Finally, the last chapter of "What Women Want"! *hoots excitedly* Don't forget to comment! Also, read the Author's Notes at the bottom. It contains some important information... on with the fic!

Ai promise: A pun on "I promise", literally "love promise". The doctors back then had to know a little bit of English, and Megumi picked up "I promise" from her father, but in her mind, she made it to be "Ai promise", and thus, "love promises" were born.

Hentai: Gods, if you don't know what this is, I suggest watching a little more anime... It means pervert or sicko...

Otou-san: father. I always try to limit the japanese I use in my fics, but otou-san just had a nicer ring to it than father...

***************

Chapter Three—What am I really waiting for?
By: Karina Kineshi

Hey fox,

Bet you weren't expecting this huh? My fingers hurt like hell, but here I am writing this thing. I've never done this before, so bear with me as I make a jackass out of myself. Something happened to me, well, is happening to me. After this thing happened, well... Let me start again. I've been thinking lately... about us... and... My God! I can't do this. You know what this thing means... so... you can stop laughing now. All joking aside, I really want to see you under the Tokoji Temple tomorrow. Trust me, you won't be disappointed at what you see this time.

~Sanosuke

P.S. Sorry for scaring the hell out of you. I can make it up to you, I promise.

********************

It made sense to me when I was reading it. I just hoped that she would cut me some slack, after all, Sagara Sanosuke isn't exactly known for his flowery love poems. The fact that I made the first move should save my ass, after all, that's what women want right? Someone who isn't afraid to show their sensitive side? I certainly hoped so, because if my hunch was right, my "power" would be gone with the morning sun. That was the letter that was written on the paper that the dragon was made of. My handwriting wasn't up to par, but like I mentioned before, I hoped my "sensitivity" would save me.

I went to bed that night, but I didn't go to sleep. My eyelids were as open as they were when I found out that I could hear women think. I stared at the ceiling while I was lying on the futon, but I didn't see anything. Here in my room, I could space out as much as I wanted without interruption. I reviewed the circumstances and my current situation, and if there was one word to sum it all up, it would be waiting. Women were waiting for their bonds to be released, Kaoru was waiting for Kenshin to make the first strike, Tsubame was not only waiting but hoping that Yahiko would return her affection, and I...

What am I waiting for?

I rolled over onto my stomach. I have no clue what I'm waiting for. You might say that I was waiting for Megumi's acceptance or refusal, but in actuality... I was waiting to find myself. I mean... I'm not known for trying to explain things that can't be explained. This whole thing has taught me a valuable lesson, I'm not always as callous as everyone thinks I am. Walking down that street in front of the Akabeko changed my life, even though I've walked down that dusty path countless times. I saw myself in the eyes of the women I met along the way, and not just my physical self. My material self is only a shell, a façade, a cover-up. Everyone's material self is a shell. Underneath, there's where you find your true character.

Too bad it's too late to tell Megumi this. I had everything riding on the fact that... she could see this. Maybe look at me with the same love and compassion that she shows her patients. Maybe she can see the true me hiding underneath its shell. Then just maybe...

Maybe...

I had a chance.

********************

I woke up the next morning, actually, I wouldn't call it a "wake up", I'd call it something like... I was jolted awake. Someone was standing over me, shaking my shoulders like it was the fucking end of the world. I groaned, if they would have known all the trouble I had this past day, they'd let me sleep.

"Sanosuke! Sanosuke!! How can you be so lazy?!? Wake up!"

Through the haze in my eyes, I could make out a shadow, and from the weightlessness... the person had me in the air! In the air!! The haze was gone when the person dropped me back onto the futon, the thud reverberating through the house. It was just Kaoru.

"What are you doing jou-chan?" I grumbled and turned over. "Tell me already so I can get back to sleep."

"Sanosuke, you're so inconsiderate..."

//No one's awake when I need them.\\

What? I sat up so fast I hurt my back in the process. I didn't think it possible for a person's eyes to snap open that fast, but there I had just accomplished it... "What did you just say?"

Her eyes lit up when she saw I was paying attention to her, but then they grew all wide with hesitation. "Um... 'Sanosuke, you're so inconsiderate?'"

