Title: Two Men, One Box

Pairing: GinHiji

Disclaimer: No

A/N: I don't know how this happened, but it did. Enjoy the thing –

Two Men, One Box

Hijikata was stealth, the very definition of the word. No one saw him, but he saw everyone. He was one with the night, a passing shadow, a flicker of movement in the darkness. The two targets he was tailing had no idea he was there, all was going according to plan. Things always did seem to go better when he didn't have anyone around to drag him down. Sougo, for one, but that little shit did it on purpose, Hijikata was convinced of it.

But there was none of that tomfoolery this time, Hijikata was on a solo mission and it was going smoothly. He'd been cooped up too long with Paperwork-san and getting back into the action was just what he needed. No, tailing people wasn't very exciting, but it was better than sitting behind his desk getting a cramp in his arm from writing so much. It wouldn't be half so bad if Yamazaki could actually fill reports out right, but Hijikata had learned to lower his expectations in that regard.

He'd been at it all day, following his targets and gleaning new information while making notes of the important stuff. The way things were going, he'd be at it all night, too, but that was expected in this line of work. He'd checked in with Kondo-san not an hour before and that had been his last one for the day. It was nearing five and he was starving, but he wasn't going to take his eyes off the targets. He still had half his mayonnaise bottle left, so he'd just have to ration that and make it last.

The targets – a male and female – were believed to be distributors for an up and coming drug ring. Hijikata wasn't following them to arrest them, he was more observing. He paid attention to who they talked to, who their potential contacts might be, who they were getting their drugs from, so on and so forth. He even had a little camera he was using to take pictures for profiling purposes.

The investigation really was going well! He'd taken photos of almost a dozen potential ring leaders and clientele and he'd yet to get so much as a glance from any of them. Sure, he'd rather have something action packed that could really get his blood flowing, but this was okay for now. So long as he played his cards right, he wouldn't run into any trouble. All he had to do was stay focused on the job and he could proudly say that he was great at what he did.

So he kept at it, following them wherever they went, and it only got difficult when they began heading toward a more remote area. The streets began to thin out and he had to take things slower and pretend to be interested in random things to make him look inconspicuous. He was quite a ways from his base now, but that was okay, he could handle himself. Seeing the couple talking to a new person, Hijikata pulled out his phone to covertly snap a shot when one of the worst possible things happened.

"What'cha doin', mayora?"

He got company.

"Keep your voice down, bastard!" Hijikata snarled, glaring hard at Gintoki. "What're you doing here? Go away!"

"I was out last night," Gintoki replied innocently, "and today, actually. On my way... somewhere."

"And you don't have a hangover? It's a miracle, everyone is probably so proud."

"Oh, shut up! Just 'cause I go out doesn't mean all I do is drink! Fuck, you're a dick!"

"So keep movin'! I don't have time for assholes like you!"

"But I've got somethin' to tell you!"

"I don't wanna hear it!"

"Just listen, dammit!"

"No! I said go away, freak!"

"Oi! Who – there's the cop!"

Hijikata swung his head back toward his quarry and he knew he was compromised. The two he'd been trailing were taking off and a gang of dudes that hadn't been there before were headed right for him.

"Do you... know those guys?" Gintoki asked with dead fish eyes.

One of them brought out a gun and fired a shot as Hijikata replied simply, "No."

Gintoki gave Hijikata's shoulder a push to get him going. "Let's take this party elsewhere, hah?"

It took Hijikata no time at all to agree and take off. There were civilians around, too many of them to risk a fight in the middle of the street, and Hijikata wasn't going to say Gintoki had some sense because it was the bastard's fault he'd been caught! He went off to the right and left Gintoki behind, it wasn't his job to watch out for the permy haired freak. Gintoki should never have interfered!

As he went, Hijikata's next thought after relocate was of his phone. If they got a hold of his phone, all the information he'd managed to gather during the day would probably be found and deleted. Thinking fast on his feet, he took his phone and shoved it into the first available spot where he thought it would be safe. He liked to think that no one would pay any mind to the inner rim of an old tire and he made sure he remembered exactly where it was by cataloging key landmarks that would help guide him. It only took him a few seconds to get it all down to memory and it was a good thing he was so sharp because a blundering idiot came crashing into him.

"Watch where you're going, asshole!"

"Wouldn't need to if you weren't standing around! What? Did you drop your balls?"

Hijikata slapped him on the back of the head and kept going with only an irritated mumble of, "Baka yarou..."

He refused to give Gintoki much attention at all. If he did, he knew he'd get sucked into more pointless squabbling and he had enough going on at the moment, he didn't need any of that bullshit. So he ignored the idiot as they ran, gunshots firing behind them, and it was all over in a blur. Hijikata couldn't really say for sure what happened, but a bullet ricocheted and hit a suspension unit over their heads, dozens of metals beams and poles came raining down off the platform, a pair of hands shoved him aside, he hit a wall, Gintoki disappeared as his world tilted, there was an arm around his neck, it all went black.

-o-O-o-

Hijikata snapped back to consciousness and lashed out on instinct, fist colliding with something solid and warm. There had been an arm around his neck, it had cut off his air until he blacked out, it was natural to strike out!

"Son of a bitch," wailed an all too familiar voice. "What the fuck, mayora?"

A fist hit Hijikata right in the ribcage and his headache – because he had one – only got worse. He went to roll away, but he ran into something hard blocking his way and it wasn't a body. Eyes shooting open to glare at the offending thing, he was surprised to find himself staring at a wall of wood.

"What... the..." Hijikata's eyes skittered all around and there was... no way out? "The fuck? What did you do, ahn?"

"Me? I didn't do anything! You were the one that wouldn't listen to me!" Gintoki argued, an arm holding his stomach, which was probably bruised now – Hijikata preened at the thought.

"Only because you wouldn't listen to me when I told you to leave!"

"Most of the time you tell me to commit seppuku, why the fuck would I listen to you, haah?"

"If you had the first time I'd told you to do it, we wouldn't be here right now!"

"I'd also be dead!"

"And that's a bad thing why?"

"Because I'd be dead, duh! Heroes like me don't die just 'cause someone told them to!"

"Ha! Hero! You? T'ch – don't be ridiculous!"

Gintoki pouted and somehow managed to scowl at the same time, murmuring, "S'not ridiculous, meanie... You're just jealous."

