A Truth In the Darkness

A Tale of Rurouni Kenshin

Chapter Five: Fish and Running Horses

There was no way to restrain the content smile which played about his sunbathed lips. The river before him gurgled pleasantly along the shore line and caused dancing sparkles of light to flicker about where it parted for stones. There was a bird high in the tree above him singing about the delights of the day. The sun was warm and bright and only occasionally shaded by the light and fluffy clouds which floated lazily by. There was a fishing pole held lightly in his hand, on occasion it would twitch with the ebb and flow of the water the line was dropped into.

Kenshin turned his attention from his fishing pole and the river toward his immediate left. The smile grew a breadth wider, his eyes darkened to an ever so slightly deeper shade. The rurouni's gaze lingered for a moment on the companion who sat there beside him. The sharp young chin was pressed into his chest, eyes closed, and breathing deeply. His fishing pole lay forgotten on white clad leg as the younger man's right hand lay loosely open beside him.

Yes, Kenshin thought gamely to himself, all was well with the world. At the very least, everything was on its way back to normal. If one were to see fit to ignore the sling that held Sano's tightly wrapped left arm and the extensive white bandaging that could be seen beneath the shirt he wore, one could pretend this was another bout of the lazy ex-gangster napping an afternoon away. What was hard to ignore was the white bandaging that had temporarily replaced Sanosuke's red bandanna for being bound around his head and the slightly faded shade of blue of the younger man's borrowed shirt.

A brief tug on his line swung Kenshin's eyes back toward the current of the river. There was a second tug and Kenshin pulled experimentally back. There was no weight on the line. This still did not drop the rurouni's spirits.

It had been three days since Sano had woken from his terrible wounds. There had been a parade of people from the village who desired Sano's attentions when possible, who wished to personally thank him for his timely heroics. These moments of visitation were kept brief in deference to Sano's weakened state. All the same, Kenshin was delighted by the outpouring. The villagers virtually ignored him in favor of Sanosuke. It was wonderful to see the younger man finally receiving some much deserved gratitude for sacrifice he had willingly made.

All the same, having so much company, as well as Yahiko and Kaoru-dono to occupy Sano's time, Kenshin had seen very little of him in those intermittent days- at least while the younger man was awake. When Sano had announced forcefully that morning that he was getting up and going fishing today no matter what anyone tried to tell him of his health, Kenshin had shrugged and grinned helplessly at the doctor and their companions and with gear in hand trailed after.

Which was how the rurouni found himself sharing a tree for support along the river bank with a now napping ex-gangster. This also explained part of his smile. It was delightful to have Sano demanding to be out and about, the beauty of the day was wonderful as well. What was humorous though, was knowing that abruptly leaving Shuhei's house was Sanosuke's way of running away from all of that attention that he was so unused to.

It seemed that Sano really did not want this sort of attention after all, which certainly answered why he typically was so willing to allow Kenshin to keep it all when they worked together as a team for any heroic activities. Not that Kenshin really desired it himself, however he was far more diplomatic about dealing with it – usually.

A small scraping noise caused the red-head to glance down sharply at the unattended fishing pole on Sanosuke's leg. The pole was sliding off, being slowly dragged down toward the river. Kenshin bent forward to retrieve the wayward pole only to have a had larger than his and bandaged beat him to it. Kenshin blinked surprised violet eyes at his friend. Sanosuke gave him a half lidded grin in return. "You tryin' ta steal my fish while I'm resting my eyes, Kenshin?"

Kenshin's smile returned as fast as it had left, taking up on the gently teasing mood. "Better than being accused of stealing your pole. You snore while your resting your eyes, by the way."

The younger man snorted, and then winced at the action, but the grin came back with out being forced. "Not snorin'. Rousing fish, and it worked!"

As if to prove his point, Sano brought the line out of the river and, grinning, swung the wriggling fished attached to the hook up between them. Kenshin shook his head, red bangs swaying before his closed eyes. He cast a brief and mournful glance at his own pole before reaching up to remove the fish from his friend's pole."If that were the case, then certainly this one should be catching fish as well."

The fish was removed Kenshin dropped it into their basket. They had three fish for the two hours they had been sitting out here. All caught by Sanosuke. "Nah. Ya see, I work up the fish with the noise, they look around an' see I'm all injured and such, and then they jump on my hook out of pity. At's my master plan, you see."

