*** *** ***
"Are you okay, Sanosuke?"
"Yeah, yeah..." Sano shoved his hands in his jeans pockets. This place made him nervous. Whenever he came here, like for Parent-Teacher nights or stuff like that, the looks the teachers gave him, like he was gonna spray graffiti all over the walls and break all the windows... Sure, he looked like a punk. He was a punk. But even he knew better than messing with schools. That just wasn't right.
Now what were they gonna think of him, making Yahiko live on the streets or something? Some parent he was, anyway...
"Let's just go, huh?"
The two walked together towards the building, not too close, but just close enough that they could see the other in the corner of their vision. For reassurance. Not that they needed it, of course. Sano held open the huge door so Yahiko could squeak in, then entered and let it swing closed behind him. Stupid giant public school doors. He was always getting his feet stuck in them, or his jacket, or some such thing attached to his body.
"Let's go eat, then," Sano said gruffly, casting a nervous glance about for the accusing glares of disapproving teachers. He'd be happy to get out of here...
But that, of course, meant he had to go back to his lack of an apartment. And explain it to his brother. Who expected Sano to take care of him.
Dammit. He may as well just hide in the bathroom until someone came and arrested him. Then they could put Yahiko in foster care, and maybe someone could take care of him a lot better than he could.
Sano wallowed in despair carefully masked as annoyance as he followed his little brother into line. "Eat as much as you want," he advised the boy. It would be all they could get for a while, probably...
They shuffled along in line, Sano staring at the floor and plotting some way to regain his life. Most of the ideas he came up with were either quite illegal or just stupid. The rest made less sense.
Well, if he got an electrician's degree and then moved to Canada, claiming bankruptcy-
"Sano!" Yahiko poked him in the leg. "Pay attention!"
Sano looked up and lifted the plate he'd picked up somewhere in his stupor obediently, expecting to be greeted by some random girl from the Honor Society, maybe one of the ones who looked shyly at him in the hallway, or one of the ones who flirted with him in the cafeteria and smiled those vapid smiles... the ones he avoided like the plague. Girls scared him. They always had, with their pushing and the looks and the comments and the persistence...
But instead, he beheld an angel.
"Himura!" Sano gasped.
"Sanosuke!" The little redhead blinked at him from over the counter, spoon laden with spaghetti. "Sessha- What are you doing here de gozaru ka?"
"M-my brother- he goes here- I-... What are you doing here?"
"M-my oldest daughter- the Honor Society-"
They stared at each other for a charged moment, dark chocolate eyes searching crystalline amethyst for some clue to the coincidence, to why they would meet up again on the worst night of Sanosuke's life, when they had only met that morning, when Kenshin had been late for the first time in his short career there, when Sano had lost his temper and gotten into a fight before second bell...
Until Yahiko nudged him, coughing meaningfully.
"I'm holdin' up the line," Sano said hurriedly. "Just-"
"Hai, hai-" Kenshin dumped a mess of spaghetti on his plate, then Yahiko's. "I'm almost done my shift de gozaru," he informed. "I'd like to speak with you, if you're still here..."
"Y-yeah, sure. I'll be here." Sano retreated from the line, then looked around for somewhere to sit. Yahiko tugged on his shirt.
"Sanosuke. Over there," Yahiko suggested.
Sano followed, hands clutching the plate like a lifeline. Himura... what was Himura doing here? Why was Himura here? Just now, when he... What would have happened if he had called him then? It was too much to think about...
He had too much to think about...
"Soooo, Sano..." Yahiko plopped down on the cafeteria bench, dark eyes that so resembled his own sparkling almost meanly. "That your girlfriend?"
"Wha-WHAT THE- Urusee!" Sano glared at him, fighting back a flush. "Yahiko, what the hell, kid? He's a guidance counselor! I met him t'day, 's all! What's wrong with you?"
Yahiko eyed him, chuckling faintly. "Protesting a little much?"
The dark-haired boy returned to his dinner, still chortling. Sano glared at him venomously, but ate his own as well. They sat in silence for a few minutes.
"Hey. There he is, Sano. Go catch him."
Sano jumped, looked over his shoulder to where Yahiko pointed, looked frantically for a napkin, wiped his mouth of the sauce and got up.
