State of Attire


Saitou had just risen from a full night of unbroken sleep when noisy footsteps sounded in his entry hall. They were familiar footsteps (though when Sano had acquired the means to let himself into the house Saitou wasn’t sure), so he merely continued with his preparations for the day. Having become accustomed, lately, to half nights of less perfect repose, snores and sprawling limbs, the unexpectedly smooth period of rest had left him slightly less alert than usual upon awakening; he was, in fact, splashing cold water onto his face as the bedroom door opened.

It seemed like Sano stood in the doorway, and Saitou stood staring at him, for a very long time.

With the appearance of the tired, slightly grinning, very rumpled young man with clothes and hair in great disarray, there came also the faint smell of flowery perfume; it floated into and seemed to permeate the room in a single instant: a clinging, distinctly feminine scent that might have been considered an olfactory representation of the pinkish color smeared faintly in places on Sano’s face and neck.

It seemed like Sano stood in the doorway, and Saitou stood staring at him, for a very long time, but it actually took only half a moment for the story of the night to be told — half a moment’s dismay and resentment of which Saitou had no real desire to make a great display — before he returned without a word to the task of getting dressed.

He should have known better. This was Sagara Sanosuke, after all. He had known better: he’d always known the young man for an impetuous idiot and a good-for-nothing. However, he wouldn’t have guessed even a clearly intoxicated Sano would have the nerve to show up here smelling like the woman he’d spent the night with.

After not too long, he heard footsteps behind him and felt the delinquent’s arms slip around his waist to stop his progress in fastening his pants. “Do you really wanna put those on?” Sano wondered in a rumbling slur, drunken hands attempting clumsily to enter the garment in question.

Saitou pushed him roughly away, marveling at this shamelessness. “It would be inconvenient to go to work without them.”

The moron could sleep with whomever he wanted, of course, and be as reckless and indiscreet about it as he chose, of course. When had anyone implied anything else? Since when did Saitou want anything else? Why should Saitou want anything else?

Obviously not even a little put off, Sano asked, “Well, do you really wanna go to work?”

“In case you didn’t notice as you stumbled over here, ahou,” Saitou snorted, “the sun is coming up. Those of us who don’t waste our lives gambling and whoring have things to do.”

For once, he had to admit, his irritation with Sano was not as great as his irritation with himself: that Sano hadn’t even bothered to wipe the lip-color off his neck was brazen or perhaps just careless, but either way seemed typical of him; that Saitou reacted to it like this was more than a little atypically foolish… when had he starting thinking of their convenient-sex arrangement in relationship terms?

Sano was frowning in bleary disappointment. Evidently the ‘whoring’ comment hadn’t made even the slightest impression. Of course not; why should it have? “Guess I’ll just take a nap, then.” And he flopped down onto the futon Saitou had yet to put away.

“I don’t want you in my bed smelling like you’ve been rolling in a gardenia bush all night,” Saitou said coldly. Or rolling some cheap woman in a gardenia bush all night.

Sano buried his face in his sleeve and inhaled loudly. “Damn whore was wearing a fucking gallon of that shit,” was his muffled comment. Then, with a yawn but not even a touch of compunction, he rearranged the blanket around himself, put his hands behind his head, and looked blandly up at Saitou.

As he finished buttoning his shirt and donned his jacket with movements that might perhaps have been a little more forceful than was entirely necessary, the officer considered tossing the thoughtless young man out on his ear, telling him to go back to aforementioned whore if he wanted to freeload. It would certainly be the appropriate treatment.

But for some reason he didn’t.

“Chou had better be on time today,” he was growling to himself as he put out the lamp and turned to leave.

“I doubt it,” came Sano’s faint, unexpected, and uncalled-for reply, “if he shows up at all…”

Saitou paused in the doorway and turned to look back at the groggy ahou. “Why?”

“He took that stupid woman home…” the younger man answered sleepily. “Broke up a really good game, too, horny bastard.” He yawned again before adding, “Well, least it stopped her getting all over me.” Turning onto his side and tugging on the bedding so all Saitou could see of him was a blanket-covered lump ending in a jagged brown mass, he finished at a mumble, “Some chicks just won’t take ‘I have a boyfriend’ for an answer.”

Heavy seconds passed as Saitou stared, wordless and motionless, down at Sano. Presently the latter began to snore.

So Chou wasn’t likely to show up at all today, was he? That meant Saitou had to run his own errands. He hated running his own errands when there were more important things to be done; perhaps, he thought as he started to remove his jacket, having Chou at his beck and call had spoiled him. Unbuttoning his shirt, he reflected that Chou was hardly competent enough to merit that distinction. By the time he got his pants off, Chou had entirely fled his mind.

Working his way under the blanket in which Sano had twisted himself was no easy task, but, once he’d gotten there and wrapped his arms around the young man, he was rewarded with an incoherent but affectionate-sounding mutter and a sigh as Sano’s body squirmed slowly to fit against his.

“Next time tell her you have an extremely jealous boyfriend,” he murmured, and pressed a kiss to the spiky head. In doing so he caught a stronger whiff of the omnipresent flowery scent, and had to reflect that, on his Sano, it actually smelled quite nice.



This story is for 30_kisses theme #11 “Gardenia.” I’ve rated it . What do you think of it?

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


Threesome?



“What the hell was that?” Sano demanded, startled, as he caught sight of something small and… furry? disappearing into the next room of Saitou’s house, which he’d just entered.

“I assume you’re referring to the cat,” came the officer’s voice from down the hall. “It’s Tokio’s.”

Sano went to where the animal had vanished and scanned the area curiously. “Why’s it here?”

Emerging from the living room with a wry smile, Saitou joined his lover at the bedroom door. “She asked me to watch it while she’s away.”

“Why you? Why can’t she have her servants do it? She probably has a special servant just for looking after the cat, doesn’t she?”

With a brief roll of eyes Saitou replied, “Apparently she thinks I’ll take better care of it.”

At this idea Sano chuckled heartily. “Is that right…”

No cat was visible within the shadowed room before them, but Sano was intrigued. He entered and began a leisurely search, eventually finding the creature curled up beneath the wardrobe. “Hey, you’re a nice-looking little guy, ain’t you?” he greeted it cheerfully as he knelt down and reached under to touch the cat. “What’s that noise you’re– shit!” Jerkily he sat up as he drew back his now-bleeding hand.

From the doorway, Saitou gave what might have been the prototype of a laugh.

Sano made a rude gesture at him. Muttering, “Figures,” he examined the wound for a moment before taking on a expression of determination and moving around to the other side of the wardrobe. Once there, he found the cat had also moved and was still too far away to be easily seized. With a frown, he reached out again, watching carefully this time, and yanked his hand back when he saw the claws appear.

“What’s your problem…” he demanded in a quiet growl. The cat replied by turning its back to him and looking for all the world like a giant anpan that had rolled under the wardrobe by mistake.

Sano relocated again. So did the cat. “Fine,” he grumbled, sitting back once more. He began untying the cord that held his pants up. “Cats like the string thing, right?”

Now Saitou was definitely laughing at him.

“C’mon out, cat,” Sano called as he started trailing the cord in random patterns around on the floor in front of the cabinet. “Come chase the stringy thing.”

The cat darted out at the speed of sound, raked Sano’s hand twice, thrice, and disappeared once more into the shadows.

