manaika: (Shinpa/Sano dazzling)
[personal profile] manaika
No.: 17
Name: PRICE III – At the beginning of spring
Author: [livejournal.com profile] manaika
Series: Hakuoki
Pairing: Shinpachi/Sanosuke
Rating: 15+, I’d say.
Warnings: comatose states, angst, Shiranui, but generally, I think this qualifies as somewhat of fluff?
Summary: Made for [livejournal.com profile] 30kisses, list Nu/acquisition. Shinpachi and Sanosuke deal with their love, their lives and with the changing times. 17:How can you regain something you lost?
Disclaimer: I do not own Hakuoki, or any of it’s characters. The creators do. My muse owns the idea of the fic, myself the work and the time I put into writing it. Credit me at least those, ok?

Author’s notes

Yay for PRICE III! I suddenly felt the urge to write this chapter and so I did. I rather like how it turned out. Might be the best chapter so far, but you tell me that. *hint* ^_~

Sano wakes up from the coma and struggles to regain what he and Shinpachi had.
Previous parts are HERE



PRICE III: At the beginning of spring
#17. a wise person can hear profit in the wind.


It had been ten days since Sano’s accident, Shinpachi counted. Ten days Shinpachi had been going to the hospital every afternoon to check how his boyfriend was doing. And ten days he was nursing the growing hope that Sano would wake up. The doctors were positive that should happen any day now and Shinpachi was waiting. Every afternoon, he would leave the school and go directly to the hospital, where he would sit next to Sano’s bed untill the closing hours, hold the gentle hand, or do the leftover work. Sometimes he would talk. Talk about his day, about the work, about Hijikata, about his problems, about the students, about the newest gossip, or about anything that crossed his mind.
Today he was talking about his homeroom class and how something on Saito bothered him, when a knock sounded.
He turned around just to see a tan face with sharp features and purple locks poke in. He frowned as soon as he spotted it. Somehow he had managed to avoid that person over the past days (which probably had been the result of mutual efforts), but now Shiranui seemed to be looking for him. That sly policeman seemed to understand that after everything that happened, the least Shinpachi had to do with him, the better it was for them both and reduced his hospital visits to different hours of the day. That he was visiting the hospital every day, Shinpachi knew only from what the nurses told him. That, and the fact that there was always a fresh bouquet of flowers on Sano’s nightstand. Granted, Shiranui was a great help. He did everything to cover the truth about the ’accident’ up and excused the lack of enthusiasm with the murder case he was working on, which had priority over a ’simple accident’. And surely had better chances earning him that ’Chief Inspector’ he was oh-so longing for.
Shinpachi remembered the conversation they had last time they had run across each other, a few days ago. Shiranui had told him very elaborately about the consequences such a lie would have, if the truth ever came out and Shinpachi had been close to begging the inspector not to tell anyone.

„Do you even know what it would do to Sano if everyone knew what he did?“
„It would be actually better than what it would do to him, when it came out that he had lied to everyone.“
„No one knows about it, Shiranui, just you and me.“
„If anyone with a smidgen of intuitive feeling would take a closer look into the files, he would start investigating. There are a few details, that anyone who knows me well enough, would immediately know that I skipped investigating them deliberately. I’m just thanking whatever higher powers for the whim they had, giving us that murder case. It’s keeping everyone busy and helped me close Harada’s case as an accident. Of course, your false testimony helped loads too, but the problem is that if I took the trouble of asking any of your colleagues, I would know it’s false. My point is, that the entire lie could crumble within the span of a few hours if anyone opened the folder, if by a mere accident. It would cost me my carreer and you two would have to deal with a thorough investigation and a prosecution for lieing to the state. No, don’t misunderstand me. I promised I would keep silent and cover for you, but I have a condition. Something to assure me it’s well damn worth it.“
„Alright. What do you want?!“
„Take care of him.“
„What...?“
„Take care of him. What? Surprised? Did you think I would ask you to clear the way for me? I admit, that I wouldn’t be opposed to it, if our situation was different, but fact is, that I and Harada never had a future together. We’re too different and too alike at the same time for us to last. And besides, even though we were close, he never depended on me as much as he depended on you. Harada doesn’t say it, but he needs you. He needs you close, because when you aren’t, his world crumbles slowly apart. Either as a friend, or as a lover, it doesn’t matter how, but he simply needs to know you’re there. He was at the complete bottom as he broke up with you and it was probably the fact that he lost you, that made him do this shit. He thought he can’t go back, and in his head he probably equaled it with a final ’it’s over for good’. I’m sure you noticed his tendency to overreact. He changed barely in this. Fact is, as he is now, only you can help him. So that’s what I’m asking of you. If you assure me that you will take it on you and get him better, no matter what it takes, I’ll keep my yap shut about everything, no matter the cost. Fair is fair.“
„I...I have to say I’m surprised. I’m not sure what to say.“
„Just say you’ll do everything. That will be enough.“
„I will. I swear.“


It made Shinpachi think.

Surely Shiranui would know how Sano felt about his greatest rival in love, just as Shinpachi had always known how strongly Sano felt for Shiranui. So if Shiranui said, that Sano needed Shinpachi, there had to be some truth to it. Just the though that he had the power to cause such strong emotional outbursts in a person, that always struggled to control himself, made his heart clench. If he thought about it, he was the only one who had that power. Sano never yelled at Hijikata-san, or at any of the students (sure, he sometimes threw chalk at them, but that was more annoyance than an emotional outburst speaking), he was always calm and polite and everyone saw him as an older brother, who would always give them a good advice. Everyone went for an advice to Sano and Shinpachi couldn’t but wonder who did Sano turn to with his problems. Shinpachi knew first hand that it wasn’t him. But then again, Shinpachi had always tried to be there for Sano, when he felt that his boyfriend needed him. And maybe that was it. He was there, so Sano didn’t need to talk. He just leaned on Shinpachi and took what strength he needed for him to fix himself.

And suddenly it was gone.

And Sano had self-destructed.

Wasn’t it proof enough, that Shinpachi was a vital consistence of Sano’s life? More important than Shiranui, more important than Sano’s parents, more important than anyone else?

And Shiranui knew and acknowledged this.
He deliberately let go of Sano, so that his beloved could be happy.

