AUTHOR: Ankh Ascendant ( setosgirl0 / neferseti0 )
FANDOM: Rurouni Kenshin
DISCLAIMER: I don’t own Ruroken, or make any money from it.
PAIRINGS: Saitou x Aoshi
SUMMARY: To Aoshi, sleeping together isn’t intimate enough; he decides it’s time to call Saitou by his first name.
NOTES: Written from a list of writing prompts. This prompt was “intimacy”. This would come after all of the other Saitou x Aoshi stories I’ve already written.
* * *
Saitou didn’t sleep much better in the comfort of his own home than he had in Kyoto. Honestly, Aoshi had accepted the invitation in large part to satisfy his curiosity on the matter. Doing so sacrificed his own sleep, since it took him hours to get there with Saitou shifting around and touching him… but he didn’t particularly mind.
As he watched, Saitou twitched in his sleep and started to wake himself up, muttering something unintelligible under his breath. Aoshi touched his arm lightly. He knew it wouldn’t be a comfort, only wake him up further, but it was for his own good; he was already getting there, and the sooner he woke and got his cigarette the sooner he would go back to sleep and maybe get some rest.
The other twitched awake and looked at him without raising his head, amber eyes distant and half-awake. He mumbled something again and took his arm off Aoshi’s chest, pushing himself up to grab a cigarette. Aoshi let the backs of his fingers run over Saitou’s arm lightly.
“Should be sleeping,” Saitou muttered as he groped for his matches.
“Aa,” he agreed, watching him. “You too.”
“I will…” This was just how he slept, restlessly, interrupted by dreams and periods of waking. Did he sleep better when he was alone? He had never said anything.
Aoshi watched him, letting his hand stay on his arm. The match he lit threw the angles of his face into stark relief.
Saitou forgot about his cigarette and looked at him sharply without moving his head, suddenly very awake. “Don’t do that.”
“You call me ‘Aoshi’.” He was unfazed, deliberately pressing the buttons Saitou presented to him, and he didn’t stop himself to question what he was doing. If he had a plan, it was vague, but it felt right.
“Everyone calls you ‘Aoshi’. People trying to kill you call you ‘Aoshi’. I’m not convinced I’m not the only one who actually knows the name ‘Shinomori’.” He looked away again, annoyed, and shook out the match before it burned his fingers. “If you want to give that much of you to everyone you meet, that’s your prerogative, but I don’t.”
“To anyone.” He folded his hands together on his stomach, calmly watching Saitou strike another match and giving no sign that he noticed his irritation.
Saitou waited until he had his cigarette lit finally. “My wife uses my proper name.”
“It’s my name now.”
This time he didn’t respond, patiently watching him as he waited. His silence let Saitou’s own mind be his enemy. If Saitou thought he needed freedom from leading people, he thought Saitou needed freedom from living a disguise; it must have been wearying. They’d see if he was right.
Saitou rolled onto his back, which signalled that he wasn’t going to go back to sleep immediately, and stared at the ceiling while he smoked. “You can call me Goro,” he finally said.
Not the answer he was looking for, but a step in the right direction. “No,” he said mildly.
Saitou shot him an irritated scowl. “‘No’? You’re lucky I don’t take away ‘Saitou’ and tell you to start calling me ‘Fujita-san’.”
“I would ignore you if you did. That’s not you.”
“Are you trying to make me angry?”
He didn’t answer, letting his mind work against him again. It wasn’t anger one needed to fear from Saitou, and pushing through the anger was likely to get to get him to the emotions it shielded, where he wanted to be.
“You’re right as far as it’s not my real name, but so what? For that matter neither is Saitou.”
“No, Yamaguchi,” he agreed. That ‘real’ there was a slip, he believed. Saitou likely meant ‘original’, but he had used a word that let the truth out. “But Hajime is.”
Aoshi looked up calmly as Saitou propped himself up on his elbow and looked down. He still seemed angry; the frown was serious and genuine, deeper than his normal expressions. Maybe not as much anger as unhappiness. “Don’t do that, either,” he said tersely.
“I assume you’ve looked into my past.”
“You know damn well there’s nothing to find on your past. Sixteen year old Okashira at Edo Castle and refused every job offer the government threw at you. That is literally it.”
“You made the effort,” he pointed out. It wasn’t his fault that Saitou’s life was so much more public.