"Urusee," he repeated, embarrassed, but hurried off nonetheless. He dodged through the sitting people, trying hard not to knock anyone over or step on anything vital. He didn't know why he was filled with this intense urgency to see the other. It was... a friendly voice...
Just something like that.
"Oi! Himura!" Sano chased him down, heart pounding in his chest. The little redhead stopped in his tracks, looking up at him with a puzzled smile.
"Hai... I wasn't expecting you to want to speak with me de gozaru." Himura motioned with his head, indicating they should walk, then started off. Sano followed.
Sano twisted his hands together, then shoved them into his pockets to get rid of them. "Uhh... well, I..." What did he say, anyway?
Himura was watching him out of the corner of one amethyst eye with that same soul-searching gaze. Sano felt his hands begin to shake. He needed help... from somewhere... if only for Yahiko's sake, he had to find someplace for the kid to stay...
"Listen, Himura, can we, uh, go outside or somethin'?" Sano cast an annoyed
glance at Yahiko's homeroom teacher, who was giving him some of the worst looks. "I do... I do have to talk to you. I have to talk to somebody."
He was well aware of how pathetic that sounded. But some things mattered more than his own pride. Yahiko was one of them.
But curiously, the guidance counselor didn't assume the relieved, satisfied appearance of one who was sure he'd saved a poor street kid from a fate worse than death by convincing him that 'communication is good! Communication is our friend!' Rather, those eyes darkened in concern, and Himura nodded quickly.
"Hai. Wherever you would be more comfortable speaking to me de gozaru yo."
They walked in silence out the front doors, not too close, but not too far apart either. Sano looked at the cement floor, growing more and more uncomfortable by the second. Why the Hell was he going to unload on this guy? What had he done to guarantee...
Im trying to be trustworthy.
Well, sometimes you had to take risks... But still...
Himura walked towards the little kids' playground. Bemused, Sano followed. The little redhead sat down in one of the swings, scuffling his feet back and forth across the grass. He was still wearing sandals, Sano noticed with an inward smile.
Himura smiled brightly up at him, swinging back and forth a little. When he smiled like that... his eyes scrunched up, and he looked like a little kid...
"Sit down de gozaru."
Sano looked around, blinking, then shrugged and sat down in the little swing next to him. Himura shifted that radiant smile to his new position.
"What did you need to talk about de gozaru ka?"
"I, uh..." Sano swung a little, thinking about how to say it. He noticed Himura sobering next to him, obviously noticing his torment.
"You can't tell anybody about this!" he blurted out. "Any of this, okay? I've got a lot riding on the social workers thinkin' I'm reliable, and if any a' this gets out, I'll lose everything, okay?"
Himura blinked, then his delicate features grew serious. "Hai. Doctor-patient privilege de gozaru. I won't tell anyone anything unless you give explicit permission de gozaru yo."
Sano watched him carefully as he spoke, but couldn't determine anything to make him distrust the statement. He seemed perfectly honest.
"I, uh..." He heaved a heavy sigh, then began with a moderately shaking voice. "I have a little brother, like I said before. 'Is name's Yahiko. I never knew my parents... they dropped me off at an orphanage when I was real little, 'parently, and... Yahiko showed up when I was nine, and the people who ran th' place told me he was my little brother. So I took care of him ever since."
So far, Himura had said nothing. His face was expressionless.
Sano breathed for a few moments and then went on. "There was a man who
taught at the orphanage, named Sagara, Sagara Sozou. He took care of me, andraised me, pretty much... but, then..."
Himura's eyes glimmered at the pain that became so obvious in his voice. He'd never told anyone this, and it still hurt so badly, the wound still raw in his heart...
"There was a raid, by the local police... It turned out that some local gangs were using some back closet as a place to dump their drugs, and there'd been some murders in th' area... They blamed it all on the people running the orphanage, and on Sagara-sensei in particular... threw 'em all in jail. Even though they didn't do anything, anything at all... They wouldn't listen, and..."
