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.
1865, December pt 1
Sano hadn’t been sick since Matsuyama. It had been a fever that–although he couldn’t remember those days–he’d never forgotten in the aftermath. Infection raging from a failed seppuku attempt proved more lethal than the attempt itself. His time in Edo, both fortuitous and wild, was hallmarked by health and fruitful–not that fruitful, Shinpachi–if frugal living. (If coming to Kyoto under a Roshigumi banner seemed stressful, it was nothing he couldn’t handle.)
Sanosuke was hale, is hale. He is hearty, and he doesn’t fail in anything. Except seppuku. (Not Ryunosuke. Not that night. Don’t think about him.)
It’s much colder than it ought to be for a December day when, in the middle of a sparring session against Saito, Sano goes down before the other’s sword even touches him. The ever-present headache makes his heart beat against his skull, but this fog against Sano’s vision is new. Things remain just clear enough that he makes out a few men startle. He hears Saito barking, “Yamazaki” somewhere to his right.
When he opens his eyes again, Yamazaki is leaning over him with a neutral expression. The ground is hard and dry. “Harada-san,” comes another voice. He should have guessed that she would be here, too.
“You’re awake!” Big brown eyes flood his vision, but Yamazaki gently nudges her aside. “His fever is very high, Yukimura-kun. I do not think he is fully aware just yet.”
Sano doesn’t know what Yamazaki is going on about, but he doesn’t like him touching her. His fingers twitch, and everything he sees has a fuzzy aura besides. “Harada-san,” the offender says, “are you able to understand me?”
Sano blinks against the light and squints in pain when Yamazaki’s movements allow a sliver to cross his eyes. He makes some sort of noise, he’s sure, because the next thing that he knows, Shinpachi is tugging him up under his arms and baring most of his weight away from the courtyard. A few worried men–Saito? Shimada?–trot in their wake.
“Just a little more, Sano,” says Shinpachi, oddly sober. “It’s gonna be okay.”
When he’s settled on bedding in the center of his room, Yamazaki asks everyone to leave. “Chizuru,” he says, “get me the coldest water you can find.”
“Sir,” she chirps, rushing quickly away.
Shinpachi hesitates by the door, but Saito’s hand on his shoulder convinces him to move. “We’ve got duties,” he says, and Shinpachi wants to punch something, because Sano doesn’t get sick, but he could feel the heat radiating from his friend as they trudged along toward the hall. Hell, forget sick, Sano rarely even gets hurt. Shinpachi isn’t sure what to do with the knowledge that his friend is fallible.
Shimada stands beside him with an understanding look. “He’ll be alright, Nagakura-kun. We’ve all been down at one point or another. Yamazaki-kun knows what he’s doing, and Yukimura will assist.”
The fever doesn’t break for seven days.