It was then that Shinpachi realized how much Shiranui loved Sano and how very much he cared. He had been avoiding the inspector since then even more than he already did. The knowledge of the extent of his rival’s feelings, made him unable to confront the other male.

So Shiranui did it for him.

Apparently there was something urgent that needed consulting with Shinpachi, because otherwise he wouldn’t show his face in the hospital now. Shiranui avoided him as much as Shinpachi avoided Shiranui.

„Let’s have coffee.“ Were the only words he said to him.

Shinpachi hesitated and looked at Sano, then back to Shiranui.

„He won’t wake up while you’re away.“

Shinpachi still hesitated.

„I’ll treat you.“

Finally, Shinpachi sighed in defeat, admitting to himself, that he couldn’t avoid Shiranui forever. So, he stood up and followed the officer to the nearest coffee machine.

x*x


Both holding a steaming plastic cup in their hands, they sat down onto the nearest chairs, in an empty hallway stinking of chemicals.

Shinpachi spoke first.

„So. What is there you couldn’t tell me in Sano’s room?“
„Chill.“ Shiranui growled as he took a sip of the steaming liquid. „I just thought we both could use something, that at least pretended to contain coffeeine. And besides, I don’t like to talk about persons, that are in the same room, in third person. Even if they can’t hear me.“
„So you want to talk about Sano.“
Shiranui almost made an ironic comment on Nagakura’s deduction skills, but he held it back. Now was not the time.
„I’ve been thinking whether to tell you this, or not, but I have the feeling, that if I don’t, you two are going to be talking past each other.“
Shinpachi sipped on his coffee, as he watched the inspector. That sounded at least, like it could be of interest to Shinpachi.
Shiranui took a gulp of the hot liquid and then stared into the remains, like he was arranging his thoughts. Then those crimson eyes looked at him and he finally spoke.

„On the day I stayed at Harada’s over the night...“ Shinpachi tensed at the wording, that became the semantic to ’the day I slept with Sano’, but other than that, he didn’t do anything. Shiranui was being unusually thoughtfull and it seemed like he wanted to talk to Shinpachi about something serious. He wouldn’t spoil it by being a drama queen over nothing. „He had told me about your break-up. He told me in detail what had happened and that he over-reacted.“

Shinpachi gritted his teeth. Yeah, he remembered what happened, like it had been yesterday. It had been horrible and the pain of remembering wasn’t any less, than it had been at that moment. ’It’s over!’ Sano’s words still resonated through his head. Why was Shiranui telling him that now? Why was that guy so keen on making him remember?

He felt Shiranui’s look on him, but he didn’t turn to meet it. He didn’t expect the next words, that passed the inspector’s lips.

„He also told me, that he regretted it and that he wanted you back.“

Shinpachi’s head snapped to Shiranui at that instant.

„What?!“

Sano did? But then why did he...when Shinpachi...and the accident...

Shiranui seemed to be reading his scattered thoughts, because after he took another sip of the black liquid, he said: „Harada also said, that he felt like having this small break up. He said he needed to sort out his feelings, but I think he was just being stubborn. You know how proud he was...how proud he still is. He probably didn’t know how to approach you, without loosing a great deal of his pride, even though it was what he wanted to do the most.“
Shinpachi snorted. „He had always been extremely thick-headed. Always ready to break through a wall with his head.“ He sighed. „He and his fucking temper.“
„Yeah.“ Shiranui agreed. „But isn’t that one of the reasons, why we love him so?“
Shinpachi didn’t answer, just smiled into himself.
„What I’m trying to say is,“ Shiranui continued, „that Harada wants you back badly, but he doesn’t know how to tell you that. And before humiliating himself in front of you, he’d rather die.“
„He’s a piece of work, isn’t he?“ Shinpachi’s voice was unexpectedly fond and Shiranui looked at him with slight surprise in his eyes, but then a gentle smirk settled onto his face too.
„Yeah, he is.“
„It’ll be tough.“
„Yeah.“
„But it’s worth it. Sano’s worth it.“
„I’m glad to hear you think that way.“
„And besides, Sano learns from his mistakes.“ Shinpachi looked at Shiranui. „Maybe this will be a good lecture for him. And I’m still there to help him. I promised I would, after all.“

Shiranui nodded, a hint of a smile gracing his face.

Then, with a sudden movement, th eofficer downed the rest of the now cold, bitter liquid and rose.

„I have some work to do. See ya ’round.“ And with slow, casual steps, he walked away, while Shinpachi watched him leave.

Slowly, Shinpachi noted, he was beginning to understand, why Sano had fallen for that guy.


ox*xo



Three days later, Sano woke up.

It had happened during lunchbreak, that Shiranui called him and toold him the news. It had been like a wave of relief crashed over Shinpachi and he hadn’t been able to stop the relieved sob from escaping him. He was also farely sure that it hadn’t been the only sob that escaped him, but Shiranui’s voice sounded over the phone suspiciously trembling too, so he actually didn’t mind for once. He gave a whore shit who in the lunchroom saw his outbreak when everyboby had looked at him like he had finally gone mad. He gave word to the school broadcast and by the time of the afternoon homeroom class, the whole school was cheering. A smiling Hijikata sent him off early again, after giving him the best wishes for Sano and Shinpachi hurried to the hospital, grinning like a psycho on his entire way.

He arrived around half past six, only to find Shiranui still sitting next to Sano’s bed, fingers barely touching the warm hand that laid on the pristine sheets, unfocused, crimson eyes staring into nowhere.

Shinpachi gently tapped the doorframe and watched as the officer startled into consciousness again. He frowned into himself. Shiranui dropping his guard down like that was rare. Something had to be bothering the male.

Shinpachi mentally slapped himself. Why the hell was it bothering him?