"Your plan? And how," Kenshin asked with laughter in his voice, "did you intend to catch fish before you were injured?"

"Ah, well. I figured on diggin' up worms and catching bugs as bait. You know, and lookin' for good holes for fish and such. This way though, your diggin the worms and I'm sittin' here all nice and comfy like. I think I like this way better."

Kenshin sighed, as he wrapped another one of these said worms onto Sano's hook. His smile saddened slightly as he watched his friend give the line a gentle one armed toss back into the river. "It is easier this way, but unfortunate that you had to receive the injuries to achieve this fishing style."

Sano lifted a one shoulder shrug as he settled himself back against the smooth bark of their shared tree. "Eh, it was all worth it though."

The red-haired man's gaze slid back out over the river, a small frown touching his lips now. The guilt was returning. The terrible feeling he held in his heart as soon as he realized what his friend had faced alone, what Kenshin himself should have been beside him in. "Sano, I am sorry. This one should have been there with you..."

There was a grunt from the man beside him as Sano abruptly sat forward and turned dark eyes on him. "Oh no you don't. Don't even start with that crap Kenshin."

Kenshin turned to meet his look. Violet eyes softened, it was unfortunate that the boy refused to understand. "Sano..."

"No!" Sanosuke ground out forcibly. "I'll say it here and now, though I don't think it should need 'a be said anyhow. Kenshin, this is Not. Your. Fault. How could it be? Honestly, you've got amazin' skills an' all, but not even you can see the future."

Kenshin's shoulder's sagged with the force of the statement. He blew a breath out. "This one should not have left you alone that day, Sano. This one promised to go fishing with you and instead..."

Sanosuke groaned loudly, but in frustration not pain. The younger man bounced the butt of his fishing pole off of Kenshin's knee to emphasize his point. "Right, you know what? You're always gonna help those guys out when they make it out all serious and such. By lookin' over that big shots and keepin' 'em from behaving like naughty little boys, they probably managed to do something good and important and what not. 'Sides, you planned on comin' back for fishing. And you know what else? I really am a big boy now, I don't need you lookin' after me every minute o' everyday. Your allowed to leave me alone, ya know?"

Kenshin smiled ruefully at this last statement as he eyed the younger man up and down. "Yes, this one can see how you do not need looking after."

At the distinctly insulted look that crossed Sanosuke's features and mouth opened to what would no doubt be a more loud and boisterous rant than the younger man was healthy enough for yet, Kenshin held up a forestalling hand. "My apologies, Sano, that was uncalled for. What this one means is not to insult you. You are most capable of handling yourself. This one is upset with himself."

At this Sanosuke backed off slightly, looking less insulted but still not happy. "Then what the hell are you sounding like you feel so damn guilty about?"

In response, Kenshin picked up his sheathed sakabatou from where it rested on the ground beside him. This he held between the two of them until he was sure he had Sano's full attention. "I carry this sword with the vow to use it to protect my friends and loved ones. If this one makes a habit off running off solve government problems, then important opportunities to protect friends are missed. This one has been neglectful in his vow to himself and to you. For this, Sano, I apologize."

Dropping his fishing pole, Sano instead caught hold of the sheath, his larger hand between Kenshin's two on the sword. "I'm pretty sure this is the sword that cut a path into that mine. I've also got a notion that this is the sword that cut that friggin' huge rock off of my back. Given both of these, I'd have to say both you and this sword upheld every vow to protect. The fact that I'm here fishing right now, Kenshin, I see that as you not missing any opportunities. I see that as bein' in the nick o' time. So, the way I figure it, you still got nothing ta feel guilty about and nothing to be sorry for."

Kenshin kept hold of his sword, and stared hard into the younger man's face. He was intent, and he was serious. Certainly he made a few valid points, but in his heart, Kenshin could never fully forgive himself so easily. The notion, however, was appreciated. They both twitched slightly at the sound of scrapping along the ground, though neither was willing to give up their hold on the sword or their eye-locked battle of wills. It was Kenshin who eventually said, with the tiniest of smiles turning up the corners of his mouth, "Sano, if you do not let go of the sword and grab your fishing pole shortly, you will shortly be accusing this one of stealing your fish again."

