--Melody--

The first sound Sanosuke noticed as he stumbled out of the dojo that morning, bleary-eyed and more than a little hung-over from the previous night's binge drinking, was the sound of singing. A rich, male timbre resounded from behind the dojo, rising in harmony with the chirping of the birds to welcome in the morning. Sano blinked with confusion, distractedly tucking in the edges of the worn, borrowed gi he wore into his hakama, making up his mind to find the source of the sound as he struggled to make his way to the back.

The sight that greeted him should have been a familiar one if not for the sound accompanying it, the resounding melody that had first drawn him to this place. Kenshin was bent over the washtub, his sleeves drawn up to his shoulders, exposing surprisingly thin arms considering the strength he harbored, elbow deep in soapy water as he vigorously scrubbed at dirty clothes.

What shocked Sano, however, was the accompanying song originating from his mouth, a soft, but lifting, almost eerie song. The lyrics were unfamiliar, lilted with an accent he could not place, though he guessed it to be some kind of traditional folk song, perhaps a side-effect from his friend's childhood. He would never really know, for he would never think to ask, his mind frozen with the revelation of Kenshin's pleasant, and extremely talented, voice.

"Sano?"

He turned his head, his jaw still unhinged with shock as he looked back to find Kaoru standing behind him, blinking wordlessly as he took in the sight of her, still in her training gi, her hair pulled back into a messy ponytail, bokken still in hand. She tilted her head curiously, unspoken questions evident in blue eyes.

"I'm shocked to see you up so early." Her eyes strayed downward to his clothing. "I see you found the clothes I left you. It seems a little big, but is it comfortable enough? Kenshin said you came back last night completely soaked, and you didn't have any other clothes with you, so we had to make do. You smelled pretty heavily of liquor, I don't think I even want to know how that happened."

He nodded his head dumbly, suddenly becoming aware of four things: one, he thought it best not to analyze the bleary, foggy memories of the night before; two, he spotted his clothes hanging from the laundry line, billowing in the wind; three, the singing had stopped; four, half-drunk or not, he would have to be a fool not to notice the furtive little glances Kenshin and Kaoru exchanged between them.

"Oi, jou-chan, thanks for the clothes, and for letting me stay the night. Who's the gi and hakama belong to, though?" He grinned. "It's not like you to have strange men's clothes lying around."

Her face clouded, and her head turned as she focused on Kenshin doing the laundry, whom meanwhile stared down into the water in an effort to hide the fact he had been following every word of their exchange. "It was my father's," she said softly.

"Oh." Sano's grin softened into an apologetic smile. "Gomen, jou-chan, I shouldn't have talked like that."

She shook her head, a tiny smile tugging at her lips. "It's alright. No harm done. I could have sworn I heard singing, though. I know for a fact it wasn't you. You couldn't carry a tune in a bucket, Sanosuke. I've seen you drunk enough to prove it."

Sano flashed his typical lazy grin, scratching his neck. "You're probably right, but I know who can." He gestured over his shoulder toward Kenshin, who was still staring guiltily into the basin of water as if contemplating one of the eight wonders of the world.

"Kenshin?" Sano couldn't help but notice the way everything about the little missy's demeanor changed as she turned to regard the red-headed swordsman, her eyes warm and full of emotions too obvious to be anything but longing and adoration, her voice going soft and gentle in a way Sano rarely saw her interact with anyone else. "Was it you?"

Kenshin raised his head, though he still refused to meet her eyes, awkwardly clearing his throat before hesitantly answering, "H-hai, Kaoru-dono. Sessha was the one singing, de gozaru yo. Sessha hopes he did not disturb you."

Sano guffawed, regarding his roommate with a sly look in his eyes. "Geez, are you kidding, Kenshin? That's some talent you got there. We ought to have you perform in town. We could make a local celebrity out of you. That'd rake in the dough; Kami-sama knows we need it."

Kenshin blanched, his face growing pale, most likely at the idea of being the center of attention for so many people. "N-no, sessha does not think-"

"Leave him alone, Sano," Kaoru reprimanded, settling her hands on her hips as she glared at him, "You shouldn't tease him like that. A talent like his is a precious thing."

"Yare, yare," Sano mumbled, holding up his hands in a defensive gesture, "I get it, I get it. I'll leave him alone."

She nodded, her eyes softening as she looked at Kenshin once more, and their gazes locked, something passing between them he knew excluded the presence of any outsider, so Sanoske chose to make a discreet exit.

Just as he rounded the corner, he caught the sound of Kaoru saying, "Ano, Kenshin, will you sing for me?"

That gave him pause in his steps, and he stopped, a slow smile curving his mouth as the same rich, tenor voice rose into the air, warm and pleasant as a summer breeze. He curiously glanced back around the corner, watching as Kaoru made her way to the rurouni's side, watched as she drew Kenshin's hands from the water, entwining them with her own regardless of the wet. As he watched them share a kiss, Sano smiled, and made his way back toward the dojo, the low murmur of Kenshin's voice following after him.