Disclaimer: I REBEL!
Chapter 12: All Ends Well That's Not Well
Gintoki stood frozen in place trying to understand the loss of everything sensible and reasonable he had. It seemed as if he had been punched from Edo to the ends of the Earth and all air had escaped his lungs and flown up to the planet's surface far away from its core. Gintoki would need at least three rebirths to find the perfect way to describe how he felt at Hijikata's sudden appearance and another eight to understand whatever the fuck he had just said. He feared for a moment the silver in his hair would die to a dull white from the shock. His brain was either paralysed from confusion or stirring suicidally. He had a small notion of having his mouth open with absolute astonishment and his lips going dry because of his body's inactivity. The ache in his knee from having kicked the kotatsu was probably his sole reminder of reality.
It is necessary to rewind back to the paramount event that led to such a total loss of reaction on Gintoki's part to assimilate the current circumstances. In retrospective, the whole alien invasion had been quite an exhausting and extensive ordeal, probably spawning at least eight episodes if one were to talk anime time. It had begun with the contest, followed by an escapade with Hijikata then quitting it to save Kagura and Shinpachi, playing a decisive match of Ztreet Fighter X, getting down to boxers and a sock, fleeing from an exploding spaceship and, well, suffering the biggest mindfuck Gintoki had been through in years. He knew from the moment he had heard Hijikata's screams amidst the curtains of smoke that something wasn't right. With everyone else safe and in control there had been nothing to prevent Gintoki from going to the rescue, not even his pride. Truth be told, it would have taken far less than that to put in motion his slightly damaged hero complex. Nevertheless, Gintoki was ignorant of his own intentions and thus he stepped in with the wrong assumptions unbeknownst. Only when he saw the blade trespassing Hijikata and the blood pooling around him did he comprehend it wasn't about rescuing anybody any more. The bitter taste of vengeance came right up, chilling his spine and steadying his hand ready for the kill. The strong déjà vu kicked in; fingers reminiscing the hard handle of a steel blade, lips tasting the uproar of battle, his arms heavy with the bodies of countless friends and allies he had left behind. The images remained so vivid in his memory he had no way to block them. Gintoki had always fallen to extreme rashness whenever any friend was in harm, his reason shutting itself onto a single purpose, to protect. He prided himself of that since he seemed to be so useless at everything else. But at that time, with Hijikata bleeding profusely without any weapon to defend himself, Gintoki was baffled that he had been denied his charge. Hijikata's voice echoed with shame and anger and it wasn't until later that those feelings resounded inside Gintoki with clarity as well and he blew up in rage. Shinsengumi guns appeared, unloading lead on Trout-face and carrying their Vice Commander away. Gintoki was left in such a state of bewilderment he could barely speak. Apparently a state he was getting quite familiar with.
Hijikata did not utter another syllable after dropping the bomb and Gintoki was starting to feel reprimanded as if he had done something wrong. His attitude on the phone not even an hour ago rang a few bells in his head but Gintoki was an expert at dodging uncomfortable subjects, especially when he had been so cruel in his honesty. Hence, it was absolutely ludicrous to think he deserved any of the present shit, yet, were it not for the first part of Hijikata's chastisement, Gintoki might have been able to rebuke with something other than a stupid face and muteness.
It was crucial to come up with a word or a grunt some time soon. Hijikata was beginning to perceive the impropriety of the situation, more precisely of what he had just blurted out. Unfortunately, Gintoki was too distracted by his own thoughts to answer anything remotely human and being able to watch Hijikata's train of thought by contemplating the blooming flush taking over his features didn't exactly help.
Hijikata put an end to their awkward silence by taking two steps back and withdrawing to the front door. Gintoki's brain processed the decision at first with relief then with indignation. The barrage to feelings which almost a week of suppression had created was demolished, hauling all of them out.
"Oi bastard, you really have some nerve, coming in here all high and mighty trying to sprinkle fairy dust on your shit!"
His dissent was enough to stop Hijikata from taking another step and the latter turned around with eyes bulged out, certainly unable to process Gintoki's deplorable manner of address after what he had belatedly come to understand as his confession.
"What did you-" Hijikata could not even stutter from how stunned he was.
"Yeah you heard me" Gintoki told him "You think a few words are going to put it right? How many more times am I going to go through that again just because you're too stubborn to accept my help? You didn't bleed to death to please me? Are you fucking with me? You think this makes me happy?!"
