Gonorrhea Comes to Those Who Don't Wait
When Gintoki woke up, he vaguely noticed that the sheets beside him were rumpled, but cold. It was to be expected, of course, because he and his friend (with benefits) both had things to do and lives to live that had absolutely nothing to do with each other. Co-habitation was for needy little sissies.
When he finally managed to shuffle his way into the main room and flop onto the couch, however, he was greeted by the most wonderful smell wafting his way... And also by the most frighteningly embarrassing sight in the entire history of dreaded mornings after.
Even worse than the walk of shame; even worse than the "what was your name again?", it was...
"Zura, what the hell were you doing in my kitchen?"
Dun dun dun~! The surprise domestic partnership!
"It's Katsura! And Gintoki, man cannot subsist on raw eggs over rice. You should be grateful that I've prepared such a wonderful breakfast."
It was too early in the morning for Gintoki and his low blood-sugar to be processing the kinds of warped logic that inevitably came with being in close proximity with Katsura for any extended period of time. As it was, he just stared blankly at the food - the admittedly delicious looking food - until he heard a door slide open.
He would later think it was unfortunate that Kagura had woken up then, blearily rubbing the sleep from her eyes as she pushed open the door to her closet. For the moment, it was a welcome respite.
"Is Zura playing housewife?" Kagura asked. She watched with curiosity as Katsura, bedecked in an article of women's clothing once again, scurried back into the kitchen to check on the remaining dishes.
"Like hell he is!" Gintoki craned his head to shout into the kitchen, "And where did you get that damn apron, anyway?"
Before Katsura could get a word in edgewise, Kagura piped up again. "Gin-chan? Is it true that you and Zura are boning each other? How does that work, anyway?"
If Gintoki had been eating, he would have choked on his food. As it was, he just choked on his tongue and gurgled stupidly for a few seconds.
Despite his somewhat delicate appearance, Katsura Kotaro was a tough bastard. Girly hair notwithstanding, he could drink with the best of them; handle a sword better than the best. Even while he was wearing a frilly pink apron, there was still that spark in his eyes that any seasoned swordsman would recognize in a fellow warrior.
He had also been dropped on his head many times as a child. Gintoki could attest to that.
Well, it actually turned out that Gintoki had done most of the smashing-Zura's-head-into-a-wall, but that was beside the point. And anyway, it was revenge for Zura-smashing-his-head-into-a-wall, so that didn't count. The point was that somewhere along the way, Katsura had gone from being slightly spaced out to regularly blasting off into the stars in a custom-built Gundam.
When other kids went through puberty, they started masturbating a lot. This resulted in hand cramps and wastebaskets full of suspicious tissues. But when Katsura had gone through puberty, the loose screws in his head completely fell out. Now they were on the ground, kicked into a dusty corner somewhere, and no one could find them. This resulted in the current situation.
Gintoki didn't exactly like to think what this meant about himself that he was willingly engaged in a relationship with this kind of man, but speaking of puberty, he really wished someone would come save him from having this talk. As it was, he reacted like any responsible adult would.
He shifted the blame.
"Which bastard taught you those kinds of words, little lady?"
"I did no such thing!"
"Hmph. Whatever," Kagura said with a shrug, "but you never answered my question."
"The answer to your question is this: Gin-chan is a studly ladies' man. If it wasn't for this perm, the women would be swooning all over me."
"That's a lie, aru! As a lovely flower of womanhood myself, I know for a fact that girls would never want to date a man who picks his nose after scratching his ass!" She paused, puffing out her cheeks in defiance. "...And you're gay!"
"C-come on, now. I'm just an equal opportunity lover, that's all..."
"So you're bisexual and you're boning Zura. Is it true that when a man and a man go at it, th-"
Gintoki smacked a hand over her mouth. "I have no idea what you're talking about. I'm not giving you the sex talk, either, since that would make me your surrogate father, and god forbid I gain you as a tumor on the side of my love life. Having an illegitimate kid as old as you would ruin my chances to score."
When it seemed as if Kagura had settled down, he cautiously removed his hand from squishing her cheeks in favor of using it to scoop some rice into a bowl. It was definitely a mistake.
"No, it's okay. They were already ruined by your abysmal sense of personal hygiene. And besides, I'd be more worried about you having a bastard child as old as Shinpachi, aru. But you do not have to worry, for you have Zura, and he is a good housewife."
"Good morning, Boss!" Katsura interrupted. He set a plate of grilled fish onto the table and stood there looking quite please with himself with one hand still clutching a spatula. "How would you like your omelet?"
