“Sano, I had no idea you were familiar with any restaurant this nice,” Kenshin remarked, approving and maybe even a little in awe, as they entered.
Sano shrugged. “Back before Megumi insisted I stop seeing other people, I used to take some people out sometimes…”
“With Kaoru’s money, I have no doubt,” Aoshi murmured as he followed them inside.
Sano punched him in a friendly fashion, and his half-embarrassed laugh testified to the truth of the statement.
Once they’d been led to a table the correct size for the three of them, Kenshin settled down with a sigh and said, “This is a good idea.”
“You mean getting away from jou-chan?” Sano teased as he took his own seat beside his friend.
Kenshin surprised him by nodding silently. “I do like Kaoru-dono, but sometimes…”
Sano laughed heartily, and Aoshi’s eyes (if not his mouth) were smiling. Sano’s laugh turned into a sigh of his own the next moment, however. “At least jou-chan lets you go out with friends every once in a while… I have to sneak wherever I want to go these days, or Megumi ties me up and yells at me about seeing other people.”
“What can I get you three tonight?” asked the waitress that had approached. Just the sight of a woman seemed to dampen their spirits.
After placing their orders and when the girl was gone, Aoshi spoke. “I maintain that I have it worse than you two.”
Kenshin and Sano tried not to smile, but just couldn’t help themselves. After a moment, in fact, Sano even burst out laughing. “Can you imagine if ours were that clingy? Kaoru: ‘KENSHIN-SAMA!!! KENSHIN-SAMA!!! WHERE ARE YOU?????????’ And I don’t even want to think about what kind of freaky chain stuff Megumi might get into.”
“Very well, Aoshi,” an amused Kenshin added, “we agree you have it the worst. But you don’t have to do all the laundry and the shopping.”
Sano groaned. “I know what you’re talking about there… ‘Sano, I need you to come hold the tray while I perform this surgery,’ or, ‘Sano, keep this man down while I stitch up the oozing wound on his stomach.’ Meanwhile she hires guys to fix the roof for her… I coulda done that!”
“You wouldn’t enjoy that any more.” Aoshi’s tone was, as always, rather flat, but Sano could tell when he was being teased.
“The point is, she doesn’t understand me at all,” he growled. “And she calls herself my girlfriend!
“At least she really is your girlfriend,” Aoshi sighed. “I’ve never even touched Misao.”
“Nor I Kaoru-dono.”
“Well, to be honest,” Sano admitted a bit sheepishly, “Megumi won’t really let me touch her. ‘I don’t know where you’ve been today,’ she says, ‘and you might have germs.’ Whatever.”
Aoshi summed it up: “So we’re all in the same boat — tied down to annoying women with whom we don’t actually get anywhere.”
“Sounds about right,” Sano agreed.
The waitress brought their food, and they all fell silent, looking listlessly at each other to avoid the depressing sight of breasts and wide hips.
Kenshin reflected, I thought tonight would be the night — the night I get away from Kaoru-dono. But now I cannot decide… Sano is my best friend, and he has been through so much with me… I cannot help but love him…. but Aoshi is more like me, closer to my age — and he is so admirable, so mysterious… so quiet, unlike her…
Aoshi was looking into his teacup and thinking, Why can’t I make up my mind? I thought I loved Himura, thought he was my key to definitive freedom from Misao… but I look at his exciting young friend and can’t bring myself to say a word. Still, Sanosuke is somewhat like her, while Himura is what I really need — steady, strong, and relatively quiet…
Sano had his hands behind his head in a nonchalant position that was totally opposite the turmoil in is mind: What the hell is my problem? I was gonna talk to Aoshi tonight and see if he felt the same way, then go dump that kitsune forever… but now I’m gettin’ all hot over Kenshin again! I thought I was over that! Dammit, they’re both so cool…
What the trio did not realize was that they were being watched. From a nearby table a dark figure marked their every word, scrutinizing their faces carefully and easily able to calculate the purport of their thoughts. Curious, he completely ignored his wife’s endless monologue about her recent European tour as he watched them in anticipation, wondering if any one of the three would ever come out with his feelings to either of the others. As the awkwardness at the other table grew, and his wife’s grating voice seemed to increase in volume, so did the frustration of the watcher at the men’s indecision. Finally he stood in a crisp motion, silencing his wife mid-word.
“Excuse me, Tokio,” he said, not even bothering to look at her as he fixed his eyes on a spiky head not far off. “I have a fight to finish.”
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