"Saitou", but I tend to favour its spelling.
"Destruction of government property can get you up to a week in jail, ahou."
Sano's euphoria dissipated in record time at the un-welcomed, voice.
"My day is now officially fucked," he groaned, dropping his arms to his side.
He wouldn't have located the wolf had it not been for the tiny floating speck of light glowing in the shadows of the building on the other side of the narrow street. The man's dark blue uniform hid him well.
"Aren't you supposed to be off somewhere scaring little kids who aren't in bed?" Sano drawled, turning to face the lean officer.
"What do you think I'm doing?"
"…Fuck you," he spat when it caught up with him.
"Verbally assaulting an officer can get you five days behind bars."
"What would I get for flipping you off?"
"Three days. And a broken finger."
"Tempting. So what brings you to my part of town? This ain't exactly your scene, cricket-face."
The glowing speck fell, landing on the ground with bright sparks before a foot crushed it out. Finally, the wolf pushed himself off the wall he had been calmly leaning against and stepped out into the street, the dim lamp post above them casting his sharp features into menacing shadows across his face. An amused grin tugged at the corner of his thin lips.
"You're not even on the patrol force, Mr I'm-Too-Damn-Important."
It was a well know school of thought that conversations, even the weird, scary ones, ended with parting words like 'bye' or 'see ya later'. Saitoh must have attended a different school; the man simply turned and began walking towards town, leaving the teen staring at his back, mouth open and expression confused.
Sanosuke took a step forward, ready to follow the taller man and demand him…Well, he wasn't sure what it was he had been expecting from Saitoh, other than that the man would infuriate him more than all the politicians in Japan combined, but he knew that Saitoh never showed up unless it was something important. Was this about Kenshin? Another mission?
As if. He was the last person Saitoh would come to if something important was going down.
So nothing important. Great. The man was just here to annoy him? That was a very Saitoh-like thing to do. A jab here, a comment there, a few puffs of smoke and a degrading snicker and Saitoh would have found his entertainment for the evening.
But that would have been a chore for Saitoh. Not a lot of work; the man could track down anyone way too easily, but, nonetheless, Saitoh had put some effort into coming out to find him. Hardly a very Saitoh-like thing to do. Coincidentally crossing paths and exchanging insults was one thing; having been sought out was another. Saitoh had no business in this area otherwise.
Maybe he was wanted by the police…
'Have I done anything this past week that would piss the police force off enough that Saitoh would come after me himself?' Sano wondered, watching the officer growing smaller and smaller. 'Nah, Saitoh wouldn't bother hunting me down just for some stupid arrest warrant. He'd sent broom-head instead.'
Saitoh disappeared into the night, having not looked behind him even once.
Sano clenched his fists again. That confident asshole! If he thought that Sanosuke Sagara was going to be baited so easily then…he thought right. Dammit! He had to know why this man was out looking for him!
Jogging to catch up, he could begin to make out the silhouette of Saitoh ahead in the otherwise abandoned street. The older man hadn't changed his leisurely pace, one hand resting on the hilt of his katana while the other hung at his side, the spotless white glove out of place on the dark figure. Coming up alongside him, Sano glared to find the trademark smirk already on the man's face.
"This better be worth my time," he growled, shoving his hands into his pockets.
Saitoh didn't respond. Sano could tell that the swordsman was alert, despite his calm countenance. Every now and then those golden eyes would drift to one side or the other as if penetrating the building walls in search of possible ambushers. Yeah right. In this part of town men lost all coordination, and the ability to even think, well before midnight. Here, sake was synonymous for water. Planning an ambush was the last thing on anyone's mind.
Had it been several months ago Sano would have spent the entire trip threatening and cursing the man for a hint of their destination. But despite Katsu's words, people do change along with the times. Saitoh, the egoistical creep that he was, always had a motive behind his actions; it had taken Sano many painful months (and fights) to learn that. He had to be patient since Saitoh only deemed it fit to explain himself when he felt like it, and not a moment sooner.
"You're not here to arrest me, are you?" he asked, just to make sure.
Alright, so Saitoh was up for a conversation.
"Are you going to stab me again?"
"Not unless you ask for it."
"Oh, so I was asking for you to spear that fucking sword through my shoulder when we first met?" he sneered.
"I don't recall you turning me down."
Despite himself, Sano snickered.
"Sorry, man, but you're too old for my taste."
"Don't flatter yourself."
Not the most original comeback, but, of course, Saitoh's smooth voice and nonchalant expression drove it home harder and deeper than most people would dream of achieving.
Further conversation would only lead to him doing or saying something stupid so Sano kept quiet, stuffing his hands deep into his pockets.
At long last, they found themselves at the docks. Light mist hung close to the ground, gathering in corners and beneath barrels. The night watchmen were either hiding in the shadows or hiding inside with sake and dice. There were only a few ships in, which was rare for this time of the week.
Sano didn't know why they were here, but when Saitoh stopped walking he figured that this was their destination after all. An open area, not secretive at all, yet this was where the cop deemed it acceptable to finally make his intentions known.
"Okay, you've led me to the other side of town, so spill it. What do you want?"
"Answers," Saitoh said, pulling out another cigarette.
"Go read a book."
"I'm surprised you even know that that's what books are for. I need answer about a certain individual."