"Sad will be the day I'm ever jealous of a parfait freak like you, this conversation is now over."

"Good, I was done with it anyway."

"Fine!" Hijikata snapped.

And, of course, just to be a dick, Gintoki quipped, "Fine!"

Hijikata counted backwards from ten, let out a heavy sigh, and said through gritted teeth, "Just – let's just see if there's a way outta here!"

"There isn't one, I looked," Gintoki replied somberly. At Hijikata's dubious stare, he frowned in return. "I fucking looked! What do you think I was doing before you almost punched me in the nads?'

"I punched you in your stomach."

"My lower stomach, that's too close to my jewels, asshole. Gin-san's golden balls are very precious."

Hijikata gargled in frustration and kicked Gintoki's shin. "Did you try pushin' on any of these walls? There's slits for air, maybe those are weak points?"

"I tried. It's all solid, there's no give. We could try it together, but I don't think it'll make much of a difference."

Reaching up, Hijikata tapped on the wood and felt his stomach sink at the sound it made. The higher pitched, the thinner the wood and the sound it had made just then was definitely low.

"We should still try," Hijikata stated, raising his other hand.

"Fine by me," Gintoki said carelessly, mirroring the position.

"Okay, ready?"

"Ready."

"Push!"

They both shoved upward, their hands flat against the wood, but it didn't move, not even when they kicked at it and hit their knees against it. All it did was creak as if mocking them for their futile efforts.

"Wait," Gintoki said, stopping. "Lemme just..." He trailed off as he squirmed and flailed, bumping and pushing into Hijikata until he was flipped over onto his stomach. "There, let's try this."

Hijikata raised a brow, but didn't feel like commenting, so he nodded and replaced his hands on the wood. "Alright, now!"

He jumped slightly when Gintoki literally threw himself into the top, crashing his back into it. Neither of them could get much leverage because of how small the box was, but damn it if they didn't try. They grit their teeth and put their all into it, Gintoki even lowering himself only to ram up again with a low grunt. Nothing gave way, nothing really even moved, and with an unspoken agreement, they both collapsed panting.

"Get off," Hijikata groused, rolling his shoulder to try and push Gintoki's off him.

Grumbling, Gintoki made a show of flopping onto his side. "Well that failed."

"Yeah. And don't face me, creep."

Gintoki rolled his eyes and wriggled onto his back. "What's next?"

"Dunno. Will anyone look for you?"

"Mm... I don't think so."

"China or Four Eyes won't be wondering about you if you don't come back tonight?"

"Ah, they'll worry, but no, they won't look for me. You?"

Hijikata's brows furrowed and he looked over through his fringe. "Why the hell wouldn't they look for you? They fucking worship you and you even said you were out last night."

"So what?" Gintoki replied indifferently. "They won't be looking, so what about your useless bunch?"

There was a brief moment where Hijikata wondered about Gintoki's indifference, but lambasted the thought with a shake of his head. "Whatever, asshole. My faction knows I'm undercover. I'm supposed to return tomorrow or call in if something comes up."

Gintoki was silent, then said, "You don't have your phone anymore, do you?"

"No I don't have my phone, dipshit!" Hijikata snapped, all the more annoyed. Taking a deep breath, he let it out slow and began thinking out loud. "Okay. So. No one's looking for you, no one's looking for me, I don't have my phone, neither of us have our swords, and we're stuck... in a box... together..."

"That about sums it up."

Gintoki suddenly clapped his hands together and touched the wood panel above them. Hijikata kept watching, brows slowly furrowing as Gintoki dropped his hands, clapped them again, and this time slammed them up against the wood, palms open.

"Oh," Hijikata grunted, finally getting it. Swinging his leg out, he kneed Gintoki on the hip. "Oh, goddamn it, you fucking moron, you aren't Edward Elric!"

"I can be anyone I wanna be!" Gintoki hollered, nailing Hijikata's calf with his heel as he clapped his hands and touched the wood again.

"This isn't Fullmetal Alchemist!"

"Silence, dream smasher!"

"Wait... what're you doing now? No, stop that! Still the wrong show! Put your hands down!"

"Kame ha –"

Hijikata punched him, barking out, "I said stop, dumbass!"

"I'm desperate! I don't wanna be trapped in here with a loser like you!"

"That goes double for me, so hush!" A solid thirty seconds went by before the brief lull was disturbed and by such a stupid thing, too. "No humming!"

"What else am I supposed to do?"

"Be silent and don't move and if you fart... the amount of pain I will bring down on you, you won't know what hit you."

"There's nothing wrong with farting," Gintoki said matter-of-factly. "It's a natural reaction and asserts dominance. Farting shouldn't even bother you. Remember when we were handcuffed toget –"

"Shut up! I don't want to remember that shit!"

Gintoki sighed and tilted his head. "Why are we always drawn together like this?"

"We're not drawn together, this is a fanifc, stupid."

"Fine, written together. Either way we're always sorta stuck together."

"I dunno, don't ask stupid questions." Gintoki pouted, but let the subject drop, thank goodness. "How'd we end up in here anyway? I don't remember much."

Gintoki moved his bangs to show off a sizable black and blue bruise. "I got nailed by one of the beams, I remember nothing after my face hit the dirt."

The bruise looked nasty, but Hijikata just scoffed, "That all could've been avoidable if you'd have just left when I told you to."

Gintoki stuck his tongue out, then said, "They took our swords and I don't know about you, but I'm fine aside from a splitting headache."

He'd already mentioned their swords were gone, dumbass didn't listen for shit. "Yeah, well, I'm fine too, just angry."

Hijikata's stomach then chose that moment to gurgle and do its best impersonation of a dying whale while he put an arm over it and winced.

"Hungry..." he groaned and reached into his pocket to pull out his mayo bottle. He downed what was left – pointedly ignoring the sound of disgust directed his way – and frowned at the empty bottle, muttering moodily, "Still hungry..."

His stomach roared in answer and he had to grit his teeth to try and keep the noise contained. Gintoki laughed at him until he shoved the bastard's shoulder only to get shoved in return. They glared, Gintoki stuck his tongue out, then pulled a rectangular object from his yukata.

"You carry strawberry milk around with you?"

"Said the guy who just downed a bottle of mayo."

