Disclaimer: Yes, even after all these years I still don't own anyone from Gintama, which is remains good since I couldn't afford to pay for all the collateral damage they cause.

Warnings: Bad language, sex, Okita.

A/N: This doesn't really fit in the S,S & M timeline, so yay! random one-shot 'cause I'm bored tonight and X-Parrot's awesome fic got me thinking about Gintama again . . . .

The Way Things Work: a summary

by keyascribe

In which, frankly, no new territory is covered at all

Hijikata Toshirou's life has several constants, none of which he likes very much. There's too much work, too much blood, and too many idiots – and the people he spends the most time with embody these three annoyances in a nutshell. Except for Sougo, who embodies them in a rocket launcher.

"Don't let your friends adopt strange children and spoil them rotten because then when they grow up and ask for a rocket launcher instead of candy – well Sougo still asked for candy, too – you are going to be in trouble". This is just one of the pieces of hard-earned advice Hijikata could give any prospective dojo-owners stumbling upon children who no one else - it will later become apparent for extremely good reasons - will agree to train. He could write an entire book about Helping Raise Up Psychotically Skilled Swordsmen and Living to Tell the Tale. Ultimately, however, the book could be summed up by the following: A) Don't do it & B) if you already have, kill the brat now.

But Kondou had done A and Hijikata hadn't done B (although it had been a close thing a few times) and now Sougo is always there, just like Kondou-san and Yamazaki and chaos and frustration and nose hair are always there. The difference, however, (other than how often they, as opposed to he, try to kill Hijikata) is that they never change (God how he wish they would change!) whereas Sougo has at least three completely different alternating personalities that do not seem to overlap in any way whatsoever.

Therefore, perhaps one could say the very core of Sougo's inconstancy is its surprisingly constancy . . . but that sort of shit is why Hijikata doesn't do Zen (although Sougo once offered to show him the answer to the age-old riddle of "What is the sound of one hand clapping" . . . by cutting one hand off so he could try it.)

So sometimes Sougo will come to his room to be annoying, sometimes to kill him and sometimes to trick him into screwing him senseless (not that Sougo has any sense to begin with, certainly not any common sense at least, although are possibly some demon senses mixed up somewhere in that perverse and incomprehensible DNA . . .).

It is a trick, somehow, because Hijikata never starts out wanting to do it and is never exactly pleased when they finish – because it is never quite fully satisfying because nothing about Sougo ever is. Comprehensive, creative, potentially life-threatening, certainly, but any time Hijikata seems to be feeling mildly sated Sougo will tease him all the hell and then waltz out, causing Hijikata to take out his frustrations on the nearest pack of cigarettes with such intensity that he might as well have just stuck them unlit in his mouth and ground them to bits with his molars.

Never again, he will swear. Like anything involving Sougo, sex is something that in the cool logic of objective thinking Hijikata is 100 percent against, especially given the possibility of skin-transferred poisons. But somehow on those particular nights (and the occasional afternoon) all his curt dismissals, firm refusals, and sword-wielding murderous attacks all end up in the same way.

Hijikata is convinced that Sougo picks positions as retarded as possible, just so Hijikata will be forced to feel stupid while he is doing him.

On days when he cares to think about it – luckily such days are few and far between - he really can't tell why Sougo randomly decided to initiate this bizarre change in their established interaction. He has no idea why Sougo does anything, really. Maybe it was something about the alignment of the planets, maybe that Amanto girl had mentioned something about Naturally-Curly-Haired Perm boy and that bitchy terrorist and that had given him the idea; maybe he was bored; certainly he is out of his mind crazy. But his skin slides infuriatingly smooth against him and his body is lithe and excessively flexible and his hair – smells nice, which disturbs Hijikata no end.

He might have mentioned something about that once to the permed idiot – at least that's what he thinks had prompted the tirade about terrorists with overly shiny hair quality. By the time they were on their 10th bottle of sake and had gotten to "He won't let me read Jump in bed but he gets to recite poetry and it's not even erotic poetry" vs "When he mentions impaling I can't tell if he's talking dirty or being serious", Otose-san had smashed their heads together and promised Gintoki to subtract a month's rent if he never, ever, had another conversation like that in her bar again.

So it keeps happening, although it annoys him before and after and often during, too, because there are moments when you could almost forget that immediately post-coital you are going to be attacked with some kind of deadly weaponry. At least so far he has managed to never look forward to it, just as Sougo has never bothered to show the slightest hint of anything like positive emotion, unless you counted apathy as positive when compared to his usual baseline of psychopathic evil. Okay, true sometimes Sougo almost snuggles afterward - which scares him - but usually it's only another way to get the hand holding the knife closer to him, so that's okay. Kind of.

Maybe once in a while, too, when they're particularly tired, Sougo might rest his head against Hijikata's arm, and sometimes – maybe – he might have a stray impulse to push Sougo's hair away from his eyes, but Sougo always moves away and Hijikata always rejects the urge and they usually end up sniping at each other – sometimes literally – before they are even fully clothed again.

Sougo never stays with him and never pulls his punches when he tries to lop off a leg or two the next morning, and Hijikata never stops thinking Sougo is a psycho with all the natural gratitude of a shark, which might be good for both of them since neither would probably know what the hell to do with a healthy, functional relationship. In that sense it could almost be called romantic, except without any of the romance part, which is sort of fitting since they lead lives without most of the life part. So sometimes, Sougo will light him a cigarette, but only to hasten his death by cancer, and sometimes Hijikata will pour the younger man sake, but only because he doesn't trust Sougo anywhere near alcohol that he, too, will be consuming.

It certainly isn't love and it grudgingly isn't hate, but it surprisingly isn't quite indifference, either. It's routine, it's life, it's Sougo and Hijikata; and Hijikata has long since given up trying to figure out where the hell the logic is about that. In a completely unworkable way, it works.

So when Kondou carries in a half-unconscious Sougo after the captain gets too close to another bomb (and Hijikata can only hope viciously that the explosion really fried that damn terrorist's hair) Hijikata accepts feeling the need to stay by his bed through the night because he knows it doesn't mean anything unusual since Kondou and Yamazaki and half the Shinsengumi are hovering as well. And when Sougo dismantles half a city block after Hijikata gets a mace in the gut that breaks a rib or two, that doesn't mean anything unusual either, because Sougo routinely uses any excuse to dismantle city blocks.

The fact that Sougo doesn't try to chop him up afterward as he sags on the floor, holding his ribs and trying to remember how to breathe . . . well, that's probably just an oversight. Hijikata doesn't mind that it makes him like Sougo just the minutest bit more, because he knows that tomorrow Sougo will do something to dramatically destroy any increase in affection.

Sougo and Hijikata and Kondou and Yamazaki and the Shinsengumi and the Yorozuya and even the Terrorists work. What horrible things that says about the city, the world, and the overarching grand scheme of the universe, Hijikata doesn't like to contemplate. Especially when his ribs have mostly healed and Sougo comes in complaining that he's bored because there's only reruns on tv, so ne, Hijikata-saaaaaan . . . . . .

Every samurai must have his particular challenge to bear, after all.

However, sometimes he still wishes they had drowned Sougo as a child.

a/n Because SS & M is getting just a little too waffy, ya know? Someday I'll finish that last story for it, though . . . . !