Sano felt himself clutching the rusty chains that held the little swing to the wooden bar with all his strength. The ache gnawed at him, his eyes growing hot. "It turned out," he whispered, "that the police needed some testimony from some of those gang members... but they had to prosecute someone for the murders, or there'd be problems in the department or some crap... so they let the bastards who actually did it go free so they could catch some other asshole and threw Sagara-sensei and the others in jail for life..."
"Sanosuke..." Himura's voice was soft, gentle, and he could hear real concern, real sympathy there. It was reassuring...
But Sano forced himself to continue. "I went to visit Sagara-sensei in jail... I was only nine, still, and Yahiko wasn't even a year old... I thought he could tell me what to do, how I was supposed to live now, because he always could help me before... But the guard there told me he'd been killed, by another inmate..."
He looked over at the guidance counselor who sat in the swing beside him.
Himura was looking at the ground, long red hair hanging to obscure his expression. But his shoulders were tense, drawn up and shuddering slightly.
"So I got odd jobs an' went around looking for somewhere to live... We lived at a dojo for a while, and I learned some martial arts, and Sasaki-sensei convinced me to go to school, finally. I was about thirteen when the social workers found me, an' they tried to take Yahiko away." Sano felt his voice quiver in remembered fear and rage. "I managed t' convince them it was best to leave him with me, and then I was old enough t' get a job... and an apartment..."
"You did it all alone...?" Himura's voice shook with emotion, and Sano started. He hadn't... he hadn't expected him to care so much...
"Well, pretty much..." Sano said honestly. "But, all that... that's backdrop, I guess. I've dealt with that all for ten years. I'm fine with all that. The problem is, well..."
"You're fine with all that de gozaru ka?!" Himura's head snapped up, and only then was it obvious the tears that stained his cheeks, the pain and empathy, the distress that glistened in those crystal eyes. "How can you suffer all that and not still hurt deep inside every time you think of it de gozaru ka? How can you not hate those who caused all that pain?"
"Himura..." Sano stared into his face, that unbelievably beautiful face... he'd cried for him...? Why did he care so much? Why did the pain in those eyes match his so well?
Himura... what happened to you?
"Sanosuke... please... Kenshin, onegai... Call me Kenshin de gozaru." The redhead wiped a delicate hand over his eyes, only succeeding in reddening them further. "I don't want you to think you have to be too respectful to me de gozaru."
"Sure." Sano blinked.
Hi- Kenshin smiled weakly. "Suman... I cry so easily sometimes de gozaru. Your story reminded me of... but anyway, you said that wasn't what you wanted to talk with me about de gozaru ka?"
"Aa." Sano eyed him cautiously. He had just completely switched his method of attack on the situation... but it would probably be better to forget about it and go on. Maybe he'd been imagining that anyway.
Well, anou... anyway... Sano sighed heavily, looking down at his hands. I... I got evicted from my apartment this afternoon.
There was a long silence, and he could hear the cheerful chirping of the crickets in the evening around them, the slight wind that rustled through his hair setting the chains on the unused swing beside him jingling.
Sano grinned faintly over at his unlikely companion. Dont be too respectful with me either. Kenshin.
The strangest of expressions washed over the redheads face, a mix of surprise, shyness, and something so cautious and guarded that it brought again that wondering thought to Sanosukes mind. What happened to you? Why do you close yourself off?
Arigato gozaimasu, Sano. His voice was soft, almost hesitant. Sessha... I dont know what I can do to help you, at this juncture. Is there a friend you can stay with do gozaru ka? I would offer you a place in my apartment, shikashi... theres not much, and you would have to be content with either my room or the couch. Neither is extremely comfortable de gozaru. And thats not to mention someplace for your brother... and Im still not quite sure if that would overstep my boundaries...
Sano stared at him, wordless and blinking stupidly. O- omae- he managed to stammer out. You would let me stay with you?
Kenshin blinked back, though forgoing the stupid aspect and merely looking cute. H-hai... it would only be right de gozaru yo.
Sano continued to gaze on him, still caught up in the realization of how damnably adorable he looked right now, so confused... And as that expression melted away into mere contemplation, his features smoothing, the stars born new again in the soft amethyst of his eyes, their light dancing enviously over his lustrous skin and falling to rest in blood-red tresses that framed his cheeks...