Saitou made a dismissive hand gesture that he read as a subdued ‘go fuck yourself’ and sat up, turning his back to him, lighting a new cigarette from the old one. Not his usual habit. He really was agitated.
Without a word he slid from under the blanket and retied his yukata quietly before he left the room. He didn’t check, but he didn’t get the feeling that Saitou looked at him as he went.
It was more to give Saitou space than anything; he gave himself an excuse and went downstairs to the kitchen for some water, thinking. He had been accused before of being distant, holding off even those few people he liked, and it seemed he wasn’t alone in that. (He had no choice but to assume that Saitou did like him, after all, unless sex and company with people he merely tolerated was a habit of his.)
Right now they were holding each other back, not even really intentionally, leaving a buffer of comfortable silence and psuedo-professionalism between them. There was more space between them than between him and the remnants of the Oniwabanshu back in Kyoto. Maybe that was a high standard to hold this to; maybe it was unfair. He didn’t particularly care. He wasn’t in the habit of letting people this close and then releasing them.
They probably could go on with superficial interaction. No, not probably, they could maintain this relationship like this for years, depending on geography and how affronted Saitou’s wife became when she figured it out. It was comfortable, and occasionally thrilling. Useful, too, after a fashion, given how closely together they were working on this mission.
But that usefulness wouldn’t last forever, of course; their hunt was drawing to a close soon. The thrill had mostly come from their fights and was already fading. As for the comfort… that might stay. He wouldn’t be unhappy if it did. ‘Comfort’, however, was not very compelling from either of their standpoints; they didn’t need it, didn’t seek it, and wouldn’t work hard to keep it.
Intimacy, though, was something neither of them gave lightly. And wouldn’t give up once they had it.
He had nursed the cup to death, and he set it aside empty, mind settled. Hopefully Saitou had had enough time to himself as well. He retraced his steps upstairs, automatically skipping the step that creaked.
Saitou turned his head when he came back into the bedroom, lying on his stomach again to go back to sleep. “I figured you left.”
“My clothes and swords are still here.” And if Saitou hadn’t noticed that he was falling into a trap of either complacency or agitation – and since he had never missed anything due to agitation before, he thought it wasn’t that. He just wasn’t as observant in his own bedroom in the middle of the night.
He grunted noncommitally and didn’t stop him from coming back to bed, though he kept his face turned away. “Just go to sleep, Shinomori.”
“Aoshi,” he corrected as he settled under the blanket.
Saitou made a noise of irritation. “Damn it-”
“I’m not attached to ‘Shinomori’ because it’s not my name either,” he interrupted calmly. “And your information was wrong. I was fifteen.”
Looking over he saw that Saitou was looking at him, eyes even narrower than usual. “I’m about to tell you to leave.”
Aoshi didn’t press it. He closed his eyes and considered that trying to sleep in bed with someone who was angry with him would be a new experience.
Not impossible, though. He felt Saitou settle back down and heard his breathing even out into sleep. He stayed still long enough for Aoshi to finally drift away, and if he woke himself up again for a cigarette in the next several hours, Aoshi was too asleep to notice.
* * *
The sound of a match did wake him eventually, accompanied by the smell of tobacco smoke and the sound of that certain initial inhale he had come to associate with Saitou. He could have identified him across a room by the sound of that breath alone…
He opened his eyes without moving and saw that he had turned to face him subtly in his sleep. Saitou was facing away, leaning on his elbows off the other side of the bed and smoking with his head hanging. It was still dark, probably an hour until dawn, but he knew he was awake for the day. He should stay here and let Saitou sleep longer, though.
While he watched Saitou started to pinch the cigarette out, but he caught sight of him out of the corner of his eye and stopped when he realized he was awake. Their eyes met for a moment, Saitou watching him watch him, then Saitou lifted the cigarette back to his lips and rested his chin on his crossed arms, looking more or less up at the wall.
“So what is your last name?” he said without looking at him.
“You can go back to sleep.”
“Not going to tell me, then?” He didn’t sound angry now, just calm. His eyes stayed forward, watching his smoke drift in front of his face.
If Saitou didn’t want to get any more sleep, that was his choice. “I didn’t have one. I was an orphan; Okina and some of the others found me barely old enough to speak. ‘Shinomori’ is a convenience.”
“…You’re not going to tell me they found you in a forest, are you? Four of them?”
