A/N: This is my very first fanfiction, but I tried my best. I have only seen one other story like this and it didn't have a lot of historical facts, so I did some research and tried my own version. You might recognize the scene from the very beginning of the Peacemaker manga. Please enjoy.
Ichimura Tetsunosuke sat quietly as he watched vice-commander Hijikata write. He didn't know what he had been called for, but it was probably something related to the war. Ever since their retreat to Hokkaido and the founding of the Ezo Republic there had been little else in the way of errands.
He supposed it was good in a sense. Keeping busy kept him from thinking too much. This way he didn't have to think of Kondo-san, beheaded like a criminal, or Okita-san, consumed by his tuberculosis. Didn't have to think of Harada-san and Nagakura-san, who had left the Shinsengumi a long time ago. Most of all, he didn't have to think of Tatsu-nii.
It had hurt when his brother had left the group after the battle of Koushuu. He had asked Tetsu to come with him, to leave the war behind and save his own life, but everything in the boy had revolted at the very thought.
Despite their ever-dwindling numbers and battle after lost battle the vice-commander has been a steady rock in the surrounding chaos, slaying his enemies under the Makoto-banner. How could Tetsu betray him simply because he might die? There was no shame in death in battle.
Tetsu was broken out of his reverie by the long-familiar sound of a blade being drawn. He watched in shock as Hijikata cut off a few of his already painfully short locks of hair.
The western uniform had taken a lot of getting used to for the Shogun's troupes, but of course the vice-commander had set an example for the men by being one of the first to trade his hakama for western-style pants and having his hair cut.
Now a few more strands drifted to the floor as Hijikata sheathed the dagger he had used to rid himself of them. He picked them up and folded them into a piece of paper, which he added to the small bundle he had been preparing all the while.
Earlier the angle hadn't been right for Tetsu to view its contents, but now he could see what was inside: a letter, a photograph of Hijikata, another folded piece of paper, the newly added hair and…was that the vice-commander's katana?
Suddenly the scene made horrible sense to Tetsunosuke; the last paper was a death poem.
"Hijikata-san", he began, but was instantly cut off by the other man.
"Ichimura, I want you to deliver this to Satou Hikogorou in Hino. I trust that you won't let anything happen to it on the way there."
"Hijikata-san, you cannot be serious! We're in the middle of a war and such a journey would take months! I'd never make it back in time for the battle!"
"I know that, Ichimura", Hijikata stated calmly. "But I still want you to go."
"I swore I'd fight to the death by your side! How can I just leave when-"
"Tetsunosuke", Hijikata interjected, shutting his distraught page up immediately. "You are the only one I would trust with this."
Tetsu clenched his fists and looked down to hide the angry tears that threatened to spill from his eyes. He had honestly thought he would die on the battlefield protecting his beliefs. This had been confirmed one evening in Aizu, when he had overheard Hijikata-san talking to Matsumoto-sensei.
"I am not going into battle to win", the vice-commander had explained when the doctor had voiced his doubts about their endeavour. "With the Tokugawa government about to collapse, it would be a disgrace if nobody were willing to go down with it. That is why I must go. I will fight the best battle of my life to die for the country."
Tetsu had been entirely prepared to do the same, but it seemed Hijikata had other plans for him.
Taking a shuddering breath, he bowed low and said: "As you wish, vice-commander."
He felt a hand on his head, ruffling his hair, and was instantly reminded of the morning after the Ikedaya incident, when he had still been an immature brat for the most part all but hated the demon he had to serve. That had been the first time Hijikata had praised him.
Now the vice-commander lifted his hand so that Tetsu could sit up. "I have already made arrangements for a ship to take you to the mainland. You leave in the morning."
Tetsunosuke nodded and took the bundle, however, instead of standing up and leaving the room he bowed again. "It was an honour to serve you, sir."
Hijikata couldn't quite hide his surprise at those words, but then he just told his page to stop being a sap and wished him a safe journey.
Thus Ichimura Tetsunosuke left Hakodate for Hino on the 3rd of May 1869. He was still on the boat to Yokohama when the message reached him: Hijikata Toshizou was dead. His back had been shattered by a bullet when he was riding into battle and he had succumbed to his injuries. The Ezo Republic had surrendered only a week later and so the last of the resistance to the Meiji government had been broken.
When he arrived in Hino three months later he was welcomed into Satou Hikogorou's household, who turned out to be Hijikata's brother-in-law. The news of his death had already reached the family, but no one remained unmoved when Hokigorou received the package with the vice-commander's last words.
Tetsu stayed in Hino for a few years, living with and serving the Satou family, but he longed to see his brother again. Through some enquiries at the right places he found out that Tatsunosuke currently lived in Ougaki and was on his way.
The reunion of the brothers was a happy one indeed, though also quite tearful on Tatsu's part especially.
After that little is known of Ichimura Tetsunosuke. Some say he joined Saigou Takamori's army during the Satsuma Rebellion and died in battle after all, fighting for his beliefs and the honour of all samurai. Others say that he died of an illness, sharing his idol Okita Souji's fate.
Or perhaps he returned to Kyoto and freed a mute geisha named Saya, living with her in the new era.
We will never know, but one thing is certain. In whatever way he died, Ichimura Tetsunosuke died with honour and pride, with the knowledge that he had fulfilled his master's final request.