If Gintoki's heart had not been hammering against his chest from the moment Hijikata appeared it surely was now as those words left his mouth. It had been so easy to spout his nonsensical insecurities over the phone, he had made them sound convincing. He had not given two yens to the thought of Hijikata feeling anything other than annoyance at his words so intent had he been on hurting him. He had even felt triumphant when Hijikata hung up the call in defeat. But now as they spoke face to face, as Gintoki's brain slowly worked its way around Hijikata's reasons for coming to explain himself and seeing him reacting so miserably at his accusations, he knew; he knew there was something else. Gintoki was pondering so deeply about it that he failed to dodge Hijikata's punch. Even with his left arm on a sling, his movements were quick and powerful, sending Gintoki stumbling backwards to the living room.
"If you had an inch of honor in you I would give you my sword so you could disembowel yourself" Hijikata grumbled from above. His voice masked much and nothing.
"I'm sure you don't want to soil it with my blood" Gintoki rebuked while he got up. His cheek stung and swelled, simply adding to the overall pain.
"Well, this was a mistake" Hijikata declared, though to himself or to Gintoki the latter was not sure.
"Then why don't you just leave?"
Hijikata didn't need to be told twice. Gintoki looked away, refusing to meet his eyes in case another wave of remorse flooded him. He removed to his room and slid shut the door. When he slumped on the floor he heard the front door shut as well and Hijikata's footsteps as he climbed down the stairs. He touched the swollen cheek on his face and cursed internally.
"What have I done... shit!"
It was so much easier to regret everything he had said once Hijikata was out of sight, Gintoki felt dumb. Why did he have to be such an idiot? Hijikata didn't make things simple but he had come to explain himself, hadn't he? Gintoki punched the wall in frustration.
"Why did he have to sound so fucking condescending?!"
Gintoki's main problem, and perhaps not only concerning Hijikata, was the fact that love ended up being just another empty word to shove around. Something said out of necessity rather than feeling. It was like Hijikata owed it to him and now there it was, like a card thrown on the table. It was clear that Gintoki was making a huge deal out of their argument. He wasn't bright or sensible enough to take into account Hijikata's fears, nor could he ever fathom the latter to have them. Gintoki, in all his pretense of knowing Hijikata had never really allowed himself to get close enough. He doubted he ever could. He was blinded by his lonely distress, his intimate joys, everything he had made up inside his head. He forgot that to get close he had to open up himself.
Since the beginning it had been nothing but a one-sided fancy to the purpose of his own entertainment. Gintoki had acknowledged it before. He just did not expect the late intimations on Hijikata's part to mean anything else other than mock. He did not believe they could mean anything real because it was just not possible. That's not how things worked for them, that's not how things worked for Gintoki. Now that the veil had been pulled back and something else had attached itself to his fantasy, it had stopped making sense entirely. Gintoki distrusted it all. How could that bastard just strut inside his house telling him that he loved him? It was so fucking ridiculous Gintoki burst out laughing. A week before he had been so scared of what might have happened if he had confessed yet there came pitiful brave Hijikata saying it without a care in the world, like he was so damn sure of it too. Gintoki had to lay back on the tatami floor from so much laughter. It took him a while to realize the humor did not come from any sort of contempt, except maybe the one he had for himself.
He could not stop replaying that little phrase inside his head and he had no control either over the muscles on his face. He was getting scared and worrying about what to do to stop smiling when Otose interrupted his double-edged rapture.
"Gintoki?" She had one eyebrow raised with suspicion and her whole face screamed repulse at his sight. He quickly sat up to a more fitting position and turned to her with a detached expression.
"Sneaking into my room to see if I have some money hidden for your rent? As a matter of fact I'll tell you that-"
"That's not why I came" she interrupted him calmly. It was Gintoki's turn to be wary "Come with me, there's something that belongs to you plastered on my bar and I need you to pick it up because it's closing hours" she whined.
"Shinpachi?! Plastered? What have I told you about serving drinks to minors ba-"
"I do not serve drinks to minors you dimwit!"
"Then Catherine did it"
"She did not"
"You know Shinpachi is still a kid, you must drill that into your employee's brain-"
"It's not Shinpachi!" Otose hissed angrily. Gintoki rolled his eyes and followed her outside, careful to avoid the smoke she purposefully blew on his face.
"Don't tell me you- Kagura- she- you wouldn't!" Gintoki began dramatizing another possible scenario only to have Otose slapping him hard on the head.
