Disclaimer: Sorachi is king. I am peasant.
Friendly Advice: This fic can be considered a sequel to "What Follows Consent". Read it first if you want to enjoy the plot thoroughly. The choice is up to you.
All That Glitters Is Not Silver Except Thorns
Chapter 1: Perspective is Overrated II
Elizabeth and Katsura were taking a break from their scheduled counter-surveillance maneuvers. They were sitting in a shady corner of a cafe discussing the best way to engage the waitress without looking too suspicious. The street outside was crawling with Shinsengumi loons and the last thing they wanted was to attract attention by ordering a glass of water.
"Ok, let's do it like this Elizabeth, you ask for the orange juice and I ask for the water- No, wait, it's better if I order the orange juice first then after she brings it you say you've suddenly gone thirsty and ask for a glass of water. How does that sound?"
Forever faithful to his friend and comrade, Elizabeth nodded.
Great. Let's do it.
Elizabeth gestured to the waitress and called her. Katsura shifted nervously in his seat, looking back over his shoulder at the entrance of the cafe with a squinting eye. It was something almost prophetic because a pair of Shinsengumi officers walked in just as the waitress got to their table. Moreover, it was none other than the Vice Commander accompanied by a lesser minion. They sat on a table near the window and soon afterward Hijikata dismissed his subordinate.
"Good afternoon" the waitress chirped lively "What will you two have?"
"A orange juice please- ah no, a glass of water for me, no, I'm actually thirsty-" Katsura babbled stupidly but decided to postpone the conversation after a minute of deliberation "Actually could you tell me where the restroom is?"
The young waitress sent him an angry look and then pointed towards a door near the back.
"Thank you so much" Katsura replied and got up "I will be right back, gonna use the toilet paper to the devise a better strategy" he whispered by Elizabeth's non-existent ear.
Once he was gone, Elizabeth was left in a strange silence with the waitress who had long lost her cute sparkly personality and just stood there looking evil. She had to be some kind of yandere type.
"You havin' sumething or what?" she barked angrily.
A glass of water if you please.
She broke the tip of her pencil writing on her pad and left with a loud pretentious noise Elizabeth ignored. His large all-seeing eyes followed her back to the counter and then to the table where the Vice Commander of the Shinsengumi sat. He noticed how her personality changed quickly to the fake and creepily cute one. The Shinsengumi dog paid no attention to her advances or how she leaned a bit further to reveal her cleavage. It was a sorry spectacle, but Elizabeth was quite entertained by it, especially the look of affront on her face as she returned to the counter with nothing but his order and a cold shrug.
Katsura was still locked up in the restroom and a queue was starting to form at the door. Elizabeth wondered if the waitress would actually grab a key and storm inside to throw him out, but apparently she was too busy crippling Elizabeth to care. She set down the glass of water with such strength in front of him it would have torn his little hand apart if she hadn't missed.
"Here you have it" she said with a sweet smile. Elizabeth just raised a thankful placard.
She dashed away to attend her next customer who happened to be Sakata Gintoki. He had entered very discreetly, very crafty, Elizabeth had barely seen him arrive. But it wasn't his slyness that shocked him, what surprised Elizabeth was him sitting with the Shinsengumi pillar of smoke and villainy. His first instinct was to grab the menu and hide what part of him he could with it. He even meditated momentarily so he could blend in with his surroundings. His break would have to wait. Elizabeth was back on the job.
The Vice Commander received the intruder with a glare. Gintoki didn't even acknowledge him. He just sat down, flipped through the menu to the desserts page and looked at the parfait selection until the yandere waitress came by. He ordered something which actually sounded delicious, not health-wreaking like the mayonnaise freak had requested and he also flirted a little with the waitress, much unlike the latter. He smirked at Hijikata after she left and said something that totally eluded Elizabeth's comprehension since the queue to the restroom was making too much noise for him to able to listen to anything other than his thoughts.
Whatever Gintoki had said had clearly been a provocation because the Vice Commander blew a big puff of smoke on his face and put out his cigarette in a rage. Gintoki laughed. A laugh Elizabeth seldom saw in him. He had no time to reflect about it though. The waitress came back with their orders, placing a big elaborate parfait in front of Gintoki and a bowl of mayonnaise in front of Hijikata. They ceased all interaction and devoted themselves to their dishes.