„Shiranui.“ He said as he entered the room as sat down on the other spare chair in the room. „You’re still here?“
„I closed that murder case today, so I had a bit more time. Besides, nothing’s waiting for me at home. So I thought that I could as well stay here untill you came.“
Shinpachi nodded and then finally looked at Sano. The man was sleeping, his chest slowly rising and falling in a steady rhythm.
„He fell asleep shortly after I called you. The doctors say it’s normal for patients who have just woken from a coma to be up for just a few minutes. He’ll be awake for a longer time tomorrow.“
Shinpachi nodded again, his eyes never leaving the figure on the bed. Sano looked so peacefull and calm, like an innocent child, that had just fallen asleep. For a moment Shinpachi found it hard to believe that he was the cause of all the trouble they went through in the past weeks. The attempt, the coma, everything. And now, after weeks of agony (that Shinpachi only now realized how painfull they had been), Sano was back. Albeit sleeping peacefully, but still back. And suddenly Shinpachi found himself wondering how an awake Sano had been. The doctors had been kind enough to explain to him, what waking from a coma brought with itself, raging from weakness and confusion to disorientation and disability, but somehow he had never tried to bring these attributes in relation to Sano. And he wondered...

„How was it?“

It seemed that Shiranui had a similar trail of thoughts as him, because he replied immediately, like he’d just been waiting for that question.
„Horrible. He was so weak and confused, could barely speak...“ Shiranui trailed off and a sudden understanding of the man in front of him washed through Shinpachi. For a split moment it felt like he and Shiranui were linked on a level that he never expierienced with anyone and he understood the officer completely. The pain of the past weeks, then seeing the one the demon-eyed male loved so dearly in such a weak state...It hurt Shiranui to even think about it, much less talk. Their feelings were so much alike...How come that Shinpachi never noticed? But as suddenly as it came, the link was gone and Shiranui was changing the topic, his voice steady and strong as ever. „I told him that you’d be coming over later today. You wanna know what he replied?“ Shiranui continued without waiting for an answer. „He asked why you would want to do that, you broke up with him, after all. He was confused and it wasn’t the defiant type of pretending to be confused – He was completely honest about it.“

Shinpachi moved from the chair to the bed, sitting in front of Shiranui, facing the demon eyed male, not liking what he heard.

„What are you trying to say?“

Shiranui sighed. „The doctor wanted to talk with you about this, but I guess I can at least prepare you. It’s pretty harsh to hear.“

Shinpachi’s abdominal muscles tightened in nervosity as he heared that. If Shiranui was feeling so mercifull towards the one he hated the most, then things had to be really bad.
„After waking from a coma, the patients have many motoric functions disrupted. They don’t remember how to walk, or even how to swallow. Of course the brain is also affected for resting so long in such a deep state. The recent memories are gone and they aren’t conscious of what they’re saying. What you think, you say. He’ll be much like a child, that needs to be taken care of, in the first days. And as such a child he will probably say something that might hurt, or upset you. I have to ask you, if you’re still intending to keep your promise.“
Sharp crimson eyes met deep azure and Shinpachi found himself caught in that intense, demanding stare. Finally, he nodded. „I am. I’ll take care of him, even if it’s the last thing I’ll do.“
„Good.“ The intensity ebbed a little away and something unusual flashed through Shiranui’s eyes, but it was gone too quick for Shinpachi to distinguish it’s nature. „The doctors said, that Harada should be fine in a few days, consciousness and sense of thought included. The motoric functions will need a few weeks of rehabilitation, but he should be fine, eventually. Though, he might predict rain with his legs.“

Shinpachi couldn’t but snort.

„He’ll be a royal pain about it.“

Shiranui smirked.

„Well, I won’t be the one dealing with it.“

„Jackass.“

Shiranui’s face turned serious again.
„Resolve your issues, as soon as possible. He needs you. But he’s stubborn enough not to see it.“
Shinpachi sighed. „He had always been a thickhead and a hothead. It’s a pain sometimes, but after beeing for twenty years by his side, I have learned how to accept and deal with it.“ He turned towards the figure laying on the white clinic sheets, the steady rising and falling of the chest still there. „The problem is, how to get Sano to accept it.“


ox*xo



The next day Shinpachi had arrived at a time when Sano was awake.

But before he could go say „Hi“ to his friend, the doctor caught him and updated Shinpachi about his friend’s condition. Basically he told him the same things that Shiranui already had talked to him about, just with more medical terminology and detailed descriptions. Finally the doctor told him, that Sano was progressing well, and that at the end of the week, they want to send him to rehabilitation. Then that guy asked him what he was still doing here and go see his lover.

Most of the medical stuff guessed the character of the relationship between him and Sano after the first three days and Shinpachi was surprised to find out that no one cared. They updated him about the medical condition of his lover, like they would update any part of the family. When he asked one of the nurses why they would do that without needing lots of convincing, she just replied, that times are changing and they are a modern hospital.

Shinpachi shrugged and accepted the reason, without further prying.

After the doctor let him go, Shinpachi hurried to Sano’s room. There was no telling how much longer Sano would be awake this time and Shinpachi wanted to tell him at least a „welcome back“, to let his lover know, he was still there for him.

However, as he arrived in front of Sano’s room, something stopped his hand in mid-air to the handle. The words that Shiranui told him yesterday swirled in his mind and made him clutch at the envelope with the ’get well card’ and the three pages long letter, he had brought Sano, to show him that he still cared.
What if Sano said something that would hurt him?
What if he didn’t want Shinpachi around?
What if he thought they had to hate each other?

Shinpachi shook his head to clear it.
It was nothing he wasn’t prepared for, so why was he suddenly worried about it? Sano would soon get better and think straighter and they could solve everything. It didn’t matter what he said now, in confusion and disorientation.

Then why was he still hesitating?

And suddenly it came to Shinpachi, like a strike of lightning.

He was scared.

Scared of seeing his lower weak, confused and disoriented.
Scared of seeing the strong man in such a poor state.
Scared of Sano being helpless.

Scared of the past, that was till there, hiding in the shadows, waiting for the right moment when it could haunt them.

Shinpachi frowned.

He would be damned if he let his fear take the upper hand and prevent him from helping the one he loved more than his own life.

He pushed the handle down and with a deep breath he entered the room.

The room was as always – white and clean. The sunblinds were letting in a bit more light than usually and the rhytmical, beeping sounds were unchanged. The smell of chemicals and medicaments was weaker, because one of the windows was wide open, letting the fresh air inside.
Shiranui was sitting on the usual chair, facing the bed, talking silently.
And on the bed, a pale, thin figure was sitting, leaning heavily into the cushions, listening to the officer.

