Angles – The Color of 120° chapter 16 – The Color of 120°

Gazing across the gap in the path that was clearly too wide to jump, Saitou watched as everything wavered in the rising heat that here and there even gave way to high-springing flame, and wondered how in such conditions he could possibly be so cold. How could he look over there, meet Sagara’s eyes across that divide, take in the devastation Himura’s body had undergone, and say nothing, do nothing in response? Sagara was screaming at him in a tone of such despair that his emotions were borne across the burning chasm as clearly as his voice was; how could Saitou listen to those words, those feelings, and respond by lighting a cigarette and smiling?

Had he been this cold watching from the deck of the Rengoku as Shishio ordered Sagara gunned down? Had he been this cold bursting through the arena doors to see Himura lying motionless on the ground?

No, never this cold. Tense, breathless, irate, bloodthirsty, horrified, terrified. No, never cold at all, except perhaps on the exterior, and even that had cracked at least once in both instances.

But in both instances, it had been they, not he, in danger of their lives. Had been a member of a pair that should not be separated, that he could not bear to see separated. This time it was merely a lone wolf that was only in the way. He’d done his job as best he could, considering the terrible dual distractions, and now could fade away — die perhaps — and leave them to each other as they were meant to be. This was the best of all possible endings, after all.

He was going to miss them, though, if he got out of this alive. More than just a little, if the pang that went through his heart at his final glance at Himura’s unconscious face was any indication. Still, he’d played a game against each of them and lost — lost more than he’d ever thought he had to lose — and he knew it.

“Ahou,” he remarked softly as Sagara finished his tirade in a voice that would echo in Saitou’s ears forever. I expected him, but not you, he did not add out loud as he took one last look and turned away into the rising flames and billowing brown smoke.

***

The closer Kenshin drifted toward the shores of consciousness, the greater the pain. But with the memory of the battle against Shishio and those preceding it fresh even in his hazy mind, this was no surprise to him. However, innumerable glimpses of Sano’s worried face and tortured eyes, indistinct and half viewed through barely opened lids as he repeatedly struggled and failed to reach the waking world — that was something he could not entirely explain. They’d come through the ordeal together alive, regardless of what state he would find himself in when he was at last able to take stock. Why should Sano appear so miserable? Kenshin didn’t think he was dying… but why else would that utterly forsaken look be so constantly painted across his lover’s face?

Unless… unless something had happened to one of their friends, and Sano was just waiting for Kenshin to regain lucidity enough to break the news. But how — when, even — could that have happened? Soujirou had informed them that the Juppongatana had been defeated at the Aoiya. Could he have neglected to mention it had not been a perfect defeat? Then, Kenshin remembered both Aoshi and Saitou standing, if not entirely healthy, well enough to walk and converse, after the battle on the platform. Might something have happened to one of them after Kenshin had blacked out? But though Sano would regret it, he wouldn’t worry so much communicating bad news about Aoshi — would not harbor such terrible pain in his eyes over that loss. Nor, Kenshin had to admit, about Kaoru or Yahiko or anyone else involved in this except for…

But Saitou was…

Kenshin knew he must have lost quite a lot of blood. Because Saitou was not invincible, and anything even approaching such a protest spoke of muddled thoughts.

His struggles for consciousness redoubled, and eventually through sheer force of will he managed to rouse himself sufficiently to whisper to Sano, who was seated at his side still with that horrifying pain in his gaze, “What happened?”

“Kenshin,” Sano whispered, “Saitou…”

Kenshin took a deep, tremulous breath, closing his eyes and sinking back into the haze.

He floated through memories, distant and recent. Blue haori and headbands mingled with blue police uniforms and cigarettes, a haughty smile presiding over all. A smile that had been turned toward Kenshin in genuine pleasure — there was no mistaking it — as he disembarked from that carriage at the police station and Saitou greeted him from the window. A smile whose absence had been conspicuous during the ride to Osaka, in as awkward a silence as three men could possibly attain and that had answered more questions than any words could. A smile that had never changed over all those years. A smile he would not be seeing again.

When he was finally able to open his eyes and look around without immediately falling back onto the pillow in profound exhaustion, he wondered what the point had been, as, excepting (thankfully) Sano, all the colors in the world seemed to have faded to a dull brown.

***

Sano couldn’t think clearly, and he didn’t know why. He couldn’t remember having been in this much pain at any time during his entire life. And he couldn’t be sure whether the pain was due more to the agony in his hand and his head — the memory constantly replaying itself of that walkway, explosions, fire, and unexpected loss — or the look in Kenshin’s eyes, as if the older man had just been stabbed, when Sano had told him.

He didn’t know whether or not seeing Kenshin hurting was worse than the loss he felt in his own heart, and it didn’t seem to matter much anymore whether or not that represented unfaithfulness.

Hugging himself in the corner of a window-seat in the room he was sharing with Kenshin in the Aoiya’s upper level — not the same room as before, as that had been destroyed in the battle — Sano stared blankly through the glass at the failing day. He felt so cold.

Of course no one could be invincible. He’d reminded himself of that fact when Kenshin had left Tokyo, but still somehow then put Saitou in another class, in a different category than Sagara-taichou and his lover. Possibly because he’d thought for so long that he hated Saitou, and therefore whether Saitou lived or died had less to do with Sano… or something like that. He couldn’t even think straight, and it was all Saitou’s fault.

He remembered how Saitou had looked at him through the door of that cell, the first time they’d seen each other since Tokyo. How after that incident it had seemed a matter beyond question that Sano would be accompanying Saitou at least until they found Kenshin, if not… well, forever…

“Damn you,” he whispered, letting his head fall so his face rested against the cool glass.

He was startled just then by Kenshin’s hand on his shoulder, the first sign of the other man’s presence. Sano looked up in silent surprise to meet his lover’s weary eyes, that gaze that seemed to hold every bit as much pain as he thought his own must. Kenshin touched his face wordlessly and joined him on the window-seat, curling up with him, his head against Sano’s chest, breathing laboriously just from the effort of moving here from his futon in his current condition. “You are thinking about Saitou.”

Sano nodded with a sigh.

Kenshin echoed the latter, but didn’t seem to have any further comment.

“I’m just so…” Sano growled out an inarticulate syllable before he concluded, “…pissed!” That wasn’t the right word at all, actually. “I just can’t believe he… he’s… dammit…” But there was no way he could finish that thought.

“Sano, you do not have to try to hide that you loved him.”

Pressed against him as he was, Kenshin might have felt Sano’s heart stop beating completely, but would not have been able to see how pale Sano’s face went or how his lips moved silently not knowing what to say.

The tone had been soft, containing no accusation or reproof, nor any more pain in particular than anything else Kenshin had said since their return from the fortress — and yet how could Sano answer? How did you reply when your lover told you he knew you were in love with someone else? Sano should probably start by reassuring Kenshin that he didn’t love him any less or any differently, which was quite true… but no matter how he began or what he professed, it would eventually come down to confessing that he had also loved Saitou so desperately that even with Kenshin here now, his heart was breaking. How did he admit to that kind of duplicity? He couldn’t stand the thought of hurting Kenshin any further, and yet… he just couldn’t deny what his lover had said, any more than he would have been able to deny that he loved Kenshin.

He took a deep breath, still unsure of what he was about to say… and suddenly found Kenshin’s hand gently covering his mouth, halting him. The redhead had raised himself and was looking Sano in the face, solemn and sorrowful.

“I loved him too,” he said, and his eyes closed slowly as he laid himself once more against Sano’s chest.

Neither one spoke again, for the true comfort they could offer each other was love and mutual understanding and this tight embrace. Their torn hearts beating out the same rhythm, they sat in the glow of a sunset that really seemed somehow more brown than crimson, and watched it fade slowly away.

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I’ve rated this story . What do you think of it?

6 Replies to “Angles – The Color of 120° chapter 16 – The Color of 120°”

  1. I drug my feet quite a lot before I ended up consuming this, as I do all your RK works.

    I truly enjoyed the denial and confusion Each character went through, especially Saito. In his particular case, I felt you subtlety conveyed his self admission without making it over-the-top. Kenshin’s understanding of the love triangle before the others was also well executed.

    I love polyamorous relationships in fic and you did very well with it.

    And, finally, I noticed there were brief mentions of a potential sequel. Is this still a possibility? 😸

    1. Thanks so much! I’m really glad you enjoyed it! I’m pretty pleased with some of the denial and confusion too :D I know I should write more poly stuff, but I just never get around to it!

      As for the sequel… I’d call it a distant possibility at this point, but that’s still a possibility! You just never know with me XD

  2. *SCREAMS AT THE SKY* GODDDDDDDDDDDDDDD THEY’RE ALL SO HEARTHBROKEN AND I’M SUFFERING!!!!!!!!! I love how everyone embraced the truth in the end…how Saito remained totally closed, Kenshin was totally open, and Sano was halfway between. It was perfect!!

    Reading Saito’s presumed death here made me realize something…I’ve only ever looked at that situation from Sano’s POV. I think it had to do with how much emotion and desperation he showed, that it kinda overshadowed what Saito himself must’ve been feeling. I felt his despair in full force reading this. gAHHHH!!! MY POOR SONS.

    Thank you so much for another great read!! <3333

    1. You’re right!! I’d never thought about it either, but you’re right! We almost never explore Saitou’s emotions at the end of the Shishio affair! And depending on what decisions he’s making at that point regarding the future — particularly as regards the Kenshingumi and any potential feelings that might have arisen during the last little while — his emotions at walking away from them and deciding not to actively inform them that he didn’t die in the fortress might be pretty intense and possibly convoluted. But they haven’t really been explored much, have they? That’s probably something we should both work on!

      So I’m really glad you enjoyed this story, and I greatly appreciate you reading and commenting! But, damn, son, you’ve blazed through my shit like no one ever has in all history ever. I don’t know if you’re planning to read Gold Eyes False, but since I assume you’re going to give Condition of Learned Helplessness a pass, GEF is the only completed story there is left! That’s really amazing to me. Nobody has never done this before, and it just makes me feel ridiculously special and gleeful. Like, seriously, this is a life event I will always look back on in joy and awe. I’ma be eighty someday and all like, “Remember that time psjk read all my freaking stories??? That was so fucking amazing.”

      But I’ll stop. Mostly just thanks a ton. Gonna go work on more Saitou & Sano stuff now, hella inspired.

      1. omgomgomgomg Reading through your work has been a life event for me!! XDDDD I’ve yelled about it to people irl, even when they have no idea wtf i’m talking about because they never even watched RK. But I’m just like, “NO BUT THIS AU WAS FUCKING AMAZING AND I HAVE FEELINGS, YOU DON’T UNDERSTAAAAND.” lol

        them: au? the story’s in Australia?
        me: godddddddd

        hahaha but yeah. As a writer myself, I know how important feedback is to authors…it’s a double good thing, though, because I love commenting and flailing. ^_^ lol

        And you can count me in for reading literally everything here. I started GEF actually while I was reading HOH (because my attention span is like that sometimes???? “oooh…shiny!”), and I had to stop myself, despite really wanting to read on since I was already so invested in HOH. So I’m really looking forward to that! I also skimmed part of CoLH, just to get an idea of what I’m in for. I don’t usually read noncon, but I will since you wrote it.

        I’ll be making my way through Blood Contingency and Heretic’s Reward too. :D

        Anyway!! I’m just really happy my silly comments and screaming resulted in inspiration. I’m always looking forward to new content from you. ^_^ Thank you SOOO much for your work!!

  3. I’m laughing at the idea of you flailing at someone IRL about fanfiction they don’t understand. I flail at my brother, who is familiar with RK and my undying obsession with Saitou and Sano and very patiently listens to whatever I have to say about them, so I’m lucky in that regard. He’s not a fan, though, so it’s not quite the same XD

    Yeah, seriously, the feeling that someone somewhere is reading and getting into something I’ve written is so valuable. I’m working on an original fantasy novel — in fact it’s one of the things I work on on Saturdays, so that’ll happen today — and without interest from other people in this project, it progresses two or three times more slowly than any fanfiction. I mean, it’s coming along, but I never feel the type of excited drive I do about something I know someone somewhere is interested in. So once again, thank you so much for reading and commenting. It means so freaking much to me.

    If you skimmed a bit, you’re already aware, but just to warn you above and beyond that: CoLH is… difficult to get through if you love Saitou. I literally haven’t the faintest clue what I was thinking when I started writing that story. I believe it was in 2002, and a lot of my 2002 stuff turned out to be incredibly problematic. And I honestly think, since my recent reread, that it’s a very good story (though it needs some editing, but what doesn’t?)… but still… Saitou as rapist… Proceed with extreme caution.

    These days, since I’ve gotten into a good rhythm and am updating my in-progress fics regularly and reliably (having a very reliable work schedule and three-day weekends helps), I don’t feel bad about people starting in on these unfinished things… but there is still a commitment involved, since even with regular updates it’ll still be a while for both BC and HR. But I will be ridiculously happy if you do tackle those.

    Saturday is Saitou & Sano one-shot day in addition to original fantasy day, and this weekend I put Saitou and Sano first before original stuff, unusually, because I was so excited reading all your comments. No idea when this particular story will be finished, but just know that when it is, it will be in large part thanks to you :D Thanks again and again and forever.

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