"No you moron!" she took a drag on her cigarette and then clicked her tongue "I wonder how he puts up with you" she mumbled under her breath.
"What? Who? What are you saying? Old age is deteriorating your reasoning, oi" Gintoki protested annoyingly though Otose ignored him.
"I told Tama to carry Kagura to the back room. She fell asleep on the counter a while ago" she explained "I thought it strange that she came here at such a late hour, not to mention with a budget" she shot Gintoki a dirty look and sighed "But I soon figured it all out" she said sliding the bar's front door open.
Gintoki's eyes immediately fell upon Hijikata's figure, his black hair shining eerily in the dimly lit room. An emotional discharge swept over his chest and Gintoki felt all the warmth in his body congregate on his face. Beside him Otose was trying to hide her smirk.
"Uh- what... this is not mine!" was the only thing Gintoki managed to verbalize. Otose put out her cigarette and walked towards the counter.
"Well, mine it definitely isn't and I'm not going to be one leaving the Vice Commander of the Shinsengumi cold on his ass in the street. Go on, take him out. I'm closing this joint" she added disappearing behind the door that led to the kitchen.
"Well, fuck me" Gintoki cursed. He shut his eyes to concentrate on the torturing task ahead of him. The words this is not happening shrieked beneath his skull and he deliberated for a moment on leaving the asshole right where he was or, better even, outside in the freezing wind.
"Like I could" he berated himself sarcastically. Merely looking at Hijikata's poor state was enough to give him snugly, disgusting urges. Moreover, he acknowledged how utterly pathetic he had been treating him so harshly. The scars on Hijikata's hands were still fresh, nasty bandages peaked out under the layers of fabric covering his chest and his pitiful left arm still rested on its sling while the other one lay lifelessly on the table next to a toppled tea cup.
"You think I'd serve him alcohol in his condition?" Otose reappeared again, another cigarette already between her fingers. Gintoki looked back at her startled "What are you looking at me for? Go on, he's just sleeping, I didn't poison him"
Gintoki did as he was told, swung an arm under the man and hoisted him up. Wasn't it funny how life repeated itself?
"Did I make you laugh?" Otose snapped impatiently. Gintoki shook his head.
"No, he's just fatter"
When Hijikata woke up Gintoki was nestled on the kotatsu watching a late night re-run of one of his favorite dramas. He had left the bedroom door which connected the two rooms open and noticed Hijikata twitching on the futon, probably wondering where the hell he was. Gintoki was forced to flee the cosy warmth of the kotatsu when Hijikata's blue piercing gaze rested upon him and his hand instantly grabbed the nearest object, sending it flying in his direction at an abnormal speed.
Gintoki hid behind the sofa to avoid being hit and tried to calm him down from afar.
"Easy, easy, I know I was an asshole, easy"
"There's no need to destroy my house!"
Gintoki peaked over the sofa once objects stopped flying above his head and tried to make it to the bedroom as fast as he could. He knew Hijikata would be looking for a sword right about now and it was best to stop him before he got his hands on one. He managed to reach him on time, seeing as Hijikata's gaze had halted on the spot where Gintoki had stashed his sword. He did not stay long fixated on it though. At Gintoki's approach a fist was promptly dispatched to his face, which he managed to catch two inches away from impact, and a second one, which he did not foresee, came to meet his abdomen after daringly escaping its sling. Gintoki gasped more from surprise than actual pain.
"Will you just stop struggling and let me apologize?" he complained.
"Will you just get the hell out of my face, fucking asshole, let me go!" Hijikata was like an injured animal, trying to scare him off with his beastly non-effective ways. Nevertheless, Gintoki was the wiser for being accustomed to them. He grabbed Hijikata's left harm and propelled it back onto its sling.
"Now, will you listen to what I-"
Gintoki was either being punished or having his patience tested. Hijikata lunged forward and bumped heads with such strength that Gintoki lost his composure and had to lean on the floor to regain his vision.
"Seriously, you piece of shit, I'm trying to work with you here!"
Hijikata was clearly not listening to him. He got up and staggered to the door, almost stumbling on the kotatsu on his way out.
"Like I am going to listen to any more of your bullshit looking like this" Gintoki heard him mutter. His mumbling was barely perceptible and his voice cracked at the end. It crossed Gintoki's mind that something other than a frown might be crossing Hijikata's face and thus he sprang to his feet, going after him in distress. He got a hand on his right shoulder and turned him around at once.