He didn’t answer. Saitou waited a moment for it, then glanced over and rolled his eyes. “I’m amazed I can still be surprised at how boring you are. You could take any name you wanted and you stayed with the most peasant thing you could think of.”
“It serves its purpose.” But now Saitou knew why he was usually just ‘Aoshi’. He didn’t care enough to adopt a role that wasn’t him.
“So you were the Makimachi of the last generation. Child pet so that the shogun’s spies could play with some normal human emotions in between assassinations.”
“No. Misao’s parents were members who died in the war.”
“Yes, because that’s the parallel I was making.”
“There aren’t strong parallels to be drawn.” He indulged Saitou’s information fishing, although it wasn’t in his nature; he had opened this door himself and knew what sacrifice he was making when he did. It was give and take… to get something from Saitou he had to give it. “We were both children raised in the Oniwabanshu; so were dozens of others. There are thousands of parentless children. Will you draw parallels between them all?”
“When they start raising each other it’s hard to ignore.”
Aoshi glanced at him and almost kept silent so that he would drop it. Not how this worked, though… He made himself give. “Whatever Misao thinks, she plays at being oniwaban.”
“Of course she does. Which is just how you wanted it, right?” He didn’t answer and Saitou looked over at him. His fingers were playing with his matches, but he hadn’t lit a second cigarette. “You made sure she’d stay as normal and innocent as possible, have a childhood like you didn’t, end up with a pretty regular life. You saw yourself there and didn’t want the same thing for her.”
He stayed silent, meeting Saitou’s eyes with no expression on his face. He had not planned on telling him anything about Misao.
Saitou leaned toward him. “Doesn’t feel very good, does it?”
He shifted slightly toward him in turn, closing the space between them almost conspiratorially. “Misao went to Kyoto when she was seven and I hadn’t seen her since, until last year. I had nothing to do with her raising.”
Saitou gave him a disgusted scowl and shoved his face away, tossing his matches down beside his cigarettes and using his arms as a pillow again. Aoshi settled back down and folded his hands under the blanket, calmly looking at the ceiling. He probably shouldn’t have done that… Letting Saitou think he’d won would have been better.
Perhaps it was impossible for one or both of them. Neither of them was going to change… Saitou had said that to him, months ago, and he agreed with it both then and now. Neither of them was going to change, and if neither of them was capable of letting another know them that meant that neither of them was going to become so… This was all that this would ever be.
He didn’t want either of them to change; he didn’t necessarily always like himself, but he couldn’t see himself any different, and Saitou wouldn’t be himself if he were any other way. So he wasn’t intending to change… but did he know for sure that he was incapable? Until now he had never tried.
The better question was, was he was content with a shallow, comfortable arrangement?
“I am glad for how she was raised,” he said eventually into the quiet. The sound of Saitou’s breathing told him that he was still awake. “I would like to see her keep her innocence; she is our redemption. A child should not have to kill in this era… If we keep her from ever having to, we are not completely beyond hope.”
Silence fell again, but he could feel that Saitou was looking at him. He didn’t mind the silence. Something personal was out now, and whatever Saitou chose to do with it was beyond his control. He was well aware that he might reject it, or take it as only his due in retribution for what he knew about his past, but there was little more he could offer.
“Sometimes,” Saitou finally said, “you open your mouth and something poetic falls out of it.”
Aoshi looked over at him in silence, eyebrows slightly raised; he didn’t recall ever making an effort to be poetic. Saitou was watching him with his head still on his arms, not bothering to get up.
“That’s how I know when you’re being genuine.” He sighed a little. “Are you going back to sleep?”
“No, not this morning.”
“I am.” He reached out and put an arm around him, shifting them a little closer together and closing his eyes. He wouldn’t have touched him if he had said he was because he knew he couldn’t easily relax that way. It was subtly considerate, and Aoshi put his hand on that arm and let it stay there. He could feel the strangely comfortable sensation of Saitou’s breath on his neck.
He thought he was almost asleep when he spoke again. “Call me Saitou… I like it better than Goro.”
“I know,” he assured him.
“Of course you do.”
Saitou sighed into his hair but tolerated it without an answer; he squeezed his arm and closed his eyes, letting the silence settle over them again and letting him go back to sleep. Lying there in the darkness, listening to Saitou’s calm breathing and feeling his comfortable warmth beside him, he smiled just a little bit.