"It was only half a bottle!"

"Whole bottle, half a bottle, it's still nasty!"

"Is not!"

"Is too!"

"Is n – wait, no! Shuddap!"

He whacked Gintoki's forehead with his palm because he wasn't going to get sucked into a stupid childish quarrel. Mayonnaise was perfect and only a fucking idiot like Gintoki wouldn't be able to understand that. He honestly didn't even know why he tried with the man, Gintoki was useless and hopeless and an all around pain in the everything.

The sound of Gintoki slurping loudly on his strawberry milk made a vein in Hijikata's forehead throb. Out of spite, he reached out and squeezed the box making the straw spew the last drops of milk all over Gintoki's mouth and face. There was a sick retribution he felt when Gintoki convulsed, waving his arms and sputtering. It wasn't so much fun when Hijikata got kicked pretty hard by a booted foot, but fuck if he could really care, he just kicked right back.

"Noooo!" Gintoki wailed. "You wasted the last of it!"

"S'what you get for makin' fun of my mayo!"

Gintoki gargled, threw the carton at their feet to join the mayo bottle, and they mentally went their separate ways. It was a strained stillness, each of them twisting and moving to try and find a comfortable position. Neither of them hesitated to slap at the other if they bumped elbows of brushed knees. There was an unspoken, 'this is my side of the box and that's yours,' going on and they were sticking to it. The wood was uncomfortable at best, so there was a lot of wriggling on both their parts while each pretended not to care. Time had no meaning, but it felt like a large amount of it had passed before one of them spoke.

"Oi," Hijikata began, but stopped when he was met by a snore.

The bastard was asleep! Of all the things and in such a weird spot, the idiot really could sleep anywhere! Hijikata was about to punch him awake, but seeing part of the bruise gave him pause. Aside from the blemish mostly hidden by permy bangs, Gintoki... wasn't completely ugly. His hair wasn't the only reason he was eye catching on the streets. He was tall, broad shouldered, and he exuded an infuriating amount of arrogance around his deadbeat nonchalance. But there was some allure there too, an edge of some kind. His skin was pale and his eyes were red, but there was somehow more to it than appearance.

Not that it mattered, Hijikata was thinking too much into it. Probably from lack of fresh air and being crammed in a crate or whatever with the moron for so long. How long had it even been? Irrelevant – any amount of time was too long.

"Oi! Stop staring!"

Hijikata jolted and floundered as far away from Gintoki as he could get. "I w-wasn't staring! Not like there's a lot to l-look at in here!"

"If I stared at you like that you'd have clocked me!"

"Damn right I would've!"

Gintoki suddenly leered in a disconcerting, perverted kind of way. "Are you sure?"

Hijikata frowned an unholy amount at how suggestive that sounded. "What... are you getting at, bastard?"

"Well, there are some things in Justaway –"

In an instant, Hijikata slapped a hand over Gintoki's mouth with a smack. "Do you have a death wish, fucker? Don't speak of such things!" Gintoki looked bewildered and a muffled why not was mouthed against his palm. "Because who knows what'll happen to us then!" Hijikata thundered, a sixth sense telling him to fear for his life. See, he had intuition that Gintoki obviously lacked and he wasn't going to let the bastard's fallibility potentially cost them in another fic! "Quit talking about it and stop licking my goddamn palm! S'gross and this conversation never happened!"

Gintoki's eyes slowly dulled and blanked in a really... weird way and Hijikata tentatively removed his hand from the other's mouth to wipe his palm on Gintoki's clothing.

"What conversation?" Gintoki asked, sounding like an android.

Had someone hit the reset button or something? Had the writer just deleted Gintoki's memories or was perhaps rewriting them? Either way, it was really fucking strange to see Gintoki's eyes glaze, then refocus, and to have him blink like nothing had happened.

"M'bored," Gintoki complained, tilted his head until it thunked against the wood.

"So recite your ABC's or something, just leave me the hell alone."

Oh, Hijikata was irritated and aggravated to the moon and back. This fucking guy annoyed him so damn much without even trying, it was like Gintoki exuded an invisible 'pester Hijikata' vibe in waves.

"You could sleep, too, if you felt like it."

"I'm not sleeping with you!" Hijikata's face turned red for the 309482346489739485th time and he spluttered, "I-I mean next to you! With y-you here! I don't fuck-king trust you!"

"No need to freak out, bastard," Gintoki intoned, sounding bored. "Wasn't asking you to have sex with me," cue Hijikata's 309482346489739486th blush, "just sayin' you could rest if you wanted."

"Well, I don't want!"

"Fine, fine, makes no difference to me," Gintoki said, yawning. "It just makes time go by faster, is all."

Hijikata scowled at that – it made sense, but it still left a nasty taste at the back of his throat and he couldn't explain why. He wanted time to go back faster, of course, but there was something in knowing that Gintoki wanted that too that he found annoying.

"Not sleeping, try something else."

"Then we could always have a little fun," Gintoki purred, one of his hands sliding down to Hijikata's hip.

Hijikata shuddered hard, unable to help himself at the unexpected touch as Gintoki's hand started to move back toward his ass, and he exploded, "Hell no! I'll wring y-your fucking neck, Yorozuya! Spill your guts w-with my sword! Seppuku for you!"

"You always say that shit, but you never follow through with it."

"Like hell I don't!" Hijikata snarled and punched Gintoki several times in different places, wherever he thought would bring the most hurt.

There were some gratifying pained grunts, but then Hijikata got two fingers shoved up his nose and a kick to his shin. He hissed and went for Gintoki's throat only to have his wrist grabbed and his hand smashed against the wood above them. They glared at each other and threw curses back and forth just like before. There was hair pulling, nose pinching, eye jabbing, kicks, punches, smacks, slaps; it was meant to hurt and it did. Hijikata knew Gintoki did and said shit like that just to get to him and see his reaction and that made it worse in its own way. It fueled him, made him hit even harder and make sure that Gintoki would be feeling it for days after.

Wood creaked ominously and there was just enough time for Hijikata's eyes to meet Gintoki's before the whole crate lurched. Hijikata's stomach dropped as everything became a blur of motion, so dizzying that he shut his eyes. At some point his body was smashed up against something warm while the crate rolled and spun, but of course the stupid thing didn't break open. His ears were filled with the rushing sound of wind and the wood knocking off whatever they hit along their way. Hijikata ducked his chin and found warmth, so he just clung onto the only stability he had while he grunted and grit his teeth each time he was brutally thrown into the wood.