"Just as I thought" Gintoki muttered, mostly angry at himself. Hijikata's eyes were watery and color had again rushed to his cheeks.
"Get off!" he growled "I just hit you too hard!" he said trying to explain the tears that had swelled up in his eyes.
"No arguing there" Gintoki replied fighting a smile "Also, where do you think you're going?"
"I'm getting the fuck out of here" Hijikata said, pushing back Gintoki with his free hand.
"No you're not. You can barely walk straight"
"I can still shove my fist down your throat if I want to!"
"I can't shove anything inside of you for that matter" Gintoki replied slyly.
"You just had to say that didn't you?!" Hijikata cried out desperately. Gintoki was actually very proud of his dirty joke and its timing. He needed to soothe the tension in the room.
"Couldn't help it"
"Well you certainly weren't interested in shoving anything earlier so you can eat your jokes, imbecile" Hijikata's grievance at being neglected was not as indifferent to Gintoki as it had been earlier that day when he had emptied his frustration over the phone.
"Whatever, that was then this is now. You're not going to leave cryi-"
"Don't you even finish that sentence, fuckhead!" Hijikata's right hand found his chest again and pushed him back fiercely before curling into a fist. Gintoki noticed how he didn't even flinch at the strain, his expression hardened and his breath evened. Hijikata was not done yet "You've had your time to preach" he said between gritted teeth "I'm not crying! You think I'd cry for a pitiless excuse of a man like you?! Don't make me laugh. It's me who I'm angry at. These are tears of frustration! For being so fucking weak. You think I like being like this? Living with this shit you intentionally set on me? I hate looking weak!"
"There's a long way between looking weak and being weak" Gintoki replied. The raw transcription that had just issued out of Hijikata's mouth hit him with blurriness, smudging all edges of decision and certainty. He felt empathy towards what Hijikata had perceived as a straight rejection from him and had decided to change that, only he didn't know how to do it any longer. Hijikata's honest feelings robbed him of any courage his regret had conjured and he felt once again angered and ashamed of his guilt for having put the two of them in this situation. Gintoki didn't know how to plough on through such a muddy road.
"I don't have the luxury to be either. I'm the Vice Commander of the Shinsengumi. That's my place, where I belong" Hijikata said, his voice low and undisputed, recognizable to any Shinsengumi officer though strange and cold to the present company.
"I know" Gintoki sighed "But then what are you doing here with me?"
"I don't know!" Hijikata answered defiantly.
"Figured as much"
Gintoki saw in Hijikata's eyes a shine that begged him to prove him wrong, but he felt too humiliated to say anything. The weight of Hijikata's visit had dawned on him with such immensity he could barely lift up his eyes. Hijikata's plain, sincere and immaculate standing on the subject raised him so high above him Gintoki could not but feel like the basest of idiots. He knew he was the loser without any competition ever having taken place. He understood why Hijikata was the Vice Commander of the Shinsengumi and he the dopey Yorozuya.
"It's not as if you have a place for me here either" Hijikata said continuing his streak of honesty but failing to hide his sadness. Gintoki's head jerked up and surprise fled his throat.
"If you think I'm just going to be another person you need to protect you're deluding yourself. I don't want that. I won't be part of it"
"Then what do you want to be?"
They locked stares in silence until Hijikata bit his lip and sighed.
"Well, I'm here, aren't I?..."
The reply demanded one sole response and Gintoki provided it gladly. He grabbed the collar of Hijikata's yukata and pulled him close capturing his lips in a swift motion that left the rest of the words reverberating against his lips. Despite the heat of the moment, Gintoki remained on the look out for any incoming act of insurgence yet Hijikata only graced him with a firm grip on the back of his head, drawing him in, clinging, holding; even his left hand liberated itself to touch Gintoki's neck. He opened his lips to deepen the kiss, making Gintoki give in to the mysterious laughter that had crept up his throat. Hijikata moaned with displeasure.
"Bastard, are you laughing at me?!" he pulled away and grumbled out of breath.
"Yes because you're just so fucking ridiculous" Gintoki said, never ceasing to smile. Hijikata didn't seem to find the comment the least bit funny though he would soon realize what it really meant. Gintoki would make sure of it.
He aimed down Hijikata's chin, leaving a couple of marks near his collarbone and heard Hijikata pant heavily above him, chest swelling and heartbeat rising. Gintoki also sensed other things growing which led him to fret over Hijikata's layers of clothing hastily.