Elizabeth looked on intrigued. He was still stuck in his initial questions regarding the strange circumstance. Why was Gintoki there and how come did the Shinsengumi guy let him get away with all that impudence? The cafe should have been half destroyed by now. There was something fishy there.
Elizabeth focused back on the strange duo intent on finding more about such a shady meeting. However, by the time his eyes fell on them the Vice Commander was no longer eating with his spoon as much as he playing with it. He let his tongue slide up and down, licking the mayonnaise as he turned the spoon around. For any normal person it would have looked disgusting and rude, but Gintoki just stared somehow agape. Elizabeth kept shaking his head perpetually as the absurdity unfolded. It just wasn't right. Gintoki slammed the table with a curled fist when Hijikata looked defiantly at him after inserting another spoonful in his mouth. He slid the spoon in and out slowly, evidently mocking Gintoki and everyone who was fool enough to be watching them.
It was Hijikata's turn to smirk. Elizabeth saw Gintoki's face redden with anger at the insolence and he dropped the spoonful of parfait he was holding. The Shinsengumi dog just kept going, looking nastier by the second. If Elizabeth had any hairs they would probably be sticking up now, and if he was not a Renho he might have other things standing up as well, if Gintoki's sight was any example to go by-
Elizabeth barely felt his arm move as he raised the placard. He had finally understood.
Gintoki reached inside his pocket, took out all the pennies he had and slammed them on the table before walking out. Hijikata sent him a confused look at first, but rapidly took out enough money to pay for their half-eaten meal and followed after him. Katsura exited the restroom around the same time and returned to the table with a bundle of scribbled toilet paper.
"Is it safe?" he whispered.
We're going to need a lot more toiler paper.
Being an android was a strange thing. It was even stranger to be an android capable of feelings. Tama had often wondered about what it was like to feel as humans did and if her concept of emotion and theirs had any real likeness. Once or twice she had even thought she had managed to understand them completely, but she never could, nor could humans for that matter. The impossibility didn't stop her from trying to figure it all out though and the constant flux of humanity around her did not allow her to neglect the problem either. For example, there was much she could say about the never ending outbursts of rage from Otose-sama, Catherine's infinite supply of spite and Gintoki-sama's natural nonchalance she secretly admired. But Tama was acquainted with the basics for her own self-preservation, which translated as the required knowledge to engage in social interactions with mild success. They worked to an extent, yet humans were too volatile in comparison and always ended up with new surprising things to astound her. Some were some useful, some useless, but whatever they were Tama welcomed them gladly. She was indeed a very curious android.
Her latest discovery started with a trip to the convenience store with Gintoki and the kids. Otose had sent her with them to buy a few groceries for the bar and gave her a tiny list which Tama went over very quickly before joining the Yorozuya trio on their shopping. She took a peek at the things they bought, both out of sheer curiosity and under Otose's orders to watch if they spent their money wisely. However, Tama didn't see any reasons for Otose to worry for Shinpachi rejected even the smallest little luxury item Kagura or Gintoki tried to drop in the shopping basket unassumingly. Shinpachi gave no opportunity to their indulgence.
"Eeeeh! But you let Gin-chan buy a strawberry milk carton! Unfair, unfair!" Kagura complained aloud.
"We have no money for twenty packs of sukonbu Kagura-chan, be reasonable!"
"Yeah, be reasonable Kagura and stop being such a spoiled kid, no one will yield to your whims if you keep annoying them with impossible requests" Gintoki replied obnoxiously.
"You're one to talk" Shinpachi muttered.
"Yeah Gin-chan, you're one to talk. Spending all the money we made repairing those roofs on pachinko and parfaits" she sighed heavily and crossed her arms "There really is no future for us with such an irresponsible adult wasting our money away. It's no wonder the whims of a kid are neglected"
Shinpachi nodded and Gintoki turned a corner, suddenly very fascinated with a new brand of Ayanami Mei's chocolate cookies.
"Ugh, why is he always like this..."
"At least he got what he wanted!" Kagura snapped with a pout.
"Don't worry, Gintoki-sama is very considerate, I'm sure he will find a way to buy your sukonbu" Tama declared. The statement brought a shine to Kagura's eyes despite the scowl plastered on her face. Shinpachi rolled his eyes,shrugged his shoulders and moved on to the next item on the Yorozuya's list.
Tama made a move to follow him but her system forced her to shut down for a minor update and she froze on the snack aisle. Once she restarted and came back, loud noises got her attention and she walked in the direction of Gintoki and Shinpachi's loud voices.
"What the hell do you think you're doing putting that in the basket!" Shinpachi yelled baffled. Tama's mechanical eyes instantly locked on the shopping basket in search of any suspicious item.
"Pachi-boy you don't need to be embarrassed about grown up stuff" Gintoki replied coolly.
"Yeah, what a pussy" Kagura echoed the sentiment.
"Gin-san! Kagura-chan is here! T-Those things, you should buy them yourself in secret, in the m-m-middle of the night, somewhere on the next district, not here! Not when Kagura-chan is present, y-you idiot!" Shinpachi said in hysterics.
Kagura sent him a look of scorn, grabbed the nearest pack of sukonbu and ripped it open obstinately.
"Kagura-chan no, stop! This is not the time for-"
"Shinpachi you need to solve your problems and let men be men" Gintoki continued in his streak of indifference. By this time Tama had located a bottle of personal lubricant on the basket, along with a little square pack with the words SUPER LATEX written on either side.
"Gintoki-sama is just trying to be responsible about copulation. You should heed his advice" Tama said.
Shinpachi turned four shades of white, six of red and then fled the spot to proceed his shopping without another word. Kagura ignored Tama's blunt phrasing and kept staring at Shinpachi's back trying to drill holes through it by the strength of will alone, while Gintoki kept silent, a subtle smile playing on his lips.
Tama had a practical and naïve view of the world, so it is not surprising that only later on did she put two and two together and pondered further about Gintoki's attempts at procreation. She knew there needed to be a man and a woman involved and, thus, she occupied her thoughts with possible candidates for the mother of Gintoki-sama's offspring during her evening sweeping. The list was long and Tama tried to formulate patterns and rankings, taking into account the women's features, attributes, traits, personalities and abilities. Tama eventually found herself devising the perfect human baby and soon gave up on the subject since the women Gintoki knew were too complex and paradoxical for rigorous computer equations. She would fry her circuits if she thought too much about it. Fortunately a chance sighting simplified the whole ordeal of conceiving Gintoki's perfect child. After finishing her night sweeping, Tama had been sent upstairs for Otose's daily demand of rent when she witnessed some intimate scene between Gintoki-sama and the Shinsengumi's Vice Commander. While her registry updated both men's data, she decided to stay there watching until no more doubts clouded her judgment. Yes they were kissing. Yes they were going for some sort of copulation Tama was unaware of. It took a lot of Otose's explaining for her to finally comprehend, but Tama was an open-minded soul and intrigued by all aspects of human beings she had no idea about.
Yamazaki was less a fool than most people actually thought him to be. The anpan lover turned spy extraordinaire had more to say for himself than the washed up banalities his creator had bestowed upon him. He was quite a random fellow surely, but he tried his best to stand out every time he could, except on those days when the Vice Commander went to the dojo to oversee the troops' training. It was an unspoken rule of the Shinsengumi to not do anything outstandingly great or outstandingly stupid at such occasions. They'd have the wrath of their Demonic Vice Commander to contend with otherwise. Yamazaki was aware of this fact like no other. He had practically invented the secret rule himself after so many years of abuse. It was no wonder he stuck to it like pestilence.
The sounds of the practice swords clashing against each other rang in Yamazaki's ears with twice their usual sonority given the strength of the blows. It was mainly speculation on Yamazaki's part, but he believed the Vice Commander took extra advantage of these sessions to vent out the stress ingrained in his body after all those hours he spent poring over paperwork during the week. His daily exercises never amounted to more than habit so every opportunity he had to get out and beat other people senseless had the Vice Commander walk around with a sparkle of excitement in his eyes. Yamazaki could already glimpse it the day before, as could all the less skilled officers and rookies who knew what waited them the following day. It was like the man emanated an aura of evil palpable to his victims.
Yamazaki stood rooted to his spot watching as rookie after rookie battled the beast until they succumbed to the floor. He knew most of them were better swordsmen than what they showed on such a sad display. It was the fear of hurting or riling up their Vice Commander that held them back. And not without reason. Yamazaki nodded to himself.