“Oi!!” Sano pounded a clenched and bleeding fist against the side of the wardrobe, which rattled, then thrust both hands under in pursuit of the offending animal. When neither soft fur nor sharp claws met his blind search, he put his face to the floor again and looked; the cat was gone.

“It’s on top,” Saitou supplied, sounding highly amused. “But you probably shouldn’t scare it any more, ahou,” he added as Sano jumped up and looked to where the creature glared down at him, ears prone, from atop the wardrobe. “If it runs away, Tokio will be very upset.”

“Whatever,” Sano muttered as he began to fix his drooping pants. “Why would anyone want such a shitty pet anyway?”

“Oh, she went on about it,” replied Saitou with a touch of sarcasm, approaching at last and raising a hand toward the feline: “How it’s a rare ‘blue’ breed from the mainland and how it was so difficult to find and so expensive…”

“Blue?” Sano watched skeptically as the cat sniffed at Saitou’s fingers. It looked every bit as grey as the glove covering the latter, against which it presently began delicately to rub its face.

“So she said.” All of a sudden the animal trickled off the wardrobe right onto the officer’s shoulder, where it stood poised on its toes as it nuzzled his head.

“The fuck does it like you?” Sano wondered somewhat grouchily.

“Who knows?” replied Saitou as he took the cat from his shoulder into his arms. “It’s not such a bad pet.”

“You only say that because it attacked me.”

“There is that,” Saitou smirked as he began petting the creature.

Sano snorted. “I still say it doesn’t look blue.”

I never said it does.”

“And I still… bet… she has…” He trailed off, finding himself utterly entranced by the slow movement of Saitou’s gloved hand over the cat’s slightly luminescent fur, and by the animal’s reaction. The hand seemed to conform to the exact shape of the sleek body, which was evidently caught up in the most extreme pleasure at the caress.

He raised his eyes to Saitou’s and found them flashing with amusement and… something else. Evidently the officer could see exactly what had brought Sano to that loss for words. Rather unceremoniously he dropped the cat and adjusted his glove. “I wonder if you can purr like that.”

“I bet I could,” Sano replied hoarsely. In any case he wasn’t averse to the experiment.

The cat was curling around Saitou’s leg in apparent adoration. Saitou nudged it away with that same appendage and advanced on Sano.

After a long interval, and once a more relaxed moment had been reached and the two men were lounging, entwined and cooling, on the futon, they both happened to look up at once and give a mutual start. The cat was again perched atop the wardrobe, watching them intently with wide, calculating eyes.

“That’s creepy,” Sano remarked. “Reminds me of Aoshi that one time.”

Saitou said nothing, and probably didn’t know what one time Sano was talking about anyway — but he’d certainly been just as startled.

Observing the humans were finished flailing and throwing their clothes in random directions, the cat descended and came to stand elegantly at Saitou’s side with expectant dignity. Saitou released Sano and sat up, reaching out to scratch the furry chin. Purring filled the room again (they’d discovered that Sano could not, in fact, manage it), and the cat crept slowly onto Saitou’s thigh.

Sano watched with wide eyes. “I wouldn’t let those claws that close to my dick.”

“Ahou,” Saitou murmured. But even he looked taken aback a moment later when the creature rolled onto its back, fully in his lap now, continued to rumble prodigiously, and gazed up at him demandingly. With a slight shrug he began to rub its belly; the purring increased.

Sano, deeming it safe, reached out to test the softness of the fur between the thing’s little ears. These, however, immediately flattened, and the animal’s head twisted so quickly Sano could not avoid the scoring bite it gave him. He jerked his hand away and sat glowering at the cat, which had gone back to rubbing its face against Saitou’s fingers.

“I get it,” postulated Sano finally. “It’s jealous.”

Saitou, observing the fixed way Sano’s eyes were still riveted on his attentions to the cat’s underside, wondered mildly, “Who’s jealous?”

Sano snorted. “I bet you like petting me more.”

“You don’t have fur,” Saitou replied promptly.

“What?!”

“And I’ve never seen you get on your back this willingly.”

“And I don’t bury my shit by hand and I don’t belong to your wife! And if you say you’re gonna fuck that cat, I’m never coming anywhere near you again.”

“Ahou.”

Sano moved to get up, but Saitou rolled on top of him, having expelled the cat from their bed so quickly that its protest was still yowling through the air as he said, “Ahou,” again and leaned down to kiss the younger man.

This time the animal decided to attempt to break up what it considered an inappropriate activity by attacking Sano’s feet at random — but after a while, when Sano didn’t seem to notice, gave up and returned to the top of the wardrobe.

It took even longer this time for the humans to calm down, but when they finally did — and, with a blanket and considerably increased settling, seemed like they might actually stay that way — the cat returned.

“Looks like I got myself some competition,” Sano yawned as it walked right onto Saitou and stared down into his face.

The animal almost seemed to nod disdainfully. Saitou, still coming to grips with the fact that he had a cat on his chest, gave only a brief laugh.

“Yeah, I don’t care how expensive you were, little guy,” added Sano as he snuggled closer against his lover and adjusted the blanket. “You’re about as blue as my balls.”

In response, before turning its back on the younger man and curling up on the older, the cat reached out a languid paw and gave Sano’s nearby arm a brief scratch. Silence fell over the contented bedroom but for that loud, almost triumphant purring.


This story is for 30_kisses theme #15 “Purrfect…” er, “Perfect blue.” I can just picture a rich, vindictive Tokio having her cat trained to attack her husband’s boyfriend…

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

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


Serious Risks to Your Health



It was pouring rain, which formed a decent enough excuse to take shelter under the awning of a large open-air restaurant even though he didn’t plan on buying anything. Well, Saitou was here; Sano could just pretend he had business with him.

The cop said nothing as Sano came to stand beside him, and even his facial expression appeared fairly neutral. This was his typical greeting these days, and, though technically pleasanter than his previous manner, it disquieted Sano. The latter could easily tell they weren’t what they had been to each other, but he was proportionally uneasy in not knowing exactly what they’d become. Their harsher animosity had faded, but into what? What did this subdued, sometimes even restrained show of mutual disdain signify? It made him uncomfortable to think about it. So, with an attitude of avoidance that, being so different from his usual confrontational style of dealing with things, seemed a miniature of the entire affair, he had developed a tendency to focus deliberately on some other, minor aspect of their interaction.

Today it was Saitou’s smoking, and its interesting prolificacy, on which his mind fixed. He noticed now concretely, which before he had never been overtly conscious of but must have seen, that Saitou lingered over the withdrawing of each new cigarette, the setting it to his lips, the striking of the match… and that once these tasks were accomplished, the object’s purpose was evidently fulfilled… that he rarely finished them before tossing them away. This behavior puzzled Sano, especially given that each new cigarette followed the half-spent last with such unflagging consistency.

It didn’t take long for Saitou to notice Sano paying minute attention to the smoking process. Perhaps mistaking the purpose of this stare, Saitou silently offered him one.

Bastard probably thinks I’ve never smoked before, Sano reflected, though more wry than annoyed, and just wants to watch me choke. This theory was corroborated when Saitou, instead of offering to light it for him, merely handed him the matches.