"No, what are you doing?"
Gintoki kissed him again to end the rebuff but once the tips of his fingers grazed the bandages he was forced to stop and use his brain.
"No shit!" Hijikata replied at once, clearly frustrated and eager to murder the obvious implications of his injuries.
"Thanks for ruining it" Gintoki whined.
"It's not like I wounded myself on purpose!" Hijikata exclaimed with outrage. Gintoki rolled his eyes tiredly and grabbed Hijikata's left hand. He thought twice about kissing it, but chickened out and put it back on the sling.
"What about a blow-"
"NO! Just leave me alone!" Hijikata replied feisty and quickly walked past him towards the bedroom, cheeks blaring red.
"You're just going to leave me hanging?!"
"Jerk off!" And with that Hijikata slid the door shut and went about his business to which Gintoki listened to carefully for ten full minutes, trying to decide whether or not he had truly gone to sleep or jack one off himself. The mere idea Hijikata might do it in his bedroom was oddly erotic to Gintoki and he ended up relieving his pent up arousal imagining it.
Morning greeted Gintoki with a strange unnatural bliss and a warm blanket over his shoulders. He lifted his head from the kotatsu table, dragging a trail of drool after him, and adjusted his squinting eyes to the light. The abnormal silence infesting the whole house was freakish to say the least and the absence of Shinpachi's hustle and bustle requested that inquiries be made about the past night. Gintoki didn't need to rack much of his brain for an answer because as soon as his dead fish eyes rested on bedroom doors he wound back pretty much the whole tape. His legs shot up suddenly, lurching him forward with an eagerness his half dormant body could not process. Fortunately, there wasn't much left in the room he could wreck. It looked like a really bad episode of Ultraman, which meant all of them.
Finding the bedroom empty fed his equal empty stomach a dose of disappointment he was not sure he could quench with his best and last carton of strawberry milk. Gulping it down proved it.
"Gin-san! Where the hell were you last night? Tama brought Kagura to the dojo again after she fell asleep on Otose's back room. Have you been hitting the pachinko parlors again? You know you're broke right?" Shinpachi's scolding built up in a crescendo from the stairs outside to his seat by the kotatsu.
"What the hell! Look at this place. It's a dump!"
"Kagura was here first, I just nested on my meagre side of the kotatsu"
"You mean the whole freakin' room!"
"No, I tell you, that's why Kagura ran downstairs, she started making a mess of things after Sadaharu..."
Gintoki lost track of his speech once he turned to Shinpachi and found his stare scrutinizing the bedroom. A knot tightened on his throat and then almost suffocated him as Shinpachi turned around 180 degrees and looked at the pool of saliva amassed on the wooden surface of the kotatsu. Shinpachi was a pervert goodhearted virgin boy, but he was a pervert nonetheless. He was good at math too.
"Oh" his eyeglasses lost its transparency and gave a shrewd sparkle "Now that I notice, you seem to be in a much better mood, uh Gin-san"
It wasn't a question as much as it was an observation. One easily made by any person who had had to put up with Gintoki the past two weeks. The latter cackled in the creepiest way he could and tried to shake off the subject.
"Y-yes, I mean, yeah, I, there was uh, you know, hahahahahaahahahaha, a rerun of a very rare drama that I was hoping to record and-"
"Gin-san" Shinpachi's voice returned to its usual matter-of-fact tone and he slouched his shoulders "You're going to repay Hijikata-san all the money he spends on Kagura one day, right?"
Although it was completely out of the question to repay anything monetary to Hijikata, there was something else quite vital that Gintoki felt the need to give back. The thought quickly became a necessity as the days went by, yet Gintoki had no idea how to go about paying his due. After their last meeting the promise of something more than an exchange of cuss words was surely a done deal. Nobody contested that. However, it was out of Gintoki's power to just randomly choose a date and get on with it. He had decided not to be brazen and reckless about it for though he was sure of his feelings on the matter, he was totally sceptical about Hijikata's. The Vice Commander had disappeared without a single word after that night, leaving Gintoki with more nightmarish speculations to keep him company. They had not parted enemies, but they had not parted much else either which worried Gintoki to his core. He knew Hijikata had most probably slipped away early to return unassumingly to his barracks so as not to raise suspicion, however, under their current circumstances, Gintoki didn't really give two fucks about such concerns. He had turned into a puddle of insecurities and the fear of losing Hijikata's affections was turning into a big black hole devouring every other emotion ruling his reasoning.
