A/N: Written in celebratory anticipation for the live action movie. My first fic for this flawless childhood OTP and I am terrified.
Disclaimer: I do not own Rurouni Kenshin or any of its characters. My childhood with it in it was perfect on its own, thanks.
"Your burden is your own and no one else's."
She honestly didn't mean to ask him for help, or even Ken-san's for that matter.
She is a Takani through and through, comes from a lineage of doctors whose educations gave them the knowledge to take care of themselves, thank you very much. There are those who think that she could not have inherited the family spirit because she is a woman; they are so sadly mistaken, because-if anything- her femininity has accentuated it. She is all self confidence and independence and intelligence with a sharp edge of pride.
But when his men are chasing her and she is so scared and so determined and she is at the end of her limit because her body can only run so much and she can'tgobackcan'tgobackcan'tgobackshedoesn'twanttobeamurdereranymore-
The scream rips from her throat and she falls into the red-haired man's arms, begging any of the men present to please, just save her.
She avoids the shame in face of survival, but it forces its way back to her veins, chilling her to the bone later; not when the boy is poisoned, but later, when the tall man with the "bad" character on his back growls that his friend died of the very drug she made.
Guilt weighs hot and heavy, minute by minute the more she stays at the Kamiya dojo until finally, when he finds her outside the mansion- even as he tries to convince her to come back- she is once again a true Takani, fully aware of what she must do. This is her burden. Not theirs.
... So she doesn't understand why he took the knife by the blade. Even under his uncouth demeanor he is a man of honor, she can see that- so she would think he understands and why is he yelling at her this has absolutely nothing to do with him and she knows what she is doing she can take care of herself doesn't he see what she's done and how dare he.
The handsome man named Kenshin speaks up gently, and she bursts into tears because she realizes that this is the most beautiful group of people she has met in a long, long time.
"Reveal nothing you don't need to."
The first time he comes into the clinic, she hadn't known him very long.
She had just started her position at Dr. Gensai's clinic, and she is just about to turn out the candles and go to bed when she hears a rat-tat-tat at the shoji door. She blinks at seeing who it is, and when he grumbles something about being in a fight and a piece of broken glass slicing his right hand (oh, the foreshadowing), she lets him in without a word. She is still wary of him, and by the way he awkwardly shuffles in it seems he is just as uncomfortable.
She wonders how long it's been since he's snuffed out his pride enough to even step into a clinic.
Still, it's good that he had enough sense this time to come in; the glass had cut rather deep into the wound, leaving tiny shards ingrained in the flesh. She fetches the proper instruments to pick them out, and settles his hand onto a little table between them. He reveals no details about what happened, and the only sign of him feeling anything comes at the slight flex of his fingers when she picks out a rather large piece. She works in silence for a few moments, and when she takes a deep breath she smells-
Her father's deep, gentle laugh booms around the dining room as the family eats dinner, and she smiles brightly when he says she can go with her to get medical supplies at the market-
She suddenly stills.
She looks up at him, and his frown deepens at seeing her unsettled expression. She shakes her head, shakes herself out of it. "No, sorry," she replies softly, and continues her work.
Trying to lighten the mood, she clears her throat. "Daiginjo-shu?" she asks casually.
He blinks, puzzled. "What?"
"Daiginjo-shu sake. That's the kind you drank tonight, am I right?"
After a moment, his face relaxes, settles itself into a sort of wry grin. "Kitsune knows her booze, eh? Woulda never thunk it."
Don't say i- "My father drank it," she blurts out quietly, realizing what she just said only after it leaves her mouth.
An awkward silence ensues, and she curses herself. She shouldn't have told him that. Her father- rest his soul- had nothing to do with the conversation. She should have just smiled back, made a sly comment or even just left the conversation at that, not-
"Mine did too," he admits gruffly, so jumbled she almost has reason to not believe her ears. "Does. I mean, I guess it could be either... I don't really know." From the corner of her eye she sees him scratch his head. "Haven't seen 'im in awhile."
She looks up, meeting his eyes for a moment, then quickly lowers them and reaches for the salve.
Because in that quick glance, everything was said that needed to be. She can't begin to explain it, but at the same time there was a mutual understanding between both as to what it meant.
She supposes this is the night they became friends.
She has been raised with proper manners, after all. It is more of a calming exercise for her, a therapy that keeps her and her patients' mind off of the pain and likelihood that they will die. Her mind is somewhat freed from panic when she talks kindly to them- though in certain situations, she admits, it's an exercise used for those she feels less than friendly toward. For the patients that leer at her with shameless eyes and offer to pay her just a bit extra if she does this or that, she may paste a hard smile on her face and her eyes may involuntarily turn to slits- but she politely tells them no, that she is a doctor and most importantly a lady; now, would he please take this medicine twice a day?