Sano stared at the little white cylinder. It was not an unfamiliar object by any means; even if he hadn’t smoked plenty of them, he’d seen enough in Saitou’s hands to last a lifetime. And, knowing as he did just how expensive they were, that the taste was not exactly compelling, and that they made your hands and breath stink, he had to wonder…

For him, in the world he knew and his level in it, smoking formed more a social ritual than anything else. It was a symbol of camaraderie to offer or accept a cigarette in settings where the need for a clear head made an equivalent offer of sake inappropriate. It wasn’t something he did obsessively like Saitou did, and he didn’t feel the craving he knew developed if you had too many of them. Not addicted thus, he found the entire thing an enigma. What made this little thing in his hand so appealing?

“Something wrong?” Saitou wondered casually, obviously waiting for what he believed would be an entertaining show.

Sano shrugged and lit the cigarette, then handed the match-box back without allowing himself the grin toward which he was inclined. This was just as well, for if Saitou was disappointed he didn’t show it.

Bitter. Harsh, bitter, potentially dangerous… There was no logical reason for the attraction. It didn’t make sense and didn’t seem healthy. The buzz just didn’t last that long. Why, then…?

He sucked slowly on the filter and, between drags, studied the object’s shrinking length pensively. He could feel Saitou’s eyes on him perhaps as steadfastly as his own had been on the officer a minute ago. The question why in regard to the cigarette still engrossed his mind far beyond the pale of logical inquisitiveness. Everything rational spoke against these things, and the rewards were few… why did anyone — why did he like them?

Slowly he came to a conclusion he had to find rather unpleasant: that the allure actually lay in everything that was unpleasant about them. They were foreign, alien, but this merely made them exotic; they were dangerous and went against common sense, but that only made them a challenge; they were expensive, but didn’t that just mark their buyer as having selective and therefore presumably good taste?

The appeal of a harsh obstacle with questionable dividend might be contested by some, but Sano thought he understood — and it made it all the more unfortunate that just in time for them to lose that allure — as they became commonplace, as the anticipated danger went unvisited, as the challenge was met and forgotten — then the addiction was felt, and what were you left with? A costly habit of mediocre appeal that you would probably still be better without, but by then could not do without.

Somehow this entire concept bothered him a good deal more than it reasonably should have. Yes, he found for some reason, as he kept his eyes locked on the shortening cigarette, he almost couldn’t stand the idea of running the risk of an inescapable addiction for the sake of an attraction that didn’t even make sense and was quite possibly based on everything that condemned it. It was… frightening… disheartening… and he had the urge to toss the thing to the ground, grind it out, and walk away without a word into the rain. Why it should disturb him so very much he didn’t care to consider.

He looked over at Saitou, thinking to say something but unsure what. Saitou still watched him, appearing inquisitive and bemused, smoke drifting from his slightly upturned lips. That was such a familiar sight, it only struck Sano after several moments… of course Saitou had more experience in this area, more information on this disquieting subject than Sano did, and could perhaps answer his questions.

“So,” he asked at length, “how long have you been smoking these nasty things?”

“Several years,” answered Saitou in a tone that echoed the curiosity on his face.

“You still like ’em?”

The cop glanced skeptically down at the cigarette in his hand, then over at Sano. “Yes?” It was a very derisive and now demandingly curious answer.

Sano took a long drag of his own caustic but oddly satisfying cigarette, and found his own lips forming a smile as it left them. He wasn’t sure why, just as he hadn’t been sure why he’d originally been so distressed, but he found himself entirely comforted.


This story is for 30_kisses theme #13 “Excessive chain.” I’ve rated it . What do you think of it?

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


A Run of Good Luck



It didn’t seem the type of day for the fulfillment of secret desires. If Sano had been asked to guess, when he woke up in the mid-to-late morning or when he got up in the mid-to-late afternoon, what type of day it would turn out to be, he wouldn’t have been able to come up with anything specific. It was just another day, mediocre. He wasn’t wounded or starving or any richer or happier than usual, Tokyo wasn’t any better or worse than ever a place to live, and the weather was mild. Still, he was in a good mood as he ambled out of his run-down apartment and took to the street with no particular purpose; that boded well, as a good mood meant a run of good luck with the dice. Well, sometimes.

Greeting people he knew, smiling at people he didn’t, and grinning at people that whistled at him (it happened twice), he made his leisurely way in the general direction of his favorite gambling area, keeping a sharp eye open for anyone likely to want to treat him to a free meal on the way. He stopped to talk to someone about something, didn’t get any food out of it, and eventually moved on as the sun began to set.

Encountering a group of little boys among whom he ranked as a favorite, he was quickly talked into racing them down to their hideout a few streets over. After giving them a good head start, he took off after them with a roar he knew would make them run even faster.

At the corner he was just catching them up, but found, as he turned it, an unexpected volume of pedestrian traffic that he was not nearly so good at infiltrating as his small friends were. He dodged a sour-looking lady shouting at all of them, stumbled over someone else, and slammed into a third as the boys, laughing, outdistanced him and disappeared around another corner.

He was yelping an apology even as he lost his balance and fell. He had to consider himself rather the victim, however, as the other person didn’t go similarly tumbling or even seem to waver; indeed, it was almost like running into a brick wall. Oddly and unexpectedly, however, he found himself pulled back up again by a strong hand almost before hitting the ground. This wouldn’t have been quite so bizarre and disconcerting if the gesture hadn’t been accompanied by the remark, “Clumsier than usual today, ahou?”

Sano couldn’t speak; there were no words to express his sensations in response to this. He simply stared at the officer, dumbfounded. Saitou, smoothing out his jacket, seemed to be giving him time to think of a comeback… but Sano had none. Seeing this, the taller man smirked at him and strode on around the corner, leaving Sano still overwhelmed and motionless where he stood.

Saitou had just… been nice to him.

True, he’d hauled Sano to his feet roughly and much like a sack he intended to toss over his shoulder, but the result was the same: he’d helped him up. And though he’d mocked him immediately, there had been more amusement than ridicule in the tone. And that smirk… certainly one of derision, yes, but friendly derision. Almost good-natured, it all had seemed… if that didn’t feel so much like blasphemy against the god of assholes, and an insult against nature…

With a monumental effort recovering his wits and power of motion, though entirely forgetting his young cohorts and their race, Sano turned and ran back around the corner after Saitou.

The officer did not slow his pace when Sano reached him, only glanced at him without change of expression. “Hello again.”

Sano was nearly rendered speechless a second time. Who ever heard of Saitou saying ‘hello’ to him? Or even greeting him at all except with an insult? “Hey,” he finally managed, which, in its effectiveness in promoting conversation or conveying his wonder, was certainly close enough to having no clue what to say.

Saitou gave no reply, but Sano thought, looking at him, that more of a smile was riding those lips than he’d ever seen there for more than two moments together in all the time he’d known him.

Growing easier after walking half the length of another street with no sign that Saitou was trying to trap him somehow by feigning amiability and then turning suddenly and stabbing him, Sano ventured experimentally in a conversational tone, “Nice weather today, ain’t it?”

“It is,” Saitou agreed with a nod.

“All right,” the younger man demanded, having received the last indicator he needed, “what the hell is wrong with you?”

“Interesting you should ask that,” Saitou replied, bemused, “considering you’re usually the first to point it all out.”

Sano shook his head as if trying to clear away growing confusion and doubt. “You’re being nice to me!” It was half explanation, half protest.

“Am I? That is a problem.” And Saitou only barely rolled his eyes as he said this.

“Shit…” Sano stared him up and down as the only possible solution to this mystery slowly dawned on him and seemed confirmed by all the evidence he’d collected thus far. “I didn’t know it was possible for you to be in a good mood!”

Saitou merely smirked.