He tried his best to squeeze whatever bits of information he could from Okita though the sadistic little shit always left him feeling too humiliated and ashamed about his methods which led Gintoki to resort to bribes. He manipulated Shinpachi into suborning Yamazaki with anpans and, when he noticed the greedy bastard was taking advantage of the situation, bribed Kagura to beat the information out of him every other day. All of this under the most stupid pretences such as the Anti-Mayonnaise-Freaks Brigade and so on. Gintoki was not going to risk any word of his endeavors ever reaching Hijikata. He was not going to spoil him the surprise or rather he was not going to give him any more reasons to hate him (which was hilarious because they had spent like one hundred thousand and sixty five years hating the guts out of each other. They still did actually. In some aspects. Probably seventy percent. Or less.)
"Yeah, fifty percent now maybe" Gintoki mumbled to himself.
"Gin-chan, I brought you Jimmy-kun's message!" Kagura exclaimed happily from atop Sadaharu's back. The gigantic dog turned a corner, bending a traffic sign in the process, and stopped dead in its tracks four inches away from Gintoki.
"Where's my sukonbu?!" she asked immediately, the note still in her grasp. Her arm was raised high and Gintoki looked at it with vexation.
"Under Hedoro's entrance mat"
"Whaaaaat! Gin-chan not fair!" Kagura whined aloud. Gintoki had turned the bribing business into some kind of treasure hunt to keep her going "Last time I had to go through all of Gengai's trash to find it and before that I had to search all cardboard boxes Madao slept in the past month! Putting it under Hedoro's mat is just unfair! I'm gonna call Zura" she said with a pout. Gintoki sighed.
"Pachi-boy is a pussy, he'd just go water Hedoro's flowers!" she hissed and shoved the note into his chest with fury "Let's go Sadaharu. Put on your mean face for Hedoro!"
Gintoki watched her go with apprehension but as soon as he saw Katsura and Elizabeth crossing the street towards her shouting "Leader! Leader!" he gave up his worry and rolled his eyes, the note in his hand regaining foremost importance. He opened it and read as follows:
Yamazaki Sagaru, 21st of Anpan of Anpananpan, Report: Something unusual happened today. The Vice Commander, after taking his shower naked and breakfast clothed, withdrew to his room and spent half and hour doing paperwork before stopping it altogether to talk to himself. It is perhaps relevant to mention he may have gone crazy from the strong medication he took the past month. His monologue went something like this "Aaah, these bastards, can't patrol the streets for shit mayo, maybe I should head out today and oversee this business at east Kabuki-cho. Damn third rate yakuzas mayo, always trying to sell fake moonshine to otakus" end of citation. This is indeed weird because no reports came from east Kabuki-cho the past two days and there's been no trace of moonshine in Edo for at least three decades. There's the possibility the Vice Commander may have entered in contact with the spirit world. Will need further investigation. Current status: good health, mentally deficient.
Gintoki stared blankly at the paper in his hands after rereading it thrice.
"What kind of shitty report is this! Do I pay taxes for crap like this!" he exclaimed exasperated. He wrapped the paper with excessive gesticulation and threw it to the ground as if it were a ball of hellfire "What kind of report says 'he breakfasted clothed'? WHAT!"
A few passersby shot him disapproving looks and Gintoki was forced to calm down, pick up his wrinkled scrap of paper and chuck it inside his kimono. He sighed and made towards east Kabuki-cho. At least the 'bathing naked' part gave him good visuals.
The sun had set and people had had their dinners. Most of them at least. The good lot. Gintoki was obviously among them. He had finished his bowl of ramen, put it on his tab and exited the old man's stall. There was a spring to his step which came from issues of the heart rather than the usual need to run from debts.
Gintoki walked in the shadows of the narrow streets towards a candid looking building, discreet in size and customers. Beside it was a structure that resembled more a shack than an actual living dwelling, but which was in fact an old decrepit shop by the name Moonshine. They didn't sell actual moonshine because no one in Japan even knew what that was nowadays. Gintoki wasn't sure it was a shop either since they had started renting it out to college students who organized coups and listened to way too much country music. It didn't really matter because Gintoki wasn't a regular there. He couldn't say the same about the other place though.