The younger man held his gaze a moment longer before accepting this as a battle lost. With a grumbled curse he loosed his grip and leaned forward after his escaping pole. The cringe of pain and effort was not lost on Kenshin as the younger man straightened back up and wrestled his fish up out of the water. This was a discussion that the two of them would likely as not never talk of again. That did not mean, however, that Sano would give up on swaying him. Kenshin's spirits brightened at the prospect even as he removed this fish from the line as well.

A squeal of child like delight rang out above them as Kenshin was adding the fish to their basket, and both of the men turned enough to get a view up the bank of the river toward the people walking there. Above them, Kaoru and Yahiko were escorting little Kyou and his mother in their direction. The child worked his hand free of his mother's grip and bolted toward Sanosuke. Kenshin watched as the younger man braced himself for the impact of the four-year old's body just before the boy pounced on his sling. "Sano, you got to go fishing!"

"Kyou!" Cried his mother, "How many times do we have to tell you not to jump on Sanosuke, he still hurts."

The child backed off nearly as fast as he had pounced, lower lip bit between his teeth and wide eyes looking imploringly up at the ex-gangster. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to make it hurt, Sano..."

Kenshin could not help the warm feeling from earlier returning to him. The guilt would pass or be buried. At the moment, he would indulge in his brother-of-the-heart doing one of the things he did best – covering his own pain for the sake of others. All though the rurouni could see the few beads of sweat that showed the distress the shock of the child's jump onto his broken arm had caused, Sano smiled brilliantly at Kyou and tousled his hair with his free right hand. "Not a problem kid. Ya didn't hurt me. And, yeah, I am out fishin' ain't I?"

The small group had at this point had the time to gather at the base of the tree. Kyou's mother sighed and smiled patiently at her son. Kaoru giggled behind her hand and Yahiko made a show of exploring their fish basket. All the same, Kenshin leaned slightly around his friend to ask of the little one, "Is it important that Sano is is out fishing?"

Kyou smiled wide, his little cheeks dimpling with the effort. "Uhuh! Sano and me talked about our favorite things to do when we were in that dark mine. And he told me that one of his was fishing with his bestest friend. And see, you guys are fishing!"

A bubble of undeniable warmth t grew in his stomach at this statement, and quickly rose to nearly choke the rurouni. It was such a small thing, but so important. Sano had truly been looking forward to this, as was repeated back to him by the child before them. Sano caught his eye briefly then, giving him a look that said, 'Embarrassingly put, but true.'

Yahiko snorted from his position with one wriggling fish in his hand over the basket. "Wow, that's pretty sappy coming from Sanosuke!"

Kaoru popped him on the back of the head for sharing. "I'll remind you of how sappy things are next time your daydreaming about Tsubame, Yahiko! Never mind that now. So we know Sanosuke has gotten to do one of his favorite things," at this the girl smiled warmly for the two men who free-loaded at her dojo before turning her attention to the little one, "What was your favorite thing to do, Kyou?"

It was Sano who responded first, sounding slightly tired but very amused. "Run. He likes to run."

Kyou beamed at the young man for this, clearly pleased that Sano had remembered. "Uhuh! And Momma says that since we're outside I can run here and I was hoping maybe you could watch me now?"

Kenshin watched Sanosuke's features soften as he gave the child a pat on the head. "Ah. I'd like that."

The little boy squared his shoulders and with a whoop, took off along the river bank. The red bandanna tails, far too long for his four-year old size twirled behind him. Kyou's mother, Kaoru-dono and Yahiko called encouragement and laughed to watch the child run. Sano simply leaned back against the tree and, as though talking to himself, mumbled softly, "Like a stallion."

~Finis

Author's Free Talk:

Hah, so, what was the truth hidden in that darkness? I'd have to say it was a little something emotional. Wow, I love this friendship. These boys make it so nice to write out deeper emotions. I'm not always sure I capture it the way I'd like, but... I'm pleased all the same.

Now then, more serious things. I have great reviewers. Thank you all. I apologize to those I did not personally respond to, but I have to tell you I've read all the reviews just the same. Cheers, guys. We finished another one, you guys and I!

Now if only I could get off of this kick of hurting Sanosuke... Nah.

I do have a plot bunny roaming around for another little short story. Aiming for about three chapters on this one, staring Sanosuke (surprise!) and Yahiko. So, just keep your eyes open for that at some point in the future. Until then, happy hunting for more fan fiction, don't drown in all the romance!