Of Sake and Row Houses

A series of short stories for Rurouni Kenshin

Disclaimer: I really don't own Rurouni Kenshin or its characters. I'm just looking for inspiration from them. No profit had, just good, (mostly) clean fun.

A/N: what can I say for myself? I have a wonderful chaptered fic that even I can't wait for the end of and find I can't settle in to write the thing. I thought I might try some author pallet cleansing, my writer's cracker between wine if you will. So, here we are, into a series of one shots brought about via writing prompts and such.

Yes, I said series. The sort of thing where your never quite finished because its a matter of one shots and inspiration. I hope no one minds too much :\

9.) Grief (For the rk_challenge on LJ)

Word Count: 367

Of War and Grief

As a child he hadn't known what to do. Tossed into war-torn events as he was, he had still been too young to understand it. Death, that is. Even in obvious moments, such as that first time as he stood among the men of the Sekiho-tai on a battle field with a sword in his hands nearly as long as himself. Or the first time he'd had to use that sword to impale a man nearly twice his height. It didn't matter that it was a child wielding the sword, the sharp side was the right direction and the man bled out and died all the same.

That incident, that first time of being the cause of another human's demise, it had certainly dulled the bright child-like delight he felt at being at war. Yet, it still hadn't made him understand. It took one very sobering event to convey the horror of death and the grief it left behind to young Sanosuke – the utter betrayal and devastation of his comrades in the Sekiho.

Worse, the death of his beloved captain. That's what it had taken to drive the point home. Standing on the bloodied war ground that were the streets of Kyoto at the time, and staring up at the severed head of his Captain Sagara with the word "Aku" painted in ugly red across his jacket – it had been overwhelming.

What should have lead to a healthy release of emotion of a heart broken child drove him instead to an all consuming and unholy anger.

He never did grieve properly. How could he?

It wasn't until ten years later with the steadying force of a friendship with Himura Kenshin and an unfortunate reason to have revisited not only the Sekiho's last battle ground but also Kyoto that Sanosuke's temper cooled enough for the red-blaze of anger to give way to something more important. Something even Katsu couldn't really share with him.

It wasn't until ten years later that Sagara Sanosuke sat in the solitude of his own apartment and raised a toast of sake to his long dead hero. A small sad smile playing about his lips. "To you, Captain. Always."