Kaoru may draw out her wickedness at times, but Sanosuke. He brings out a side of her that surely has her mother rolling in her grave.
Because with him, her charming facade is all but shattered. With him, she is shaking fists; she is un-lady like shouts and boiling blood and shocked indignation. She is patience whose last string is about to snap and deep breaths because there are (many) times when she just wants to wring his neck. When he comes into the clinic after particularly bad fights... She is sometimes-maybe trembling hands and distracting tears smarting her eyes when he's not looking because goodness, has there ever been a person so stupid?
(Has she ever felt so much for one person?)
And yet... With him she is also small smiles at his rare, almost unconsciously made compliments, a strange feeling of fuzzy warmth as she watches him good-naturedly let Suzume and Ayame climb all over him. She is witty comebacks during their bickering, genuine laughter and affectionate shaking of the head as she gets out the gauze.
Afterward, they are both comfortable silence as she bandages his hand, holding it gently between her own.
She is unsettled to think that she might like who she is with him.
"Don't avoid the inevitable."
He stumbles in two nights after Kaoru's murder.
He doesn't even bother to knock; just sort of slams the shoji door open, and when she turns around he is there, his tall frame filling the doorway. She doesn't say a word, just gestures to the table and gets the clean bandages. There was no way she could sleep tonight anyway.
(Neither choose to point out that the current bandages on his hand are still clean, that they don't really need to be replaced that badly.)
From the smell of sake on his clothes to the slight haze in his eyes, she can tell he is drunk. This is nothing new; in fact, if it were any other case she would threaten to dunk his head in ice cold water because his inability to sit still only worsens in his intoxicated state. But tonight, he is eerily still and quiet, and he's just... Watching her. She is glad he is here so that she can have something to take her mind off the red-haired man somewhere out there, seeing nothing and talking to no one- but his steady gaze is making her increasingly nervous.
Trying to shake it off, she is at the last bandage when she hears him mumble something. She raises her eyebrows inquisitively, not taking her eyes off his hand. "What was that?"
"He loved her."
She glances up to find him still staring at her with unreadable eyes. "... Who?"
"Kenshin. And that Tomoe girl."
She doesn't quite understand what he's getting at. "... Yes," she agrees slowly. "Yes, it sounded like he did. Very much so."
"Felt the same about Kaoru, too."
She hesitates a moment, suddenly emotional, unil finally inclining her head. "Yes," she concedes hoarsely. "He did. And she him."
He nods, almost to himself. She is finally at the last knot of the bandage when she hears his next question. "What are we doing here, Kitsune?"
Agitated at coming to the conclusion that he didn't actually have a point, she rolls her eyes. "You're in here getting your hand bandaged, Sano-"
"That's not what I meant. I meant you and me."
She feels her heart drop, the blood turn to ice in her veins. "Why, Sano. Inspired by recent love stories, are we?" She hates herself for making such a horrible joke-especially at a time like now- but it's the only way she can hope to control this type of situation between them.
He ignores her. "I didn't mean that thing about you being too old for marriage, you know. I didn't mean anything by it."
"I... I don't know where any of this is coming from-"
"Damn it, Megumi, just answer the question!"
She finally looks at him, really looks at him and is startled to see his eyes are frighteningly sober and angry. The blood leaves her face and she snatches her wrist from his grip.
"Nothing," she snaps, suddenly furious because he has just crossed a line that both of them innately agreed to never step over and what is he doing? "All right, Sanosuke? Nothing. You want to know what our relationship is? You come here every couple of days, I change your wrappings, we fight, you grab some food, you leave, repeat. We're friends at most. We- we aren't them." She doesn't look at him, hoping that by focusing on a particular spot on between the floor boards she might calm down. Continuing on in a softer voice: "I... I understand Kaoru's death had an effect on you. It did for all of us. But you can't- you're not thinking properly. I'm-" she swallows thickly- "I'm not what you need."
There is a brief moment of silence in which she thinks his temper has simmered down, so she finally looks back at him.
She has never been so wrong. There is an utter rage in his expression now, and in his eyes she sees something that she knows what it is, but doesn't want to admit. Betrayal.
"You really think this is what this is? Me using her death to take advantage of you?"
She says nothing. The quiet weighs all too heavily on both of them until he finally gets up.
"You're a fucking coward."
This breaks her. She raises her head sharply, all anger and fear and tension gone and now she is just hurt. "Sano-"
"No. You're right, I'm sorry. Forget I said anything, all right? I gotta... I just gotta get out of here for awhile. You and Kenshin, man, I can't-" he rakes a a hand through his hair, jaw locked and looking everywhere but her until he finally turns and slides the door open. "I'll see you around."
The shoji slams shut, but she doesn't see it through the blur of tears.
The days that he's gone, Yahiko sullenly points out that it doesn't look like she's been getting much sleep. She replies that she's just been having nightmares, and doesn't divulge about who.
"Don't have sex with a man before marriage."
When he comes back, it's as if nothing happened.
She smacks him upside the head when he reveals his filthy, mangled hand- but it is more so out of being absolutely worried sick and they both know it. Although they don't talk about what happened before he left, he is in a better mood; when she asks, he only shrugs and said he went to Shinshuu. There is more to it than that- but she decides not to question. What ever he did has healed him in some way, and she is just glad they are back to their normal relationship.
Not that they were given any other choice, as it was discovered that Kaoru wasn't actually really dead at all, that she was being held hostage by Enishi and it was all a revenge plot and Kenshin still had to defeat him and really, she muses later, this sort of thing could have only happened in her life by being poor, sweet Ken-san's friend.
The fight is soon over, everything is normal again but not, because this fight meant something to Kenshin, meant something to his peace of mind and helped close the door to his demons just a bit more.
And because it meant something to him-this man, this wonderful man who changed their lives for the better- it meant something to all of them.
Which is why she is not surprised to find Sanosuke Sagara at her doorstep late the night before she is to leave for Aizu.
They say nothing for a moment, and she moves aside as if to get the bandages, but he stops her by catching her wrist- gentler this time, she notices.
"I didn't tell you before, but... Saw my old man when I went to Shinshuu. Him, my little sister and brother." By the way he fidgets, she can tell he is nervous. "Wanted to... Got to see whether or not he still drinks daiginjo-shu sake." He shuffles closer.
She realizes just at this moment that she is the only person he has told any bit of this to, and that fact that he remembers- she can't help it; her face (heart) softens. "And?" she breathes out expectingly.
Bringing up his other thumb and forefinger to gently lift her chin, he looks her straight in the eye (through her, like he always has). "Guzzles it," he mutters, before (finally) closing the space between their lips.
She doesn't hesitate to pull him into her bedroom.
Megumi has slept with men before, but only if she needed something in return. They were all men that had offered some sort of protection: before she found a kind doctor to apprentice, it was a man that offered her food and shelter when she was homeless; during the time she was in Kanryu's mansion, there were a total of two guards who promised to get her out (none of which did, but how could she call herself a Takani if she didn't try?). None of the experiences were pleasant, and she believes she has followed her rule obediently because... Well. They were times she just instinctively knew didn't count, and that was that.
It was never sex. It was survival.
And Sanosuke... It's as if he doesn't know what to do with her- because really, he is just nineteen, experienced with angry fists and not with lover's hands. She has no doubt he has visited the red light district several times in his life, but this-she realizes with an aching heart-this is the first time he's made love to a woman.
They are both two sides of the same coin.
His hands are rough and at times clumsy, but she has never felt any so warm and gentle, never felt as safe as when his body presses against hers.
She is realizing a pattern with these rules of hers, but... It's almost all right, because she's starting to think that maybe he's an exception. Yes, her mind races, of course he is. He has always been, probably always will be-
And then he kisses her in a particularly sensitive spot, and she is gone.
"And if you do... At least have it with a man who's stable."
"Hey. I kind of got somethin' to tell ya."
She rolls over, giving him a deadpanned look. He takes a lock of her hair, twirls it around his finger as he tries to hold a straight face... At which he is failing miserably.
"So... You know how I told you I went to Shinshuu? Saw my family?"
"Well, I kind of might have gotten mixed up into this situation-"
"Of course you did."
"... Right. Anyway, there was this guy, right? Basically controlling my home town and threatening the people and all that crap. Well, things got ugly, and in order to solve the problem... I punched him in the face. And he was a pretty politically powerful guy, so now he may or may not be sicking police after me to send me to jail or hanged. So I kind of might need to leave the country for a bit."
He waits expectantly.
There is a pause before she smacks him in the belly. Hard.
"Only you, Sanosuke Sagara," she grumbles irritably, rolling back to her original position so that her back is facing his laughing form. She tries to go back to sleep (tries to ignore the hard tugging at her heart), but after he finishes his last chuckle she feels him scoot closer to her.
"I'll be back. Promise." He kisses her shoulder blade. "Wait for me, all right?"
"I'm still going to Aizu," she snaps bitterly, childishly, as if it changed anything.
"Okay. Good. I'll meet you there."
"... Maybe. I'll think about it," she finally answers haughtily. "But I'll have you know I'm an impatient woman." She stops, thinking. "In the meantime... You're not allowed to tell sweet Ken-san or anybody else about this. Not until you're back for good. Got it?"
He grins against her shoulder. "Our secret," he agrees.
"Wait for no man."
When all is said and done, neither of them were quite ready for one another.
She still had her life to build back up in Aizu, still had to regain her credibility as a Takani doctor and still had at least one of her brothers out there looking for her, and he- well. She doesn't understand what he needed to do, doesn't even think he understood what he needed to do- and maybe that's the real reason why he left.