When Shinpachi entered the room, both pairs of eyes turned to him and the was looking into tired, amber hues. It felt like forever since he’d looked into those eyes and now he couldn’t tear his gaze away. It felt so good, so very good to be gazing into those familiar hues and yet, at the same time it broke his heart apart, when he remebered the fire, the life, the determination and the sheer power that used to reside in those orbs.

„Shin...pachi?“ a weak voice rhasped confusedly and Shinpachi, torn back to reality, gulped, his throat suddenly feeling very dry.

„Hi.“ He said with a smile, he hoped didn’t look too nervous and entered the room. „I came to see how you were.“ He got a confused look as an answer and it made him clutch at the letter in his pocket. „I...“ he hesitated, „I brought you this.“ Finally he pulled out the get well card and set it onto the nightstand. Sano still didn’t say anything and the sharp paper edge of the envelope dug into Shinpachi’s hand. He kicked himself invardly and told himself to get it together. Finally, with a small breath he sat down onto the remaining chair.
Sano still eyed him with that tired, confused look and Shinpachi prepared himself for everything. Whatever ’everything’ was.
And then Sano uttered a single word. „Why?“
Shinpachi gulped again, his throat not only feeling drier than earlier, but also a lot tighter.
„Because I wanted to know how you are. I do care about you, you know.“
„Why?“

Because I love you.

That would have been the truthfull answer to that question, but those tired, confused, amber eyes were tearing Shinpachi’s heart apart and even though he ached to tell his love about his true feelings, just pour it all out of him, he knew he couldn’t. Sano was still weak and confused and in no shape to be mending Shinpachi’s broken heart. So, he swallowed hard and bit back the words, he wanted to say, opting to counter the question with a simple:

„Why not?“

Apparently that had been the wrong thing to say and Shinpachi regretted it instantly.
A skinny hand went to carress the forehead creased in thought and Sano looked more confused that he’d already been.

„We broke up...“ came a small mumble and Shinpachi reacted on instinct.

With one fluid motion he grasped Sano’s hand and moved to sit on the bed, right next to his lover, pressing their tights together in assuring contact, and leaned forward, looking right into those tired eyes.

„Yeah, we did.“ Shinpachi admitted and squeezed the warm hand, feeling every single bone underneath the thin layer of skin, mentally noting that he needed to look for some recipes with high nutritional value. „But that...that doesn’t mean that I don’t care, or don’t want to stay with you.“ He hesitated for a moment, deciding whether now wasn’t the right time to say it, after all. And he came to the conclusion, that maybe it was. „Or that I don’t love you.“ Something akin to recognition flashed through the eyes of the color of the setting Sun and it made Shinpachi steadier in his resolve. „I love you, Sano and I’m going to help you through this, I promise.“

For a breath of a moment, a small instant, the tiredness and confusion disapperead, the amber gaze sparked and his beloved Sano was looking at him, like he’d never been away.

It sent a shot straight through Shinpachi’s heart and in that single moment, he knew, that they were going to make it, come what may.

However the moment disappeared as fast as it came and the pale face contorted in pain, the skinny hand clutching at the red, unwashed strands.

„My head hurts.“ Sano said in a pained voice and Shinpachi pulled away a little.
„That’s understandable. You’ve been in a coma for two weeks and you’ve woken up just yesterday. Of course you feel weak and confused. You need to rest and recover.“ Slowly he saw Sano’s features relax, as he talked and he couldn’t hold himself back anymore. He leaned forward again and planted a gentle kiss into the mess that once had been beautifull ruby hair. „Rest now.“ He told his lover gently. „I’ll be here tomorrow.“ The lids grew heavy as amber eyes gave away to tiredness. „And once you get better, we’ll talk about this.“ With that he squeezed the warm hand once more and watched as Sano drifted off, into a peacefull sleep.

It wasn’t untill several moments later, that he realized that Shiranui was still in the room and watching him intently.

Shinpachi felt the heat rise into his face involuntarily and he coughed to hide his embarassment.

„Come on, let’s get out of here and let him rest.“
With that he stood up and hurried out, where he quickly managed to get his flush under control, while Shiranui followed him. He heard the door close gently and turned to the demon-eyed male, but whatever smalltalk he was about to start died in his throat as he saw the way those crimson orbs looked at him. It was an intense stare, that held something sad and perhaps content, maybe a bit like admitting defeat. Shinpachi never saw Shiranui so open.
Before he could say anything, the officer spoke, his voice steady as ever.
„I get it now.“
Shinpachi was about to ask what it was that Shiranui got, but the officer was again faster.
„I could never be what you are to him.“
With that sentence the look changed into a sharp crimson fire again and with one last acknowledging nod, Shiranui turned around and walked away, leaving a confused Shinpachi standing alone in the empty hall of the dark hospital.


ox*xo



Sano was getting steadily better day by day and as prophecised by the doctor, started his rehab by the end of the week. Shinpachi had been there every day to help Sano with whatever he needed, so he was there to see every improvement his love made and it made him immensely proud. Sano was very strong. And Shinpachi admired his lover for it. After everything that Sano had been through, that red-headed epitome of resolve always found the strength to stand up and move on.

Their relationship was deepening again and even though they hadn’t talked about everything yet, Shinpachi had a good feeling about it.

So today, as he walked into the room with a cheerfull „Yo, I’ve brought you that yukata and I have a surprise“ he didn’t expect Sano to look at him like the male was thinking if he could kill Shinpachi with his IV needle.

It made Shinpachi stop dead in his tracks and clutch at the bouquet of flowers hidden behind his back. He had seen the red carnations today and had immediately decided to buy them for Sano. They were the redhead’s favorite flowers, after all. He thought he could pleasently surprise Sano, but now, as he saw that look, he wasn’t so sure anymore.

„Hey. Did something happen?“
Sano shook his head and looked away. „No, nothing.“
Shinpachi thought about prying, but decided against it. „I brought you that yukata and the other things you asked for.“ He said instead and approached the bed.
Sano nodded and took the bag from Shinpachi, but other than that, didn’t say anything.
„Uhm...“ Shinpachi started and recieved a sharp glare. „Did I do something?“
„No.“ was the short answer and Sano opened the bag to rumage through it.
„Ah.“
Terse silence settled between them, before Shinpachi gathered all of his courage and spoke again.
„I...“ another sharp glare. „I got you something.“

He pulled out the flowers from behind his back and handed them to Sano, watching his love intently.