"Oooh, with everything! I want mushrooms and peppers and chicken and beef and pork and barbecued pork and rice and shrimp and cheese and tomatoes. And sukonbu!"
"Hahaha! How wonderful that you have such a healthy appetite! That's quite the tall order, but nothing Elizabeth and I can't handle. Unfortunately, since Gintoki is so scatterbrained, it seems he's forgotten to stock his kitchen with anything other than the bare minimum... plus chocolate. I suppose we'll just have to settle for sukonbu omelets."
"Mine better have lots of sukonbu on it!"
"Oi, Zura..." Gintoki said as he brought a perfectly seasoned piece of fish to his bowl.
"Right. Why did you even bother to ask if you knew you didn't have the ingredients? Is anyone home in that head of yours, or did the weight of your wig cut off the circulation to your brain?"
Katsura put his hands on his hips and gave Gintoki an admonishing look, which Gintoki thought didn't really make much sense since everyone knew it was Katsura whose mental faculties were always on vacation. Katsura's pink-slipper-clad feet tapped against the floor while he glared, and Gintoki was hard-pressed not to move his gaze up and down over the monstrosity before him.
Up, pink apron. Down, pink slippers. He really had to reign in the urges to smash Zura's head into a wall.
Gintoki responded with a dead-eyed "WTF are you doing" look of his own. He shoveled a heaping scoop of rice into his mouth. "Please stop doing that, Zura. Seriously, I'm begging you. You'll get stuck that way, stuck in nagging okaa-san mode forever."
"Don't talk with your mouth full, you insolent child!" Katsura whacked Gintoki's hand with the spatula.
That settled it, then. Katsura had been completely absorbed into the roleplay.
"Hey, Gin-chan? Is it true that when a man and a man go at it, the-"
"LA LA LA WE'RE NOT HAVING THE SEX TALK. Eat your breakfast. There are starving children on the Dog Star planet."
"Hey! Now who's in nagging okaa-san mode, Gin-chan?"
"Yeah? Well who's whining like a little baby?"
"I want to know, aru!"
"And I'm not telling you!"
"I'll tell her."
"Why are you still here? Go die in a ditch!"
"Gintoki, we have a responsibility to our daughter to give her a liberal education, especially given the failures of the current education system in these matters."
"When did this alien pipsqueak become our daughter? Her father's bald. Are you bald under that wig?"
"Mommy~, Daddy won't tell me about the birds and the bees," Kagura whined. "Will you? Pleeeease?"
Gintoki's left eyebrow began twitching uncontrollably at Kagura's transparent act of innocence. His lips curled into a look of utter disgust when she latched on to Zura's arm and started exaggeratedly batting her eyes at him. "No. Ooooh, no. You two are NOT allowed to have Holiday Movie Bonding Time while ignoring me!"
They ignored him.
"But of course, my child! And I shall also tell you about the birds and the birds, and the bees and the bees. One must have an understanding of all facets of human sexuality in order to foster tolerance."
"Yeah, sure. Like your tolerance for the Amanto, isn't that right, Mr. Terrorist?"
"It's not Mr. Terrorist, it's Katsura!"
When Gintoki had wished someone would come save him from having to give "the talk", he hadn't meant for it to be Zura. Rather than obeying Gintoki's command, Katsura settled down on the couch. He spoke solemnly to Kagura, who listened attentively with wide-eyed fascination while shoveling various foods into her mouth.
He could have sworn that she shot him a gloating victory sign.
It was raining again. It seemed like it was always raining nowadays...
Matsuko pushed up her glasses and turned her gaze away from the window. The steady patter of raindrops against glass sounded abnormally loud in her ears as she tried to concentrate on her studies. Her fingers shook around the brush, pausing, unsure and unsteady. Her tutor would say not to practice calligraphy in such a state, for one cannot produce beautiful words when the mind is in turmoil. Oh, how he would scold her, and tell her she had been a disappointment!
She was always a disappointment.
Matsuko knew what she looked like. She was small and mousy, and because of her awkward countenance, her kimonos always looked rumpled on her even when they had been perfectly folded. The way she carried herself made her appear even tinier than her small stature, and frail. Wilting before ever having the chance to blossom, like a flower bud under the heavy downpour.
Being the daughter of a minor lord, Matsuko felt herself trapped between two worlds. She was not a commoner, and it was inappropriate for her to associate too closely with them no matter how much she desired to. But then, among the daughters of the other lords, with their softly perfumed skin and perfect manners, she was nothing special. Her father's dream of marrying her off into high nobility could never come true with her being as plain as she was, though he seemed to think that it was possible if one only wished hard enough. As if a coal could become a diamond overnight if one just put enough pressure on it.
