Entitled: With a Smile for Spring
Fandom: Gintama
Pairing: Gintoki/Kagura
Length: 2000 words
Disclaimer: I do not own Gintama and etc.
Notes: It was a weird pairing for me to write because of the age gap. The whole point was to capture a sort of ageless, careful love, and I want to know if I got it. Because if I didn't, then I guess the whole thing's pretty creepy.

They take Sadaharu over to Shinpachi's house, so the mutt can run around some, (which basically translates to Shinpachi running away from it, and Sadaharu just chasing him around) and Gintoki collapses on the deck to watch, Hasegawa at his side. It wasn't like the guy had anything better to do.

"Stupid mutt," he hears himself say, and falls back onto his elbows, looking at the spectacle his friends choose to make of themselves. "Going to tear down the house one day."

"So, he and Kagura are still living with you?" Hasegawa asks idly, in his raspy voice and disheveled clothes. Gintoki shrugs.

"You're such a softie," Hasegawa accuses blithely, but raises his eyebrows in a way that makes Gintoki squirm.

"Hey. I don't know what kind of weird ideas you have there, but you'd better stop thinking them." Gintoki advises lowly, though his voice stays quite even, quite neutral. Hasegawa sucks down another cancer stick, eyes squinting through his sunglasses.

Gintoki supposes that when he's looking at Hasegawa, he's looking at himself, just older, probably; a lonely bum who hangs out with teenagers and delinquents, digging in all the change slots at the nearest vending machine. Really, it isn't so bad. It isn't so bad.

Hasegawa doesn't turn his head when he speaks to him. It makes him feel older, for some reason, kind of adult, like this was some yakuza movie and they were the mobsters sitting at the edge of innocence. He spots Kagura chasing a butterfly, and it makes his chest ache in a way he can't begin to understand. "She's going to be stunning when she's older. I've seen how that Okita kid looks at her—you can't pretend not to notice, Gin-san. You're only, what, twenty?"

"Twenty two." He says, and it feels strange to say.

Hasegawa shrugs, doesn't notice, "You're already living together, after all. It wouldn't be all that unexpected."

Gintoki sighs dejectedly, scuffing his feet against the floor. It feels different, through all the calluses. He watches as Kagura trips over an unconscious Shinpachi, crashing to the ground on top of him. She ruins any romantic implications by coming down on his stomach with her elbow, shocking Shinpachi into a choked howl. "She's just a kid," he says, and gets wearily to his feet so he can drag the two of them apart.

"Kids grow up."

He doesn't really know why he says it. It's not like it's any of his business. It's her life, and Okita's really not a bad guy—well, he is, but she's tough enough to handle him. Gin's seen her fight. He's helped her snap her bones back into place, almost proud of the sick little lurch in her face, before she closes her eyes and breathes it away. So it's not that he's worried about her or anything, it's just—

It's just that Okita's eighteen, and four years is practically eight, and if he can't touch her, then Okita shouldn't either. He gets that they've all grown up fast, but she shouldn't have to—

"Hey. Hey, did I see you flirting with Sougo?" he asks her at breakfast. Their knees are pressed together under the table, her head pillowed on her arm and her eyes closed. She looks smaller, like that, and then her eyes open and there's an intensity there, murky with sleep, but still arrestingly adult. He pauses.

She glares at him blearily, "Gin-chan, don't say stupid things."

He feels mildly reassured until she adds, "Like I'd ever go for that stupid creep."

Which is exactly the sort of thing a person says when they would.

"Oh, how terrible," he laments to his breakfast, because he isn't all that hungry anymore, "Kagura has discovered the ways of womanly deception. What a disaster. You know she'll totally abuse it—pretty soon, poor Shinpachi will be throwing rocks at our windows and then we'll have to repair them, and all because he had to sing you a stupid love song and—"

Shinpachi mercilessly knees him in the nose, and sets Kagura's breakfast in front of her, frilly apron in place. "Stop it. You'll give me nightmares."

Kagura seems content to let this slide, so he lets the matter fade out.

They are definitely flirting. Or at least, Okita sure is. Kagura looks like she's just trying to kill him—this time out of genuine anger for knocking over her ice cream cone.

Hijikata's yelling something at him, something smirky and challenging and his pride is quickly being muffled, because really, he doesn't want to deal with this. He sinks back through the heat waves and ignores the other, dark haired man, eyes burned with the summer sky. It's almost violent, it's so brightly blue, and the flavor of it stirs something within him.

"I'm sorry," he cuts in over Hijikata's mad rants, thrashing head and bits of spittle, (yeah, he's got the guy mad,) "The children are playing over there. Have fun."

He rolls on his side so he won't have to meet the blue, and looks into green, watches the ants crawl with a sort of bored benevolence until Hijikata unintentionally stomps on them when he's trying to get his attention.

"What's up with you? Got dumped, didn't you?" Hijikata doesn't sit. He's probably enjoying making Gintoki look up, the bastard. He strikes up a cigarette, because it's a law of the universe that guys like Hijikata—they smoke. It's true. It looks almost as cool as the sword.