Gods, he was beautiful.
Youre perfectly welcome in my home, small though it may be... and Im quite sure the girls wont mind. I- oro?
Kenshin had apparently noticed his prolonged attention, and abruptly stopped speaking, the slightest of blushes rising to the surface of his skin. He looked at the sand beneath their feet, evidently trying to avoid Sanos eyes.
As was a bad habit of his, Sano spoke the first words that came to his mind, leaning forward in the swing.
How many people have mistaken you for a woman?
O-ororororororo... That little blush spread and darkened until the guidance counselor was beet red. S-Sano!
Im just curious, s all, Sano said reasonably.
Oro... aagh... more than one. And thats all I will say de gozaru yo. He sounded more than a little embarrassed, and quite emphatic.
Lost count? Sano teased.
Sano laughed and spun around in the little swing, twisting up the chain until the links pushed at the top of his head. Then he let go and spun the opposite way. Kenshin muttered under his breath for a few seconds, then apparently forgave him and watched his play with a smile.
I like swings, Sano offered as explanation.
Aa... I do as well. Kenshin kicked his feet in the sand, then began to swing back and forth. They make me feel like a child again de gozaru. I treasure anything that makes me forget Im an adult de gozaru yo.
Mmmmm. Sano sighed and looked resignedly at the building, warm yellow light glimmering from the window panels in the doors. Yknow...
Hai... Kenshin spoke before he could finish his thought. My daughters will worry. So will your brother de gozaru.
Sano cast an unsure glance at him, not quite sure at the moment if he wanted to hear the answer to this. Anou... youre always talking about your daughters, and I do know Misao... kedo... She never mentioned a mother...
Kenshin blinked at him, then smiled distantly. Hai. Im not married de gozaru. I adopted the girls.
Ah. Didnt think you were old enough t have seventeen n sixteen year old daughters. Sano grinned to himself, relieved for some reason... oh, dont fool yourself. You know why.
Hai, hai. Im merely a decade older than you de gozaru na. Kenshin frowned cutely.
Youre... twenty-nine? Sano counted quickly on his fingers.
Twenty-eight. Arent you eighteen de gozaru ka?
Ah. Iya. Sano shrugged, a little embarrassed. Nineteen. Failed once in middle school. S a wonder I havent failed more... I usually just squeak by.
Sou ka. Kenshin smiled. Daijoubu de gozaru na. Im not here to judge you.
Sano felt something in his chest warm inexplicably at those words, and he smiled a little shyly at the redhead. Th-thanks.
Kenshin returned the smile, seeming equally bashful, and it was only a few seconds before they both looked away.
So where will you stay de gozaru ka?
Ore... anou... Sano scuffled one sneaker along the sand. Can we stay with you? Im real low maintenance, and Yahiko behaves around people he doesnt know too well, and weve have most of our shots, and I wont molest your children... If I keep up with this insanity, though, you may be a different story...
Kenshin laughed, a pure, sweet sound, and Sano quavered somewhere deep inside. Sano... I trust you de gozaru. Its no problem at all... Did you drive here de gozaru ka?
Aa. Sano continued to stare at the ground, not trusting himself to look up just yet.
So, you can just follow us. It wont be difficult at all, but I have to warn you, if Misao-dono drives, she goes quickly and dangerously de gozaru na. Kenshin sighed, exasperated but fond.
You havent seen me drive yet, Sano reminded with a little humor. I may be worse.
Im not sure if thats possible, but I suppose Ill know soon, ne? Kenshin finally extracted himself from the little swing, standing and stretching. Ill go collect the girls de gozaru. Im sure their shifts are done by now.
Ill get Yahiko n tell him whats goin on.
Kenshin leaned against the steering wheel, nose pressed into the air bag. His knuckles were nearly white, clutching the abused leather with all the power in his small hands.
He couldnt explain it...
It was folly, pure and simple, to bring that child into his home when he knew, he knew with a deep and terrible certainty that he found Sano attractive.
Hed accepted his... leanings long ago, after years of confusion preceding and many more of self-loathing afterwards. That had been, in truth, where his interests in psychology had begun; the desperate attempt to discover what was indeed wrong with him.