For a split moment something like a smile flashed through Sano’s face as he accpeted the flowers.

„Thank you. You didn’t have to.“ Then he pulled out the card. And Shinpachi stiffened. He had written that in a spontanous moment, without thinking and he wasn’t sure how Sano would react to what was written there. He had kept it there, because he thought it was a good idea, but now he found, that he wasn’t prepared for how Sano might react.
He watched Sano read the short message and Shinpachi subconsciously held his breath.
But Sano didn’t say anything, just stared at the card. And stared. And stared.
Finally his amber eyes shifted to Shinpachi and the male felt his heart race. Sano’s look was unreadable.
„What’s this?“
Shinpachi gulped. „A card?“
„No shit Sherlock. I can see that. I meant what this was supposed to mean.“ With that he turned the card so that Shinpachi could read the short message.

’Get well soon. I love you, Shinpachi. P.S.: I thought I could move in with you for some time, to help you with everything untill you recover?’

Shinpachi felt his face heat up.

„If I remember correctly, the entire issue of you moving in with me, was one of the things that caused this mess in the first place.“

Sano was frowning and Shinpachi could tell, that his love was angry. And the worst thing was, that he even had reason to be.

Shinpachi gulped. „Yeah, I know. But now’s different.“
Sano raised an eyebrow and Shinpachi saw the upset look in those expressive eyes. „How so?“
„Wel...“ Shinpachi sat down, on the chair next to the bed. „You’ve just been through a horrible crash.“ For some reason Sano flinched at the mention of that ’accident’. Shinpachi put that away for later and continued. „You’ve just started your rehabilitation. I know, the doctor said you’ll be fine soon, but I would...I would feel better if there was someone with you, at least for the first few weeks. Help you with the chores and with the work around the house, or be there, when you get suddenly tired, or if your legs don’t listen to you. The doctor thinks it’s a good idea.“
Sano averted his look, to gaze out of the window. „And what makes you think that you’re the best choice in this matter?“
Shinpachi shrugged, also looking out of the window. It was a clear, late winter day. „Who else is there? And besides,“ he continued quickly, before Sano could state the obvious. Besides, he had the feeling, that Shiranui wouldn’t agree to do it. Something about their recent talks made him believe that. „If you aren’t comfortable around me anymore, I can sleep on the couch.“
He felt Sano’s eyes on him, but he didn’t look at the red-head.
„I understand, if my offer upsets you. Hell, I would probably feel the same way, if I had been through the shit you’ve been through.“ Finally he looked at Sano, only to find his love’s eyes cast down, unfocused look staring at the white sheets.
„You don’t understand anything.“ Sano whispered, but Shinpachi ignored it.
„But truth is, you need help.“
Sano snorted. „And you’re the best man for that task, huh? Gods, sometimes you’re still the same, arrogant brat, you-“
Shinpachi interrupted him, not wanting to hear it. Not after the past weeks, not after everything he’d faced, just for Sano’s sake. „Sano, I just want to help you! You’ve been through a horrible accident-“

„It wasn’t an accident!“

The sudden outburst didn’t surprise Shinpachi as much, as the words did.

And suddenly he understood.

This was the reason why Sano was so upset.

He remembered the ’accident’ and probably everything that preceeded it.

Since when? For how long did he remeber now? How long was he keeping this bottled up, not able to talk to anyone about it? Thinking that no one knew, knowing that it was better that way and understanding not to speak about it?

Defiant amber eyes were staring at him, shining suspiciously in the light of the late afternoon, daring him to ask.
Shinpachi closed his eyes, accepting the truth. He’d been pushing it away for a while now, but it came back at him: They needed to talk seriously.

So he said the only thing, he could.

„I know.“

Amber eyes blinked in surprise.

„You know?“

Shinpachi nodded.

„Yeah.“

„How?“

And so Shinpachi told Sano everything. How Shiranui had asked him about his scar, how Shinpachi remembered that Sano had secured the seatbelt, and how they worked together to keep the entire thing a secret.

„It’s closed now, so we’re safe.“ He finished and looked deep into Sano’s eyes. „That I did that, doesn’t mean I approve of your actions, however.“ Only now that he’d got it from his chest, did Shinpachi notice how betrayed and upset he felt. Untill now, Sano’s condition was of the utmost importance to him and everything else was minor, but now, that Sano was getting better, they could no longer push the issue away. If their relationship was supposed to work again, it was time to do something for it. „As I heard what happened, I thought my heart would stop. Our argument that morning wasn’t important. It wasn’t important that you hated me. I just wanted you to live. And then I learned, that you had...that you had wanted to leave me. Just like that, without even as much as a bye.“ He remebered how much that knowledge had hurt. How much it still hurt. And he couldn’t stop his next words that came out in a low whisper. „You broke your promise.“ He didn’t mean to make it sound as accusingly as it came out, but he couldn’t stop it. „You promised you would never do something like that again and yet you did.“ He realized that his own eyes were getting wet, so he blinked a few times. „Did you really think I hated you? Did you really think I could hate you, just like that? Or leave you forever? Don’t you know anything about me?“

Finally he looked at Sano.

But what he saw, made all of the anger, disappointment and betrayal pour out of him and his breath catch in his throat.

Sano’s face was contorted, a hand was covering his lips, his shoulders were quaking and his eyes were wet.

And with a start Shinpachi realized, that he’d never seen Sano cry.

Sano never cried. Sano didn’t cry when his mother told him to die, he didn’t cry when Shinpachi tried to steal from him, he didn’t cry when Shinpachi found him in a dark alley, next to the old, used up phone booth, sitting on the dirty ground in a bloodstained shirt, or even sometime after that. Crying was something that Sano just...didn’t.

Or did he?

In the darkness of him room, when no one could see?
Locked into some empty storage room, in an old warehouse, where no one could hear?
How many times had Sano hidden his pain, without telling anyone, without telling Shinpachi how miserable he was?
How many feelings were bottled up in that deep, large heart, full of gentleness and kindness?
How many pain had this man to endure, before it broke him?