But. Really. It's been one year since anyone has heard from him, one year since all his friends got from him at the picnic was a lousy letter stating he was in Mongolia. And one would think that a man- no matter how much of an idiot- would have "it" figured out in six years, right? she muses with pursed lips, gripping her poor, innocent basket a little too tightly as she walks home.
"Exception." Ha. Right.
She has never waited for him. Honestly. She has simply been too busy with her life. She is a successful doctor, so busy that she barely has time for sleep, let alone men. Besides, since she has reunited with her brother she has a wonderful little niece and nephew that she absolutely must spend all her time spoiling, not to mention little Kenji in Tokyo so really she did not wait she did not wait she did not- wait who is that strange tall man standing in front of her house and oh.
As he turns and they lock eyes, she takes in his appearance. Certainly not what she remembers. His hair has grown longer, his face scruffier and he almost seems to have grown taller. Stronger jaw. Wearing some sort of a Western cloak. For a minute she even thinks that maybe she has been mistaken, that maybe she really does need to stop thinking about him because she's mistaking unfortunate strangers.
And then the man grins, a sort of "I-told-you-so" grin.
There is the nineteen year old she remembers.
She drops the basket and runs, rules and pride and previous allegations be damned.
"Don't fall in love with strange men."
This one was told to her as a sort of joke by her mother, when at five years old Megumi informed her that she would be willing to marry a certain teenager at the market if it meant she could have all of his silks. Her mother laughed, tapped her on the nose and told her not to be ridiculous.
It makes her terribly ashamed to know she has broken this rule (not really), because she has fallen for the strangest one of all.
"Megumi," the "strange man" whines from her futon, "You've made the medicine already. I watched you. Now come to bed."
She rolls her eyes and turns to him from her place at the table. "So very kind of you to invite me to my own bed, Sano."
He spreads his arms, grinning. "What can I say? I'm a giver."
She glares but relents, padding over to the bed (she was getting tired anyway) and delicately peeling back the covers on her side of the futon before getting in.
He snorts, snakes his arms around her middle and tugs. She lets out an extremely undignified yelp as he laughs.
"Uck, you need to shave," she wrinkles her nose as the whiskers burn her cheek.
"Aw, hush. You like it."
"Not especially." She tries to shift her body to get a little comfortable, but his iron grip on her (he's doing it just to annoy her, too, the jerk) is preventing her from budging. "Sanosuke, you've been here one night and I'm already ready to- argh." She gives a small slap of frustration on his hand before giving up, huffing. "Who knew the great Zanza liked to cuddle?"
"Who knew the lovely Doctor Megumi Takani could be so violent?" He counters cheekily, finally loosening his grip on her a little.
"It's because you bring out the worst in me," she retorts, irritated beyond belief. She's a smart woman, a fantastic doctor; and yet she can not begin to fathom what she was thinking by letting him into her house, let alone her be-
"Turn around for a sec."
"If you're going to tell me you punched another politician in the face, I swear-"
"Seriously, Kitsune. Turn around."
She does so, grudgingly meeting his eyes and-why, why is she always taken aback by what she sees?
He's looking at her with such contentment and warmth and something she herself knows very well (love), taking her in as if he has all the time in the world to memorize her but wants to get started right away. It's a look of such... peace that she's never seen on him before and she knows.
She knows that six years was worth it: for both him and her.
He chuckles, pushes back her bangs so he can kiss her forehead.
"Missed you, Kitsune."
He is a walking oxymoron, she understands suddenly: a big man with powerful muscles and even deadlier fists with a heart of gold and courage and a fighting spirit that gladly lets him take on even the most foolish of fights- all right, perhaps not a complete oxymoron in that sense. But she knows there is a whole contradiction in there somewhere... And then she realizes that maybe the contradiction is in that she loves him.
She sighs, gives up on all of her rules and regulations and just buries her head into his chest, mumbling that she missed him too.
Maybe it's not so bad, breaking her rules.
Megumi never really did like following them.
A/N: I always felt slightly cheated that Sanosuke and Megumi didn't end up together. Like, here's all these all these other perfect pairings that Watsuki created-Kenshin/Kaoru, Yahiko/Tsubame, Aoshi/Misao- and then my favorite pairing with just as much chemistry ends with Sanosuke leaving the country. On a boat. Later to Mongolia. Like. Wat.
Any who. This fic. My longest one yet, and I didn't even have the intention of making it this long. Debating on whether I should rate it M (thoughts?), but I honestly don't think it's that bad, so until then it'll remain T. I feel kind of awkward about the lead up conversation to the kiss, but bringing back the discussion with Sano's dad and the sake just felt... Right. Maybe because I just love his family to death and wanted to incorporate them any way I can. Meh.
And now I should really just stop ranting about these characters and my enormous feels for them. Hope you enjoyed, and please review! x)