A hand slid him a key from under the panel and he headed up to a room he already knew too well. To his not-so-utter surprise he was the first to arrive. His hand went unconsciously to the wrinkled paper inside his kimono and he paced from one side of the room to the other feeling like a deserted lover on a deserted island. His doubts struck at him again and he reread the stupid report over and over hoping he hadn't missed anything. It had clearly been a bad idea to keep it since he only ended up second guessing himself even more. Gintoki decided to just ignore it and go take a shower. At least that way he wouldn't be devising depressing theories while loitering around. Sometimes he had great ideas as well.
He had finished zipping up when the door opened and Hijikata stepped inside, looking as flawless and sleek as ever. Gintoki immediately regretted having put on any pants since Hijikata's appearance just defeated the purpose. He wore his casual yukata loosely, skin showing and reminding whoever knew him that bandages were a thing of the past. Gintoki had to stop himself from making any sleazy comments and thus held on to his serious face desperately, surprising himself by how much he truly dreaded the present moment. He was, nevertheless, cornered into a further stupor once his eyes met Hijikata's and the other man broke into a beguiling smile.
"You really were using Yamazaki to spy on me, uh? How much of a retard do you think I am, idiot?"
Gintoki opened his mouth but nothing came out and he felt like every inch of the idiot he had just been accused of being. His heart thrashed violently inside his ribcage and he was having a real problem breathing. He didn't remember ever feeling like this and he wasn't sure who he feared more, Hijikata or himself. It was ridiculous.
"You know I think we have to postpone this to some other time" he blurted out in panic. Hijikata shot him a bemused look, eyebrow raised. He didn't reply anything other than a scoff.
"I'm serious, I'm not feeling well" Gintoki added, lifting himself up and failing, action which brought Hijikata over, ever so close, so near his skin. Why hadn't he dressed himself completely? Why had he wasted so much time on the shower singing Qyary's new hit song? Dumbass!
"You're not kidding?" Hijikata knelt down in front of him by the bed and reached out his hands to touch his shoulders. To Gintoki it was the last straw. He was either going to say something very stupid or doing something very dumb. He did both.
Hijikata was hoisted up and pushed down onto the bed while Gintoki successfully straddled him. It was heart-warming to find another bulge greeting his own down there. Hijikata's face was slightly red from surprise and annoyance.
"Welcome to fuckland~" Gintoki said in a singsong voice.
"You're so fucking nasty!" Hijikata groaned.
"Oh you like it"
"I heard you're actually pretty tasty for a foul mouthed bastard"
"I heard you're an ass which you actually are" Hijikata rebuked as originally as possible. Gintoki furrowed an eyebrow but it wasn't enough to counterbalance the giddiness crawling inside his skin. When it came down to it, the words flew effortlessly out of his mouth.
"An ass who loves you is not that bad"
Hijikata fell to an abrupt silence startling Gintoki with the ensuing awkwardness.
"You just had to make this weird, didn't you?" Gintoki complained after waiting half a second for a reply. It was as if the condition assailing his body had transferred itself onto Hijikata and shut down his system.
"You're the one who said it!"
"What? I love you? It was always implicit you know?" he said it light heartedly, but it wasn't a lie and Hijikata's reddening ears and widening eyes acknowledged it fully, almost gratefully. If he put some effort into it, Gintoki might have even heard a sigh of relief.
"Like hell it was!"
"Yeah because I would just fuck any other jackass out there that stalks me"
"Doesn't matter, let's not lose the mood"
"I do not fucking stalk you!" Hijikata protested.
"Then how do you always end up on my bed?"
"It's not yours!"
"Not the point jackass! For fuck's sake take a clue, how much can it take, uh?"
"I swear, you're really starting to get on my nerves!"
"Great! There's something else I want to get on so let me take my cue"
Despite all his boasting, Gintoki wasn't that much better at conveying his feelings and his 'I love you's' were just like they had ever been. Practical.
TO BE CONTINUED IN
"All That Glitters Is Not Silver"
AN: Well, there it goes. Let me start by saying it was an incredibly fun ride and, to be honest, I've been staring at this chapter for the last two weeks wondering what else I should change or add, only to find out I'm happy with it as it is. Hopefully you're too. I wanted to thank everyone who has read it and supported me throughout the years I've written this fic. I'm definitely not done with GinHiji and I'm sure I'll write more of them in the future. Just be on the look out and thank you. Thank you so so very much. I'm gonna miss this one.