Examining this along with the rest of the older man’s face in continued surprise and possibly some growing bemusement of his own, Sano kept on at Saitou’s side. “You got blood on your ear,” he eventually remarked. “‘Zat why you’re so happy? You been out giving some Aku the old Zan?”

“If you want to put it that way.” Saitou extracted from a pocket an already bloodstained glove and rubbed his ear with it.

Sano watched critically. “It’s not coming off. Looks like it’s dried.”

Saitou shrugged.

“So who’d you kill?” Sano asked next.

“You’ll have heard it by tomorrow.”

“Being all pleased with yourself about it ain’t gonna make me less curious, you know…”

“You’d better try to think about something else, then.”

Sano was still unable to get his brain around the concept of Saitou so nice. Well, nice for Saitou. “Sure,” he complained, “but I was asking because I was trying not to think about what you were making me think about before.”

Saitou raised a skeptical brow at him.

“See, I hate to mess up the first good mood I’ve ever seen you in, but it’s just too good of an opportunity, and you’re kinda asking for it not answering my questions…” And without further warning, Sano put a hand on Saitou’s shoulder, leaned in, and kissed him soundly. Then he took off running once again.

Saitou was left in the middle of the street as motionless as Sano had been earlier, watching the young man rapidly disappearing and the entertained expressions of a few other pedestrians that had witnessed the exchange.

“Ahou,” he murmured after a moment when he took to walking again.

What a nice day this was turning out to be.


This story is for 30_kisses theme is #12, “In a good mood.” As you can see, 30_kisses was a fabulous way to come up with utter pointlessness XD

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

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


Responsibility



Sano had been even lazier today than usual, ever since he’d come staggering through the doors, practically dragged himself onto the porch, and flopped down into an abjectly idle position he’d then retained for the next several hours. It was getting on Kaoru’s nerves.

“Sanosuke!” she chided as she passed him for perhaps the sixth time and found the sight of his utter stillness just too irritating to be further put up with. “If you’re going to hang around here all day, come help me with the chores!”

Sano groaned. “No way… I’m too fucking sore to move.”

A glance at his body showed him, indeed, covered in bruises and scratches and Kaoru didn’t know what else. “Well,” she sniffed, “if you didn’t spend all night getting thrashed, you might not have that problem. And don’t even try that old ‘You should have seen the other guy’ line!”

Sano’s face went unexpectedly red. Kaoru couldn’t help some inward pleasure at the sight: was her good sense somehow finally getting through to him? She took a step closer, intending to reiterate the scold just for good measure, but as she drew within smelling distance she found another subject to complain on instead. “Did you get into those awful tobacco things, or have you just been hanging out with people who smoke them?” Bending toward him she added with a grimace, “Ugh! You’d practically have to be kissing them to smell this bad! Sano, please tell me you haven’t taken up smoking yourself?”

Sano blushed more intensely than before, and consequently Kaoru approached satisfaction more closely than before: for him to realize he was in the wrong, that his indolent lifestyle was a burden to those around him, must be a step in the right direction — and she had been the one to convince him of it at last!

“No,” he mumbled, “I don’t smoke.”

“Good,” she replied with a decisive nod, though not entirely sure she believed it. “Now come help me with the chores.”

Despite his apparently increasing awareness of her wisdom, it took some bullying to get him up and moving, and then she noticed he really did seem to be in pain: he walked very stiffly and slowly, and seemed to deliberately avoid certain specific motions. Her attitude a little softened, she gave him a relatively easy inside task that even a stupid drunkard of a brawler that might have taken up smoking couldn’t botch. She hoped.

Just to be sure, she went in to check on him after a few minutes — only to find him nowhere near where he was supposed to be. Instead, he’d sneaked into the kitchen. Assuming he was looking for a covert snack while her back was turned, she prepared to do some tiptoeing of her own and give him a good whack on the head to pay him for his bad habits. But she stopped short in confusion when she observed he’d opened the cupboard where she kept spices and seasonings and seemed to be putting something into it rather than taking something out.

“What in the world are you doing?” she asked, perplexed, before she remembered her goal of stealth.

He jumped, and whirled to face her with a visage even redder than before. “I… last night I noticed you were out…” he stammered, “so I thought I’d… get you some more…”

“Out of what?” she inquired, coming closer and peering past him at the bottle he’d placed in the cupboard. “Is that cooking oil? Wait — are you the one who’s been using it? I ran out yesterday making lunch and wondered how in the world I was going through it so fast! What can you have been doing with it? You don’t cook, do you?” She stared at him skeptically.

He cleared his throat and scratched his head. “Yeah, actually, I’ve been trying a little of that lately.”

Kaoru had to laugh. “Well, I don’t see what’s so embarrassing about that. Next time just tell me, and I’ll let you use whatever you need.” She beamed at him. “I think it’s great that you’re trying to take responsibility for feeding yourself!”

*

“So eventually I hadda promise sometime I’d come over and make dinner for everyone,” Sano finished with a grimace as he sank into the steaming water and sighed.

Saitou chuckled. “Time to learn to cook, then.”

“Time to sneak some bento into the dojo’s more like it,” Sano grumbled. “And you getta pay for it.”

“It’s your own fault for not thinking about being prepared for things until five minutes beforehand.”

“And since when is it my responsibility to provide lube anyway?”

“It’s your ass.”

“But you’re the one stretching it out of shape, bastard!”

Saitou, always in a good mood in the bath, just smirked somewhat lazily.

Sano laid his head back with a groan. “Just for future reference, spit is not enough. It might be days.”

Despite the dire quality of this pronouncement, Saitou was still smirking.

“You think it’s funny,” Sano growled, “but it’s your fucking fault!” Standing abruptly with an upward rush of water and turning as it splashed back down, he bent over and demanded, “Does this look comfortable to you?”

Saitou’s eyes glinted, though he was simultaneously amused at the unceremonious display. “Comfortable for you or for me?” he wondered, moving across the bathtub to where Sano’s posterior was making such an undignified exhibition. Sano was about to reply angrily to this flippancy, but Saitou silenced him by adding, “It does look unusually red, though,” and running his tongue over the sensitive spot.

Well, to say that silenced Sano is not quite right, for he made some interesting noises, but it did keep him from protesting.

“Don’t think this means you get to fuck me later,” he eventually gasped, once words ceased entirely eluding him.

“I wouldn’t dream of it.” Saitou managed somehow to sound chaste and terribly sarcastic in the same breath before going back to his task.

“Yes, you would,” Sano contradicted, “you dirty old– god!”

“Certainly the first time anyone’s ever called me that,” Saitou remarked thoughtfully, and reached a hand up and around to see if his actions had brought about the anticipated result.

Sano leaned both elbows against the tile floor around the bath and moaned loudly.

Being irresponsible had very mixed consequences.


This story is a companion to Magic and Corner of the Eye.

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List (Mobile Without Motive)


Sano awoke very slowly, mostly because the greater part of his energy was being directed toward combating a looming hangover. There was always a sort of perverse, bitter pleasure about coming to his senses hung over, though, because the more miserable it was, the more fun that meant he’d probably had the night before — so the waking wasn’t as slow as it could have been.

Eventually he opened his eyes and looked sluggishly around for Katsu, but wasn’t surprised not to find him; the artist consented to hang out with him at the dojo from time to time, but wasn’t comfortable spending the night there. This always impressed Sano — god knew being picky about where he slept when drunk was more than he could usually manage — but he not infrequently preferred to have someone nearby to complain to, describe his headache to, when he came around in the morning. That this might be another reason for Katsu’s consistent abandonment of him after he passed out he could not fail to be aware.