It came to a jarring halt with a loud crash and the sound of breaking glass followed by a deafening silence. Several long moments passed before Hijikata's head stopped rattling in his skull and the first thing he heard was a low groan. Another moment later and he realized the groan had come from himself. Panting lightly, he tried to lift his head, but no, he couldn't, there was... something heavy on it.

Hijikata's eyes slit open and he froze up. His mind was still trying to catch up, but he had enough presence to register that he wasn't next to Gintoki anymore, he was on top of the bastard. That weight on the back of his head? That was a hand. Gintoki was cradling the back of his head and – boom, it hit.

A large blush infused into Hijikata's face and it only got more heated when it hit that he was laying between Gintoki's legs. He held completely still, waiting to be mocked and teased for it, but the box was only filled with a ringing silence. Ringing except for one major thing – Hijikata could hear Gintoki's heart beating. It was right up against Hijikata's ear beating fast and strong, a constant da-dump, da-dump, da-dump that only seemed to feed his blush all the more.

Lifting his head, the hand falling limply away, Hijikata found Gintoki to be unconscious. Unless the bastard was faking it, which was something Gintoki would do. However, Hijikata didn't think that was the case. Gintoki was scowling in a little moue and to be honest, it looked more like childish petulance than anything. Hijikata swallowed and his blush receded some the longer he stared and was met with nothing, not even a twitch.

"Oi," Hijikata hedged, tapping Gintoki's chest. There wasn't a response, so he tried giving him a shake. "Oi, baka yarou." Still no response, so Hijikata punched him on the sternum. "Wake up, dammit!"

With a stilted groan, Gintoki roused, face scrunching up as he came to. "Fuckin' bastard... Fuck!" Gintoki cursed, reaching up to rub the back of his head and didn't pay Hijikata any mind. When Gintoki brought his hand back around, he frowned at the blood whetting his fingers and mumbled a meek, "Ouchie."

"What the fuck, you're bleeding?" Hijikata slid his hand into Gintoki's hair – ignoring the wince and how Gintoki tried to scoot away – and easily found the large bump and the sticky matted clump of permy hair. "Idiot! That's what you get for being a moron!"

Letting go, he looked at his fingers and while they were smeared red, there wasn't much. The cut hadn't felt too bad, either, and it was probably already starting to clot and stop bleeding. Which brought Hijikata back to his initial concern – he was still laying on top of Gintoki and there... was... oh, hell no! He couldn't even speak! His head snapped up and he made eye contact with Gintoki and that alone transferred the sheer horror of the thing that was poking at Hijikata.

"Get the fuck off!" Gintoki yelled, looking at anything but Hijikata while they became a flurry of motion.

"The f-fuck is wrong w-with you, Yorozuya?!"

"Nothing! Damn thing just doesn't know the difference!"

"Difference between what?!"

"A mayora and everybody else, I guess, I don't know – stop kicking me already! We're not even touching anymore so quit throwin' a fit, baka!"

Hijikata gave a few last hits, then threw an arm over his face to cover his eyes and blush. He couldn't believe that had just happened. Gintoki's thing had been right there against his thigh, he shuddered just thinking about it.

Small noises were coming from next to him and he ignored it all until he heard one that almost sounded like a whimper. Curious, he peeked out to find Gintoki touching at the back of his head and alternating between wincing and grumbling things. He didn't look at all like how Hijikata felt, frazzled and disconcerted and on some level, violated. The only thing Hijikata could do though was let it slide because he sure as hell didn't want to ever speak of it again or acknowledge that it ever happened.

Ready to bury the whole thing, Hijikata scoffed, "You always end up bleeding somehow, it's no wonder your kids are always worried about you."

"Why, Oogushi-kun, I had no idea you paid so much attention to me."

Hijikata spluttered and willed his renewed flush away, though it didn't help. "N-no, not that! I just – it's obvious! You get wounded all the damn time!"

There was a deafening pause. "You're very aware of Gin-san, aren't you?"

"I said no, d-dammit! But as usual you don't fucking listen! And my name isn't Oogushi-kun!"

Gintoki paused to stare a moment, then visible dropped it with a careless shrug. "We've been in here awhile, shouldn't someone have come this way by now?"

"I don't know... I guess that depends on where we are," Hijikata replied slowly, thoughts churning.

It was there – whatever it was. An inkling at the back of his mind telling him that something wasn't quite right about the whole situation. Gintoki was being so serious at random, so much more than Hijikata was used to seeing, and that was largely not a part of the bastard's personality. Unless... there was something he wanted to protect.

Hijikata let out a loud bark of a laugh and waved Gintoki's incredulous look away because – what a joke! No way was the bastard looking out for him in any way! They weren't friends, they didn't like each other even a bit, their characters were just a lot alike. All they did was fight and Gintoki was basically a professional at getting in the way and making things worse. But this time was a bit different and that was grossly repugnant.

Gintoki squirmed and grimaced, glaring at the wood panel wedged up against his shoulders. Hijikata watched Gintoki subtly squirm again, mouth in a little frown, and it was really pissing Hijikata off. Gintoki should have let things happen as they were meant to, not interfere by trying to cushion the blow.

"Oi, stop that!"

"But I'm squished! My back is cramping!"

"T'ch, c'mere!" Annoyed, brow ticking, Hijikata reached over and yanked Gintoki toward him. His forehead bumped into Gintoki's collarbones and that was sort of a good thing because it hid the heat in his face from view. "There, quit fussing. And the second I catch you doing something weird, I'm ending you. You'll never see the light of day again."

"Weird like what?" Gintoki asked before he nuzzled his face in Hijikata's hair, took a big obnoxious sniff, then blew a loud raspberry. "Like that?"

"Yes, like that!" Hijikata seethed, legs flailing as he pushed on Gintoki's chest. "We're done, no more! I fucking hate you! Lemme go!"

"No, no, stop! I was joking! Quit hitting! I'm done, okay?"

"Not okay!" Hijikata continued to grumble, but his resistance was dying down, mainly because of the strong hold Gintoki had on his hip. The arm around his head kept his face nearly smothered against Gintoki's chest and his shoulders were drawn up defensively. "You're such a goddamn bastard, always complicatin' things."

"So what else is new?" Gintoki replied, his hold gradually loosening. "And why have we not talked about where we might be? We obviously just fell from somewhere high up."

"A warehouse, maybe?" Hijikata thought out loud. "Though if we'd hit concrete, this box should have at least cracked."

"This box is a prison," Gintoki mumbled softly, his breath ghosting over Hijikata's ear, making him want to rub at the resultant tingles.

"Not helping."

"Did you fart?"

"What? No!"

"Are you sure?"

"Of course I'm sure! I'd know if I farted, dumbass!"

"Then do you smell that?"

Hijikata couldn't smell anything besides Gintoki and if there was something that smelled like a fart around, it wasn't him and it wasn't the bastard. Which... made it sound like he was saying Gintoki smelled good when he didn't, he just didn't smell bad, there was a difference. Lifting his head toward one of the small slits, he took a whiff and his nose wrinkled.

"It's coming from outside," Hijikata surmised as he shoved his face back where it had been to clear his nasal passage of the offensive odor.

"I'd guessed. It sorta smells like rotten bananas. Do you think... are we in a dumpster?"

Hijikata stared blindly at Gintoki's chest, his mouth open a few extra seconds before he spoke, "That's... a possibility."

And made some sense. They'd been thrown in a box, then thrown out like garbage. He wasn't entirely convinced that that was where they were, but it was definitely possible and that was terrible. Vice-Commander of the Shinsengumi... garbage? Sougo would have a field day, Hijikata would never live it down, never mind the fact that he'd gotten captured in the first place.

"When we get outta here, you will speak of this to no one, understand?"

"As if that needed to be said," Gintoki scorned halfheartedly.

The conversation faded out at that and Gintoki's hand loosened completely until it was just resting on Hijikata's hip. He had a mind to snap at Gintoki and tell him to keep his hands to himself, but held back because it'd probably turn out to be counterproductive. Gintoki wasn't doing anything, so there wasn't a huge need to reprimand him. The light warm weight wasn't exactly terrible, either. He didn't want to be staring blindly at Gintoki's chest, that felt wrong, so he closed his eyes and tried to focus on anything but the tension between them.

It was weird being so close to someone like this. Sure, Hijikata had been in close quarters with his faction, but certainly not ever this close, people tended to give him plenty of distance. He would have throttled any one of them if they tried sidling up to him like this; Gintoki though, for whatever reason, he was different. Plus, they were stuck in a box, a certain leniency needed to be made for them to survive without ripping each other's throats out. It was temporary, too, it expired the second they were free of their wooden confines.

Slowly, the longer they stayed there without moving, Hijikata's shoulders began to finally relax. He still fully expected Gintoki to suddenly give him a wet willy or something, but for the time, Hijikata felt secure enough to take a little breather. So, he let his rigidity melt away and took a deep breath that was somehow both sweet and musky at once. It wasn't nasty, it didn't make his nose curl, it'd always been a unique blend. He should probably feel embarrassed that he knew Gintoki by scent, but they crossed paths and got up close and personal with such regular frequency that he really couldn't bring himself to care.

It was the current proximity that was honestly the thing throwing him off most. They got up in each other's faces often, but the way they were now was much too close. Gintoki wasn't taller than him, but the way they were positioned made Hijikata feel smaller in a way. It was probably because of the way Gintoki was curled around him, a broad shoulder curved up over him. There should be alarm bells going off to be so confined by any one person, but it felt sort of okay with Gintoki. And since they had no other option than to wait the whole thing out, why shouldn't they be at least a little comfortable?

Gintoki's hand moved, but didn't go far, just back a little so his wrist was on Hijikata's side instead of his hand. It was such a small movement that Hijikata wasn't bothered by it and there was no perverted nonsense by the fingers brushing over his back, so it was fine. He actually couldn't tell if Gintoki was awake or not. The rise and fall of his chest was even, the heavy thud of his heart steady and unchanging, and... if the bastard really was asleep and drooled everywhere, there would be hell to pay. As it was, Hijikata couldn't be bothered by anything. He wasn't necessarily comfortable, but he'd been in worse conditions and couldn't say he was entirely uncomfortable being where he was.

In fact, there was an uncanny sense of camaraderie. Most likely only in Hijikata's case, but when it was quiet and still, just them sharing the same space, their usual severity was mitigated, tapered down to something manageable. Hell, Hijikata was willing to go so far as to say it was even more than tolerable, like, verging on emollient. There were other factors that went into that as well, like how they were in a fucking box so it wasn't like someone could exactly sneak up on them. Then there was the fact that though Gintoki was a permy haired moron, the guy could put up one hell of a fight, with or without a sword.

Ninety-nine percent of the time Gintoki was a useless creature, but then there was that one percent where the man could just – and Hijikata would never fess this up to anyone – kick some serious ass. It was like he just shifted gears and became this whole other person, this unstoppable force that just decimated things. Gintoki was a conundrum and the knowledge that he was a fully capable fighter was part of what helped put Hijikata at ease. He let the sounds rock him into a stasis and though he and Gintoki weren't friends necessarily, his scent was familiar enough to add to the calm lull as opposed to take away from it.

The transition was so easy, too. His arms and legs felt like they were getting heavier as whatever tension that had been left melted away. He became leaden and his head filled with random skittering thoughts, most of them having no real meaning. Really out of nowhere shit like if jellyfish floated through the air instead of water, the corner in the dojo that needed repaired, whether he'd locked his room to keep Sougo out, not that that ever really stopped the shit. He zoned out, forgetting that he was in a box and even that he was with someone, everything just became so... simple.

Hijikata jolted slightly in place and blinked his eyes open in surprise, he couldn't believe he'd started to doze off! He was notoriously bad at sleeping when there were other people around, he was always too on edge – which made him great at things like stakeouts – and of all the people, Gintoki should be the one that bothered him the most. Yet he was rubbing sleep out of his eyes with the back of his hand and there was no escaping how warm he felt, like some invisible blanket of heat had been shrouded over him and had brought a bout of drowsiness with it.

"I can't get back to sleep," Gintoki muttered, his voice a rumble.

"Try harder."

"I am, s'not working."

"I could knock you out again," Hijikata suggested, making himself sound slightly hopeful.

"Tempting," Gintoki replied flatly, clearly not impressed, "but no. I'd rather have my bed."

"I'd rather just be outta this box."

"Coffin," Gintoki corrected morosely.

"You really are the most unhelpful creature, this isn't a damn coffin. I'd commit seppuku before dying in your arms."

"Mm... how romantic."

Hijikata smirked at the amused sarcasm in Gintoki's voice and went with the flow, saying, "Sugar freak like you would have a thing for romance."

"You wouldn't know, we're not in that kind of relationship. But if we were, it sure as shit wouldn't be some stupid fling."

Hijikata paused at that, so surprised he didn't even blush, and his brows furrowed where he was staring at a lapel of Gintoki's shirt. He was almost tempted to look up just to see Gintoki's face because... the bastard had spoken with so much conviction, Hijikata damn near believed it. Which said something because Gintoki never really meant much of what he said, he was too busy joking around and putting on a misleading show. Sure, the guy could be serious when there was something he wanted to protected, but any other time he was just a loser that picked his nose, lazed about, and scratched his ass.

"It's... amazing you're still single then..." Hijikata said softly, grudgingly, he didn't know what the fuck else to say.

"What are you talking about? I've been in a long term relationship for years!"

Hijikata looked up and dubiously raised a brow. "You?"

"Yeah, me!" Gintoki replied, affronted. Then an almost wistful look touched his face and he went on, "We have our ups and downs, but we always work it out in the end."

"Uh-huh... she got a name?"

"Sugar."

"I knew it!" Hijikata exclaimed, thumping Gintoki – who was laughing odiously, by the way – hard on the chest. Hard enough to make the asshole wheeze and Hijikata wouldn't have cared if the permy freak choked on his tongue. "You are so full of shit, y'know that?"

"Nope! I took a shit today, mayora, there's no way I could still be full of it."

"Ugh – gross! Not literally, moron!"

And Hijikata had to hide his face because for whatever disgusting reason, that had been sort of amusing. It was just such a Gintoki thing to say, it was lame and stupid and Hijikata really shouldn't be finding it a fraction as amusing as he was. He figured he'd officially been in the box way too long and the air was going stale. He'd probably go crazy soon if he hadn't already.

….

On second thought, he'd just found a shit joke amusing – game over. He'd already lost it. They seriously needed to get out of the damn box already.

They lapsed into another quiet where the only thing that happened was that Gintoki shifted, which neither brought him closer or took him farther away. Hijikata found himself easily falling into it, letting the relative silence and warmth seep into him. There was comfort in that, that they could find a space where they didn't have to talk or bicker and honestly, it wasn't the first time Hijikata had found that with Gintoki. There were actually very, very few people Hijikata could find this kind of comfort with, he could count the number on a single hand, and it was altogether strange – borderline wrong – that one of those people was the Yorozuya.

In a way, that information didn't matter at all. In another way, it mattered a hell of a lot. But it was juxtaposed and that made it annoying. Like, infinitely annoying. It wasn't something Hijikata wanted to give any thought to, but when trapped in a box literally up against the other man, it was near impossible to not think about it. And he was curious if he was the only one that felt this way. Gintoki never gave anything away and Hijikata wasn't stupid enough to ask, then he'd just be opening himself up to ridicule.

"Why'd you..." Hijikata trailed off, not knowing how to continue and not knowing why he'd even started.

Why'd you do it? Why'd you protect me?

Both were valid questions and both wouldn't get voiced. He wasn't a word guy and Gintoki wasn't either, they just sort of hit each other and worked things out that way. Or didn't work things out at all and just kept hitting each other because both of them were too stubborn to budge. Hijikata knew he couldn't ask things like that straight up, Gintoki never gave straight answers to things, he was always dodging and deflecting, putting up masks and facades that no one could break through. At least, Hijikata had never seen anyone break through before.

With his unvoiced half-question left hanging, it got awkward and he became irate. Gintoki wasn't moving or prodding him, it was worse, it was quiet and Gintoki was still like he was waiting for Hijikata to finish, which he wouldn't. The prolonged void stretched on and it was its own form of embarrassing! He hadn't wanted to say anything, his mouth had just sorta moved and words had come tumbling out. He wanted to snatch them out of the air and shove them back down because they never should have escaped in the first place.

"Oi, mayora."

Hijikata's shoulders tensed, not knowing what to expect from such an inscrutable tone. "What do you want?"

"What if we die here?"

At that, he rolled his eyes and the tension left. "We're not going to die here, don't be so dramatic."

"I didn't say we were, I asked what if. "

"Why think about it if we're not going to die here? That's just stupid."

Gintoki scoffed. "You know what? Never mind. So much for making conversation, you're the worst."

The tiniest bit of guilt began to squirm in Hijikata's stomach in the ensuing silence and that just wasn't going to do. He had nothing to feel guilty for! They were just bickering again, which actually made him feel a lot less awkward than before.

"Argh – I don't know? I've left Paperwork-san on my desk, so it would suck, I guess?"

"Paperwork-san? Really? We're talking about if we died here and you've only got paperwork on your mind?"

"Ah, well, I mean – no, but yeah," Hijikata said, stumbling over the words. Huffing and taking a breath, he tried again a bit slower. "Work, I guess. What I'd built with Kondo-san in Edo. That sort of stuff..." Gintoki hummed and watched in a most disconcerting way, his face blank, but he didn't have dead fish eyes so it was almost like he was listening. It was unsettling enough for Hijikata to clear his throat and look away, prodding, "You?"

Just like that, Gintoki's voice changed to one of a dreamy-like disinterest. "I'm still hung up on my spilled milk from earlier."

"I should've seen that one coming."

"And now m'hungry again," Gintoki whined.

Hijikata's stomach made a sympathetic gurgling noise – and let it be known that Hijikata had no control over that. "Why'd you have'ta mention it, ahn?"

"Mm... I wonder what wood tastes like."

"T'ch, what're you gonna do? Eat our way outta here?"

"The possibility has crossed my mind."

Hijikata snorted, actually amused by the thought. "If you're gonna do that, hurry up about it, I wanna go."

"Careful what you say, mayora, I might try to eat you too."

Hijikata's heart sped up and his brows furrowed. "Ah... what?"

"I wasn't the only one with a bulge earlier," Gintoki replied airily. "The way you were touchin' my head almost looked like you wanted me to kiss you."

And just like that, the flow of idle conversation came to a screeching halt. Hijikata was mortified, his stomach doing acrobatic flops that only got worse the longer he processed the comment. Gintoki was always teasing him just to fuck with him and get under his skin. He was a sadist, Hijikata understood that, but it bugged him and what he hated was that he actually wanted something definitive instead of having everything be so damn vague. It made Hijikata mad, mad enough to do something about it.

"I call your bluff."

He felt Gintoki freeze. "Nani?"

"You say I talk shit, well, what about you, hah?" Even though he was blushing almost painfully red, Hijikata glared and lifted his head, his face less than an inch from Gintoki's. "You talk big about stuff like that, but you've got nothin'."

Gintoki blinked blankly at him, a look that Hijikata could only call faux innocence and he found that unsettling. Why couldn't he ever tell what the fuck Gintoki was thinking? It was infuriating! What the hell was going on behind those bright crimson eyes? Growling, Hijikata moved his head to duck it back down, but everything – everything – stopped when Gintoki's mouth suddenly landed on the bridge of his nose.

Even time froze.

Then, it shattered.

"Y-you...! You were actually going to k-kiss me!" Hijikata burst out, shoving Gintoki away and scrubbing at the offended part of his nose.

"You told me to! And I'm a sadist, I've done less just to fuck with someone!"

"Who says you're allowed to fuck with me?"

"I say! I'm allowed to fuck with whoever I want!"

"Except me!"

"Especially you!"

"Why?"

"Because you're you!"

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"Nothing! You're a piece of shit!"

Hijikata slapped a hand so hard on his face he was sure he was going to leave a hand print behind. "I hate you... so much. Just stop talking."

They weren't so much as touching anymore, both of them wriggled into their respective sides so much that there was a good inch to inch and a half between them. Hijikata had been thrown off kilter so hard – he was furious! He was so mad he was shaking and glaring at every single little thing, his hands were balled up into fists, and his teeth were clenched so hard his jaw ached. He was just so... so... fucking mad.

"Ma –"

"Don't speak!" Hijikata stormed. "Don't you fucking say a goddamn word!"

Gintoki had had no right! None! Hijikata may have goaded him some, but still, that hadn't been, like, permission or anything! They fucked around and got under each other's skin, but that? Gintoki would have kissed him on the fucking mouth if he hadn't moved when he had and that... just – no!

"Y-you're sick!" And of course the stuttering had to set in now that the initial shock had worn off. "So g-goddamn fucked in the head! Don't you e-ever do that again! I-I'll cut you to pieces, Y-Yorozuya!"

Hijikata's faced flushed even more at the amount of damnable stuttering he was doing. He knew it had a lot to do with how mad he was, but fuck, it was still annoying, which only added to how pissed he was. And what was Gintoki doing? Well, first off, it didn't look like he cared one fucking bit! He was just reclined in his corner with a finger in his ear to pick out wax. He wasn't looking at Hijikata, wasn't acknowledging him, he was just doing his own thing like nothing had ever happened, like it was just another day in the life of a parfait freak.

So, Hijikata punched him.

He bent his arm back until his elbow touched the wood and he throttled the bastard right in his stupid face. The smack of skin on skin, then the thud of Gintoki's head colliding with the wood was so supremely satisfying that Hijikata already felt a bit better. Gintoki loud curse was even better, like the mayonnaise on top of a dish it was the perfect finish.

"Oi!" Gintoki yelled, clutching his face. "A-tut-tut – fuck you, mayora!"

Gintoki grumbled extensively and swatted back somewhat, but he mostly held his jaw and kept cussing a blue streak. As for Hijikata, he was angry for a whole new reason. He'd just fucking reamed Gintoki in the face, he knew it'd hurt like a bitch, hell, his own hand was hurting from how hard he'd punched Gintoki, but he – fuck everything, he didn't feel nearly as satisfied as he thought he would. Instead of feeling better, he felt worse, and now his hand hurt on top of everything else.

And Gintoki was doing weird things. He had a constipated look on his face and it was clear he was using way more concentration than he was capable of.

"What's your problem now?" Hijikata snarled.

"I've gotta take a piss!"

"Hold it!"

"But it hurts!"

"I don't care, keep holding it!"

Gintoki grabbed his crotch and bent his knees as much as he could. "For how long?"

"However long it takes! And stop rocking back and forth like that!"

"My dick is swelling! My bladder is going to burst! I can't die this way, I just can't! What kind of way is this for a hero to go?"

"You're not going to die, idiot! Stop thinking about it and you won't have to go so bad!"

"Easy for you to say, asshole! I'm the one suffering here!"

"No, I'm suffering too by listening to you whine! You shouldn't have had that milk!" Gintoki groaned with his face all scrunched up and for a wild second, Hijikata almost felt bad for him. "I'll... give you permission to hum if it'll take your mind off it."

Instead of humming though, Gintoki burst out into the Doraemon theme song and Hijikata was having none of that. He punched Gintoki on reflex, though the hit was lacking its usual bite.

"I have to pee and you punch me in the stomach why?" Gintoki hollered, dry sobbing as he continued to rock.

"Wait... hush."

"Don't you hush me! I'm a man in pain!"

Hijikata put his fingers lightly over Gintoki's lips. "Hush, hush, hush, hush. I think... are those voices?"

They both fell silent and listened hard. For a few long seconds there was nothing but them staring at each other, blue on red, but then there was a muffled sound, then another of a different tenor. Their eyes widened in unison, each taking a large inhale, Hijikata's one of surprise, and Gintoki's one of... an explosion.

"HELP US!" Gintoki yelled so loud it felt like the whole box rattled. "Gin-san in the box! Get Gin-san out of the box! Bladder is about to explode! This kills the man! Open this damn box! Unleash the kraken!"

In the end, Hijikata didn't even need to say a single word because all the many things Gintoki continued to spout drew more than enough attention. Soon, Gintoki was laughing hysterically and making his own fanfare noises as the people who had found them began getting the box open. The thing was, Hijikata knew those voices, they were familiar to him. And it was with the greatest sigh of relief that Kondo-san was the first person he saw when the top of the box popped off with a splintered crash, even the loud, "Toshiiii!" was welcome.

"Air," Gintoki hailed, rising up out of the box like some kind of stiff vampire. "Sweet, blessed, beautiful ai – pee!" His eyes went wide and he let out a little scream as he hopped up to his feet and grabbed his crotch with one hand. "I must go! A piss, a piss, my kingdom for a piss!"

Gintoki awkwardly sprinted off on wobbly legs to, most likely, take the biggest piss of his life and Hijikata could only snort. He had to pee as well, but he could wait.

"Man, is it good to see you," he said as Kondo helped him up and out into the largest dumpster Hijikata had ever seen. Really it was an indoor storage unit for trash, but dumpster worked just as well. His whole body ached and while Kondo looked him over, he asked, "How'd you find us?"

"We caught some of the thugs who'd attacked you and put them in a room with Sougo for awhile," Kondo announced, beaming and looking relieved once his check was over. Hijikata opened his mouth to ask more questions, but Kondo silenced him with a one armed hug that pulled him into walking away from the cursed box. "At least walk a bit first, get some air. You okay?"

"M'fine," Hijikata said archly, a relieved smile actually reaching his face. "Uninjured, just dehydrated and tired. As for that natural perm bastard, he interfered, it's his own damn fault."

Kondo glanced back at the two other men from the faction to make sure they were doing as they should be and nodded several times. "There's water in the car, we'll leave as soon as we can. But," he looked in the direction Gintoki had gone, "what's Sakata-san doing here? We knew he was with you because of the information we got, but why is he with you?"

"It's his own fault!" Hijikata growled. "Everything was going fine until he interfered and got us both caught! We should arrest him! Take him into custody and throw him into a holding cell, then leave him there to rot! We'll need his statement anyway, but no – okay, don't want to even think about that bastard right now! How'd you know who the thugs were? Did they have anything else to say? Who are they?"

Kondo stared and blinked, seemingly taken aback, but recovered with a shake of his head. "Heard about the incident from some pedestrians when we were called about a disturbance. They're hired grunts, someone had tipped the drug lord we're after off that a couple of his carriers were being tailed by a cop, so that gang had been hired to take you out." Kondo pointedly paused and inexplicably stared at Hijikata hard before continuing, "They'd scattered once they knew we were after them, that's why it took so long for us to get to you, ah, both of you, I should say, had to track them down."

"Hn... but why the garbage? Why not just off us?" Hijikata asked, shaking out his legs as they slowly meandered.

Kondo frowned and waved a hand at the trash. "All this is scheduled to be incinerated in the morning."

A chip of ice settled itself in Hijikata's stomach. "They wanted me to burn alive... and there'd be nothing left of me afterward, no evidence."

"Right." Kondo nodded, then slapped Hijikata on the back. "But we got to you in time and we can track the rest of the gang down, maybe even get to the drug lord that way. I left them in with Sougo, so they should crack soon if they haven't already."

"So they'd been waiting for me, huh? That's... interesting. I wonder who'd tipped'em off."

"Another thing we're hoping to find out," Kondo said. "Also, we retrieved both of your swords, they're in the trunk."

"I'll make them talk," Hijikata seethed, already thinking about what he'd do when he got back to the barracks.

He'd need to send someone for his phone, probably Zaki, and get his sword back on his hip where it belonged. He was ready to destroy their will to live for even thinking about trying to take him down! Him! Ha! He'd – he'd... oh, fuck. It came back to him suddenly, a little snippet of conversation and his lips parted in surprise.

"So keep movin'! I don't have time for assholes like you!"

"But I've got somethin' to tell you!"

"I don't wanna hear it!"

"Just listen, dammit!"

"No! I said go away, freak!"

Hijikata swallowed to wet his dry throat and he turned, his eyes seeking out a mop of bright hair, though he wasn't seeing it anywhere. His mind was racing. Everything that had happened in the box, everything Gintoki had done and said, it made sense. Gintoki, he protected what was – oh, fuck. Hijikata fucking got it. It just, it all fell into place and it left Hijikata slightly breathless.

"Sorry, Kondo-san, excuse me a moment."

An eerily knowing look flashed over Kondo's face and he grinned. "Sure! There's still some stuff to take care of on scene, pictures and things, you know the routine, so that's where I'll be."

Grateful for his digression, Hijikata nodded again and started off to find that damn Yorozuya. But he couldn't help hearing Kondo's phone go off and him yell, 'Of course he's not dead!' Damn Sougo. He'd deal with that later.

It didn't take Hijikata long to find him, that hair really did make him stand out, even with the bloody spot on the back – which reminded him that they needed to get that looked at. Gintoki was stretching out his arms and legs and making happy little putters as he did, the idiot. Though, Hijikata could commiserate, his own limbs were still aching from being confined for so long with so limited movement.

Hijikata marched right up to him, stopping just behind. "You knew."

Gintoki turned and squinted. "Hah? Listen, mayora, I just lost at least ten pounds of liquid, you're going to have to be more specific than that."

"How'd you know they were waiting for me?" Hijikata asked, diving right into it with a ticking brow, he was in no mood to deal with any of Gintoki's evasive tactics.

Gintoki stared, then just shrugged and began picking wax out of his ear. "Overheard some small talk on my way. Their description of you was a hardass cop with a stick up his ass, so I kinda knew it was you."

"Why'd you..." And there it was again, just like before. Why'd you... "You could've died."

"We both could've, but we didn't," Gintoki replied, walking over to wipe his pinky on Hijikata's shoulder. "Now get me to my apartment already. I need to stuff my face and pass out for awhile."

Hijikata stayed put while Gintoki started walking off with an arm across his stomach. Hijikata's fists were clenched at his sides, his heart was pounding, and his insides were a wreck. Bits and pieces of what happened inside the box came back to him, but it meant something different than it had before and it was all kind of fucked up in a big way and he really just – just –

"Yorozuya!" Hijikata yelled, turning on his heel. Gintoki stopped and half-turned, a brow raised, the natural lighting hitting him just right to make his eyes, skin, and hair appear ethereal. Glaring, Hijikata blurted, "Tomorrow night. I'll be needing a drink when I get off work."

Gintoki blinked in surprise, then slowly smirked and sealed the deal with good natured, "You're buyin'."

THE END