The voice broke her out of her reverie, and Matsuko snapped her attention back to the window to see a boy running toward her, drenched and laughing in the rain.
"Matsuko, I got in!" His muffled voice drifted through the glass.
"Hiroshi-kun?" She rushed to the window and, flinging it open, leaned down to greet him. "Hiro-kun, you're soaking wet! Come inside first, and let me congratulate you!"
Water streamed down her bangs, dripped into her eyes and down her chin. It rolled down the length of her braid onto Hiroshi's cheeks like dewy tears of happiness. Hiroshi caught hold of her long plait of hair and wound it around his wrist.
"W-what is it?"
His voice was so soft it was nearly lost in the howling wind. "I love you, Matsuko..."
Time does not stop for lovers. Seconds continued their orderly procession as Hiroshi gently pulled Matsuko down; as their lips met for the first time in the cool rain. She stayed like that, leaning out the window with the droplets pattering along the nape of her neck and streaking down her cheeks like angels' tears. Her heart thumped in her ears; his heart beat through the skin of his chapped lips, the only warmth for miles around.
Many minutes passed as they came together that night. They fumbled to undo their clothes and came together awkwardly. There was pain, but Matsuko didn't mind it as long as it was with Hiro. And in the aftermath, while her eyes began to flutter closed, Matsuko thought she had found her happily ever after.
"I'm going to University, Matsuko." Hiroshi stroked her hair as he whispered into her skin, "I'll become a great scholar. I'll make my fortune, and then I'll come back for you as soon as I can."
Matsuko merely clutched his arm tighter around herself. Her heart was full to bursting at the thought of being able to marry her childhood friend. He was a chambermaid's son, true, and fatherless, but Matsuko would rather have Hiroshi than any spoiled lordling.
Blissful hours ticked by in his embrace. In the morning, he secretly slipped out of her room and back to the servants' quarters. For days, she soaked up the afterglow. Sparks shot through her fingers when they surreptitiously brushed their hands together when passing each other in the halls. Her cheeks heated up whenever their eyes met. They passed notes and secret glances, and stole kisses when they could. The other servants were aware of their affair, and turned a blind eye when Hiroshi disappeared at night.
Days turned to weeks, and his bags were packed. "I'll write," he said, and then he was gone.
Time does not stop for lovers, but Matsuko wished it would.
It was in Hiroshi's absence that Matsuko's troubles truly started. She began to have suspicions soon after his departure, but it was only a month after that she knew for sure. It was around this same time that Hiroshi's letters stopped.
Matsuko hid her growing belly as best she could, and wrote to Hiroshi at a furious pace. Had something happened to him? Was there an accident? She poured her heart and soul into words, sealed them with her love, and sent them, one each day, day after day...
...All to no response.
On top of that, her father had arranged an omiai with a disgusting creature - not a young noble, but the son of an extremely wealthy merchant. They were nouveau riche, and greedy, and gaudy. The only reason this man's son wanted Matsuko was for her status as minor nobility. That, and because none of the other nobles' girls would have him, nor would any merchants' daughters. No one in her right mind would want to bind herself to such a pig, at least not if there were other suitors vying for her hand.
But Matsuko was having so many troubles attracting potential husbands that her father decided to stoop a little lower. He would sacrifice status for money if need be, and hope that the next generation fared better. They decided without her consent that she was to marry this man, and now Matsuko was becoming desperate.
If she were to wed, she would have a horrible life tethered to a man she could not stand. Assuming, that is, they did not cast her out for having another man's child. To refuse the marriage, however, Matsuko would have to give her parents a good reason, and the only one she had was, again, that she was with child.
She had taken to pacing about her room each day, wringing her hands and sobbing in secret. To tell, not to tell... To tell, not to tell...
The decision was wrested from her.
"Who's the father! Tell us, Matsuko!" Her mother's pinched looked soured even more as she plucked out an opened letter and brandished it accusingly. "You're sending it to the University? You threw away everything for that? Pah! You've been seduced by a poor college boy who will only throw you away!"
They had called her over to the main room this morning, but she had thought it was merely to give her another lecture about her duties. Reality turned out to be far worse.
"Aaah!" Matsuko fell to her knees, clutching at her her quickly reddening cheek.
Her father, who had been shaking with suppressed anger, looked down at her as if she were mud on the bottom of his sandals. "You slut, you just couldn't keep it in your pants, could you? You couldn't even think of your own future, could you? Now that you've brought such dishonor on our family, all your marriage prospects are ruined!"
"Not only that, you stupid girl, but once your father's business contacts hear of this, our reputation will be ruined as well!"
"P-please..." she gasped out around choking sobs. "Please, I-"
"I want you out of my house!"
Numbness and great sorrow were all she felt. Everything after those fateful words was muted and dreamlike, as if her mind could not comprehend that this was happening to her. It was a dream; it had to be someone else!
There was no one to comfort her since the servants feared for their jobs. Even Hiroshi's mother kept her lips sealed.
Matsuko had nothing but the tears that coursed down her cheeks as she packed. They were too warm and too salty, but if she closed her eyes and faced the whipping wind, she could pretend that her tears were the rain, and the brush against her lips was her lover's gentle touch.
When Hiroshi woke up in the hospital, the first thing he thought of was Matsuko, and how he had to tell her that he was all right. She had been the last thing he had thought of before he blacked out, too. He remembered that sinking feeling as his vision blurred, and he definitely recalled, very clearly, that "I can't die here. I've got to get back to Matsuko," had passed through his mind at that moment.
The doctors and nurses bustled in and out. Some chattered excitedly at him now that he was "finally" awake. "Oh, but don't try to talk just yet! Your throat will be dry from months of disuse."
It couldn't be, but it was. He returned to his rented room to find that his mailbox had been crammed with letters. With an armful of envelopes, he opened the door to find that even more of them had been shoved under his door to make room for new ones. They spread out across his floor like fallen leaves.
I dare not write your name for fear of discovery. I dare not speak your name for fear of reprisal. My love, I carry your child.
Hiroshi pored over each word, each character, each stroke, each line. He arranged them in order and read them through. Again. Again. He committed them all to memory.
At the stroke of dawn, Hiroshi sold some of his meager belongings for a train ticket. He packed the bare essentials - tattered blanket, mended clothes - and returned to his hometown for Matsuko. He hadn't finished school yet, but they could both work to make ends meet. The important thing now was to be together, and to be there for the child.
But Matsuko was not there to greet him.
The lord of the manor, red-faced and shaking, railed at Hiroshi and his own daughter. Dirty slut, filthy whore, he said. And the lady, if she could be called such, sneered and sniffed with her nose in the air. Her insipid tone held the kind of joy at others' suffering that made her worse than her husband.
"Ah, so you're the college boy, huh? I thought you'd thrown her away, but it seems like you haven't. I'm so sorry, but you'll never find her," she said. "I should have known it was you, Hiro-kun. After all, what is it that they say? Like father like son? It's just too bad that your baby will grow up to be a bastard child just like you."
It was a low blow. Rather than take any more of their abuse, he turned on his heel and left for the nearest city. Matsuko would be there, he hoped. If not, surely it had been her first stop. Surely there was a lead...
Hiroshi had never been the most handsome or charming. What he had, however, was infinitely more useful: intelligence, and tenacity.
He would find her.
"Matsuko, is that you?"
The old lady turned to smile at him then, lying there sad and weak on the dingy cot, and Hiroshi knew without a doubt that this was his Matsuko.
While he himself was gray-haired, the years had been kinder to him than to her. Hiroshi appeared very much like the distinguished older gentleman that he was. He was a doctor now; one of the best in the country. No one ever knew why such a brilliant, well-to-do man had remained a bachelor for so long, but the reason was before him. Finally, after decades of relentless searching.
There can be no rainbows without rain; no appreciation of true beauty without first knowing despair. Hardship tempers the soul, and molds it into something beyond earthly beauty. Hiroshi was well aware of this fact now, for he was presented evidence of it in the form of Matsuko.
Years of hard labor had left their mark upon her face. Each weathered line spoke of the deepest sorrow, and yet she had borne it all in silence. Perhaps, Hiroshi thought, she had heard of him once he had begun to make his fortune. His articles regularly appeared in all the medical journals and in the health columns of many newspapers and popular magazines. He wrote books and attended book signings. In a fit of desperation, he had even done product endorsements to get his name out, all in the hopes of contacting his lost love.
Perhaps she had heard of him. And perhaps she had been ashamed of herself.
"I love you, Matsuko! I've always loved you!" Hiroshi desperately poured his heart out to her. There wasn't much time left for them, but she had to know! "It never mattered to me what you looked like, or what skills you had, or how much money your family had, or any of those things! What mattered to me was your heart, your soul... You were... so kind, and so beautiful. Here," he said, laying his palm across her heart.
Matsuko sighed, then, and it was accompanied by a little smile that made Hiroshi's heart ache. Her sigh was the same sound that Hiroshi remembered from his youth. He felt himself falling in love with her all over again at just that tiniest exhalation.