There wasnt anything... wrong... with it. It was only that... he didnt know. After nearly a decade of self-analyzation, almost that long spent in therapy, the only things hed learned about himself were that he had no interest in women, and no one else heard the people he did.
They had called it schizophrenia, but he suspected... he had always suspected that those things he heard were Hitokiri Battousais fault, that he forced them into Kenshins mind because he was jealous that he couldnt control their shell. It had been because of those things the people Battousai sent said, because of what they said, when they wouldnt stop saying them and wouldnt let him sleep or eat, because he had to listen... hed lost control and Battousai had the chance to take over for a little while, and do those horrible things... at least he was good enough to not hurt Kaoru-dono... because he loved her too.
But they went away when he took his Chlorazine.
You know full well we arent the problem right now.
Kenshin firmly told Shinta to be quiet and closed his eyes.
It was true that Shinta-tachi werent the problem. He was the problem, and would remain so until he got a handle on himself.
Tou-chan? Misao-donod voice was worried, and the car door to the back seat clunked closed after her. Daijoubu ka? Youre white in the face. Ja eat somethin bad?
Kenshin plastered a smile on his face and shook his head. Iya, daijoubu. Kaoru-dono wa...?
Shes comin. So... houseguests, huh? Misao-donos blue eyes twinkled.
Kenshin frowned. Misao-dono... Sano needs someplace to stay, as does his brother. Dont jump to conclusions de gozaru yo.
Eh? Sano? Misao-dono cocked her head, beginning to grin wickedly. Since when do you call him Sano? He doesnt let anybody get that familiar with him, cept maybe that stoner Katsuhiro, and hes known him fer years now. And for you, tou-chan...
Kenshin spun around in the drivers seat to hide his blush. Dont be silly.
Sooo... whats he call you?
Kenshin squirmed, wishing Kaoru-dono would hurry up. He calls me by name
de gozaru. Shikashi-
The passenger door was wrenched open, and Kaoru-dono threw herself into the seat, an ominous dark glower already in place on her features. She stared resolutely ahead.
O-oro... K-Kaoru-dono... Kenshin blinked at her worriedly.
How long have you known Sagara Sanosuke? she asked evenly. The calm was, in truth, more frightening than any rage could be.
With an unpleasant churning in the pit of his stomach, Kenshin looked down at the steering wheel again. Ah- sessha... Ive known him since this morning de gozaru.
The tension thrummed in the tiny little car like a guitar string pulled too tight, ready to snap on the players fingers any moment. Kenshin clutched the wheel harder.
Oh, come off it, Kaoru. Just cause he doesnt get perfect grades like some people... Misao-dono scoffed.
Its not that! Kaoru-dono snapped. Its- Watashi wa- I just dont-
Trust him? Misao-donos voice was unreadable.
Yes! I dont trust him! He makes me nervous and I dont want him anywhere near me! Kaoru-donos voice cracked, and she stared at the floor of the little car. I dont know why.
Kenshin was silent.
I mean... I work in the office for a period, yknow... Her voice shook. Whenever he gets caught fighting, and they have to drag him into the prinicipals office so they can deal with him... No one wants to get near him, theyre all so afraid, tou-chan!
Afraid...? Kenshin turned to gaze at her, palms cold. Afraid of Sano...? Once hed calmed a little, the boy had been fine, hed thought. A little distrusting, but that was to be expected. But hed spoken, and laughed, and smiled that warm smile, and let a light dance in those eyes that seemed so gentle and soft. And tonight... telling his story... hed only been a frightened little boy... trying so hard to be a man...
Yes, afraid! Kaoru-dono turned her eyes to his, and they were indeed fearful. He hurts people, tou-chan... and not just like any other fight, not like any of those! No one who fights with Sagara Sanosuke can come away without scars, sometimes permanent damage... He smashed one guys elbow to the point that itll never work again, tou-chan. He broke a locker, just by ripping the door off the hinges, and when it was closed and locked, to boot. He threw someone through two sets of windows, and went after him to do it again. And when they bring him inside the office, whoever can, he... theres this rage that burns in his eyes, and I can never bear to look at him.
