“I wouldn’t call it nothing.”

“Look, nothing I can just… say!” he snaps, but then he sighs again. “I’m sorry, Hijikata-san. It’s been a long few days.”

“For Yukimura’s sake, we’re all going to pretend we have no idea what’s going on. We’re going to let you handle this at home where it belongs.” His voice is stern.

“Yes, Hijikata-san.”


(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

“So, wait, you’re tellin’ me that Chizuru’s actually knocked up?” Shinpachi holds Sanosuke’s eyes, his own brows raised. “Wow, Sano, you sure work fast!”

Sanosuke scowls. “Not so loud! I said, she might be pregnant. Might be. As in, don’t go running your mouth until we know something for sure.” He turns away, glancing over the veranda and past the compound gates.

“I’m just sayin’,” Shinpachi continues, rubbing the back of his head and stepping up to stand beside him, “you seem awfully nervous. Isn’t this a good thing? I mean, if you’re one for all that settling down sort of stuff, anyway. Quick work of starting a family.”

Sanosuke doesn’t respond, but Shinpachi’s not a fool, so he lets the silence linger. Eventually, his friend looks at him again.

“I just can’t believe it’s happening to me.”

“With how popular you are among the geisha,” Shinpachi says, waving a hand, “I can’t believe it hasn’t happened ten times over–iiiipe!”

Sanosuke shakes out his fist and sighs as Shinpachi cradles his skull. “You know,” he bemoans, “you’re gonna give me brain damage on of these days.”

“It’s a little too late for that,” Sanosuke mutters. “And you know what I mean! With the way things are, and we’re leaving for Kyoto t—”

He’s interrupted by a loud crash from the direction of the kitchen. Both men cringe hearing Hijikata’s roar (“Souji!!!!”) echo down the corridor, followed by Souji’s hysterical laughter.

“Damn,” says a voice coming from their left. He, too, stares toward the commotion. “What’s going on over there? Gen-san’s gonna be here any minute.”

“Worried about a lecture, Heisuke?” Shinpachi asks him with a nudge of the smaller man’s shoulder. Heisuke rocks back, swayed by his friend’s girth. He stumbles into Harada, who pushes him fully upright. 

“Hey, watch it, Shinpachi!” Heisuke fumes, “You know how Gen-san can be when he hears those two arguing.” He shudders. “Scary.”

Shinpachi just ruffles Heisuke’s hair with a smile. “Don’t get your ponytail in a bunch, kid. Common, there’s food waiting.” He slings an arm around Heisuke’s neck and pulls him down the hall from whence the yelling originated, Sanosuke sighing and trailing along behind as they bicker back and forth.

The dining room is a stilted affair. Genzaburo lasted all of about five minutes before soundly chastising both Toshizo and Souji, the latter of whom wore his own disgruntlement at being taken to task like a child plain across his face. Souji hums to himself as he eats his rice, amused by the whole situation, as Hajime–sitting to his left–is eyeing the tofu on his tray without expression. The whole group is oddly quiet for once when Kondou clears his throat.

“I’m reluctant to talk of these matters over dinner,” he begins, “but they are pressing if we are to move forward. We leave for Kyoto in two days’ time.”

“Time to kick some Choshu ass,” Souji smirks. Hijikata grunts. 

“The men will assemble pre-dawn; have your units ready with their supplies and ensure they’ve packed proper provisions. Finish your business.” He makes eye contact with each captain before continuing. “This is a big opportunity to prove our valor to the Shogunate. We will show them what the Shinsengumi can do.”

“What of medical provisions?” Hajime’s no-nonsense tone requests prompt clarification.

“We’ve spoken with Dr. Masumoto; he knows we may require his aid upon return. Each unit is to carry the necessary emergency supplies with their rations, as is regulation,” Hijikata commands.

“Yukimura-kun has agreed to accompany us and provide stop-gap medical support,” Kondou adds.

Sanosuke drops his chopsticks on their way to his mouth and Kondou has the grace to look abashed. As Sano coughs, Kondou answers the question in everyone’s eyes.

“She stopped by early this morning to collect some mending, and the subject arose. I saw no harm in allowing it so long as she remains well behind the front. I had assumed she’d discussed it with you.”

Sanosuke wheezes around a bite of tofu. “God-damn–.”




Sanosuke’s coughing as Genzaburo, having come up behind him, rubs his back fitfully. He continues to weeze until the elder’s firm slap dislodges the obstruction.

“Like hell!” Harada insists. He inhales deeply, leaning forward, and when his eyes meet the commander’s, their burning. “Chizuru will not be coming to Kyoto with us. You don’t make plans like that about a man’s wife without his permission, Kondou-san!” He punches the ground.

“I thought she’d discussed it with you, Harada-kun!” Kondou seems truly dismayed, and his hands hover in Harada’s direction. The rest of the captains are looking on, expressions varying in levels of dismay themselves. “It seemed as though it had been well talked-though…”

“God damn it,” he mutters. He rubs his eyes. “No, Kondou-san. It wasn’t. And Chizuru will not be joining us.” He sighs. “I can’t believe it…”

“Sano-san…” Heisuke’s eyes have rarely been so wide, but Shinpachi’s are full of understanding as he clasps Sanosuke on the shoulder. 

Hijikata motions to Hajime, and the latter rises. “I will make tea,” he says in the sudden stillness that has enveloped the table. As he takes his leave, Hijikata continues. “Something you want to share with us, Harada? Unexpected, to be sure, but Yukimura has done this much for us in the past, and your objections were far less vocal after the Ikedaya.” His eyes narrow.

Sanosuke shakes his head. “No,” he says, still rubbing his temples. “Nothing.”

“I wouldn’t call it nothing.”

“Look, nothing I can just… say!” he snaps, but then he sighs again. “I’m sorry, Hijikata-san. It’s been a long few days.”

“For Yukimura’s sake, we’re all going to pretend we have no idea what’s going on. We’re going to let you handle this at home where it belongs.” His voice is stern.

“Yes, Hijikata-san.”

“What is going on?” Heisuke mutters to Shinpachi beside him. Shinpachi shakes his head.


I’m sorry I keep having drama at meals I’m sorry I keep having drama at meals I’m sorry I keep having drama at meals…

Is it better to not write until you’re in the head-space to write poetically, or is it better to actually produce some content? I chose the latter!! Anyway, your kind kudos and reviews are reaching me, and I thank you for each and every one. I have the beginning of the story actually plotted out, which isn’t something I normally do, but I’m excited about it. I think it will help me be productive. Timelines are hard!

I hope you enjoy this chapter. 🙂

Next time: What does it look like when Harada and Chizuru clash?? Find out!!


(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.