He squints, "What's up with you? Are you trying to get into a fight? Because I won't, you know. That's not really fighting. I feel like I'm beating up a little kid and stealing his lunch money."

Hijikata tries to shake some of the hot ash onto Gintoki's face, but the wind catches it and brushes it away. Hijikata snorts, and the sound comes out snarled.

"You're going to sound like a frog by the time you're thirty. Maybe they'll stick tubes down your throat. That'd be fun. I bet you'd trip over them."

"Screw off," Hijikata mutters, but he gets that Gin's not fighting, and so just stands there, because he doesn't have an excuse to walk away, and he's never going to sit down.

"Does he like her, or something?" Gintoki points to the cause of all his troubles, and Okita's dancing away from her, his hair all messy and his grin all sharp and wicked, hands fast and clever as he blocks her. He looks exhilarated.

Hijikata doesn't answer him. Gintoki supposes the answer was pretty obvious.

When they do finally leave, Gintoki's still facing the grass. It takes him a moment of sightless staring to realize that the ants are still moving, that they're battered and half dead, missing limbs and bleeding, but still limping forwards with a dogged determination.

So it's funny, because he's never really been all that fond of insects, but somehow, he's kind of hoping they'll make it.

He doesn't sleep well at night. He's been like that for a while, ever since he survived the war and others didn't. But everything's shut down at one a.m., and it's not like he's got anywhere to go, either. So he stays up with his legs crossed on the floor like he's a kid, eyes stuck on the late night television. There isn't anything good on, but it's the only thing he can see.

When she comes stumbling out of her closet, eyes smushed together and sleepy, he glances away and sees the screen burned green before his vision, has to blink so he can see her.

"What're you doing up?"

"I like this show," she says, (he's watching a vacuum commercial) and plops down beside him without a second of hesitation, a kind of unquestioning trust, her legs splayed out before her, scarred knees poking out of her shorts. He looks at the little scabs she's got, watches her toes curled all tight.

"You're gonna fall asleep in a second," he says, because she will. She shakes her head, chin setting stubbornly.

"Will not." She forces out, around her yawn, and her eyes are already sagging shut. She's pressed up against his shoulder, making his elbows cramp up, but he doesn't really mind. He can faintly smell all the oranges she ate earlier, and almost smiles when he sees that her hands are still stained yellow.

"Hey, Kagura, if you're going to start dating that guy—"

"Gin-chan," she says darkly, "Shut up."

He doesn't. "Just be careful. I get that you're young and all, but men are obscene creatures. They all want one thing. So, I guess it's about time I told you what—"

"Gin-chan," she sounds a little bit irritated, a little bit impatient, "Of course I know that."

He stops. He tries to think. "Wait. Are we talking about the same thing?"

"I didn't grow up in a palace," she mutters grumpily, like she's tired of being taken so lightly. He almost wants to laugh, laugh until he stops feeling sick.

"Oh." He says, and wonders if he should make her get off him, if he should send her back to bed and lock the door to his room and make her move in with Otae. Of course he should. Of course he should. "Hey, Kagura—" he lifts one hand to push her away and then pauses, letting it just-barely rest on her shoulder, noting her slow, deep breathing.

The vacuums must have be crap, if they're going for a thousand yen. He'll probably get one anyway, and then give it to Shinpachi or something when he brakes it.

He shakes her a little, very carefully, and her head slips from his shoulder to his neck, just resting there as she mumbles and shifts, practically crawling into his lap. He sighs, but doesn't mind too much, because she isn't really all that heavy, and a little part of him kinda thinks that she wouldn't do this with anyone else. He hopes she wouldn't. People can be kind of creepy in this part of town.

"You're lucky I'm not Okita," he tells her sternly, and adjusts her a little bit so she isn't breathing on his neck, smacks the television a few times to turn down the volume, "Seriously. Don't do this again."

She sighs, and he smiles at her even though it's dark and she's asleep, because at least he he'll know it happened. It's not like he was sad or anything, but when she mutters in her sleep he pats her head a bit so she'll be quiet and he just feels…better.

At five, it's starting to get light and he's starting to get sleepy, so he shakes her again, but ends up carrying her back to her closet like he knew he would. She looks really little, huddled up in an odd mix of second-hand clothes, so he stands there all awkward for a second, and then drags the blanket up from her toes and over her head. He's not tucking it up around her chin. It's not like he's her mother, or something.

When Shinpachi drags him out of bed a few hours later, he snaps open his chopsticks and asks her through mouthfuls of rice, "So. Are you going to flirt with Sougo again today? Because if you are, I feel like I should write to your father. He'd want to know about this guy—"

"You told me not to talk to strange guys," Kagura says primly, because she was up watching some kind of a drama this morning, something about a girl's boarding school, and now she's on a refined kick that'll last maybe three more hours, if he knows her as well as he thinks.

"Okay." He says, and decides to give Shinpachi a fan for Christmas instead.