The Reaction I Always Have

Businesspeople stay at classier places. Vacationing families stay at cleaner places. The homeless looking for a temporary refuge stay at cheaper places. Which leaves really only a couple of reasons for anyone to come to this run-down old motel. That said, it seems appropriate that the little soaps in the bathroom have been reproducing during the night. At least I assume that’s why there’s two more of them than last time I looked.

I don’t like to shower right after he leaves every time, but I can’t have the distraction of his scent hanging around me all day. Construction work isn’t the safest job in the world even when you’re not stopping at random moments to moon over someone who’s by now far off.

Far off in more senses than one, since it isn’t just that he lives in a city half an hour away and only comes to this dumbass little town to see me. There’s a wife and some kids and a normal, upstanding, heterosexual life in there somewhere too. It doesn’t matter that I’m not working today; I don’t need that thought, which his scent always leads to, hovering around me in any case. Too fucking depressing.

I always take a cold shower the morning after. I’ve found it’s just a good idea. And I never use the little soaps, which are creepy for reasons other than that their numbers have doubled since I last looked.

Sometimes — a lot of the time — I think it would have been better if we’d never met. If his car hadn’t gotten a flat that day just in the right spot for me and some of my co-workers to help him out, if I hadn’t caught his eye for whatever reason.

None of the times I think that are when he’s actually here.

You might take me for a gay stereotype if you saw how long I spend washing my hair, but it’s really only in this motel. At home it’s just an in-and-out thing, but here I’ve got a cold, empty room to face once I’m finished; there are some things a guy’s just not strong enough for, embarrassing as that is to think about.

I never know when he’s going to show up; it’ll be some day like every other, and near the end of my shift I’ll look over and see him on the other side of the chain-link rent-a-fence around the construction site… just standing there smoking, waiting for me.

The other guys think he’s my parole officer. In another situation, that might be hilarious.

It’s the weirdest mix of emotions, the reaction I always have to seeing him. First — and, yeah, I’m aware that’s significant — it’s this rush of happiness like he’s my best friend I haven’t seen in years, even though he’s just a fuck-buddy I might have seen a week ago.

Second, of course, there’s the arousal. The first time we slept together, it was some novel one-night stand for me — not every day this kind of bum snags a hot P.I., is it? — and some sort of stress-relief for him — for his purposes, I could have been anyone — but there’s no denying that we turn each other on, and seeing him there by the fence where he wasn’t the last time I looked is a jolt like nothing else.

Next it’s this intense irritation, because it also brings up every last bit of confusion and guilt I feel each time I think about him and this situation — not to mention he’s always got on this aloof expression like he’s better than everything he’s looking at, or this self-satisfied smirk that’s just annoying.

And then, after that… well, did I mention confusion and guilt?

It’s confusing because when I get off work, we spend the rest of the day together. I don’t remember when that started or even really why; we used to just head straight for the motel, because it’s not like we get along all that well outside it. But now we sit around at some stupid restaurant talking about what happened that day and that week and what’s going on at work — his is always way more interesting than mine — and whatever else might come up… sometimes it seems like we’re not talking about anything at all, and we argue over most of it anyway, but we’re always saying something.

The guilt’s a little more complicated. He doesn’t love his wife, and things never go smoothly at home; I don’t think they have for a while. He doesn’t talk about his family much, but when he does I get the point: they’re only still together for the sake of the kids. But they are still together. The problem isn’t really on my end, though. I’m too selfish to feel all that bad because I’m ‘the other woman’ or whatever you want to call it, and sometimes I just wish they’d get a fucking divorce already and end all the drama.

No, the problem arises from his unshakable code of moral absolutes: it’s wrong to cheat on your wife; end of story. It’s another thing he doesn’t really mention outright, but as much as I’ve talked to him by now, I can tell. He hates what he’s doing with me, hates or at least is angry at himself for it. But he keeps doing it anyway: purposely taking a route that’ll bring him by this town on every job, even when it’s out of his way; planning slightly longer trips just so he can come here and see me unsuspected… come here and fuck me…

And the next morning I get up and head straight for the shower without looking behind me at the other side of the bed or around me at the room, unwilling to admit yet that it’s painful to wake up alone… that it’s painful to think maybe he leaves so early each time because he can’t stand to look at me and think about what he’s doing wrong. And I try to keep myself from imagining what it would be like if there was no wife waiting at home, no kids that need two parents…

I guess I should be flattered that I seem to be worth breaking the rules so consistently for, but really all I feel is a little sick when I think about it. Because one of these days I know he’s going to tell me this was the last time, and he’ll just be doing what he believes he should have done long ago, doing the right thing — so I won’t be able to argue with that, because it would hurt him if I did. Or, worse, he won’t tell me anything and’ll simply never show up again. And I’ll live out my meaningless life in this boring town glancing over to the fence to see if he’s there, and he won’t be… and I’ll keep telling myself that if I just look one more time, he’ll be there… that he’s just been busy but today’s the day…

All right, yeah, so maybe I love him. God dammit, how the hell did this happen.

Motel wash-rag’s like sandpaper, but at the moment I kinda like it. It’s distracting, and I spend a couple of minutes just scrubbing at random parts of my body watching my skin turn red. I almost wish I could bleed. But I don’t really go in for all that emo shit — my hair won’t comb down over my eyes anyway, even when it’s wet — so I might as well just get out and face the music. Face the empty depressing motel room, I mean.

And, you know, the long shower’s actually made it worse today. Why did I have to fucking realize I love him just now when he’s already gone, when I’ve acknowledged he may never come back? I’m an idiot, that’s why. He calls me that sometimes, and I guess it’s true. Fucking worthless idiot.

“Were you trying to use up all of their hot water?”

These words, the smell of fresh cigarette smoke, and the bafflingly unexpected sight hit me simultaneously as I exit the tiny bathroom, and I find the rough white towel slipping from my suddenly weakened fingers to cover my bare feet on the cool, hard carpet. And I can only stand and stare.

He smiles; it’s the same look as always, but there’s added to it something more personal than I’ve ever been privileged to see before: it’s a much more private, inclusive smirk that, as soon as my utterly stunned brain manages to get control of my motionless body again, draws me inexorably to where he’s lying casually on the bed.

“You’re still here,” I state inanely as I slide across the cheap sheet to his side.

“This is your day off, isn’t it?” He seems to be enjoying my shock, the bastard. “My wife’s not expecting me home until tomorrow morning.”

And somehow, “Why?” is all I can come up with to say.

He raises an eyebrow. “Didn’t I tell you yesterday? My case took an entire day less than I’d expected.”

Is that statement entirely honest? Or is it his way of saying he planned ahead to spend the day with me? I don’t have the nerve to ask. I can’t yet bring myself to tell him what I’ve realized, because what if that’s the catalyst for him to end it? I don’t think I could bear to tell him and then have him walk away forever.

I shift into a better position for a long, slow kiss, and he reaches blindly for the ash tray on the bedside table before slipping his arms around me. The hot, ecstatic feeling of having him here, still here, here with me, ready to spend the day with me, perhaps even by prearrangement, leaves little space for other thought: for the moment I’m so full of joy I can’t help thinking that someday he’ll get things worked out on his end, we’ll get rid of the fence, and he’ll be mine for real; we’ll make this room and this motel and this town and this two-edged situation just an ambivalent memory.


This story is for 30_kisses theme #25 “Fence.”

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Rainfall

I’m sitting on the edge of the porch, and with the angle of the wind, the storm is coming down right into my face. Hell, I’m looking up into it, and only closing my eyes when I seriously can’t stand it.

He just got home, I think. I should really go inside to him. Pretty sad when you don’t even welcome your own lover home, isn’t it? But I don’t want to talk to him. I don’t want to see him. I get like this sometimes… it’ll pass. Sex will help… though that requires me to actually go in there…

He and I have been together for a long time now… ever since Kenshin got married. That same night, actually, was our first time. But he wanted me for a long time before that. Good to see someone has what he wants, I guess. I should add it’s good to have exactly what I need, too… but in this kind of mood, the kind where I’d rather sit out in the rain than go in and pretend any more, I just can’t.

He’s perfect for me. He’s strong, he’s energetic, he’s smart, he’s loyal, he’s good. He keeps me in line and inspires me to be a better person. He always knows exactly the right thing to say to me at any given moment, especially if I’m being stupid or stubborn; he’s unfailingly logical and practical. Sometimes I hate him for that. But I respect him too much to really hate him. I like him too much.

But I don’t love him.

Fuck knows I’ve tried… tried my damnedest to give up, to forget, to move on, to let this be the perfect match it should be, that he wants it to be… but giving up, forgetting, and moving on are a few things I’ve always been particularly bad at. And someone else was there first.

The back door slides open and he steps onto the porch. “What are you doing out here?” he wonders.

I look over at him, and I can’t think of anything to say. I may hate him sometimes, but I would never want to hurt him. Not like that, anyway; not that much; not anymore.

“Sano, are you all right?”

“Yeah, I’m fine,” I finally manage. “Rain’s just a little depressing, is all.”

He rolls his eyes. “Then don’t sit out in it, ahou.” And he gestures for me to come to him.

See what I said? Logical, practical, always knows what to say to me, even if he might not realize the decision he’s telling me to make is about more than just the weather. If the rain’s depressing, don’t sit out in it, ahou: it’s that simple. And I bet it would be just that for him: a decision, and a simple one. If the rain’s depressing, make the choice not to sit out in it, not to be depressed by it. He has that kind of will power. As for me… well, I thought I was strong, but…

“Yeah, you’re right,” I reply, standing up and shaking water from my hair and stepping toward his outstretched hand.

As for me…

I accompany my lover inside.

Even if I don’t sit out in the rain, that doesn’t stop it from falling.



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Saitou’s Secret Fetish


Two men in a slightly darkened room.

An air between them of surprise, tension, secrecy.

A worried tone.

“You swear you won’t tell anyone?”

A look.

“I swear.”

The shaking-out of folded garments; the rustle of fine cloth.

A floral pattern, sparkling gold stitching. Crimson and gilt.

Eyes widen. Disbelief that he’s actually going to put that thing on.

“It’s pretty, isn’t it?”

A dumbfounded nod.

The black yukata goes before, the sable obi and golden sash after.

A box is opened by precise gloved hands; one of the men gapes. “You’re not seriously…”

A silencing look.

Cool white cream smooths over warm skin, hiding all natural coloring.

A whisper. “‘Jime, I can’t believe you’re actually doing this.”

Rouge.

A young man by now very much discomfited. “I had no idea you were into this kind of stuff.”

A black pencil around already-dark eyes.

“I mean, you of all people…”

A harsh look, a remembered agreement.

A sweep of gemlike scarlet across puckered lips.

Finished.

A mirror held up in satisfied gloved hands.

A tori-atama actually trembling. “I don’t believe what I’m seeing.”

An amused reply. “You look lovely; besides, you agreed to it, in exchange for–”

“Yeah, yeah, I know… but when do I get to wash this crap off?”

“After we’re done.”

A licentious look. “Fine. But is this what I gotta let you do to me every time I wanna top you?”


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Heart on a Clothesline

Although his knuckles grated against the board and his hands were growing raw from time spent underwater, the only feeling in Sano’s heart just then was pride. Months ago he would never, never, never have been able to bring himself to do this — at least, not in a place so public and certainly not without a good deal of griping. But now he actually smiled and hummed something tuneless while he worked the clothes around in the hot, soapy water. And he wondered when he’d reached this level of maturity.

He could certainly trace its roots: he’d been watching Kenshin wash clothing and linens on a regular basis for nearly two years now — not just his own, but anyone else’s that happened to be there, even if it had been sneaked in under entirely false pretenses — and he’d noticed a bit more recently that Hajime also did his own laundry. Still, he wondered just when he’d put two and two together to realize this activity was not emasculating. He started to whistle. Yes, he was definitely growing up, and not in any way that spoiled his fun — as a matter of fact, he expected this would only add to that fun when Hajime came home to a bunch of clean garments washed by his very own roosterhead. Sano grinned. Not that the bastard was likely to say anything about it, but he’d probably show his thanks somehow or other.

One of Saitou’s neighbors, a girl of about sixteen, emerged from her back door and immediately started giggling. “Good morning, Sagara-san!”