The answer to that was in front of him, in the wet amber eyes, the shaking shoulders and in two broken words that passed the sensual lips, before the voice once so strong, broke into helpless sobs.

„I’m sorry.“

The broken sound tore Shinpachi out of his freeze and before either of them could fully realize what they were doing, they laid in each other’s arms, in a tight embrace and Sano was sobbing into his shoulder, while Shinpachi’s own tears were dripping into ruby hair.

„I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry...“ Sano kept chanting and all Shinpachi could do, was rub the strong back and whisper soothing words into the red mess, that smelled like sandal-wood. „I was just so hurt and all I could think of was how I hurt and disappointed you and how I used Shiranui and how everything was fucked up.“ Sano said in a single breath, as he tried to talk between the sobs racking his body. „I thought about how to mend it, how to get you back, but then I thought that maybe you’re better off without me and I felt so useless...“ he sobbed some more while Shinpachi kept rubbing his back. „And then there was that wall, the ample was green, no one was near and then I just heard what Ito-senpai said to me last time that I, that I...“ the clutch on Shinpachi’s back was almost painfull, as the sharp nails dug into the shirt and the skin beneath it, but he didn’t say anything, just held Sano. „And then I just...I didn’t know what I was doing, but then I was already crashing into the wall and I couldn’t stop it, I just couldn’t!“

Shinpachi closed his eyes, Sano’s feelings going straight through his heart.

„It’s my fault too.“ He said, his voice rough. „I should have done something the last time. I should have pushed you into therapy, or something. I shouldn’t have assumed that you were fine. It’s just that you seemed fine and to be dealing with it and happy. I didn’t want to ruin that. I was just...afraid that I’d lose you, even as a friend. I should have helped you, instead of giving into fear...but I didn’t.“

„I wouldn’t have listened.“ Came from beside him in a silent voice.
Shinpachi turned to look into eyes of gold and his hand went to carress the wet cheek, wiping the salty trail away. Sano closed his eyes and leaned into the gentle touch, as he sighed silently, calming down.

„I have never seen you cry.“

What else was there to say, after all?

Sano’s warm hand went to rest on his.

„You were the last person I wanted to see me this weak.“

And then, a moment later, before they even knew what they were doing and who they were, their lips met in a single, gentle, chaste kiss.

It couldn’t have been more than a few moments, but it felt like eternity.

It seemed to be so long ago, that they last kissed like this and Shinpachi promised himself, that when everything was mended, when they were alright again, he would kiss Sano everyday this way.

When they broke, both of them had an unsure look on their faces, but a bare hint of a smile was carressing their swollen lips.

„So.“ Shinpachi spoke, breaking his hold on Sano, as he reached for the card and showed it to his friend. „How about it? Are we going to fix this, or not?“
Sano took the card and read it again.
„I’ll think about it, alright? I want to get better and I want to fix this, but I don’t want to rush things. I want to make it right this time.“
Shinpachi nodded. „Alright. I promise not to push you into anything. Take your time. After all, it’s still weeks, untill they let you out.“

Sano groaned. „I wish they already would.“
Shinpachi chuckled. „Oh, me too. I don’t think I can stand anymore questions from your students about when is their favorite teacher coming back.“
It was Sano’s turn to chuckle. „Aw, they miss me. I’m touched.“
„I swear, you class has syndroms of accute withdrawal. They keep giving me these looks, like I am entirely responsible, that they’re keeping you here for so long.“
It brought a tiny smile onto Sano’s face. „Tell them I’ll do my best. And tell them, to do that too. I’m looking forward to reading their PE results of the semester.“
Shinpachi had to laugh. „You bastard! Even with two broken legs, you’re such a slave-driver!“
„My legs are healing just fine, thank you very much. And it’s also no reason for the students to be slacking off.“
Sano smiled as that got another laugh out of Shinpachi.

Things were getting better.


ox*xo



And so they were.

In the next days, Sano made great progress at the rehabilitaton that he even surprised the doctors. They were considering to give him crutches and allow him to move around for a few minutes every day, soon. Hearing that, made Shinpachi even prouder of his friend. Focusing on the task at hand, distracted Sano from dark looming thoughts, but whenever the rehab was over for the day and Shinpachi came over, they would cover one of their unsolved issues. After all, there weren’t many things to amuse yourself with in a hospital, besides thinking and talking, so they did just that: Thought things over and talked.

Sometimes they would talk about the school and Shinpachi updated Sano on the gossip he was behind with and Sano would more often than not, give him a message to deliver to his class. But mostly they would talk about the troubles in their relationship and get the untold things into the open. After 20 years they had finally realized, that keeping the problems to yourself, was not good.

However, it was mostly Sano, that talked about what was bothering him, Shinpachi reflected. And that was not only because it was Sano, who had the most to say. Untill now, Shinpachi had always avoided talking about his feelings, even thought he knew it was unfair towards his lover. But thing was, that he had never been comfortable talking about his feelings.
Maybe because he prefered to show them.
He had always been an open person, who followed his heart and acted upon how he felt at a given moment, but talking...sharing his personal thoughts and the deepest cores of his soul with someone...just thinking about it always caused a nervous tightening in his gut.

He wondered why it was like that, but he didn’t come to an answer.

But he figured, he owed it to Sano. After all, his friend had already told him so much, and Shinpachi in turn, had told Sano so little.

And then there was that letter.

The letter he had written when Sano had woken up and the feelings in Shinpachi’s heart had been too overwhleming to give vent to all of them, so he poured them into a letter. First he had wanted to throw it away, but as he re-read it later, he was surprised at how deep and honest it felt. It had been then, that he decided to give it to Sano, at some point. It conveyed his feelings better, than any other words could.
But the time never seemed right.
First, Sano was recovering, then his friend had been an even greater mess than Shinpachi and then he just, as Shinpachi admitted to himself, chickened out. But maybe now the time came. But then again, wasn’t it a bit cowardly, to be writing a letter, instead of saying it, while standing face to face with that person?
But that might have been just another excuse.

So, as Shinpachi went to the hospital that day, he was still struggling with himself.

Sano was still at the rehabilitation and Shinpachi decided to go and see with his own eyes how his lover was doing. Maybe seeing Sano fighting to overcome himself, would give him enough courage.

When he was within hearing range, his ears picked up the groans of pain.

„I’m surprised, that you can raise your legs at this point, Harada-san. The progress you make, is nothing short of amazing.“
„Well, Oishi-san,“ Shinpachi heard the strained voice of his friend say, „I aim to please.“
A light chuckle sounded from behind the door. „That’s good to know, but first of all, do it for yourself.“

Shinpachi knocked gently onto the door and entered.

„Hello, good afternoon.“ He said and took a look around the room. Sano was at the end of the parallel bars, holding himself upright with his hands, while the doctor stood in front of him, holding a pad, obviously taking notes about the condition of the patient. Shinpachi almost grinned. That the himself doctor was here, personally overseeing his patient could only mean two things: Either things were very bad, or extremely good. And judging from the light faces and the smiles, the latter was the case. As he entered, they both looked at him surprisedly and Shinpachi explained. „Sorry for disturbing, but you weren’t in your room and when I asked, the nurse said you were still here. And then I thought, I’d go and see that great progress, you’re said to be making, with my own eyes.“
The doctor nodded. „I didn’t realize it was already this late.“ He turned to Sano. „I think we should finish for today, Harada-san.“ Sano nodded and while the nurse helped him into the wheelchair, the doctor looked at Shinpachi again, the smile still on his face. „To answer your inquiry, as you see, your friend is doing great. If this keeps up, he might be able to walk on his own two legs, in two weeks.“

Shinpachi’s face broke into a splitting grinn. „That’s great to hear! The schoolboard has already been asking if Harada-sensei will be able to return in time with the start of the new semester.“
„If he keeps making steady progress like this, I don’t see anything, that speaks against it. He’ll have to keep it light, however.“ He turned to Sano again. „If I remember correctly, you teach PE, right?“
Sano, already seated in his wheelchair, nodded. „Yes, PE and japanese history.“
„PE shouldn’t be a problem. In fact, many sportsmen, who had an injury, that disabled them to pursue professional carreers, took on the profession of PE teachers, or trainers. However, you have to take it easy and not move much around in the first weeks. You’ll have to regain your muscles and stamina gradualy. An abrupt change in pace would cause greater damage to your legs, than the accident did.“
Sano nodded again. „I’ll keep that in mind.“
The doctor smiled. „Other than that, you’ll be more or less free to move around as much as you like.“

Sano smiled. „That’s great to hear.“

„The nurse will take you back to your room. See you tomorrow. Nagakura-san.“ With that the doctor nodded in greeting to Shinpachi and left.

The nurse accompanied them back to the room and then parted with them, to return to her work.

With the talk to the doctor, Shinpachi had for a moment forgotten about his nervosity, but now, that he was alone with Sano, his previous insecurity and doubts came back.

Apparently, Sano noticed this, because after Shinpachi had helped him onto the bed, and covered him, he asked:
„Is something bothering you?“
Shinpachi startled and looked at Sano with a look like a child caught by stealing a cookie from the cupboard. Realizing this, he quickly looked away.
„It’s...nothing.“
Sano raised a sceptic eyebrow at him.
Shinpachi sighed. „I’m just thinking about something.“
For some reason, this made Sano chuckle and Shinpachi raised a questioning eyebrow.
„Nothing,“ Sano waved of, „You just reminded me of something I once thought.“
The other eyebrow joined the first one.
Sano smiled. „I thought, that your brain was too small to be able to think.“
Shinpachi’s face turned into mock growl instantly. „You bastard!“
Sano laughed. „What? You’re such an airhead sometimes...can’t I even make fun of you, anymore?“
Shinpachi smiled and sat down onto the bed. „You can do anything you like with me, Sano.“
Their eyes met and for a while silence reigned the room, before Shinpachi spoke again.
„I was just deciding about something.“
„Will you tell me what?“ Sano asked, with a silent voice. It was only then, that Shinpachi realized, how tired Sano looked. His eyelids were heavy, dropping every second, and they were clouded and halfway into the land of dreams. He couldn’t but think how adorable Sano looked right now.
Shinpachi smiled. „Later.“ He took the covers and pulled them higher, then adjusted the pillow into a more comfortable position. „Rest now. You had a hard day.“
„Hmm...“ Sano hummed in agreement, as his eyes slid close. But before his lover drifted of completely, he managed to mutter a half-conscious „We promised we’d talk more about our feelings, though...“

And with that, Sano was out.

Shinpachi pulled out the envelope and stared at it, for a while.

Yeah, they promised.

He laid the paper onto Sano’s nightstand and with a last carress on the soft cheek, he exited the room silently.


ox*xo



In the next days, Shinpachi’s visits became less frequent.

It was only a few more days to the final exams and the events, that accompanied the end of the term were also coming up. In short, the next time Shinpachi was able to visit Sano, was after a busy Friday, that covered the end of an even busier week.

He was surprised to find Sano standing next to the open window.

„You’re standing!“

Sano turned to him, golden eyes twinkling, but other than that, his face was serious.

„Yeah.“

Shinpachi didn’t even notice the serious expression in the joy of seeing his lover able to stand without help, and he hurried to stand next to him and just stare at the wonder.

„That’s great! God, Sano, that’s...I’m so happy!“

A small smile spread for a minute on Sano’s features.

„Yeah, it is.“ Then his friend turned to look out of the window again. „The sakuras started to bloom today.“
Shinpachi smiled. „Yeah, I noticed. I’ll buy some fresh sakura tea, soon.“ Suddenly he reached out and before Sano could realize it, a pink flower was sticking out of the red hair.
The bewildered look Sano gave him, made Shinpachi burst out laughing.
„Sorry, I just had to!“
Sano pulled the small flower out of his hair and watched as it spread out on his palm.
„I thought I’d bring an air of spring into your room.“ Shinpachi grinned from ear to ear and Sano’s smile spread a little, as he twirled the flower between his fingers.

Suddenly, the handsom face turned serious again.

„I’ve read your letter.“

A sudden wave of nausea washed over Shinpachi.

He had almost forgotten about the writing he left days ago in Sano’s room. His doubts and his insecurity, along with the nervous tightening in his gut, came back full blow and Sano’s unreadable face wasn’t really helping in resolving them.

„It really touched me.“

Well, that was nice, but in Sano’s language, it could mean anything.

That was, when those sunlit eyes looked into his and Shinpachi couldn’t count the emotions they reflected: Sadness and regrett, but also love and greatfullness.

„Why didn’t you ever tell me?“

Shinpachi looked away. „I didn’t know how.“

Sano already opened his mouth to say something, but Shinpachi interrupted him.

„And I want you to know, that it doesn’t change our agreement. I don’t want you to feel, like I’m pushing you into something.“

A warm hand covered his and golden sunshine met the azure of the skies.

„I thought about your proposal. About moving in.“

Shinpachi’s throat felt very, very dry.

„I accept.“

In spite of everything, it surprised Shinpachi.

„Really?“

„Yeah.“

Sano looked out of the window again, eyes staring far away.

„You’re right – I need help. And not only with moving around the house and doing chores. It’d be for the best, and I think for the best of the both of us, if you moved in. We need to fix this. And the best way to achieve that, is getting used to each other again. See if it’d work.“

See if it would work.

Those words sounded too fatalistic to Shinpachi’s liking.

„And then?“ Shinpachi couldn’t but ask, voice full of insecurity.

Sano looked at him again, his eyes of the same light as ever. Shinpachi gulped.

„Then...then we’ll see.“

Shinpachi nodded.

He supposed it was fair enough, since Sano himself didn’t seem to know what would be. Neither of them was a prophet, neither of them could tell what the future brought, but...in the light of the early spring and the smell of sakuras in the room, Shinpachi felt a beginning. The beginning of what, he didn’t know, but it was still a start. And he realized, that it depended entirely on them, what they would make out of it.

He smiled.

Whatever will be, will be.

And they’d face it together.


ox*xo-oxo-*-OMAKE-*-oxo-ox*xo



It was the beautifull morning of the 1st of April and everything was full of life.

The birds were chirping, the sakuras were in full bloom and the scent of flowers was lingering in the spring air, when the students of Hakuoki High were eargerly waiting for the next term to start.

Alright, maybe not so eagerly.

Yawning and stretching, they were trying to shake off the remains of the sleep, at least untill they sunk into their chair, at their tables, where they could catch the sleep, they didn’t have last night. After all, who would want to sleep, if he could play video games, or meet with his girlfriend?

The vice-director was prolonging his speech and no one wanted to really listen to it. Hijikata-san would no doubt repeat himself more than enough times, during the semester.

No one noticed the red car, parked behind the school, or the two persons, who were sitting in it.

„Are you sure, this is alright?“ the redhead asked and blue eyes smiled at him.
„Positive. I haven’t been gambling since...well, since probably ages ago, so I’ve got the money. You don’t have to pay me back anything, Sano. After all, it was kinda my fault too that you wrecked your car.“
Sano smiled.
„Thanks, Shin. It means a lot.“
Shinpachi smiled back.
„You’re welcome. Besides, the mechanic was so exited that I got a Ferrari Modena into his service, that he lowered the price to a half.“
Sano chuckled.

„So.“ Shinpachi spoke and azure eyes sparked. „Ready to walk out and shock them to death, Harada-sensei?“

Sano smirked. „Hell, yeah.“

„Then let’s go.“

Shinpachi already made a move to get out of the car, but Sano stopped him.

„But first, I need to give you something.“

With that said, he reached into his case and retrieved a set of keys and held up one of them.

„Untill now, you only had the reserve key, to the front door of the house.“ He switched to the next key. „This is from the back door.“ Then he switched again. „This for the garage and this one for the basement.“ He said, showing him also the last key.

The he handed them to Shinpachi. „They’re yours.“

Shinpachi took the keys and regarded them with a serious look, as they laid in his open palm. Then he looked at Sano and nodded.

„Thank you. It means a lot.“

He understood the gesture, he knew what Sano wanted to express and he valued it all the more.

„I have to thank you, Shinpachi.“ Sano said and looked deep into his eyes, look full of honesty. „Without you, I would have never been able to recover so fast.“ He never broke the look as he talked, not once, and Shinpachi’s love to this man in front of him, grew with every word that was spoken. „I want to make this work, Shinpachi. I don’t want to lose you again, just because of my idiocy.“
Shinpachi returned the steady gaze with one of his own. „And I don’t want to lose you because of my ignorance.“

They smiled at each other.

„It’s probably time to go.“
„Wouldn’t want to make them wait for too long, right?“

With that said, they stepped out into the fresh air of the spring morning.


x*o*x*o*-*x*-*o*xox*xo-oxo-*-*-oxo-ox*xox*o*-*x*-*o*x*o*x


Notes
Yes, you guessed it: I have never been on a rehabilitation. I have no idea how things work there. I also have no idea how long such a business usually takes, but I needed to make it quick. After Sano woke up, I needed him to recover fast. The coma heals the major injuries, but your muscles deteriorate. I wanted to write something more realistic, than the usual „wakes up from a coma and is up and jumping again“, but I also didn’t wanted it to drag on for too long. Besides, I think it’s entirely dependant on the person, how fast he recovers...right?

Also, you might have noticed, that towards the end, I haven’t mentioned Shiranui. This was intentional. In the first part, I wanted to focus on Shiranui and Shinpachi and their ’relationship’. In the second part, I focused on the main relationship of this challenge, namely Sano and Shinpachi. Shiranui cleared the way and it wasn’t necessary to put him into the rest of the chapter.

One more thing: The letter.
No, I haven’t written it. I might, but that’s not sure yet. You can take it, that he wrote every feeling, every thought about everything that happened since that Christmas down. And it was the thing, that gave Sano the last necessary push, to accept Shinpachi’s offer and let him move in.
And yes, with the omake I want to say, that thay moved in together permanently.

Other than that, this chapter has turned out entirely the way I wanted it and that’s a great feeling...however, that doesn’t mean it’s good. I’ll need you to tell me that. R&R?

Last, but not least, thank you everyone for your kind reviews and the feedback. This chapter is entirely dedicated to you, my reviewers and commenters. I love you all.

manaika

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