"Yamazaki are you nodding your head at your fallen comrade!? Want to be next, you fucking maggot!"
Yamazaki's forehead instantly collided with the wooden floor in apology and he squirmed backwards in submission. Hijikata sent him a look of contempt and called for another sparring partner, ignoring him completely.
Once in a while an actual challenger stood up. It was not surprising because it was known the Shinsengumi was filled with idiots to the brim. Nevertheless, Yamazaki always felt his heart die a little every time he saw the sadistic smile playing on the Vice Commander's lips when some bold dumbnut stepped up. Another body to get acquainted with the infirmary for a week. Yamazaki shook his head.
"Yamazaki are you shaking your head at your brave comrade!? Want to commit seppuku while we watch, you brainless piece of crap!"
"No sir, forgive me, sir!" Yamazaki bent over the floor once again, deciding to stay put until he heard the swords clashing again.
He had often wondered if there was anyone out there more fearsome than his Vice Commander, or better even, someone who could terrify him as much as he did everyone else. Captain Okita could be pretty frightening in his own sick way, Yamazaki had seen things in the shadows that he dared not tell anyone. And the Commander was intimidating too, in his own strange gorilla way. At least everyone respected him, right?
After training, Yamazaki left the dojo to prepare the Vice Commander's snack. The man himself went for a hot shower while complaining of sore muscles and his victims were dragged to the infirmary to get their injuries checked .Yamazaki put the lid on the teapot and was ready to pick up the tray to take it to Hijikata's room when Okita popped up.
"Yo, is Hijikata-san done with his weekly decimation?" he asked in his flat, uninterested voice. Yamazaki sighed.
"Yes, sir, he's gone to take a shower"
"Perfect" Okita mumbled "Where's my camera..."
Yamazaki felt a shiver run up his spine and he quickly broke eye-contact. Captain Okita could be quite the creepy guy... most of the time.
"I'm going to take the tea to the Vice Commander, excuse me"
Okita didn't seem to mind and Yamazaki tried not to think about what he was going to do or why. Ignoring Captain Okita was always the right thing to do when you sensed his oncoming amusement. Yamazaki rapidly changed his plans to just drop the tea and flee, discarding his usual ass-kissing. It wasn't really effective anyway, not to mention it was best to stay away from Hijikata for the next couple of hours until Okita brought the whole of the barracks down with him.
"Sir, I've brought your tea and snacks" Yamazaki announced as he slid the door open with his foot. Hijikata was dressed in his yukata, stretching his arms tiredly.
"Leave it on the table"
"Yes sir" Yamazaki cleared some space amidst the paper stacks and put down the tray. He was counting the seconds to leave the room when the Vice Commander called him out. If there had been a hole nearby Yamazaki would have very much liked to dive into it.
"Yamazaki, come here a moment" he said raggedly. Yamazaki held his breath. Someone had ratted him out! Hijikata must have discovered the secret rule. He had found out that Yamazaki was at the root of every act of cowardice among the rookies and now all fell into place and there was only seppuku to be had. This was going to be his reckoning!
"Y-es?" Yamazaki's voice was barely audible.
"Would you mind giving my shoulders a rub? I really pushed it today" Hijikata said as he took out his cigarette pack.
Yamazaki regained control of his breathing and felt his heart descend back to his ribcage. The sense of relief was overwhelming.
"Sure sir, but you should hold back on those cigarettes. It's counterproductive, don't you think?"
"Shut up and do as you're told" Hijikata snarled.
Yamazaki didn't protest further and proceeded to give his massage happily, temporarily forgetting Okita's devious plans and his own sense of survival. He had no idea that he was soon to have the answer to the questions of his musings revealed. Nothing could have prepared him for it, nor remind him to keep up his guard. He barely saw it coming.
As Hijikata's tense muscles gave in under his fingers, so did his irritable mood. He ended up voicing his pleasure aloud and repeatedly. Yamazaki felt quite proud of his technique and he was sure such a stunt would spare him torture for the next couple of days. However it didn't help him dodge the boot that smashed through the door panel of the porch and almost dislocated his jaw.
Tears instantly welled up in his eyes blurring his vision. He howled in pain and stood long minutes blinded by it. Even his hearing went off and only after some ten minutes did he regain his awareness of reality. He was still slightly stupefied, but Yamazaki could clearly discern Yorozuya's Danna as he tried to disentangle himself from the remains of the door panel and keep a flustered Hijikata under control.
"Sorry, Jimmy-kun I thought you were a cockroach"
The answer did not dawn on Yamazaki until later when Okita showed him the pictures he had taken of the moment Gintoki burst into the room. Just by looking at his eyes Yamazaki could tell there really was someone much more fearsome than his own Vice Commander lurking about.
There were no more stunt massages from Yamazaki Sagaru.
The day was sparkling blue and warm and yet it was not pleasant enough to appease Tsukuyo's temper nor put a smile on her face. She was threading angrily through the Kabuki District, her steps somewhat resigned by now, on the account of Hinowa and her request. Tsukuyo was to deliver Yoshiwara's thanks to the Yorozuya for their help on a cleaning job they had undertaken the previous week. A menial task, nothing more. By the amount of the payment, one could say it was Hinowa helping the Yorozuya rather than the opposite, but truth was they barely scraped by. Tsukuyo thought it well and proper that Hinowa showed her gratitude and rewarded the three idiots considerably. The gesture didn't show any sign of weakness or submission, which a woman should always care to avoid, but instead kindness and dignity. Such intentions were hence impossible to displease Tsukuyo. It was something else entirely that bothered her, a sensation that was not altogether unfamiliar at this point and that she was both surprised and appalled she still nurtured. Maybe she could not part with it any more, maybe she needed a stronger incentive to just simply let it go as she knew she must do. Either way, the crush itself should already have been reason enough to put an end to all indecision, yet the more she got to know him and the more time passed by, deeper did her affection for the ridiculous man buried itself inside her heart. Knowing he was nothing short of a ladies' man, well, what with that sick masochist ninja girl continuously creeping up on him and Otae-san gravitating around him under the excuse of taking care of her brother and Kagura; and then there was the robot maid, yeah, Tsukuyo wasn't stupid, or paranoid; and the old lady from the bar, the weather girl, the man with the cat years in the green kimono, and even Hinowa herself, the list was endless and Tsukuyo knew it by heart now. She knew it much better than the years she had known Gintoki which was a bit macabre. Tsukuyo shrugged her shoulders at this assessment and blew out a puff of smoke.
Pipe in her hand, she turned the last corner to Gintoki's house and the first thing she saw was Tama, the robot maid, sweeping the front of Otose's bar. Her blank detached gaze met Tsukuyo's and she was forced to stop by and greet the ladies.
"Hello, good morning"
Otose and Catherine were already on their seventh smoke and held her up for a bit of small talk. Tsukuyo listened to them patiently but when she made for the front door to leave they immediately started to tease her.
"You came to see Gintoki, uh?" Otose asked her with a cunning expression. Tsukuyo's cheeks would have stayed their usual pale hue but Catherine's side remark made it impossible not to blush.
"Yeah, this one wants to get busy I bet"
Tsukuyo turned a deep maroon all over, ears burning with blood, and almost dropped her pipe.
"I did not! I j-just came on H-Hinowa's behalf t-to to deliver their payment and to see K-Kagura-chan and to run some errands!"
"Sure you did" Catherine muttered. Otose elbowed her not so discreetly on the stomach, missing her chest by an inch.
"Yah! You want to rip my boobs off, old woman!?"
"What did you say, you ingrate!?"
Tsukuyo took advantage of the unexpected argument to exit the bar and bumped once again into Tama who was still sweeping the ground outside.
"Uh sorry" she apologized quickly, then remembering her duty asked "Did you see Gintoki today? Or any of the kids?"
Tama's big lifeless orbs stared at her for a while in silence. She seemed to be either in deep thought or just plain shut down. Tsukuyo was about to repeat her question again when Tama finally spoke.
"You should come back another day. Gintoki-sama is not interested in procreation" she said.
Tsukuyo's heart jumped three feet and her neck caught fire for approximately a whole eternity. She had to lean a hand against the front of the bar to keep standing up.
"What the hell are you spouting that nonsense for?! I hate that pervert old man! How could you say that?! Are your having a short circuit or what!?"
