“I’m not good when a woman cries.” — an excerpt of “1863, December”

1864, October (pt 3)

Sanosuke has never seen her cry. Chizuru’s spirit is indomitable, something as hard and unwavering as it is gentle. When he stumbles across her sitting under the early evening stars, he has to take a breath. He blinks twice–isn’t sure what to think–because yes, that is Chizuru, but how? Why? he thinks. Her shoulders quake with quiet desolation. 

“Chizuru–” he says before he means to. Something about her vulnerable position tugs his heart into his throat, pushes his voice past his lips. Chizuru turns with a gasp. A hand flies to her chest.

Tears shine, lantern light reflected in beautiful, terrible ways.

“H-harada-san!” she gasps again, this time frantically wiping at her eyes. Her face grows redder with each swipe of her over-long sleeve. “I-I was just–” she takes a deep breath and clears her throat– “looking at the stars.”

Before Sano can do more than hesitate, she jumps to her feet and lowers herself into a proper if expedient bow. “I-I’ll be going first, then. Good night, Harada-san,” she adds, already turning to flee.

“Wait–” is the next thing that falls from Sano’s mouth. “Wait,” he says, and oh, his hand is on her arm. “Chizuru, what’s going on?”

“Nothing,” she says, face somehow redder than before. “Nothing, I’m fine.” She scrubs her sleeve across her eyes again. “I-I am just tired, and I–”

“Chizuru,” he says, his hands on her shoulders. The interruption brings her pause. His eyes are hard and serious, but somehow kind. “If this is what exhaustion looks like, we’ve been working you too hard.”

“Oh, no!” she immediately yelps, because of course he would think that. Of course she said that, even though she manages so little for them, because–

His hands slide toward her own, hold them so gently. For a moment, her thoughts simply freeze.

“No,” Sanosuke echoes with a nod, looking straight into her eyes. “Okay, then, Chizuru.” He tightens his grip. “Do you wanna tell me what’s really going on? Because I’ve never known you to get weepy when stressed.”

A little part of his brain wonders if he’d really know, all things considered. Regardless, he doesn’t let go, and Chizuru doesn’t pull away.

“My father,” she finally admits, and her voice is very soft. Her eyes focus only on their hands. “He’s the one who did this. Without him…” she swallows hard, and Sanosuke squeezes again. “Without him, Sannan-san, and all of you…”

“Hey,” Sanosuke insists, “no.” He waits until she meets his gaze. “I don’t know what exactly you’ve been told, but this was something the Shogunate asked of us. It wasn’t just your father.” He shakes his head firmly, cranes his neck downward to follow her erstwhile, watering eyes. “You’ve gotta understand, this isn’t just on him. Sannan knew what he was doing better than anybody, and those other guys…” He hesitates. “Most of them broke the code and were given a choice.”

“How is that a choice?” she hiccups, shoulders shaking again. “How is that–”

“No,” he admits, “I don’t suppose it seems like much of one, but Chizuru…” His voice makes the wounds on her heart positively ache. “Chizuru, you do know that none of this is any reflection on you, don’t you?” He wipes tears from her cheeks with the pads of his thumbs, and Chizuru’s whole body stills. “None of it,” he persists. “I hear the way you speak about it, ‘ my father,’ as though what he does somehow rubs off on you. None of this has anything to do with you.”

It must have been the wrong thing to say, because Chizuru’s body shudders. So do her eyes. “You wouldn’t say that–” she whispers. “You wouldn’t say that if you knew.”

“Knew what?” he asks as she rips away. “What don’t I know, Chizuru?”

“I’ve always been like this,” she continues, as though he isn’t there. “I didn’t know, I still don’t know, and all this time, I thought–but how could he?” She falls to her knees, and Sano falls beside her. “How could he? How could he hurt the people who trusted him?”

No matter how much prodding or pleading Sano tries, Chizuru says nothing more that night. She cries, pressed up against his chest like a child, and mute as he runs his fingers through her hair and whispers nonsensical, panicked words of comfort.

She cries herself to sleep like that, and that’s how Saito finds them hours later as the sun peaks over the horizon. Saito’s eyes are intent as he takes in the scene: Sanosuke holding Chizuru against him like a doll, back against the paneling, staring into space beyond the walls. “I’m not good when a woman cries,” Sano says as though it explains everything. Saito nods.

Saito cocks his head in silent offer, but Sanosuke shakes his own. “I’ve got her,” he says, rising with the girl against his chest. “I’ve got her,” he says, and his face is incredibly soft with some underscore of panic. 

“She’s been struggling,” Saito offers. “With this. With Kodo-san, and now with the Deputy Commander…” His own eyes lock on the girl in Sano’s arms. “The past week she has been taking tea with Yamazaki some evenings, and he shared with me. She hasn’t seemed like herself. It isn’t a difficult deduction to make.”

“I just found her at a vulnerable moment,” Sano muses, and Saito hums.

“What are we going to do about this, Saito?” he asks.

Notes:

I’m back with another chapter. I know we don’t often see Chizuru truly break down in canon (though it absolutely happens), but I am hard-pressed to believe that a girl with such a big heart for helping others and such deep respect for her doctor of a father isn’t rattled to the nth degree by what she’s learned in the wake of Sannan’s transformation. Also, knowing what she now knows about furies, she has to be more concerned than ever with her own healing abilities. What exactly has her father done, and why?

Anyway, I’ve read every one of your reviews, but things have been crazy and I haven’t gotten a chance to reply just yet, though I plan to do so soon! Thanks for all the kindness and kudos! 🙂

Full fic here: https://archiveofourown.org/works/25188280/chapters/61043815

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