Slowly attaining greater mobility, he began eventually to observe the minor disarray of the room; he’d better get this place straightened up before jou-chan wandered in… but there was no way he was going to attempt standing just yet. When his eyes fell on a somewhat crumpled piece of paper lying carelessly on the floor not far off, however, he did make the effort to reach over and grab it. And while he endeavored, squinting, to read it, he had to chuckle (and wince) at the memory of the silly conversation that had occupied a large part of last night’s edge of lucidity.

List, the paper was headed in Sano’s handwriting: a creative title only a drunk could come up with. Well, at least he hadn’t drawn little hearts around it.

1 – Pretty

After some argument with Katsu over whether he could definitively demand this characteristic when his attention could as easily be drawn to a man as a woman, Sano had struck it out and written Sexy instead. After this he’d apparently decided to make an essay in abstract on the subject, for something nearly illegible went on about turning heads and not looking like everyone else and off the bottom of the page. Sano would probably have to scrub the rest of it off the table or the floor or his leg later.

2 – Has money

Katsu, who for all his politics and getting-things-done was sometimes a good deal more fanciful than Sano, had protested violently against this being on the list. What argument Sano had made for practicality over romance in this instance he couldn’t recall, but as the point was not crossed out he had to assume he’d thought of something decent. Drunk was pretty much the only time he could out-philosophize Katsu.

3 – Good cook

The list was getting more difficult to read, and next to this entry was some addendum that had been entirely scribbled over; if Sano remembered correctly, it had been some comment to the purpose of (Not like jou-chan!), and was glad that, even when drunk, he had enough sense of self-preservation to keep that, at least, from possible public view. The Kenshingumi had been in and out of the room all evening, though, so, assuming thereby that he’d had constant reminders, he didn’t give himself too much credit.

Katsu had objected to requiring culinary skills almost as strenuously as he had to the money thing, and, though he’d obviously been argued down again, he’d evidently carried his point enough that the next two items were a little less shallow.

4 – Recspect

Sano thought he got the gist of the scrawl that meandered next to this, but only because the thoughts had been his in the first place: something about recognizing and not failing to acknowledge good traits, having your back in a metaphysical or social sense, and knowing when to stop teasing.

5 – Commartion

He was fairly sure this was supposed to say Communication. Equally mysterious were the accompanying ramblings that again marched right off the edge of the paper, and this was the end of what Sano had written.

But it was not the end of the list.

Sano squinted at what succeeded; Katsu must have added on after Sano had stopped paying attention.

6 – Nice, it said in the artist’s considerably neater handwriting, then added (Not abusive)

Sano snorted. “Kinda goes without saying, doesn’t it?” Then he frowned; the next entry was in a completely different hand:

7 – Close to the same age

“Who the hell wrote that?” he wondered. And why? Who cared that much about age? He puzzled over the neat, familiar stroke of the characters for a bit; it had definitely been written by one of his friends, but he couldn’t guess which.

The following item was in yet another hand: 8 – Not obsessive/fixated

“Well, no shit,” he laughed. Obviously the dojo residents had gotten hold of his list while he’d been unconscious and thought it funny to add a bunch of stupid stuff. Not that he cared much; it had all stemmed from intoxication to begin with.

9 – Not lacking in basic social skills

Sano thought that had pretty much been covered by previous points, but maybe he was wrong; perhaps the nuances of Recspect and Commartion didn’t encompass basic social skills.

It was at a loopy, feminine hand’s 10 – Doesn’t smoke that he paused with a disturbed, thoughtful expression. It had all seemed random up until that point, and maybe he was still overthinking, but… He scanned the latter half of the list again. He supposed it could be a coincidence, but there really was only one abusive, obsessive, fixated smoker not his age lacking basic social skills that came to mind. And why did it seem like his friends were purposely expressing disapproval of that specific person in this specific area of discussion?

Sano, who was by now sitting up scrutinizing the list carefully, hangover nearly forgotten, gave a skeptical laugh. Did they really think… where would they get… what a stupid… unless they thought they saw something that he hadn’t noticed? It wouldn’t be the first time.

He continued to chuckle as he got up and looked around for his gi. Wouldn’t be the first time they’d been totally unsubtle about something, either.

Well, whatever the case…

He opened the door, stepped off the porch into his shoes, and headed out of the dojo in search of someone.

…they really should know by now what was his usual and immediate reaction to being told not to do something.


The original idea was just the perverseness — Sano’s friends trying to warn him away from Saitou, and Sano immediately deciding to do exactly what he’d been told not to. After that it struck me that a drunken sleepover with giggly list-making would be the perfect setup for this. Though I have to admit that I never made a list of the qualities I wanted in a sweetheart at a slumber party. I do remember one time when we wrote chain-story porn, though. But we were sober. And that’s a tale for another time.

Anyway, I find this story cute and amusing — though, as in several of my less successful vignettes, the overall point gets a little lost. In regard to the title (besides being a reference to the line in the story, a creative title only a drunk could come up with), Poe said about perverseness (among other brilliant things), In the sense I intend, it is, in fact, a mobile without motive, a motive not motiviert. Through its promptings we act without comprehensible object; or, if this shall be understood as a contradiction in terms, we may so far modify the proposition as to say, that through its promptings we act, for the reason that we should not. In theory, no reason can be more unreasonable, but, in fact, there is none more strong.

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Just That Bored

This wasn’t a topic that would normally make the least bit of difference to Saitou.

Saitou tries to keep himself from dying of boredom by looking for the answer to a seemingly unimportant question.



“Saitou? What are you doing here, de gozaru ka?”

“Oh?” wondered the officer with heavy sarcasm. “Wasn’t I invited?”

Himura cleared his throat.

With a roll of eyes Saitou explained. “The police chief asked me to patrol around the dojo to make sure this party of yours isn’t disturbed.”

Now Himura looked skeptical.

“I did remind him that with the kind of people you and that girl were likely to invite, the only danger would be from each other… but he insisted.”

With a slight smile Himura nodded his understanding. “The chief of police is very attentive.”

Saitou rolled his eyes again.

“Well, you’re welcome to come inside if you want.”

Saitou raised an eyebrow. “So I am invited.”

“And I’m sure you’re as pleased to know that as Kaoru-dono will be.”

“No need to alarm her,” Saitou replied dryly. “I won’t be coming inside.”

Himura, who’d already assumed as much, just nodded and smiled as he turned back toward the door; Saitou began his ‘patrol,’ looking forward to an exceptionally dull night.

Contrary to his avowal, however, the temptation to enter at least the grounds became after not too long acute, for he found that traversing the streets around the Kamiya dojo was about the most tedious thing he’d ever done. It wouldn’t have been quite so bad if there had been any point to it other than that the chief of police had a hopeless crush on Himura; as it was, even the headache he must acquire from the presence of those within would be better than this monotony. He let himself through the main doors.

Patrolling the inside of the wall was at first just as boring as the outside, but eventually the party spilled from the building and there was at least something to watch. Saitou was actually fairly surprised at the presence of certain of the guests; those that noticed him were surprised at his presence as well. And given the caliber of some of them, about a third of those attending must be aware of his shadow-prowling vigil. Let them find out from Himura why he was here, though, if they were curious.

He didn’t think he could stomach drawing close enough to catch any of their conversations — though some of them (any that included the Oniwaban chibi in particular) reached his ears anyway — but at least watching kept the tediousness from driving him mad. Some of it was even faintly amusing. He had to reflect, for instance, as he observed the looks the tanuki constantly threw Himura, that if such a girl had been giving him that treatment, his reaction might actually have been legitimate fear.

The truly frightening thing about these glances, though, was that the rurouni appeared to enjoy them. In which case he was being remarkably slow about things… How long had he been living here, and no progress between them? Of course, all of the members of the pitiable Kenshingumi had been single for a very long while, it seemed. Obviously this wasn’t a topic that would normally make the least bit of difference to Saitou, but at the moment he was just that bored. And, really, it was a little sad how relationship-challenged this group appeared to be. That Sagara boy, for instance, who was currently entertaining a small cluster of friends with a gesture-filled anecdote… shouldn’t he have snagged that doctor woman by now?

Well, the pointy-eared medic, for all her manhandling ability, wasn’t strong enough for someone like Sagara. The boy would be better off with Himura himself… except that the redhead was so short and annoying and enamored of an even more obnoxious girl. The latter might actually have been a decent match for the doctor, but she also wouldn’t do for the roosterhead.

Shinomori might be a good option… or perhaps not… even if Super Angstman could escape the jealous clutches of the Shrieking Sidekick, there was no way Sagara could long put up with someone that dull. The Okashira might do well for Himura, though. And the weasel might match Sagara’s energy fairly closely, but the boy definitely didn’t have the patience it would require to tolerate her for any great length. Saitou didn’t think anyone did. It might be amusing to watch someone try, though: the kenkaya or — sudden thought, even better — Chou. How long would the weasel last once the broomhead snapped? And what kind of damage would she inflict on him before he killed her?

Come to think of it, Chou himself might not be the worst choice for Sagara. Well, if the stupid phallic-symbol-collector had the stamina for more than a two-day relationship and an attitude focused just a little more outward, that is. And maybe a better hairstyle.

So perhaps it wasn’t such a surprise that Sagara didn’t have anyone, when there seemed to be something that unsuited each of them for him. But for some reason Saitou kept thinking there was somebody around that was suited for him… somebody so obvious it was actually a little difficult to figure out who it might be… who was he missing? He looked around at the remainder of the party guests.

Of course there was always Himura’s eccentric master with the odd taste in clothing… Saitou wasn’t overly familiar with that person, but from the little he’d seen so far it seemed the caped giant was in love with himself to the point where bringing somebody else in would make it a threesome and someone was bound to get jealous, possibly the man himself.

Sagara’s quiet friend with the long hair was probably the one Saitou was thinking of. The officer didn’t know much about him either, other than what he did for a living (and otherwise), but… it still didn’t seem right. The man always looked so gloomy… that wouldn’t do for Sagara. Not in a romantic sense, anyway. It might for Shinomori, though…

This was no use. A question whose answer eluded him so completely was almost worse than the boredom it was supposed to replace. And yet nothing else would occupy his mind. Well, there was that restaurateur… Sagara was fond of a good meal, of course, but there wasn’t much to Sekihara beyond business; she probably wouldn’t be able to hold his attention anywhere but at a dinner table.

And then there was that overdressed scythe-wielder that was supposed to be in England… Saitou wouldn’t even have considered him, but he was running out of choices; still, it was obvious offhand that Honjou wouldn’t do: Sagara might look decent with a woman prettier than he was, but never with a man. Maybe the psychotic Tenken was a better former-Juppongatana candidate… but, no, the last thing Sagara needed was somebody that compliant; Seta’s smiles would only egg Sagara on in every one of his foolish behaviors.

There had to be someone else. Why did it seem the answer was there, but barely beyond his reach? The most annoying part was that it didn’t matter… it was just something to keep him from insanity… it shouldn’t be this frustrating…

Eventually, after what felt like several ages, the party began to break up, and goodbyes were said to those not staying at the dojo. Saitou was fairly sure his presence was even less required at this point than it had been before, and gladly slipped away for home before the guests really started to leave.

The question about Sagara, and the conviction that he was forgetting someone, bothered him still, but that was fading along with the overriding need to stave off boredom. And once he stopped thinking about it all together, the answer was sure to come to him.

Actually, considering it had to do with that perverse roosterhead, it was likely to strike him at the least convenient moment possible — just when he’d fallen asleep, or some such.

Stupid boy was troublesome like that, even when he wasn’t around.


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Wrestling

“I can’t figure out why you’re here,” Sano said as he leaned up against the wall next to Saitou and took a long drink from the jug in his hand. “You don’t like parties, you don’t like any of my friends, you don’t drink…”

Saitou nodded.

“You sure as hell aren’t enjoying standing here against the wall.”

“If you’re asking me to come socialize with you, the answer is no.”

“See, what’s the point coming to a party if you’re not even gonna have fun?” Sano laughed as he pushed off and walked away.

The gold eyes that followed were much steadier than Sano’s tipsy gait.

“I don’t understand you two,” Megumi said, glancing over at the police officer when Sano appeared at her side.

“Nobody much does,” Sano replied with a grin. “Not even me, really. I’m just glad jou-chan finally said it was all right for him to come.”

“Well, most of us do hate him,” the doctor reminded him with a skeptical shake of her head, “and as a consequence think you must be crazy.”

Sano shrugged. “Yeah, well, I am.”

Megumi chuckled. “Why did he come, anyway?”

With another grin, this one somewhat craftier, Sano replied, “Now that I actually do know.”

She waited a moment before demanding impatiently, “Well?”

“Just wait ’till I get drunker… you’ll see.”

She looked briefly over at Saitou again, very curious.

Saitou had watched the exchange meticulously, too far away to hear what was being said that made the doctor keep looking at him like that. It didn’t matter, though, as long as she kept her hands off.

Next Sano wandered over to talk to Kenshin, but the rurouni was not to be tempted into a drinking match any more than Saitou was — he’d learned his lesson already about challenging Sano there. Kenshin did seem to be curious about one thing, however: “Why is Megumi-dono watching you like that?”

Sano laughed. “Ain’t important,” he replied. “What you’sh’d really be worried about,” leaning down and saying softly into Kenshin’s ear, “is why Shinomori’s watchin’ you ‘like that.'”

Kenshin barely managed not to appear too startled or to snap his head around to find out if this was true — which was good, as if he’d done so he probably would have knocked Sano over or at least given him a good solid hair-whip in the face.

Over by the wall, Saitou twitched almost visibly as he saw Sano bend and put his mouth so close to Himura’s ear. But it was over too quickly to think about. Much.

Sano was by now a little too muddle-headed to be quite sure how the arm-wrestling got started. He didn’t usually bother arm-wrestling people, mostly, because his general acquaintance couldn’t beat him, and it was a pointless victory for those that could, as they had already beaten him in more meaningful ways in the past. He thought, in this instance, Kaoru might have had something to do with it, as she was his first opponent. She was also half drunk; sober, even Kaoru must recognize the futility of this venture. But now, red-faced from sake and a consequent, disturbing mixture of determination and pointless anger, she plopped herself down across the table she’d had somebody less inebriated drag in (she wouldn’t be pleased tomorrow that it had been used for such a purpose), pulled her sleeve back, and wiggled her fingers in a manner he thought perhaps was supposed to be challenging.

“C’mon, tori-atama,” she growled.

“You’re on, tanuki,” he growled back. He thought they might have been trading more complicated insults just a bit ago, but couldn’t quite remember.

As the Kamiya girl’s hand curled around Sano’s, Saitou scowled and stood straight, his own hands kept very carefully at his sides by sheer force of will.

Somehow, after soundly besting Kaoru a full five times in a row and sending her ranting over to Kenshin, Sano had succumbed to the glory of the moment (victory was sweeter when drunk) and allowed several other challengers to approach him. They were mostly his friends from around town, graciously invited here tonight by the kenjutsu instructor he’d just triumphed over, and they should have known better, but they were all as intoxicated as he was… which by now was quite a bit. The very first one proved what the trend would be, and at the third they all decided to gang up on him — obviously not realizing that even when they all pushed on the opposing hand, the pressure against his grip didn’t really intensify, and he threw the lot of them just as easily. The table cracked, and somehow it was suddenly an actual wrestling match, five to one.

Saitou watched Sano’s stupid game turn into a good-natured tussle, and that was the last straw. They were on top of him, which was something Saitou couldn’t laugh about the way Sano (and just about anyone else watching) was.

Sano found himself suddenly, unexpectedly (well, not really), expertly extricated from the mini-brawl and pulled to the door before being set upright again. “We’re leaving,” a narrow-eyed and very tense Saitou intoned in his ear.

“But–” Sano began, and was cut off as Saitou opened the door without waiting for his protest and dragged him from the dojo. The last thing he saw before the room and the party were out of his line of vision was Megumi’s grin of understanding.

Saitou basically had to support the roosterhead as they walked; the line of the cop’s jaw suggested he was more than ready for any complaint Sano might have about their hasty exit, but Sano wasn’t actually planning on making one. The night had gone exactly as anticipated: plenty of fun at the party, good sake he hadn’t had to pay for, and adorable jealousy from his boyfriend.

“Y’know, ‘fit bugs you so much, I’n wrestle you too,” he said, and spent the next moment trying to figure out exactly what had happened to the logic of the remark between brain and open air.

Saitou only said, “Hn.” Taking this as a ‘go right ahead,’ Sano jumped on him, and they tumbled down.

The wolf couldn’t really be annoyed at this; it didn’t take much ‘wrestling’ to get the drunken idiot pinned, panting, and disheveled on the ground between his legs, looking up at him with bright eyes from a flushed, grinning, expectant face. Sano knew who he belonged to, after all, and only needed occasional reminding. Saitou smirked; bending and pushing the black and white gi aside, pressing his mouth to his lover’s neck, then shoulder, then collarbone, then chest, he began the customary process of marking his territory.



LadyAmes, when she won the Quote Guessy Game, wanted a possessive Saitou, so for her I wrote this item. I’ve rated it . What do you think of it?

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Closer Even Than That

Childishness. That’s what it was — the childishness and weakness Saitou had always accused him of. Whatever he wanted to think about himself, he had to face the truth: it didn’t matter how hard he tried to be an adult; when it came right down to it, he was just a big, helpless baby who expected — who needed — to be petted and humored and allowed to live the good life at the expense of others. Because really, only a brainless kid would ask something so stupid and expect any kind of likeable answer. You’d think after having been with the guy for a year Sano would know better than to ask that kind of question.

Saitou Hajime didn’t love. He destroyed evil. What exactly had Sano been expecting, anyway? A blood oath?

“Sano, may I ask if you’re all right?”

Sano looked down quickly. It wasn’t that he was unhappy to see Kenshin… he just didn’t like the idea of Kenshin guessing at the self-deprecation going through his head. Kenshin got awfully annoying when he thought you were being too hard on yourself.

“Sano, what is wrong?”

Sano shrugged. “Just that life’s a bitch,” he muttered.

“It can be,” the red-head agreed calmly. “But why do you say so today?”

“Would you ever say you loved your sword?”

“No…” Kenshin’s expression was quizzical. “At least… well, no, I cannot say I would.”

“Yeah, didn’t think so.” The bitterness in Sano’s tone increased with every word. “And do you think someone’s ever gonna love you if they don’t after you’ve been with them for a year?”

Kenshin thought of Kaoru and cleared his throat, not sure what to say.

“Yeah, didn’t think so.” Sano leaned his elbow on his knee and his face on his fist, looking simultaneously furious and deeply hurt.

Having by now figured out what this was all about, Kenshin carefully planned what he would say, knowing there were a few ways he could put this that would only anger Sano more. “Even people who have known Saitou for a long time do not always understand him perfectly,” he told his young friend eventually. “Especially when it comes to important matters, I have noticed he likes to get his point across in his own way.”

Sano rubbed absently at the old scar on his shoulder and nodded.

“I would not like to try to interpret anything he said if I thought it might be only half of what he meant,” Kenshin finished, mentally crossing his fingers as he watched Sano digest his words, hoping the statement would push the other in the right direction.

Finally, “He should just say what he fucking means,” Sano grumbled, but the angry and pained notes in his tone were not nearly as sharp. And when presently he jumped up with, “I’ll talk to you later, Kenshin,” and strode out the door, the addressed friend had to breathe a sigh of relief.

*

Pride. That’s what it was — the pride and stubbornness Sano was always complaining about. Whatever he wanted to believe of himself, he had to face the fact: it didn’t matter what his morals or intentions were; when it came to relationships with actual people, he was just a proud old man who expected to have things his way and everyone else to live by his standards. Because really, only a complete jerk would answer a simple, forthright question in such a way that the questioner’s heart would be broken. You’d think after having been with the boy for a year Saitou would know better than to expect Sano to play word-games with him over such an important issue.

Sagara Sanosuke didn’t puzzle through things. He fought them with a straightforward fist. What exactly had Saitou been expecting, anyway? A calm, “Oh, really? How so?”

“Hey, boss, what’s your problem?”

“Go away.”

Chou seated himself on top of Saitou’s desk and peered down at the grumpy expression on the older man’s face. “You have another fight with tori-atama?”

“Worse,” was Saitou’s only reply.

Chou, who adored gossip and by now knew Saitou better than most people would be willing to admit even if they could get that far, just waited.

“The idiot asked me this morning if I love him,” Saitou finally said irritably.

“Well, shit,” Chou laughed, “everyone knows the answer to that.” Not cowed by his boss’s deadly expression at this, he continued, “But I bet you said something all fucking high-and-mighty and he ran off crying.”

Saitou’s eyes flicked away to the right as if he didn’t want to face this accusation; after a long pause he said, “Yes.” Well, Sano hadn’t exactly been crying, but close enough.

Chou had to laugh again.

“I told him that would be like saying I loved my sword,” Saitou protested, wanting sympathy and knowing perfectly well he’d get it from Chou in this instance.

“Well, makes sense to me,” Chou replied, as expected, then added with another chuckle, “but no wonder he didn’t like it!”

Saitou knew that perfectly well too, and only frowned harder.

“But I know how that guy is… gets mad at everything and gets over it just as quick,” Chou continued in a jovial tone that was calculated not to sound like he was giving advice. “When you tell him what you meant, he’ll probably forget he was ever pissed at you.”

Saitou snorted faintly, but it was accompanied by an equally faint smile.

Chou shrugged. “Wish I was that good at bouncing back from shit.” Then glancing smoothly at the clock on the wall and hopping backward off the desk he said, “Well, you don’t pay me to sit around in here all day. Gonna go check out that one warehouse.” And through the door he went, his knowing grin carefully hidden from the pensive officer he left behind.