Sano looked around and realized that, while filling and making use of his tub, he’d almost entirely flooded the little plot around the water pump the four residences shared. He laughed a little sheepishly. The girl picked her way over to him and watched with a smile as he pulled the last item from the rinse and wrung it out. The clothesline was getting heavy, and Sano looked at it with pleasure.

“You shouldn’t twist that kind of material; it’ll warp,” the girl chided him. “That’s probably imported, you know.”

“Is it?” Sano looked back at the black shirt. Hajime owned at least five of them; he wore them under his police uniforms when it was too hot for long sleeves.

“Fujita-san won’t be too happy with you,” she laughed, “if you ruin those.”

Sano felt a chill of apprehension, wondering if his excellent plan had already backfired. But he aimed for casualness as he replied, “They’ll be fine,” picking up the tub and heading for the gutter.

She continued to watch him. “I’ve never seen you doing Fujita-san’s laundry before.” Fujita-san’s precise relationship with the younger man the neighbors saw coming and going from time to time had never been established, but they all seemed to assume Sano was a part-time housekeeper.

Sano shrugged. “He never asked me to.” He hadn’t this time either, which was why it had been such a brilliant idea.

“So, if you’re going to start doing it now, we’ll see more of you around here…”

“Maybe.” Again Sano shrugged, feeling another swell of pride. Just months before, he would have been annoyed, perhaps insulted, at the idea of himself as a housekeeper, even part-time. But now it held a certain charm to it, with no unpleasant connotations at all. If it didn’t get any worse than laundry, he felt the rewards were well worth it.

Now he began seeking his gi, unable to remember where he’d put it when the water pump had started getting out of hand. He turned to find the girl holding it out to him with a smile. “Here you go, Sagara-san.”

“Thanks. See you later.” And he headed into the house.

“Goodbye,” she replied, emphasizing the word peculiarly.

As he carefully locked the back door, knowing Saitou would flay him if he came home to find one of the house entrances accessible to just anyone, a realization slowly dawned on Sano: that girl… that girl had been flirting with him. At first he couldn’t quite believe it, but as he thought about her words, the way she’d moved, and the tone of that goodbye… yes, she was definitely attracted to him! His mouth split into the widest grin of the day so far, for two reasons: first because doing laundry apparently made him attractive, which was not only very promising but caused him to see Kenshin and Kaoru in an entirely new light; second because it tickled him that he could be so caught up in thoughts of a certain someone that he didn’t even notice when a young cutie was coming on to him.

His grin turned to a yawn as he headed for the bedroom. Here was just enough time for a nap while the clothes dried; then he could fold them and have everything perfect for when Hajime got home.

Staring up lazily at the ceiling, Sano played with a grey glove — twisting it, stretching it, turning it inside out; it didn’t matter what he did to it, since this one’s mate had been destroyed and a new pair procured for work — and thought about its owner. After a while he pressed it against his own palm, comparing; they were nearly the same size, Sano’s hand just a bit bigger. With this size analysis came an unbidden query: what had Saitou been like at Sano’s age? The idea was fun, so Sano started to picture Hajime in his early twenties. His face would be softer, perhaps, the harsh set of his lips not having developed. Lighter eyes, maybe, not yet having faced the darkness of the war? Sano decided to keep the dark eyes. But he’d understood that Saitou had worn his hair long back then, and he grinned at the thought of running his hands through it or tugging at it during more intimate moments. Brushing it, even. He closed his eyes and continued to imagine. What would it be like if Saitou were his age now?

Better yet, younger…

Sano began the scenario at the beginning: he would be the mature one, the one with experience, the stronger warrior, the more respected man. He would be the one to seduce the young and innocent Saitou Hajime, a local samurai trainee of, oh, say, sixteen… wouldn’t that be nice… Though it hadn’t been bad the way it had actually happened.

Sano would be the master then; no more, “Ahou, go spy out such-and-such for me, and don’t come back until you have the information I need,” or, “Go buy me cigarettes, ahou, and don’t try to pocket the change,” or, “Come here and bend over, and try not to make so much noise this time, ahou.” Sano chuckled. Being with Saitou automatically made him part spy, and it was actually pretty fun. Running errands wasn’t really so bad either. And as for bending over… Sano chuckled again. He certainly didn’t object to that, though a reversal of roles now and then wouldn’t hurt his feelings.

