Chapter 3: Unseasonable Acts of Reason (or, “a longing invocation of the castaway”) — a HaraChi Fanfiction

Unseasonable Acts of Reason (or, “a longing invocation of the castaway”)

(The entire work can be found here and the complete list of my fictions here.)




 

“I-is it true?” he asks without preamble, and—response too long in coming—he inquires again. Her hands still in the midst of mending, and his heart is beating faster than it ever has in battle. “Chizuru.”

 

She startles, turning to face him as he dominates the hall doorway. Her profile casts long shadows across the wooden floor from the light streaming through the open wall to her left. Chizuru does so love to slide open the screens and watch the nature of their garden as she works. The gentle caress of summer light makes her look like a goddess, Sanosuke normally thinks, but none of that matters now when the startled seconds spent setting aside her sewing are the longest in his memory.

 

When she speaks, his heart constricts. Her eyes are wide, and blood pools on the hand she’s moved near her heart; she’s pricked herself quite badly on a needle.

 

“Sanosuke-san!” He tears his gaze from her hand. Shock evident from his abrupt and unannounced entrance only moments before, she looks at him in confusion. She tilts her head to the right, blinking quickly. “What is going on?”

 

She moves to rise, but Sanosuke’s eyes alarm her into acedia, and she recognizes the urgency which has not quite died there. She runs the taunt lines of his frame outlined by the open door, scans the stillness of held breath, and her thoughts travel to his previous question. “I-is what true?”

 

And like a spell is broken, Sanosuke shakes his head. He exhales, flushing ever so slightly and looking abashed. “D-damn it, Chizuru. I’m sorry.” He pinches the bridge of his nose between a thumb and forefinger, and Chizuru cannot help for a moment but think of Hijikata after a long patrol. He kneels on the floor, taking her hand in his own. “You’re hurt.” She suddenly thinks–rather untowardly, she feels–that Sanosuke’s manly profile looks all the more so outlined in shadow. But this too is unimportant.

 

“It’s just a prick, Sanosuke-san,” she mutters, peering anxiously up at his downturned face. He continues to examine her hand, mind failing to register an injury before she tugs it away again. “I’m fine, Sanosuke-san, but what has happened? Tell me what’s wrong. Did you run all the way here?”

 

Sanosuke shakes his head again and begins to rise before returning to his knees rather abruptly. His large hands ring each other and quiet again. He releases another shaky breath and laughs at himself, running a hand through his long, red hair. “Y-yeah. Damn it, I’m a mess.

 

“What’s happened, Sanosuke-san?”

 

“Chizuru, are you…” He swallows once, and Chizuru thinks he seems agitated, though she cannot begin to fathom why. “Are you… feeling alright?”

 

It’s Chizuru’s turn to shake her head as she answers him. This conversation has become all too common as of late, and she’s found herself quite tired of it, as it were. “I’m fine, Sanosuke-san.” But then she hesitates, reluctant to go on. It’s true she’d been running a fever today, but nothing overly worrisome, and she’d hate to fuel this particular concern he’s felt for her lately. Not wishing to burden him, she quiets, but Sanosuke notices her hesitation and inquires further.

 

“Chizuru?”

 

“I…” She glances away from him. “I have been running a bit of a fever today, Sanosuke-san.” She hurries to go on as he stills again, peering up at him. “B-but I’m fine, Sanosuke-san. It’s just the heat.” She waves her hands before her. “Too much sun yesterday while doing the laundry. I will be fine if I rest today, so please don’t worry!”

 

“Chizuru…”

 

“I really am fine,” she insists again, putting an end to the conversation. “Have you eaten breakfast yet? I could make some natto and pickled radish–”

 

Harada grabs her by the arm as she moves to rise. “Chizuru,” he says rather seriously. “I need you to be honest with me.” His eyes are hard now, cutting–she feels–like glass.

 

“I-I am being honest with you? H-Harada-san? You’re scaring me.”

 

Suddenly, she’s being crushed to a broad, nearly bare chest, and her face is ten shades of red even as she startles. “Sanosuke-san!”

 

“God dammit,” he mumbles, angry with himself. He nuzzles his face into her hair. “Yes, Chizuru, Sanosuke. Not ‘Harada-san.’ Never that.”

 

“S-Sanosuke-san–” she begins again, fisting her hands into his overshirt.

 

“I’m sorry. I don’t… I just can’t believe this might… I…”

 

“You might?”

 

But Sanosuke is silent.

 

She can feel his mouth move though, muffled against her hair, working to form words which, while necessary, seem so very hard for him. They sit this way for a while as their breathing slows, and Chizuru, sensitive to his disquiet, rubs her hand in slow circles against his back.

 

“Am… am I…”

 

His chest rumbles beneath her. Her hand stops.

 

“Am I going to be a father, Chizuru-chan?”

 

The innocence with which he asks that question speaks volumes of this man she’s grown to love, and so she looks at him, disturbing his hold on her, and when she speaks, her voice is quiet, but strong.

 

“I… am not sure yet, Sanosuke-san. It’s too soon for me to know. But it is… a possibility.”

 

His eyes are so wide, and she thinks it would be endearing if she hadn’t started tearing up, herself. “I… I wasn’t sure. I planned on waiting a little longer to tell you, until I could know. Because I don’t know, Sanosuke-san. But if so… if so, it… one of the nights you… we… after patrol…” She’s stuttering, nearly incomprehensible, and since Sanosuke is looking at her as though she’s grown a second head, she thinks her explanation must be just as disjointed as it sounds.

 

And then he starts to laugh, quietly, softly, and Chizuru is alarmed to see he’s also crying somehow. Only just, but the tears are there and as one escapes, he smiles so wide it hurts. “And–” he wipes his eyes, “And… it’s mine, right? I’m… it’s mine?”

 

“Of course, it’s yours, Sanosuke-san.”

 

His eyes dart toward her stomach, which she realizes she’s begun to cradle without her notice. Releasing herself, she continues. “Who else’s would it be?”

 

He reaches out and gently grasps her shoulders, still somewhat in a daze. “I… am going to be a father?”

 

And with those words–by some means–everything becomes the slightest bit more real. “Maybe. Perhaps.” She smiles.

 

And then, slowly, methodically, as if asking for permission, he reaches down and rests his palm on her lower belly, and his voice is almost reverent has he wonders, “A baby. Our baby.”

 

In the months since they married–and, if she’s being honest with herself, often in the weeks before–Chizuru has been kissed many times. Each kiss brought with it a new and genuine rush of emotion, from heady to chaste and every tenderness between. This one, however, feels altogether different.

 

Summer holds the warmth of its days. As cicadas click beyond the sun-drenched veranda, heat blossoms. Sanosuke’s hand refuses to falter even as the other tangles passionately in her hair. While there is much to consider in his embrace, here and now, he worships her. Though it’s far from certain, she prays that she does indeed carry his child under her heart.

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