Here is the first of merula31‘s vignettes from the Fandom Meme. Unlike the other vignettes, this is actually part of a story I already have in progress, called Human Touch. I would be interested in opinions….
Please note that despite how it may appear, this is not slash/shōnen-ai; it is, at most, pre-shōnen-ai. And there are reasons behind the apparently OOC behaviour, some of which are in this bit….
 Gah! Bad tag0!
As with all tag0’s RK stories, this was beta-ed by the inestimable Vathara.[/edit]
“Lay Down With a Wolf”
An excerpt from Human Touch
It was the middle of the night when the balcony door of the best room in the inn slid silently open and a shadow crept inside. Tabi-clad feet were cat-quiet on the polished wood floor, and long hair, swept up in a topknot, gleamed blood-red in the light from the full moon that shone in through the open door.
A noise came from the far corner of the room, where the current occupant was lying on a futon, and the red-haired shadow froze, going absolutely still as he listened carefully. For a long moment, the only sound in the room was the even breathing of the man on the futon, the rhythm that of deep sleep, and finally the shadow let himself breathe again, relieved that the man whose room he had just entered hadn’t woken up.
Himura Kenshin turned around and closed the balcony door as quietly as he had opened it, then slipped further into the room, continuing to move in absolute silence. The fact that it was the middle of the night, and the room was in darkness, didn’t matter; his night-sight had always been excellent. Which was a very good thing; sneaking up unnoticed on a Wolf of Mibu, even when he was sleeping – especially this Miburō, as sharp as he was – was a difficult undertaking.
Difficult, but not impossible; Kenshin had done it before.
Ten and a half years ago, came the thought, as he finally reached Saitō’s futon. He stood there for a long moment, studying the sleeping man. Things are different now. We’ve both changed since then….
Kenshin shook his head impatiently, irritated with himself. He had already decided that he was going to do this, and he was not going to change his mind; not now, not after everything. He needed this.
Still, he spent another minute or two just watching Saitō sleep, fighting back the uncertainty he felt, before he was able to continue as planned.
Removing his sheathed sakabatō from his obi, he placed it carefully on the floor. Then, moving slowly enough that he wouldn’t wake Saitō up – that was the last thing he wanted at the moment, though he wasn’t sure why he was so nervous about it, given that Saitō had never objected before – Kenshin curled up on top of the blanket that covered the Miburō, carefully pillowed his head on Saitō’s arm, and closed his eyes.
He found himself relaxing almost instantly; for something that had only happened a total of four times before, lying next to Saitō like this felt both remarkably comfortable and safe. But then, perhaps it wasn’t really all that surprising, considering the situations they’d been in those other times….
There were occasions when everybody – be they hitokiri or soldier, commoner or samurai – needed the reassurance that could be given by a simple human touch, even if the one providing that touch was, under other circumstances, your enemy. That had been a lesson Kenshin had learned almost too late. He had never deceived himself about that; he was well aware that if it hadn’t been for Saitō, he wouldn’t have survived until the end of the Bakumatsu. He suspected that the reverse was true as well. It was an irony Kenshin was sure Saitō found amusing, given that they’d – technically – been the deadliest of foes at the time.
This was the first time he’d managed to relax completely since the events in Kyoto. Ever since his return to the city where he’d become a blood-soaked legend and the confrontation with Shishio, Kenshin had felt as though he were balancing on the edge of a blade; an edge he was dangerously close to falling from – which was the entire reason he was here. It wasn’t something he could discuss with any of his friends, particularly considering the secrets involved and the fact that he still wasn’t certain of exactly why he felt that way… but no matter how much had changed, he knew instinctively that Saitō would, at the very least, understand how he felt. Neither of them had changed that much. And understanding, much like a simple touch, could count for a great deal.
Keeping his eyes closed, he matched the rhythm of his breathing to Saitō’s, and it wasn’t long before the feeling of safety and the warmth generated by Saitō’s very presence lulled him to sleep.
Saitō found himself waking up rather slowly, something which was unusual in and of itself. What was even more unusual was that, despite the fact that he had indisputably been alone when he fell asleep last night, there now appeared to be someone else lying down next to him. His left side was currently rather warmer than his right and he could feel a head resting on his upper arm.
Yet he’d slept the whole night through. Even Tokio – whose presence, after four years of marriage, was familiar – woke him up if she came into the room after he’d gone to sleep; the years he’d spent in Kyoto during the Bakumatsu had left an indelible mark on his instincts, which roused him at even the slightest hint of possible danger. Which someone who could move quietly enough to sneak into the room without waking him definitely was. So who–?
Of course. I’m in Tokyo. Who else could it be?
Opening his eyes, Saitō was greeted by the vaguely familiar sight of bright red hair draped over his chest. Turning his head to the side, he frowned thoughtfully as he studied Battōsai, feeling a touch of concern as he noticed the dark shadows under the hitokiri’s eyes, and wondered what had brought him here. It had been quite some time since they’d last been in this position, over ten years, and he wouldn’t have thought that the hitokiri needed this now. Battōsai did have those friends of his, all of whom would be only too happy to give him any attention he might want, after all….
Even as Saitō wondered about that, Battōsai whimpered softly, curling into a fetal position as one hand clenched on the blanket over Saitō’s chest and his body tensed.
Nightmare, the Miburō recognized grimly. He’d seen that particular reaction quite frequently from Battōsai during the three seasons they’d spent secretly interacting as…. Well, he’d never really tried to define exactly what they’d been to each other during that time. Anchors, perhaps?
Another soft whimper escaped the hitokiri, and Saitō’s mouth tightened. Reaching over, he gripped Battōsai’s arm with his right hand, firmly enough to let the hitokiri know he was there, but not so tightly as to be painful. He had no desire for Battōsai to think himself threatened.
It worked, as Saitō had known it would; he’d certainly had enough experience…. The tension eased from Battōsai’s frame and his breathing evened out as he nestled a bit closer, burying his face against Saitō’s shoulder.
It was amazing what a simple touch could do, sometimes….
Feel more than free to comment here, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Any type of reviews save flames are welcome (flames will be put out by the sand-kicking Plot Bunnies); constructive criticism is more than encouraged. And do please let me know if you want more of this…. (*g*)
Hope you enjoyed it, merula31!
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