He could be the tormenter, if he wanted, and ahou ga Saitou’s ears off. He would be the one that always knew when the other was following him, the one prepared for what the other thought would be a surprise attack. And Saitou would be the one who got his ass kicked in every spar. Sano scratched the scar on his shoulder thoughtfully, remember the first time he’d seen Saitou, the bite of the sword. His hand slipped down his chest, touching another scar, remember a very different bite, the first time he’d seen Saitou…

So… Hajime would be the one working hard to please Sano, instead of the other way around — the one slaving away the entire day just in the hope of one smile. Sano grinned at the thought of Saitou doing his laundry. “Saitou, you have to get a job,” he could say. “I can’t pay all your bills for you forever…” Or, “Saitou, you can’t go gambling tonight — I need you to hang out at this particular bar and see if a certain person is still in town.” Or, “I’m too tired tonight, Saitou.” Not that Sano didn’t know perfectly well he should get a job and pay his own bills, or that he minded using his good looks and reputation to find things out that Saitou might have had a harder time with. And Hajime was so rarely ‘too tired…’

Lounging around fantasizing, however restful it may seem, is not a nap. When Sano rose to collect the fluttering laundry from the dusky yard, it was with more yawns than when he’d lain down. His eyelids drooped as he carefully folded Saitou’s clothing and put it away. The towels came next, followed by a blanket that hadn’t completely dried; this he hung over the chair at Saitou’s desk. Finished, he strolled out onto the porch and looked down the twilit hill at rows of similar houses. Sitting down on the step, he started to play with a blade of grass, rolling it up tightly and seeing how long it would retain that shape before falling flat again in his hand. After not too long, he was leaning against a pillar staring listlessly at his toy with narrow eyes. Minutes later he was asleep.

Less than a half hour passed before a dark figure ascended the road toward his house. His pace was quick, almost militaristic, his stoical face giving no indication of the extreme boredom he’d taken from his paperlogged day. He approached the younger man in absolute silence, stopping before the sleeping figure. His expression did not change as he looked down at Sano, whose mouth hung the open against the wood of the pillar, but something about him softened just a bit.

“Ahou,” he murmured, and, leaning forward, placed a small iris on the open palm lying in Sano’s lap. Strong fingers curled instinctively around its stem and drew it up against a wrapped stomach like something precious. Saitou stepped onto the porch and through the open front door.

The first thing he noticed was the blanket. Removing his gloves and laying them on the desk, Saitou put a quizzical hand to the cloth. Yes, it seemed to have been washed. One tiny quirk took the corner of his mouth and was gone again. He strolled into the bedroom, removing his hat, and then he did smile, briefly. The kid had gone and done all his laundry. He put the hat on the shelf where his newly-cleaned clothing lay, and went back outside.

Kneeling next to the snoring young man, Saitou leaned in and kissed him, pressing harder and harder until Sano’s eyes flew open and he sat up straight with a start. “You left the door open,” Hajime murmured.

“Sorry,” Sano yawned.

“Come on.” Saitou stood straight.

“Where are we going?”

“Akabeko. My treat.”

Sano beamed and jumped off the porch after his master. His brilliant plan had worked! He couldn’t help grinning. Oh, yes, he certainly was the dominated one in this relationship — the subservient who bought what he wanted by doing laundry and other stuff like that. He was ahou‘d and insulted and often used like a tool in his lover’s service.

He glanced down at the flower that seemed to have appeared from nowhere in his hand, golden and glowing in the fading sunset like Hajime’s eyes.

Yeah, Saitou was the master; Sano was the servant.

And hell if that wasn’t the damned best way to live.



This was the very first story about Saitou and Sano I ever wrote, and my second Rurouni Kenshin fic overall, and, though I don’t like it much these days, it gets to stick around because I think it’s interesting to see how I got my start. I’ve rated it . What do you think of it?

This story is included in the Saitou & Sano Collection ebook: