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


In the beginning, they guard her ‘round the clock, and Sanosuke takes the early morning shifts. He doesn’t often see more than her shadow against the blinds. He hears her, sometimes. A small sound–the subtle splash of water in a basin or footfalls against the woodgrain of her chambers–is more reliable than the sun by which to predict time. Without fail, Saito shows up only moments after Chizuru’s first stirrings.


The first time she eats with the captains, Sanosuke is quick to offer up his cushion to the girl. Partly born of chivalry, to be sure, but there’s something else in his action that he doesn’t wish to ascertain. There’s no room for that dream here, he thinks, and yet… when he finally sees her smile over the hijinks of his friends, he swears to any gods listening that he’ll do ‘most anything to see it again.


He starts with flowers, small things found in abundance that carry meaning based on their shape and hue, not that Shinpachi appreciates this fact when he catches Harada strolling beside the gardens after patrol. Sanosuke is no novice to the fairer sex. If Shinpachi jokingly assumes that he’s looking to win a geisha’s favor for the night, well then…


No one needs to know just yet.


The flowers left on her windowsill have done the trick. When she smiles at him now, it’s with some trepidation, but at least she notices him.


She examines him as a child examines a stranger, peering at him from behind porch posts like a girl hiding behind the legs of her father. There’s a tentativeness there, he thinks, in the way she looks at him. Her eyes meet his regretfully, and her cheeks redden as she turns away in renew of some other task, and it bothers him.


That’s not to say he’s frustrated with her, or annoyed by her chargine, but rather… he’s curious. So curious, indeed, that he finds himself thinking of her far more than he should. He wonders what it means that she is young and inexperienced, and late at night–but only then–he reflects on the longing in her gaze, that subtle, hidden heat which reminds him that she’s really not a little girl at all.


He begins to seek her out at twilight, now that her house arrest is complete and the commanders bid her roam the compound with some impunity. She’s always by the cherry tree, gazing at the sunlight cascading warmly through its branches. At first he simply watches her, but now he will approach, and Chizuru’s cheeks take on a lovely cherry hue of their own when he calls out to her with a smile.


Gods, her eyes. They shine.


It’s the night of the incident that cements his resolve, because when she comes running right toward him and nearly collapses in his arms, Sanosuke’s heart stops. “The…they’re at… the Ikedaya!” she gasps out, and he wills his hands not to clench her delicate arms as his heart shudders for a different reason…


That night, when all is said and done, they kiss for the first time in their compound by an old, weathered tapestry. Neither know what the future will bring, but her lips, Sanosuke thinks, taste like hope.

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