Kenshin felt the sting of tears in his eyes, and he reached out to touch her shoulder. Kaoru-dono... he whispered. Im sorry... but I cant turn him away. Not now. And I swear to you... he will never harm you. Or Misao-dono. Or sessha. Hes not like that de gozaru yo. Hes not. Hes only a frightened child who needs someone to love him and watch out for him. Sessha-
How do you know?! she cried. Youve only known him for one day, tou-chan! You cant know-
Iya. I can. Kenshin let his voice firm, and he returned to his previous position, then started the car. I was once much like him, Kaoru-dono.
I cant believe that, Kaoru-dono said stubbornly.
Kenshin cast a quick glance in the rearview mirror, affirmed that Sano was indeed following him, then pulled out of the parking lot. Believe what you wish de gozaru, he said quietly. Shikashi... There is a reason why I never told you of my past, Kaoru-dono, Misao-dono. I see now it is a valid one.
There was silence in the car for a long time.
Im sorry, Kaoru-dono said awkwardly.
Kenshin let himself smile, then made his tone reassuring. Theres no reason to be. I can understand your feelings de gozaru. But believe me. There will be no reason for you to worry de gozaru yo.
Okay. She sounded relieved.
Can we listen to the radio? Misao-dono piped up.
Do I have to sleep on the floor at this place?
Iya. Ill take the floor. Daijoubu.
Sano could hear Yahiko kicking his heels against the floor. He sighed heavily.
Look... about the apartment... Im real sorry, kid.
Why didnt you ever say we were havin money problems, stupid? Yahiko scolded. I couldve-
What, got a job? Kid, youre ten. Give it up.
Uhn. Demo... Yahiko returned his sigh in nearly the exact same tone.
Theres no point in bein mad at ya, I guess. You tried.
Sano clenched his jaw. Yeah, he gritted out. That simple statement had to hurt worse than everything else. He tried. And it wasnt good enough.
Nothing he did was ever good enough. The only thing he could do right was beat in heads. If only there was a way to get paid for that...
And you were already working as many jobs as ya could. There was nothin ya couldve done, so its not yer fault.
Yeah. Nothin I couldve done.
Dont cry, Sanosuke... its not your fault. Theres nothing you could have done...
How many times would he have to hear that before his life would be over?
Kenshin pulled up before the dojo and turned off the engine, effectively silencing the blaring radio. Misao-dono, caught in the middle of a lyric in what was apparently one of her favorite songs, continued to sing cheerily. -Just before you die, Its the last time he will! Whomp, whomp, whomp-
Misao, do you have to? Kaoru-dono scolded. With the drum part and everything? And its so loud...
Cmon, nee-chan! How can you not like Metallica? Misao-dono protested. And the drum lines the best part!
Kenshin sighed and waved at them hurriedly. Go on inside de gozaru! Ill be there in a moment.
Kaoru-dono nodded and turned to go obediently.
Tou-chans got a boyfriend... whomp, whomp, whomp-
The younger girl giggled and scuttled to catch up with her sister.
Kenshin watched them go, then leaned against his car, watching as the teenager pulled in behind him. There was a brief pause, then the engine shutdown with a horrible clanking sound, followed by a few trickles of smoke from beneath the bumper.
Oh, dear, he commented quietly.
The doors swung open, and Sano emerged from the still-smoking car with a sheepish grin. Havent been able t get it worked on lately, he said sheepishly.
I can tell de gozaru.
Sano shrugged, then moved to the rear of the car and managed to get the trunk open. After a brief conference at a stoplight, they had decided to make a quick detour to Sanos former apartment so they could pick up their things. It had been a little depressing how short a time it took for Sano and his brother to pack up their lifes possessions, but Kenshin tried not to dwell on it.
So, this your dojo?
Oro? Ah... no. Kenshin blinked at the ground, obscurely embarrassed. We live in the apartment above it de gozaru... Shinimori-dono owns the dojo.
Ahhh... he collect your rent? Sano hefted the three bags onto his shoulders and shut the trunk.
Hai. Misao-dono keeps attempting to pay it with... herself de gozaru na. Kenshin sighed. Luckily, Shinimori-dono is a gentleman.
Thats her Aoshi-sama? Sano grinned. I hear all about it in History.
Hai. Shinimori-dono owns the dojo, and Aoshi-chan is the family hamster.
Sano laughed, a warm sound, then nodded to the dark-haired boy at his side. This would be ore no touto, Sagara Yahiko.
Konban wa, Kenshin said politely, extending a hand. Sessha wa Himura Kenshin de gozaru.
Yahiko eyed him, then shook his hand. He had a surprisingly strong grip for such a young child. Thanks fer lettin us stay here, he said almost grudgingly.
Youre perfectly welcome de gozaru. Now, follow me... well get you ensconced as soon as we can de gozaru.
The pair followed him, and Kenshin led them inside the dojo.
*** *** ***
Kenshin started, then blinked up at his doorway from the dogeared psychology textbook he read. He shifted a little shyly, closing the book and placing it on the bed beside him.
What is it, Sano? he whispered, palms a little chilled in surprise and discomfort. Its late... the girls are already asleep. It is a school night de gozaru...
Aa. I know. But I wanted to talk to you, and I wanted t be sure nobody was gonna barge in in th middle. Sano shrugged. Anou... Can I come in?
H-hai. Kenshin hesitated, then pulled his knees up to his chest and indicated the emptied spot on the mattress with a nod of his head. Sit down de gozaru.
Sano did so, and Kenshin swallowed hard as he came into the weak light cast by his bedside lamp. Though still wearing his jeans, the teenager was shirtless. The muscles that had seemed so clearly defined through his shirt were painfully obvious now, jutting from a thin frame as he leaned down on his knees, arms and back bent. Kenshin tried valiantly to avert his gaze before he started considering how his pants fit him.
Thanks again, for lettin me an Yahiko stay here, Sano said quietly. I cant tell you how much you just saved me.
Hai, daijoubu. Kenshin studied him voraciously, unable to control at least that much of himself. He didnt even try to justify it to himself, knowing he had no chance of ever doing so, and was merely content to impress this vision upon his mind.
Sano cast a quick glance up at him, and Kenshin looked away, blushing helplessly.
The boys lips twitched, and then he smiled. You blush a lot, dont you...
Hmmmph. Hontou ka?
Aagh... Kenshin looked at his hands with a heavy sigh.
Sano chuckled, and unexpectedly, a long-fingered hand settled on top of his head. Kenshin blinked with a tiny little oro?, and those fingers mussed up his hair a little.
Youre so little... His voice was a bit wondering.
Kenshin shrugged, perplexed. I suppose de gozaru na. The weight of Sanos hand was distracting him a little, and he struggled vainly to regain his calm.
You really are, though. And so damn adorable... cant help but wanna hug you. Sanos voice was mischievous. Though Id probly break ya t pieces, tiny little thing.
Kenshin blushed to the roots of his hair, barely believing what he was hearing. S-Sano- he protested weakly. Sessha-
Without any real warning, the hand that had been atop his head slid to the space between his shoulder blades, and pushed. Kenshin squeaked and fell against Sanos naked chest as the boy cuddled him close.
Kenshins eyes went wide, and then fluttered closed as he relaxed almost involuntarily. Sanos cheek nestled to his hair, one arm tight around his waist with the hand slung onto his hip, while he lay against that same shoulder with the teenagers free arm around his back, fingers stroking through his hair.
See? he murmured softly. Just cant help it.
Kenshin laid a hesitant hand against Sanos chest, then let his other clutch his shoulder, marveling at the muscles that tensed and smoothed under his fingers. Sano, he managed, sessha mo... sessha mo anata mo...
Shh. Sano seemed adamant. Just a few minutes. Kenshin began to feel sick, but lay his head on Sanos shoulder and said nothing. Just... a few minutes... what harm could it do...? Only a few minutes...
A few minutes could become five, ten... and then thirty, an hour... then a few hours... then tonight, only tonight...
This cant happen, he said softly, firmly, though every word hurt. What was happening here? Not twenty-four hours even, and already he was losing control... only nineteen... only since this morning! Why was he doing this?
Why was Sano doing this? Why did this feel so familiar to him?
I know, Kenshin. Just... a few minutes...
Hai... he whispered. A few minutes...
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