If the bastard was going to make things difficult than Sano was only too happy to return the favour.
"Hm, yeah," he said, badly pretending to be giving it any serious thought, "I've seen 'a certain individual' about lately. Sneaky looking bastard. I knew he was up to something! Has he been selling 'a certain drug' in 'certain places'?"
Anyone else would have reacted to being mocked. Saitoh smirked, white stick clenched between his teeth while he pulled out the matches.
"What do you know of Itachi Tanaka?"
"Itachi?...Itachi…Oh, Itachi! We're best buds. Yeah, he comes over every Thursday night to play dice with the gang and afterwards we have a pissing contest on the roof. Man, who the fuck is Itachi Tanaka and why should I know him?"
"He's poised to take over the position of Minister of Justice following the disappearance of Minister Akita."
"Wanna hear a secret? I don't give a rat's ass."
That was meant to relay that he had no idea what Saitoh was on about, but, with that Holier-Than-Thou quirk of his, Saitoh seemed to have unearthed something in Sano's words that satisfied his curiosity enough for him to switch topics.
"How is your friend doing?"
Sano eyed him carefully. Which friend was he referring to? It couldn't be Kenshin; Saitoh would have called him by his name, or Battousai. Kaoru, Yahiko and Megumi couldn't possibly have done anything to pique the wolf's interest. Aoshi Shinomori and the weasel girl were allies, certainly not friends. Sano had a bunch of drinking and gambling buddies who were involved in activities that the police would love the learn about, but nothing overly serious; besides none of them were smart enough to outwit the wolf, so Saitoh didn't need him to help out with that. This left only one person.
"What's Katsu got to do with anything?" Sano sneered, straightening and squaring his shoulders.
"Has he not mentioned anything strange to you?"
"Even if he did it isn't any of your business. Why are you snooping around? What's with the questions?"
"Is he planning to do any travelling soon?"
"Were you eavesdropping on us?"
"Yes, then. Good. And you?"
"What about me?"
"I've got nowhere to go. Saitoh, if you don't tell me what you're up to I'll—"
"We're done for now," the cop said. He became dead serious, yellow eyes leering over the white gloves as he took another drag of his cigarette. "I'd suggest you keep a low profile for now."
Sano stared at the man, thoughtful yet perplexed. What was he on about?
"I don't have to listen to you," he stubbornly dismissed. "If you're not going to tell me what you're planning then I have no reason to trust you."
He was jerked forward by the collar of his jacket. He could feel the heat of the smouldering cigarette near his left cheek as he sneered up at the cop. Saitoh, in turn, was calm, despite his rough actions.
"If Tanaka gets his way, you will have to trust me if you value your worthless life."
Sano yanked himself free, stumbling back and rubbing his cheek, which had begun to sting from the heat.
"I don't need your help, cricket-face. I can look after myself."
Saitoh said nothing except "Hn", and walked away, fading into the thick fog, disappearing as silently as he'd appeared, like some disgruntled ghost.
"Asshole," Sano said, straightening his jacket. "The guy's a paranoid psycho."
And now he'd have to walk all the way back home! And for what? Saitoh could have held his little interrogation back in the slums. A half and hour walk for a five minute discussion; Sano was now suspicious whether the cop had just been pulling his leg, probably bored after a long day in that stuffy office of his, writing reports that no one else read.
"Nice talking to you too!" Sano shouted in the direction the man had gone off in. "Let's never do it again sometime!"
Kicking over a stacked crate, he turned around and walked back the way they'd come.
From the shadows, a cloaked man watched the young man storm off a few minutes after the police officer left. He grinned, revealing a few missing teeth.
"So two did survive after all? Mr Tanaka will be pleased to hear that."
Grinning at the thought of his reward this bit of information would earn him, he turned, eager to get back and claim his money. His efforts, however, were to go unpaid as he felt a searing pain lanced its way through his stomach. He looked down with agonized eyes to find that he'd been run through with a sword. A gloved hand pushed it further in until his blood stained the white material.
"Thank you for confirming my suspicions. Japan no longer needs your services tainting her people," said a voice as cold as the metal of the sword.
With a vicious twist of the weapon, blood rushed up his throat and out his mouth. Sputtering his dying breaths, the man fell back, finally able to see his killer. Wolfish yellow eyes shined down on him as the cop pulled out his blade.
'M-Mibu's…w-w-wolf…' were the last words he thought before dying.
Standing over the corpse, Saitoh wiped his sword clean and sheathed it. No one would find the body for some time, and the man was nothing but a petty criminal most people, including the law, wanted dead anyway. The man's words, however, had been more valuable than his life. They didn't give Saitoh all the answers, but that only raised the number of questions he had.
The one that interested him the most, the one he'd immediately thought of when he'd heard of the matter from an insider to the government, was: what did Itachi Tanake, former military general, now politician, want with Sanosuke Sagara and Tsukioka Tsunan, sole survivors of the Sekihoutai?
Throwing away his cigarette though it still had a good half to go, Saitoh disappeared once more into the fog, leaving the cooling body to bleed a black puddle onto the cold ground.
A/N: I'd written most of this fic months ago and only needed to add that last part between Saitoh and the anonymous spy, so I don't know why it took me so long to update.
Read & Review, please.