*

They met at a spot almost exactly halfway between dojo and police station, stopped short, and stared at each other in pregnant silence.

“I didn’t mean–” Saitou began.

“I shouldn’t have–” Sano said at the same time. And they both fell wordless and stared for another wary moment.

And then, “I’m sorry,” they both declared, and by mutual consent were in each other’s arms.

“I was stupid to run off without letting you say anything more,” Sano said.

“Next time I won’t be so cryptic,” Saitou replied, touching his lips to Sano’s temple.

“Well, what did you mean with that stuff about the sword?”

Saitou took a deep breath, inhaling the scent of Sano’s hair and smiling slightly before he replied. “In battle, my sword is like a part of myself, and if I were to lose it I would lose everything, perhaps even die. To say I loved it would be strange because it’s closer even than that; it’s so much a part of me, I couldn’t even exist without it.”

Sano’s face and chest were burning at the sound of these words. “And that’s… that’s how you feel about me…?”

Saitou held him tighter so their hearts were beating close in rapid synchronization. “It’s more than that, for you… but I don’t have words for it.”

“Oh, shit,” Sano murmured into his lover’s neck. “Remind me never to run off again before you get to the good stuff.”

“Or I could just give you the good stuff without preamble,” Saitou replied with apologetic fondness.

“Well, let’s go find some of it right now,” Sano suggested, the words accompanied by some nibbling on Saitou’s ear.

“Good idea,” Saitou growled, returning the favor.

And as they drew back out of each other’s arms, Sano’s whispered “I love you” was echoed just as softly by Saitou. Unblinking eyes meeting before they turned to walk home, they shared a smile of perfect understanding.


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All Sorts of Good Details



Chou regained consciousness to a splitting headache, the reflection that daylight was just pure cruelty in the sky for being so bright, mild curiosity at his somewhat familiar surroundings, and the oddly worried-sounding and subdued voice of Sagara Sanosuke — “You awake?”

“Yeah,” Chou groaned. “The fuck…?” It felt like a hangover, but he could not for the life of him remember… “Whydzthis look like Saitou’srom?” He’d seen it once or twice during his time reporting to Saitou, but why would he be there? And with Sanosuke?

“It is Saitou’s room,” Sano replied quietly, “and you’d probably rather not know why you’re here, but I figure I better tell you anyway.”

Chou didn’t want to sit up, but the roosterhead’s tone was proddingly strange. Still, it took a moment before he could get his eyes to focus on the distinctly agitated form of the other man. The other, barely clothed man. What had happened last night??

“It’s like this,” Sano said: “about right after you quit working for him, Saitou went fucking crazy.”

“Wzalready fuckin’ crazy,” Chou protested.

“I mean like sex-crazy. It just came out of nowhere!” Sano’s voice dropped almost to a whisper as if he were afraid someone might hear; it made Chou very nervous. “He just started going after anyone he could get… half the good-looking guys in town’ve been his bitch, and there’s nothing none of us could do about it ’cause he’s got connections like crazy and he’s too strong even for a group of us to take down.”

“Shit!” Chou growled, gripping the blanket around him and picturing Saitou’s psychotic yellow eyes all sex-hazed and predatory. “You’re fuckin’ kiddin’ me!”

“No.” Sano shook his head gravely. “I’m his favorite, I guess, probably ’cause he always hated me so he gets off on dominating me all the time. Lucky I ran into you last night before he found you; he was so busy with me he didn’t get to you, and then he had to go do some emergency shit at work. I dunno when he’ll be back, but you’d better get out of here. He’d know when the drug would wear off, so he might be back any minute.”

“Drug?!” So it wasn’t a hangover at all. “Shit, shit, this is fuckin’ crazy!” Chou was scrambling to his feet, but, losing his balance — not to mention getting tangled in the blanket that really did smell terribly of cigarettes — he fell back to the futon. “Always knew’e was off his fuckin’ nut, but this is…” His eyes went wide. “Where the fuck are my fuckin’ swords?!”

“I don’t know,” Sano replied. “Maybe in the house somewhere, maybe– oh, shit.”

Chou looked around in wild consternation at Sano’s sudden tension and the very obvious sound of footsteps in another part of the house. Before he could say anything, Sano had jumped to his feet. “He’s back; shit, yeah, that’s definitely him. Look, I’ll go distract him, try to get him into another room so you can get outta here.”

“I’m not leavin’ without my swords,” Chou insisted.

“Which is more important, your swords or your fucking ass?”

Picturing that crazy bug-bastard’s eyes again, Chou wasn’t sure how to answer this question.

“I gotta get out there, man, or he’ll be in here after you.”

“‘fhe comes in here I’ll fuckin’ kill ‘im,” Chou growled.

“No!” Sano replied frantically. “You’d never be able to beat him, and it would just turn him on! ‘Sides, you can barely even stand up yet!”

Chou had to admit that this was probably true. “Shit, this is fucked up…”

Sano was at the door. “I’ll see what I can do… you just get going soon as you can walk.”

“Th-thanks,” Chou stammered, wondering how soon that would be and whether he would be able to escape this situation.

*

Saitou watched as Sano emerged from the bedroom half clothed, closed the door behind him, and seemed to struggle for a moment to contain a fit of laughter.
“There’s my undercovers cop,” the young man finally said. “You’re back early.” (Although he didn’t seem at all surprised.) And, flinging himself on the officer, he attempted to kiss him.

Saitou, who had been frowning at the strange display of amusement, now frowned at the haphazard mess of sheathed weapons strewn across the floor from wall to wall; he refused to be kissed. “Do I even want to ask what Chou’s swords are doing in my house?”

“He was in the area,” Sano shrugged, “and I ran into him, and we went drinking.”

“For future reference,” Saitou responded, “your drinking companions stay at your apartment” — fixing him with a flat stare that, while not far from Sano’s face due to the younger man’s still being draped over him, was far from pleased. Or at the very least in the living room, he added silently; he would not say it aloud, as the smallest degree of allowance would encourage his irresponsible lover to take even more liberties.

“Aw, lighten up,” Sano grinned, and kissed Saitou’s nose.

The wolf’s eyes narrowed suspiciously. “Why are you so cheerful?”

“Because you’re back in town half a day earlier than I expected you,” replied Sano in a tone of overwhelmingly untrustworthy innocence.

“You’re a terrible actor,” Saitou informed him flatly.

“I’m good enough!” protested the jovial Sano. “I can convince a drunk guy of just about anything. Or a hungover guy, even.”

Saitou shook him off and reached for the bedroom door, his eyes still narrowed.

“Aww, c’mon, the poor bastard’s feeling like shit, and now you’re gonna kick him out?”

“I believe I have a right to determine who inhabits my own bedroom,” Saitou replied coolly.

“Fine, fine,” Sano shrugged. “Go in there; freak him out; whatever.”

Saitou turned briefly. “Does he know about us?”

“Oh, sure,” Sano replied in a deliberately offhand manner that failed entirely to conceal the slyness in the remark. “He knows all sorts of good details.”



Sometimes I wish I had the resources to play this kind of elaborate practical joke, but in actuality I would find it too cruel. Here it’s fucking hilarious, though. Messing with Chou is always fun, of course. This also gets points for “undercovers cop” and Sano kissing Saitou’s nose. I’ve rated this story . What do you think of it?

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


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: