Parallel Minds
by Mir
May 15, 2002 (revised April 20, 2005)

Disclaimer: Kenshin was created by Watsuki Nobuhiro, published by Shueisha in
"Jump," and produced by Sony Entertainment, Media Blasters, ADV, etc. I am
not affiliated with the above names and do not write for profit.

AN: This story takes place following the events at Kanryuu's mansion. It is a Sano
and Megumi story (my first -- eep, a whole new experience!) and seeks to explore
the beginnings of their relationship. It's actually inspired by another story I read by
Mosylu. It's a piece in which Megumi's brother is examining at Sanosuke's hand and
sees the scar from the time Sano stopped Megumi from killing herself. Enjoy!

----------

She sits silently across from me with downcast eyes, giving her work her undivided
attention. Had it been anyone else, I suppose I would have been grateful -- for after all,
it's my right hand that's held firmly in hers. But her reticence is disconcerting, and my
mind spins in wide, uneasy circles. The corners of her mouth turn downward in solemn
contemplation with no trace of foxy flirtation in her eyes or hint of laughter on her lips --
and as her fingers work mechanically, a neat row of stitches steadily appears beneath
them.

I watch as her jaw tightens, and she nibbles unconsciously her lower lip as if unpleasant
thoughts are occupying her mind. But if she feels the intentness of my gaze, she ignores
it completely and continues to work as if I were nothing more than a large sack of rice.
I guess it's all right. Yeah, 'cause I wouldn't know what to say if she looked up anyway.

What could I say? Damn girl, you're beautiful. Everything thing about her is so perfectly
refined. Her clothes, her hair, her movements... Her long fingers taper to gracefully-
rounded points covered by neatly-trimmed white-tipped nails. No movement is wasted
as she methodically pulls the needle up and down, in and out. And yet I notice, almost
as an afterthought, that one nail has broken off painfully near the quick. The edge is
rough as if she's bitten along the tear in an attempt to even it, and for some reason I'm
fascinated by this minute detail, this single imperfection.

My fingers twitch involuntarily as the thread pulls on the skin in the center of the palm,
and she automatically mutters an apology. Whatever she smeared across the cut is
certainly working because I barely feel anything as she stitches it closed. I still can't
figure out the thoughts swimming through my head, can't make sense of what fleeting
urge provoked me to lunge forward and grab the naked blade in her hand. Perhaps
it was just that I wasn't thinking -- instinct is a powerful motivation when logic fails.
Or maybe Kenshin's beginning to wear off on me. Oi.

Moments pass, each marked by the rhythm of our breathing and the beating of my
heart. Still we say nothing. I watch the line of stitches, knowing that when the last knot
is tied, I'll have lost my chance, lost the opportunity to speak... So I nervously run
my tongue across dry lips and clear my throat in preparation for words I know I can't
bring myself to say.

Her hand pauses in midair, hovers for a brief moment before dipping back once again
toward my hand, and I wonder if she too has words that are heavy upon her tongue.
No, of course it's not that I haven't had any experience with women -- just not with any
quite like her. Am I jealous, jealous that she sees something in Kenshin that she doesn't
see in me? Why should I even care what the damned foxy doctor beside me thinks?
It's not as though she really knows anything about me or what I've been through.

But I can't deny that I want to reach out and take her hand in mine, to trace along the
lines that run across her palms and brush my lips against her fingertips. My imagination
wrestles for control of my thoughts, and for a moment, a moment I -- but I jerk myself
roughly back into the present with a sigh.

How many men are dead because of her actions, of her cowardice? How many more
opium adicts are slowly slowing wasting away even now? And just how honest is her
show of regret and repentance? Perhaps it's only a show... perhaps the knife was
only a bluff -- But for some reason my mind dismisses the possibility without hesitation.
She doesn't seem like the type who'd play around with death. Still, I have to know --
and before I can stop myself...

"Megumi --"

-----------

I see rather than feel my hands tremble as I thread the needle and begin stitching the
thin cut that leaks blood across his palm. It is the tangible and undeniable result an
action I never asked him to make... but when I ask myself whether I hate him for his
interference, my thoughts remain in conflict, and the questions in my mind and heart
fester unresolved. What right did he have to deny me of my chance to... my chance
for repentance? I used to care about such principles as honor and integrity. Now...

But I can't pretend that I'm indifferent to outside opinion, and for some reason I feel
nervous in the presence of the man who sits so close beside me. His gruff talk is all
the tough street-fighter he tries so hard to be, but his actions have proven to be
inconsistent with the attitude he works so hard at cultivating. Why would a simple
fighter-for-hire care if a murderer lived or died?

I taste the word, rubbing it against the roof of my mouth with a tongue that's suddenly
gone dry. Murderer. But the chasm of disconnect still remains, and my mind balks
at the bitter truth. I have killed not through action, but rather through inaction. But it's
all the same. I count the stitches as if they are symbolic of the lives I have so ignorantly
cut short. One for the young gambler addicted before he's truly had a chance to live.
Two for the grandmother who heard that the white powder would cure her rheumatism.
Three for the husband and father who...

"Megumi --"

His voice slices through the thoughts, shattering them into broken fragments that crumble
to the floor. Was it merely coincidence or had he planned his timing, waited for that
one particular moment to interrupt the inevitable inner monologue? But I'm being
ridiculous, as there's no way he could know my thoughts. There's nothing humorous in
his voice, but I almost find myself chuckling at his awkwardness. Perhaps if he did a little
less talking with his fists and a little more with his mouth...

"Yes?" I glance up after a moment has passed and notice, perhaps for the first time,
the deep sadness in his eyes, sadness usually obscured by his zeal for living and
continual quest for excitement. And more than any words he could have said, this
brief exchange provides answers to questions that have been weighing like lead upon
my mind.

We all have something to hide. I am thankful for the occupation of my fingers, for
it buys me time to begin to sort through the scattered realizations that nudge at my
consciousness. Why did I ever think that he'd be any different? I assumed that he
was just another young man angry at the world for no good reason except that he
was young, without family, and unemployed. But the pain in his eyes mirrors that in
Kenshin's... and I suppose, mirrors that in mine.

He shakes his head as if he has second thoughts about voicing whatever words
originally compelled him to speak, and my imagination begins to conjure forth wild
scenarios and motives. Just the fact of not knowing is driving me crazy.

"You're gonna be okay, right?"

I admit that of all the possible things that could have come from his mouth, this
question was one I had least expected. After all, what would a man like him
know about a woman's emotions? But more than the words, it is the intonation --
half-imploring, half-hopeful -- that throws me. Where had the cocky assurance
evaporated to? What had happened to the cool distain?

I find myself nodding as I clip the thread from the last knot, and I glance up to
meet his eyes briefly before turning away to rummage through my supplies. It's
been a while since I've last functioned in the true capacity of a doctor, and my
hand hovers hesitantly over the glass bottles before I locate the one I'm searching
for. "Yes, I'll be fine." I'm not certain if he's hoping for elaboration, but finally
as I wind the white bandage around his hand, I give in to my nagging conscience,
and I add: "Gensai-sensei has offered to teach me at his clinic. I'll leave with him
tonight."

My cheeks blush at the admission. I'm not usually one to pick up and move at a
moment's notice, but I can't imagine staying another night at the mansion,
especially with the ongoing police investigation. I can hardly believe that I've
been given the chance to start anew, to leave everything behind me (as best I
can), and I've no desire to prolong the transition.

"I suppose I'll be seeing you around then..." In what seems to be a sudden
change of mood, he throws me a lop-sided grin. He holds his hand before his face
and carefully flexes the fingers one by one. "... thanks, kitsune-onna."

Fox-woman. The man is so insufferable; hadn't I just finished patching him up?
And he has the gall to turn around and call me... But his smile disarms me before
I can respond, and I recall the sadness I now know lurks unresolved behind it.
One day -- one day perhaps I'll ask him what motivated his actions in the tower,
one day.

Fortunately there will be many of these to come, and with an inward smile I
whisper softly to myself as his white jacket dispears through the open shoji,
"And to you as well Sagara Sanosuke."

Er... that's all. Thanks to MKasshoku for beta-reading. I admit that I really don't
know what I'm talking about when it comes to Sano/Megumi , but it's a fun change
of scenery from my usual K&K. It's been interesting... let me know if you'd like
to see more along these lines.

Mir (05.15.02)

2005/04.20: Slight revisions, fixed a few grammar point. Nothing major. As a side
note, I'm actually going to Aizu at the end of April for my Golden Week vacation!
Being in Japan is so much fun... and when wandering around in the country (inaka)
I can almost imagine what it all must have looked like for the Kenshin-gumi .
.