"Matsuko, I just wanted you to know that there has never been anyone but you. Would you do me the honor of becoming my wife?"
Her smaller hand in his squeezed lightly. Hiroshi squeezed back, and they were silent for the longest time. Matsuko's eyes became wet, and he stroked her hand soothingly. "Don't cry, Matsuko... I-"
On her deathbed, Matsuko finally bloomed.
"MATSUKOOOOOOOOOOO- ah, omelettes are ready. Thank you, Elizabeth."
Elizabeth set down the plate and took her customary seat next to Katsura.
Sniff! Kagura lifted her sleeve up to her eyes. "W-why did Matsuko have to die, aru?" Snot dripped unattractively down her face.
"Well," Katsura said, trying to appear sagely, "she had unprotected sex at a young age. Promiscuity is often punished by death in these types of stories. It's much more dramatic that way."
"That only happens in shitty horror movies, you dumbass!"
"Ha! Hahaha! Ha. You are wrong, for it also occurs in classical literature and religious parables as a hidden expression of the fear of feminine sexuality. Anyway, I doubt you could do better, Gintoki. You're the one who was too squeamish to even talk about sex to your own daughter."
"For the last time, that bottomless stomach over there is not my daughter! And is that a bet? You gonna put your balls on the line?"
"Don't be so crass. The only thing on the line is your honor!"
Gintoki twitched. It wasn't that he couldn't stand a slur against his "honor", whatever that was, but once Zura started in on about bushido this and bushido that, he wouldn't stop until someone suffered a gaping wound. Or died.
"Fine." He turned to address Kagura with an admonishing finger-wag. "Stay away from teenage boys. They're all horndogs who want nothing more than to give you gonorrhea and then ditch you for someone even younger. Also, remember to use condoms."
"But Shinpachi's a teenage boy," she said. A mouthful of snotty rice nearly sprayed out onto Gintoki's face, and yet Zura pretended not to see it. There was no spatula for Kagura, which was entirely unfair.
"Shinpachi's a Shinpachi," Gintoki said with a shrug.
"So what do I do if it's someone who's not a Shinpachi?"
"Saa... Break his crotch."
This was a good suggestion. Everyone was pleased with it, and thus returned to their meal.
Until, that is, Elizabeth decided to ask, What was your original question, anyway?
Kagura immediately perked up. "Oh, that? Thanks for reminding me, Lizzie! I was just wondering if, when a man and a man go at it, there's more than one way to do it. Is there? Is it normal for one man stick his xx xx into the other man's xx xx? And is it also possible to do slide your xx xx sideways into his xx xx and then lean back to grab his xx xx and put your xx xx on his xx xx, or what about twisting the xx xx and having both guys xx xx each other's xx xx while also simultaneously xx xx the xx xx with your xx xx and your mouth at the same time? Can people really bend that way? Wouldn't your neck hurt? How can one person xx xx so much xx xx inside his xx xx without damaging it?"
An awkward silence ensued. Or would have, if Kagura had stopped munching.
"...Oh, this is awkward," Katsura said.
"You can say that again, Captain Obvious."
"It's not Captain Obvious, it's Katsura!"
"And have you ever done this stuff to Gin-chan?"
"Well, I would have if someone was a little more adventurous and if someone weren't so insecure about his archaic notions of manly pride..."
"You're in a frilly apron. I'm not letting you top me in a frilly apron, and especially not like... that. And you," he said, pointing at Kagura, "I definitely was not the one who taught you those words!"
"Nah, I saw it in Big Sis's doujinshi collection."
Suddenly, everything made sense. It was an "Ahh~" moment that would not have been complete without someone saying, "Ahh~"
"Ahh~" Katsura said.
"Ahh~" Gintoki said.
Ahh~ Elizabeth wrote.
Ahh~ So that's how it was.
With that problem cleared up, the rest of the meal went by smoothly. Gintoki was almost starting to think that he could get used to this- this whole Zura-in-an-apron thing. If this was what it took to get someone to cook breakfast for them on a regular basis, then it shouldn't be too bad... In fact, Zura had popped into the bathroom after he finished his food, so maybe he would be apron-less by the time he came out!
"I couldn't help but notice that the bathroom towels were getting frayed," Zura said, head peeking out around the corner. "Would you like a Joi towel?" He lifted up a brown box. "Oh, and I hope you don't mind that I stocked your kitchen with extra detergent and hand towels, too. They're good for wiping off the stains...of this world! Because it's Joy! Aha ha ha ha!"
Gintoki smashed his own head into the wall. Venereal disease was the least of their worries.