Tsukuyo didn't let Tama answer with another straightforward remark and just scampered away towards the stairs to Gintoki's house. Her brain was a muddle of imperative screams and cries for propriety and amidst it she was not able to filter any sense into her actions. Before she knew it she had walked inside the Yorozuya's and was standing in the living room, impatiently tapping her feet against the floor. Once the denial alarm stopped echoing inside her head she collected herself and looked around in search of life signals. There were none.
"Gintoki...?" the name left her mouth in a whisper.
She glimpsed a flash of silver hair across the desk. He was sitting on the swivel chair, its high back hiding his figure from the world. Too bad his hair was impossible to miss since it was sticking up wildly.
Tsukuyo took a long drag on her pipe, rummaged through the fabric of her kimono and then produced from it the money envelope. She stepped forward to place it on the desk but Gintoki's voice interrupted her. She found it strange, especially because he didn't seem to be talking to her. He wasn't even talking at all. He was just moaning and cursing.
"Oh, fuck... I think I'm c-"
Tsukuyo lost her grasp on her pipe and it fell to the floor along with the envelope. The noise obviously startled Gintoki and he swiveled around in his chair briskly, dismay all over his features. Tsukuyo had stopped trying to maintain her normal body temperature. She was a pile of red meat. Her eyes met Gintoki's and they both shared a moment of silence before she noticed his erect cock looking lonely and needy.
She didn't think twice before turning towards the sofa and grabbing it with her two hands, absolutely intent on sending it flying to Gintoki's crotch.
Gintoki managed to hop over the desk in a desperate attempt to stop her, but he tripped on his pants, which had fallen to his ankles, and both toppled onto the sofa with Gintoki unceremoniously on top.
"GET OFF ME YOU FUCKING PERVERT!"
"No, really wait, you don't understand! I wasn't calling those kinds of numbers! No shady lines here, I swear-"
"GET OFF!" Tsukuyo screamed while trying to claw his fucking face off.
"Not the face!" Gintoki wrestled back in vain hopes of explaining himself, but Tsukuyo was very near her urge to kill him.
"Get off me, you idiot!"
"Get the fuck off her"
That voice was so chilling Tsukuyo felt a shiver run down her spine. Gintoki immediately froze above her and she noticed that he had even gone limp. Some distant, rational part of her recognized the voice, yet she was not in sufficient control of herself to make it out.
Gintoki had his mouth open but no sound came out. Tsukuyo just looked at him in awe. She had never seen Gintoki like this. A blade materialized between them and Tsukuyo was forced to lift up her head and look back at her incidental savior. Hijikata Toshiro.
"H-Hijikata-kun this is not-"
"You're gonna lose your head if you don't get off her in two seconds"
Gintoki stepped aside at once and turned away to pull up his pants. Tsukuyo stood up calmly, trying to regain her composure and natural color. She looked up at Hijikata with a thankful look and bowed slightly as he sheathed his sword.
He just grunted in response, eyes glued to Gintoki with some extreme hatred Tsukuyo took the liberty to partake in. She bent down to get her pipe and fetched the envelope, slamming it down on Gintoki's desk furiously.
"From Hinowa" she added.
She saw Gintoki from the corner of her eye but he barely nodded at her. He and Hijikata were stuck in some idiotic stare contest which Tsukuyo could not really understand. She walked out of the room a bit confused and, unable to stop herself, glanced back before losing sight of them. She saw Gintoki fighting a huge grin from taking over his face and Vice Commander Hijikata's hand trembling in a curled fist. She didn't get it. And it bothered her.
She was closing the front door when she heard it.
"Jealous much, Hijikata-kun? You're shaking" Gintoki teased in a devious voice. Tsukuyo's heart jumped again and she, who did not think it possible to blush any more that day, glowed again.
Who knew the Vice Commander of the Shinsengumi had a crush on her.
AN: Yes, I'm back already. I had planned to write this chapter at the end of the previous fic, but I felt it needed more closure than idiocy at the time. So I just decided to write another sequel where I can cram all the material and ideas I left out of the other stories. It's still going to be focused on Gintoki and Hijikata, no worries there hehe. I hope this one turns out well and as loved as the other two stories. Thanks in advance.