//He's probably got a hangover. I'll try to talk slow.\\

"Do... you... want... to... hear... my... story?" Gods, I'm not stupid to the point of talking to me like a child... Her eyes were wide open now, and sparkling. But that didn't catch my attention. I couldn't believe it, my power was still there! Thank the gods! I was so happy... I felt like kissing the floor.

I got up and grabbed her by the collar of her kimono. "Tell me... what day is it?"

//Ahhh!!! Get your hands off me you pervert!!\\

I looked down and realized that I was wearing only my pants. Not to mention that she came into my room, my bed room, coupled with the revelation that I still have that ability...

Kaoru's eyes filled up half her face and she slapped my hands away. The only reason she didn't pound me into tomorrow was because I was "drunk off my ass".

"Why does everyone think that? I'm not drunk!"

//So... you were serious?!?\\

She slapped me. "Wake up Sano." Her eyes burned with some kind of hatred that I've never seen before. I had to tell someone, I don't think I can survive another day without telling someone. I don't know if this was in the agreement; like I couldn't tell another person and I could keep the power.

My God! What if... I was stuck with this for the rest of my life? The thought was horrifying. This clinched it.

"Jou-chan... I can read women's minds."

She looked at me sideways. "Really Sano?"

//I'll humor him.\\

"Right now, you're thinking that you'll humor me." I started. Well, duh...

The girl was still laughing. "You're even more drunk than I thought in the first place. I'm going to leave and tell Tae-san instead."

I picked up my gi and put it on me, my eyes never leaving her face. "Try me Kaoru." Her face fell when she heard her name. Normally, I'd call her "jou-chan", but today I'd need all the help I could get in convincing her. "Just try me."

Her mouth curled into a sarcastic smile. "Fine, I'll play along... tell me what am I thinking right now? No wait... better yet... tell me what the story I was going to tell you was." She smiled triumphantly; it was a feat for the impossible. She thought there was no way in hell it was achievable.

I breathed in and exhaled slowly. "You were at the sink, washing dishes. Kenshin was no where to be found and Yahiko was in the dojo, completing 56 out of 300 practice swings that you assigned to him for knocking off a yellow vase. You were mad at Kenshin for ignoring your feelings and you were wondering that if you had folded a paper dragon like Tsubame's..." I stopped and looked at her. She was sitting on the floor while I was standing, I didn't even know when she sat down.

"You were wondering if Kenshin would desert you if you had folded that dragon. Something happened, I think you were getting all teary eyed, but one of the plates you were washing crashed to the ground. You cursed Kenshin for making you lose your concentration. Then you bent over and picked up the pieces when..." After all, I was learning this story as I was telling it. That would have to rank as one of the oddest experiences one can have.

"Something... on the table caught your eye. You wiped the tears away from your eyes." Kaoru was now on the verge of crying. "It was... a paper dragon."

That's it. No more. I could feel my own tears welling up in my eyes just seeing her like that. They were streaking down her face, and her hands were clenched from gripping her kimono in a death grip. "How... did you know?" Each word was as so quiet I could barely hear them. My silence was her answer.

"Did Yahiko come here and tell you?"

"You and Kenshin are the only ones who know."

Her eyes met mine. "Then Kenshin must have told you."

I didn't want to answer her. That statement seemed more of a dumbstruck thing than an accusation. I guess it was the only answer she could come up with. "No. That was this morning jou-chan. I wasn't even awake."

"So..." she looked up at me, smiling. "You can't fool me that easily."

"The vase... it was one of your dad's favorite treasures."

Kaoru went all white and her hand went up to touch her face. For a moment there, she looked like she was going to faint, the color drained from her face so quickly. "I never... told anyone about that..."

At least, not verbally. I gave her a half smile.

"You mean to tell me... you can peek into women's minds? As in... anything we are thinking?" An image of Kenshin with one shoulder of his gi off his shoulder flashed through her thoughts, but was quickly pushed out. Obviously, she was uncomfortable that a man could realize a woman's fantasies just by reading her thoughts.

The room just got a hell of a lot more uncomfortable as I squeaked in the smallest voice I could muster, "Yes."

"Sanosuke... you... hentai..." She slapped me, with a smile on her face. That smile scared me, it was a plotting smile, the one that women have when they know something you don't. I was scared. She promised she wouldn't breathe a word. She didn't slap me upside the head like I expected, but instead tried to convince me to spend the day with her. "Not like that, you sick pervert."

I sighed. "Will you think I'm a hentai just because I can read your uncontrollable desires?" I smirked and leaned closer, "All your thoughts concentrate on Kenshin. Why isn't that a surprise?"

//Ack!!\\

All the blood rushed to her cheeks. She closed her eyes and concentrated.

//Quit reading my thoughts, or else!\\

"Or else... what?" I felt a hard blow to my right arm. She may be small, but damn, she was strong. I still couldn't wipe that smile off my face, it was just so much fun to tease her about Kenshin.

She took in deep breaths and composed herself. A smirk of equal dimensions crept over her features. "After all, Megumi-san wouldn't want to be seen with someone who looks like a slob."

Ouch. That did hurt. So... the true motive behind me spending a day "shopping" with her was revealed. I didn't even want to know how the comment about Megumi slipped in there, I was guessing it was that legendary "woman's intuition" kicking in. I wanted to ask Kaoru if I had any chance with the good doctor, because I'm sure she knows Megumi's feelings more than anyone else, but I resisted the urge. Tonight was the night, it was all or nothing.

"I only look nice when I want to, jou-chan."

Kaoru beamed. "Megumi will be drooling by the time I'm through..."

Flash forward to a while later, the sun was about 30 minutes away from setting when Kaoru and I came back from "shopping". Yahiko and Kenshin's eyes went as wide as their faces would allow. To save face, I complained that I felt like a fairy, but in actuality... I kind of liked the way I looked. See, there's another tip to understanding guy's minds, we complain about nothing at all. We always find something to complain about, even if there is nothing.

To Kaoru's urging, I dropped off my gi and pants at a friend's house, and she suggested I stay in the spare room until her friend was done dyeing the clothes. She planned for me to go out on the town in the buff.

Just kidding.

"Y—You—Sanosu—" Yahiko was pointing at me, trying not to stare but failing miserably. "You!" His voice cracked on the last word and tears appeared in his eyes as he grabbed his stomach from laughter. Kenshin didn't laugh, but instead smiled at me. It didn't have any specific emotion behind it, just... a smile.

I scowled and looked at Yahiko. Two words: justifiable homicide. Kaoru made a victory sign, "Doesn't he look great?" My jacket and pants were dyed red. Crimson, almost like Kenshin's hair but a shade darker. Kaoru said that red brought out my eyes, whatever the hell that meant. All I know is... I looked good.

Unfortunately, I didn't listen to everything that Kaoru suggested. She wanted me to get a haircut, but I wouldn't let her. There are some things that men don't like to have touched by a total stranger. One of them is their hair. I wouldn't let go of my bandana either, I felt naked without it. And the last thing I want is to screw up in front of Megumi. It was uncomfortable when I walked out of that room wearing my new clothes, all the women that saw me said "Whoa! Fine..." The doctor's attention is the only one I want, but in the meantime...

I was actually starting to enjoy myself.

********************

Waiting...

"Che fox..." The sounds of the festival were all around me, whirling around and around my head. Lights from translucent paper lanterns, smells from all the delicious stands, and the relative coolness of the air made for one hell of a celebration. Personally, I'd never really liked this before, but this time...

Megumi would be there.

Yeah, yeah. Don't count your chickens (or foxes) before they hatch, but something told me she would come. She had to be there. I'm not the suicidal type who would go jump off a bridge if she didn't show up, but I didn't know what I would do if that did happen. It didn't cross my mind until now.

//Kenshin! Sexy!!!\\

That was scary. "Well Sano, we'll just leave you here and... well... bye!" Kaoru tugged on Kenshin's arm towards the lights and the noises, smiling. The ex-battousai stiffened visibly, and you could tell Kaoru was disappointed at the reaction. She had bought a new kimono especially for the occasion, and even bought a new hakama and gi for Kenshin. I'm no woman, but from the way Kaoru is looking at him, I'd say he looked pretty good. Yahiko was walking with us, head down at the ground. And that was the way he walked, all the way from the dojo to the middle of the town where the festival was. Right now, we were at the temple, the one where I was supposed to meet Megumi; Yahiko's temple was just a few yards away from mine.

//Sanosuke, good luck.\\

And with that, Kenshin and Kaoru strolled away towards the light. Hand in hand. She had changed so much, jou-chan didn't seem like a girl anymore.

She was a woman.

Kenshin glanced over his shoulder and I caught a brief smile flit across his face. Kaoru truly did look beautiful, the light flashing off her embroidered kimono. Although she didn't hold a candle to my Megumi, Kenshin didn't seem to care. He instead looked genuinely... happy. He's talked to me often about his hitokiri days, but only on rare occasions when he thought I was drunk off my arse and wouldn't pay attention.

Of course, I wasn't drunk. Why does everyone think that?

Anyways, I always tried to lend a ear to a person in need, and Himura Kenshin needed someone to listen to him about his problems. Subtle they were, but they were still there. "Sanosuke, do you think there is such a thing as true happiness?" I nodded slowly, this was the thing I experienced every time I was in Megumi's presence. "I mean, if you've been horribly wrong and brutal before, do you think God grants people... second chances?" His eyes turned distant as he gazed at the ceiling, lost in his own fantasy.

"God would be a total bastard if he didn't give second chances." Kenshin smiled at my opinion, I was never one for philosophizing. "So Kenshin, have you found true happiness?"

"I see it every day in Kaoru's eyes."

Perhaps he wasn't as dense as she thought.

So, you've finally found what you were looking for...

Kenshin and Kaoru disappeared into the crowd, but not before Kenshin slipped his hand into hers. I could hear her heartbeat quicken, then slow down again as she laid her head on Kenshin's shoulder.

She was flying.

At last.

********************

After the Kaoru and Kenshin incident, only me and Yahiko were left in the temple. He figured that the distance wasn't that far away, and when Tsubame showed up, he would rush over there and profess his love.

"What do I do if... if she... if..." Yahiko's normally tan face turned a deep shade of red. Well, maybe not profess his love... I couldn't help but grin. Yahiko always cool and in command, but when it came to girls, he wasn't so confident anymore.

"Spit it out kid..."

"Well, Tsubame and I..."

//He's talking about me! Ahh...\\

Thump thump, thump thump, thump thump... That heartbeat again. There was no mistaking it, that was Tsubame's voice. It was so loud, I thought that for sure Yahiko had heard it, but he went on sputtering in that clueless way of his. I tried scanning the temple, but she was out of sight. I may not be able to see her, but from her thoughts I know she was near enough to hear what we were saying.

"Why don't you just tell her how you feel?"

//How he feels?\\

"But I... I..."

//Oh... so he doesn't like me and he's trying to find a way to tell me...\\

Ah shit... Is he having second thoughts? From the way he looked... this could very well be what he is trying to say. This would have to be one of the most uncomfortable positions I've ever been in in my existence. Where was Megumi already?

Tsubame's inner voice was barely discernible anymore, I fear she already left the temple. She was a strong girl, but there are some things that are just too much to handle. If he was going to break her heart, then dammit, say it now before it progresses further. "What are you getting at Yahiko? Are you going to meet Tsubame... or not?"

The color returned to his face and his eyes became angry. "Of course I am you idiot! Why do I even bother asking you for advice around women? If you can't catch that I love Tsubame..."

Love?

//Love?\\

"...then you're as dense as..."

"Hello Yahiko."

"T- T- Tsubame!" Yahiko got up from his seat and awkwardly tried to save face.

The girl only laughed at Yahiko's stammering. She was all smiles. I about passed out myself when I saw what happened next. Tsubame rose up on her toes, threw her arms around Yahiko's neck, and kissed him. Tsubame for crying out loud!! What's even funnier is, only one of them was blushing like they've been thrown in boiling water.

It wasn't Tsubame.

********************

She didn't come.

I left Yahiko and Tsubame after about three minutes of nonstop kissing in the temple, the kids do deserve some privacy. Privacy for Tsubame surprising me and showing me than she had it in her; privacy for Yahiko because he looked like he was going to faint. I didn't want a comatose child on my hands...

She didn't come.

I'm sure Kenshin and Kaoru must be having a great time by now, wherever they are. What I would have given to see the look on Kaoru's face when she realizes that Kenshin loves her back...

She didn't come.

You know, now that I think about it, Aoshi and Misao are coming to Tokyo three days from now, too bad they missed Tanabata...

She didn't come.

The silence... the quiet... it's enough to drive someone insane... the long walk back was one of the most unbearable I've experienced in my life. I guess it was really... all my fault for being so stupid in the first place. If I hadn't been so confident and... cheeky before, maybe I would have, could have...

I was staying surprisingly calm for being so furious; I was scaring myself. I came to the conclusion that no respectable woman like her would go with someone like me. That was the painful truth.

Excruciating truth.

But now, one has to wonder... is that really the reason? Why? I restrained myself from shattering the nearest tree, once I start, I won't be able to stop. Megumi just had that effect on me. She probably already had someone else, I wouldn't be shocked if she did. After all, she beautiful, witty, smart, sarcastic... Something surged inside of me, was it adrenaline? Jealousy? All my confidence and what I thought I knew about her was totally shattered. The doctor's heart seemed far away to me; what made me think that I had that chance with her?

Unconsciously, I found myself walking down the path to the clinic, where she was sure to be if she wasn't at the festival.

Or the temple.

I was running myself into an unpleasant situation, but I didn't care. My sense of pride had been battered, and dammit, I want to know why. I was at my most vulnerable, and this had hurt me more than any flesh wound could ever. Holding my fury back was getting harder with each passing step, but I realized that a outburst wouldn't help the matter.

The clinic was in view, shrouded in darkness. After all, Tanabata was winding down already and I was guessing it was another 2 hours until sunrise. The streets were semi deserted, occasionally you'd run into some drunken fool staggering all over the road.

Alcohol sounds really inviting right now...

Beyond all my reasoning, and control, I walked up to the door of the clinic, convinced that Megumi was in there. The light was on, and I could hear her mind's thoughts very faintly, I couldn't make out any words. I stepped up to the entrance and reached out for the screen. Knocking be damned.

//You're such an idiot...\\

What's a doctor doing drinking like this? Surely she knows about the dangers of...

She was sitting cross-legged beside the short table, her back to me. Besides the sake jug and bottles littering the small room, the table was totally cleared, except for...

//Idiot.\\

The dragon... she was turning it over and over again in her hand. Looking at the wings, turning it over, looking at the belly, turning...

//Idiot.\\

Turning...

//You're such an idiot!\\

Her eyes had traveled to the doorway, where I was standing. I got a clearer view of her face, and... my God... she's... crying! No, the tears had stopped, but her face was still wet and her eyes reddened. She was crying.

What on earth are you crying about fox?

//Drinks for one tonight...\\

Megumi put the dragon down, picked up another sake cup, and downed it in one gulp. It didn't seem to be affecting her system in any way, she may even be more resistant to alcohol than me. If I wasn't so confused I'd probably join her... I was positive those eyes were red from the crying, and not from the sake. It had to be.

I saw her look around for another full cup, but didn't find one. She stood up, resting her hands on her knees for support. She flicked her hair back and wiped her eyes with the back of her hand. Taking utmost care, she began to tidy the clinic, clearing the bottles and wiping the floor.

//You know, sometimes I get tired of these pity parties...\\

She rasped to no one in particular, "Shut up." Her voice was hoarse, a sign that the alcohol had indeed gotten into her system.

//What are you going to do now?\\

"Mmm... a walk... I need... to get... some supplies for the... clinic..."

Panic stopped me short. A walk? In her condition? I looked at her again, swaying back and forth as she paced around the room, looking almost like she was dancing. My anger was rapidly disappearing, under normal circumstances, I would be the one who was swaying. It was role reversal gone wrong... it frustrated me that I couldn't stay mad at her for long, and that determination to keep on being angry made me even more sad at what Megumi had become.

It was almost pathetic.

Is this how you look at me?

By the time she had gone out the door and was fumbling with the screen, I was already by the posts at the front of the pathway. I took great pains to stay out of sight, the situation would be greatly aggravated if she were to see me. I doubted she would even recognize me at once when she saw me, so clouded her mind was from drinking. I couldn't even make out her thoughts anymore, they were all jumbled and nonsensical.

I hope you don't do this often fox. For your sake.

I walked behind her for what seemed like the longest time, she obviously had no idea of where she was going. That story about getting supplies for the clinic was fabricated, a delusion. She was walking to clear her head, but wasn't doing any good. I've never seen anyone in this bad a condition before, not even with all the men I've drunk with. I was impressed that she hadn't fainted yet.

//Sanosuke...\\

What? The sound of my name...

//I'm so sorry... I had...\\

She was rocking back and forth even more now, it was a miracle she stayed on her feet. Even from my distance, I could see her face go pale.

//I had... to get drunk just to... convince... myself...\\

Almost in a whisper, I barely heard what came next, but it replays in my mind as though she screamed it...

//I want to be at that temple.\\

...

//More than anything.\\

... Megumi...

Her hair fluttered as she toppled over in a dead faint. I regret not running fast enough to catch her, after all, it was apparent she was not going to be upright for much longer. I was too taken aback by that thought that I didn't start sprinting until after she had fallen. When I finally arrived, she was spread out on the ground, lying on her back. Her beautiful hair was splayed in every direction, looking like an intricate fan. One arm was out from her body, and the other was lying across her stomach.

I looked around; the first of the sun's rays was tinting the sky a lighter blue, it wouldn't be long until it rose. The street was still deserted, paper was flying everywhere from the previous nights celebration. When the sun came, so would the people. What would they think when they saw their doctor... comatose from drinking?

I scanned her for any other sign of injury; she had a scrape on one cheek from falling over into the dirt, but other than that, there was nothing else. My "years of experience" told me that this wasn't alcohol poisoning, if it was, she would be convulsing. So far, no convulsions. If I hadn't known better, she looked like she was sleeping. My diagnosis: she would be fine after some sleep, but she was going to have the mother of all hangovers when she wakes up.

Doctor Sanosuke. Who'da thunk it?

"Damn... you're getting heavy..." Thank God she wasn't awake, she would kill me if she heard that. I picked her up and carried her piggyback style, I uttered another silent thank you for her being unconscious. She wouldn't approve of any of this, but weighing the situation, this was better than lying in the street. She can thank me later. I would go to the clinic, drop her off there, and visit her when she got better.

//What a way to end July 7th...\\

"I... don't feel too well..." she breathed. She wasn't totally blacked out, but enough for her to not now what was going on.

//Otou-san... I feel sick...\\

Father? Images of her father raced through her mind, with crystal clarity. This was odd, considering the rest of her thoughts were in turmoil. Her father smiling, her father grinding powder in a mortar, her father reading a prescription, her father... I gasped.

...giving her a ride on his back.

Her head moved from resting on my back to my right shoulder. Her arms lazily hung over my chest and swayed with my movements. They reached up and brushed against my face, her fingers caressing my chin. "Otou-san, you need to shave..."

What? Father...

//Do I now, Meg-chan?\\

A new voice, distinctly male. That must be her father. I felt honored (and slightly disgusted at my "skill") at having the doctor reveal such a secret part of herself. I decided that it would be in my best interest if I didn't interrupt the exchange, a very drunk, angry woman is not something I seek out.

"Yes... that's my job to tell you, remember?" Megumi gave a small nod on my shoulder.

//That's right, how could I forget? You may be sick, but you can still think about my appearance. I'm flattered, Meg-chan... how come you're never this nice to Touji and the rest of your brothers?\\

"Because they're boys!" She made a general sound of disgust, but it was more of a childish haughtiness than anything else.

//That he is, but you're going to start thinking about those boys in a couple of years you know... might as well get used to them...\\

Megumi stirred even more, I was afraid that she was going to wake up. "I was just kidding... You're always too serious about that, otou-san..."

//Just looking out for my only daughter...\\

"But... can you promise you won't make me be with anyone I don't like?"

//Of course not... Meg-chan...\\

"Ai promise?"

//Only for you...\\

"Then why... didn't you come for me?" Memories of the Oniwa Banshuu and Takeda Kanryuu flashed across her mind. "Didn't you... love me anymore?"

My heart felt like breaking. That would be the second time that day. The weight she carried all these years, by herself... was unbearable. I certainly didn't help things either by forcing her to accept another man like me into her life. I felt like scum. "Answer me, otou-san..." She tugged on my neck with her arms.

Did she think that... I was her father? Can this be real?

"Don't you... love me?" Something slid down the side of my neck.

A tear?

This was... unbelievable. I saw everything as clear as if I had lived it. She tried pinning the blame of being caught in the opium mess on her father, after all, he was the one who had inspired her to become a doctor. Furthermore, he broke the promise that she would never be with a man not of her choosing, who was Kanryuu. She felt betrayed, the "ai promise" being broken. Her subconscious needed to find someone to blame, even if it was her father. The father that loved her dearly. She couldn't bring the guilt to herself, and that had given her temporary relief. This made me feel like even more of an ass for blaming her for killing Yoita. I made myself sick. Even it was to calm her heart... I had to find a way to free her from her memories.

This was her fear of commitment incarnated. She had the mentality of a man when it came to commitment, but for totally different reasons...

I cleared my throat. "Of course I love you, Meg-chan..."

"Really?" Something happened to her when I said that. She relaxed and sank into my back, and it was then I felt like she had grown smaller, more child-like.

I was speaking from the heart now, I had finally gotten to say the words I'd wanted to for so long... "I love you..."

"Then why..."

I stopped walking, I didn't even know that we had arrived at the clinic. The strangest feeling passed over me, it was like... a giant weight was lifted from my heart. Was this the effect of those three words?

"Why did you stop, otou-san?"

"I'm sorry I wasn't there for you Megumi..." I continued to walk up the steps of the clinic and found the room that she called "hers". "I... am sorry."

"You've never said 'sorry' to me before... I... don't know what to say..."

The tiniest smile crept over my face. "How about 'I love you' back?"

Her arms wound around my neck even tighter and I felt her lips brush against my neck. "No... you won't get that out of me until you shave, otou-san..."

I muttered a silent curse on not taking the time to shave my face. She didn't speak or think for the longest time, I thought she may have gone unconscious again. I heard the slow breathing and I knew.

Sleeping.

What's more, sleeping peacefully...

I knew instantly, my mind reading days were over. I thought that the weight I felt was the result of me telling Megumi that I loved her, but I was wrong. Somehow, the power to peek into women's minds was evoked at that moment.

Damn.

It was quite a task to put the futon that was propped up against the wall while making sure not to disturb Megumi. To top it off, my mind really wasn't on task either. Was this the reason I got this power? Did God do this for kicks? Is there even a reason? Reason or not, I regarded it as a miracle. Those don't come often to me, and I'm glad that God had decided to help me do his job for him. Even if it was just one small errand, an insignificant life to him maybe, to his own wise choice (or detriment) he entrusted me with one life.

One life.

"You might... need this..." I found a neatly folded woolen blanket in a corner of the room and draped it around her shoulders. Although my 'manlihood' suggested that I change her clothes into her cotton sleeping yukata, my common sense told me otherwise. She would rip me apart and have me for breakfast. Besides, you might not want to believe it, but I have just a little more honor than taking advantage of a woman while she's sleeping off a hangover. I would sink down to the level of those bastards I try to defend women against.

"Otou-san..."

I froze. She was awake. I turned around, preparing for the worst. She would be none too happy about a man, especially me, plodding around in her bedroom in the early morning.

"...good night, otou-san..."

Still asleep. Still dreaming. Still...

Beautiful.

Good night, Meg-chan.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Author's notes: ARGH!! *rips hair out in frustration* It's not supposed it end like that!! No matter what I do, it sounds wrong! *shakes head* Fear not, I am as disappointed with this conclusion as you are, so therefore it shall not end here! *laughs insanely* I am starting a new fic, "The Handcuff Chronicles" in which Sanosuke and Megumi are handcuffed together for two weeks.

*looks at all the stares* Yeah, it's a parody-fest. Handcuffs now? *nods* Karina is a pervy bunny... so stay tuned, and review, please!

WWW completed: August 12, 2001