Full fic here.
In the end, they don’t do anything. Further integration of Itou’s forces into the Shinsengumi ranks continues to challenge, and Sannan’s change has necessitated the move to Nishi Hongan-Ji. The troops as a collective are rowdier than ever—a group grown too large for its current outfit, members flitting between one faction-inspired pissing contest and another.
It’s all the unit captains can do to stay atop the mess. Pinching the bridge of his nose, Sanosuke reflects that he hasn’t spoken with Chizuru—really seen her at all outside of meals—since their awkward encounter on the engawa.
He can’t say for certain if Chizuru is actively avoiding him—though he wouldn’t put it past her—but he’s been far too busy to seek her out, anyway.
Gods, he feels a headache coming on.
His nights are long, his days longer, and every extra bit of diplomacy he’s forced to endure (to be fair, he realizes that it’s a fraction of that expected of Hijikata-san or Kondo-san) feels increasingly like an awl being forced into his brain.
Sano is exhausted, and he’s not above taking it out on Itou’s more troublesome men. He assigns extra drills during their joint exercises, fields their dirty looks with aplomb, and finds himself all the angrier for it.
He’s been worked like this before, harder in fact. This is truly nothing, he muses. But here, in the privacy of his chambers, he tries to be honest with himself. Even if he does feel pulled in one-too-many directions, he should be able to manage. Yet, he can’t keep things straight in his mind. He doesn’t understand why he feels so angry, why he’s been driven to distraction.
Shinpachi’s taken to looking at him funny. Saito now reminds him of his days to run a perimeter, and Heisuke sneaks him curious glances as they pass each other in the halls. Souji smirks as he reminds Sano that Chizuru, too, has been very, very busy.
Sometimes he wants to wipe that smirk off Souji’s face. He doesn’t even know exactly why.
“Are you going to speak with her this evening?” Saito asks one night as they cross paths. His third unit’s headed out; Sano’s tenth is headed in.
“Speak with her?”
“You have been dancing around each other. It’s becoming a detriment to you and to the men.”
Sano’s face goes white, then red in quick succession. He feels another headache coming on. “I don’t know exactly what you’re suggesting,” he says.
Saito raises an eyebrow. “The Vice Commander has asked me to check in. You would do well to confront the source of your discomfort.” Without waiting for a reply, he continues toward his troops now waiting past the gate.
Sano feels seen in ways he doesn’t fully understand, doesn’t like. He shakes his head, and follows his own weary troops without a single backward glance.