Prisoner in Myself

Characters belong to no one, seeing as they were based off real-time Shinsengumi, but the creation of them in a manga is credited to Nanae Chrono.

Warning: implied/actual shounen ai (very mild) is possible, but this is a first for me, so we'll see how it goes.

º º º

Okita sighed, continuing to stare up at the ceiling. It had snowed last night, and although he didn't mind it when he was forbidden from going outside yesterday, today there was actually enough snow to have some fun. It might not have even bothered him that much, but Yamazaki kept coming in to check on him and during that brief moment it took to slide the door shut behind him, Okita was able to see things other than the walls of his tatami room. Watching Tetsu, Shinpachi, and the others throwing snowballs at each other and having a good time made Okita feel lonely and a little jealous.

Now, he was lying on his futon, his room deserted of any form of company. Not even Saizou was allowed to visit him. He hadn't seen Hijikata in a few days, due to the fact that the vice-commander had taken over all the duties originally assigned to the first unit captain and was now usually out patrolling the town.

Okita sat up slowly and looked towards the sliding doors before him. He wanted to go outside and enjoy the scenery. Aside from the snow, he didn't even know what the weather was like. His room was stuffy and it was hard to breathe, but that could have just been the illness.

He crept out from underneath the covers, slipped into his tabi socks, and stepped forward.

As he slid the panel open, he was amazed at how crisp and refreshing the air felt. He inhaled deeply through his nose, which soothed him greatly. When he looked out onto the grounds, he realized that there was more snow than he thought there would be.

He heard a noise over to his left, and saw Tetsu and Heisuke having a snowball fight against Shinpachi and Sano. Not yet ready to go back into his room, Okita walking to the end of the deck towards them, his arms crossed in front of him to block the cold.

"Good morning, everyone!" he called to them.

Sanosuke dropped his snowball mid-pitch, and he and the others looked to the direction of the voice. Realizing soon enough who it was and remembering his delicate condition, they ran towards him, concerned.

"Okita-san!" Tetsu cried, beaming.

"Should you really be out here, Okita-taichou?" Shinpachi asked. "You'll only make yourself sicker."

"No, it's okay. I feel a lot better today."

Okita leaned his shoulder on the nearest support column, not because he was feeling sick, only because he wanted to lessen the weight on his feet.

"But you only have on your night-wear, and it's freezing out here," Heisuke commented.

"I promise you, it's nothing to worry about." When they continued to look at him with apprehension, he continued. "Since I can't do it myself, I'd love to see you all build a snowman."

He smiled down at them, and it was hard to deny him anything when he made a face like that. They knew that every time Yamazaki did a check-up on Okita, the news was never good, but this last one had been grim; he predicted that this would be Okita's last winter.

Tetsu and the three captains got to work making the best snowman possible.

As Okita watched them roll the snow to create the bottom portion of a snowman, he sat himself on the edge of the raised deck, careful not to wet his tabi socks in the snow. He fidgeted with his hands at first, not used to having them piglet-free, but then settled with them cupped in his lap.

If it weren't for his being sick, he could be out there helping them. He could be with Saizou and Hijikata, or doing his duties as a Shinsengumi captain; but instead of all that, he was isolated from the world, waiting for the damned disease to take him from it.

When he refocused his attention on the snowman, Heisuke and Shinpachi were already putting two sticks for arms on either side of the middle section, while Sano helped Tetsu put on the head.

"Keep it up, your four," Okita called as Heisuke began to add a face to the snowman by using stones he picked up from the ground.

"It's not done yet!" Tetsu shouted back, turning and running off.

Within a matter of minutes, he was back with a Shinsengumi robe. Okita recognized it as his own, and began feeling that certain emptiness whenever he was reminded of his condition.

Tetsu had found the robe in Okita's old tatami room. Ever since Okita's diagnosis, he had been moved to a new, cleaner room under Yamazaki's orders, and had left a majority of his belongings behind. That included his uniform and sword.

"There, all finished!"

The finishing touch to the snowman had been when Sano draped the Shinsengumi robe over its shoulders. Okita loved it and he wanted to see it up close.

He stepped off the raised deck, feeling the squish in his tabi as he walked through the snow.

"It's you, Okita-san," Tetsu said as Okita reached them.

"So it is," he beamed.

"Is it really okay for you to be walking out here?" Sano asked. "You're not even wearing shoes."

"Yes, it's all right. I feel fi-"

Okita's body convulsed, but he was not fast enough to fully cover his mouth. Blood flew over the top of his hand, splattering the snowman's face and falling on the snowy ground. He felt horrible for ruining the snowman.

He was bent forward, his body racked with coughs. He knew the others were still around him and frantic, but for some reason he couldn't get himself focus on them.

It was at this time that Hijikata was returning from his patrols. He walked past the two front guards, turning his attention elsewhere as he heard someone coughing violently. He knew immediately who it could have been and raced towards it.

When Hijikata reached them, Yamazaki had also arrived and was doing his best to calm the ailing man. Okita was beginning to cease his coughing, but his body was shaking and he still couldn't breathe. He could feel himself being watched by Hijikata, so he turned towards him. He attempted to smile to comfort the man, but it was merely a grimace and the sudden movement had sent him into another coughing fit.

When Okita returned his eyes to the ground, he felt light-headed and collapsed into Yamazaki. With help from Hijikata and the three other captains, Yamazaki was able to carry Okita back into his tatami room.

º º º

"How could you have been so stupid?"

Hijikata was worried about Okita, and that worry soon turned into rage. While he waited for news from Yamazaki, Hijikata took up the task of punishing and scolding the idiots who had mad him so angry.

"I ought to strip your captain ranks for this!"

Tetsu, merely a page, was only harshly scolded, and did not receive the same punishment as the three captains; all three of them had been beaten at least once. Hijikata did not hit them as hard as he would have liked, but he figured it was enough to knock some sense into them.

"B-But Hijikata-san, we tried to tell Okita-san that he shouldn't be outside-"

Heisuke was back-handed on the cheek. His lower lip was already badly swollen and starting to bleed.

"Tried to tell him? Why not try to restrain him?"

Hijikata had a wild look about him, almost like a crazed man. Tears were starting to well up in little Tetsu's eyes, but he was afraid to let him fall in fear of what the vice-commander would do to him.


Loud, padded feet were rushing towards them. Judging by the sound of their voice, they were in desperate need of finding Hijikata. They were coming closer and closer, and finally, Hijikata turned away from the captains before him and around to the sliding doors behind.

The door slid open to reveal a flushed and panting Yamazaki. He leaned forward on his knees to try to catch his breath, before looking up at Hijikata.

"Hijikata-sama...Okita. Okita-san is...awake. Wanted you to know."

"How is he?" Hijikata asked.

"He has a fever now, but otherwise he's fine."

Yamazaki looked past Hijikata at the three captains and small page boy all sitting with their backs against the wall. The captains had a few cuts and bruises but it was nothing too serious. Yamazaki looked at Tetsu and shook his head, letting a small smirk slip past his features.

"I'm sorry," Hijikata muttered behind him before leaving the room after Yamazaki.

º º º

"He's very tired, because of the fever," Yamazaki warned. "But he wanted to see you."

Hijikata nodded and grabbed the doorframe. For some reason, he was nervous about going in. Okita had requested to see him, and Hijikata wasn't about to refuse him, but just the thought of the Shinsengumi's first unit captain so frail just ate away at him. He wished there was something he could do.

"Thank you," he said to Yamazaki before sliding the door open and walking in.

The room was extremely stuffy upon entering; it was no reason Okita had wanted to go outside. Okita himself was lying on his futon, eyes closed as if he were already asleep. Hijikata quietly walked over and sat beside him.

"Souji," he whispered.

Okita slowly opened his eyes, and even that seemed like a struggle for him. When he noticed Hijikata, he smiled as best he could and tried to sit up.

"Don't," Hijikata cautioned. "You'll only strain yourself."

Okita rolled his eyes and continued, wincing as he did.

"Don't treat me like I'm dying," Okita said softly, half-smiling.

Hijikata's breath caught. He hadn't been trying too, but lately he'd begun to treat Okita differently. Not that it mattered, Yamazaki was positive that Okita would die within the next year. But he really wanted to act like nothing was different between them.

It was hard to act like Okita wasn't sick, because he really looked it. He'd been coughing up a lot more blood lately and he'd lost 15 pounds within the last month. Now, with his fever and fatigue, his eyes were sunken and his cheeks were flushed.

"I'm cold," Okita said, frowning.

"That's what you get for going outside."

"No, I think it's because I haven't changed out of my socks." He laughed.

Hijikata watched as Okita crawled out from under his massive amount of blankets, revealing his sodden tabi.

"You need socks," Hijikata said.

"I'll get them!"

"No, I'll get them for you."

Hijikata got up and walked to the only other piece of furniture in the room. He opened the drawer and pulled out a clean set of socks. He walked back and sat down again.

"Give me your feet," he said, even though it sounded weird.

Okita did, revealing frozen, almost blue feet.

"Stupid, who walks around in the snow without shoes?"

Okita put his finger to his chin, and laughed. "I guess I do."

Hijikata sighed. He unrolled the new pair of tabi and slipped them onto Okita's naked feet. He grabbed the covers of the futon and pulled them up to rest on Okita's lap.

"Thanks. That's better," Okita said, stifling a yawn.

"I should let you sleep."

Hijikata started to get up, but was stopped when Okita reached out and grabbed his hand. He had a pained look on his face, and within a few seconds, he started to cough violently. It was short-lived and blood-free, but it had sapped what little energy he had left.

"Please stay, Hijikata-san," Okita said, his voice strained.

"Fine, but only until you fall asleep."

Shakily, Okita shuffled back down under the covers. He sighed and stared up at the ceiling. Other than nearly coughing up a lung (again), he concluded that he had had a pretty decent day. He'd got to go outside and have a snowman built for him. And now, he was spending time was Hijikata.

He knew that soon, this retched disease would take him from Hijikata and his friends, but for now, he was happy to be living, even if it had only been an ideal life until he'd gotten sick. Either way, he was still happy.

"Mind if I use your lap? It's a lot better than this pillow-thing."

Hijikata's face turned a bright pink, but that didn't stop him from helping Okita situate himself. He remembered how Okita used to like to sleep in his lap when they were both kids; for some reason, he claimed it helped calm him.

"Good night, Hijikata-san," Okita said, shutting his eyes.

It was almost instantly that Okita's breathing pattern changed into that of sleep, but that didn't stop Hijikata from saying one last thing.

"Good night, Souji."

º º º

I adore this couple. And I know it was more implied shounen ai than anything else, but I still thought it was cute. I like very few shounen ai couples, this being one of them, the other being Yuki and Shu-chan from Gravitation.

This was my first Peacemaker Kurogane fic, but I enjoyed writing it so much that I want to make this a chapter fic. I know, you are all saying "Oh no, she said the c-word," but I promise it'll be short. One to two more chapters, tops.

Anyway, tell me what you think. I tried to keep the characters in as in-character as possible, but I've only seen the anime and have never read the manga (I'm working on that though), so sorry if I screwed up the honorifics. I also like how I only wrote the first names for "The Three Comedians" and Tetsu. And Okita's...whenever Hijikata said it.