The afternoon out had been tiring for Souji, although he was smiling when they returned home. He couldn’t believe how comforting it was, to have someone he could speak to—in Japanese no less--who knew everything. While there was certainly denial regarding his health,
There were things that only Susumu knew about him, and it was strangely comforting that the ninja, as surly as he was, was nearby. Someone who didn’t have to be asked to slow their pace when keeping up with the long-legged strides started to get harder, and still breathe normally…
“ne, susumu.” He said setting a tray down on the table and lifting off the pot of tea and cups.
“Thankyou. I will be relying on you a lot… I appreciate it.” He said smiling, hoping it didn’t sound serious or foreboding.
Susumu sat with his legs tucked under him, staring towards a window until the young samurai returned to the room. He heard him enter but tilted his head in the other man’s direction only after the tray made contact with the table.
“I don’t have anything else to do with my time.” He said; returning Souji’s smile not with one of his own, but with a softer tone of voice than he normally used.
Souji watched Susumu staring out the window as he poured the tea and slid a cup to him.
"Of course you do." He replied, pouring his own tea, and smiling at it.
"I don't have much time left." Souji said quietly, pulling a small package of folded paper from his sleeve and tearing a corner, letting the contents settle to the bottom of the cut.
"I don't want you to waste your time. If you have something you'd rather be doing..."
The ninja‘s eyes narrowed, and he put an open palm to the floor. The fabric of his yukata made a ‘swish’ against the wood as he turned himself to face his companion in one movement.
“Don’t give me that self-pity bullshit, Okita.” he spat.
When Souji talked like this, it was so unlike him. Susumu care for it at all.
“I haven’t had ‘anything to do with my time’ since Hijikata died, not anything useful, and you know that. Besides; I wouldn’t have come all the way to this awful place without a reason. So shut your damn mouth.”
Souji leveled his eyes at Susumu. Not angry but hardened. "I'm not pitying myself." He said. Souji had promised himself no one would know his feelings on dying and he was not going to change that.
"I'm telling you not to waste what time you have left. You say you don't have anything to do with your time. That's bullshit, Susumu. You can have life again! The wars are over. We lost. We're still alive. You can have a real life..."
Souji realized his voice had risen, taking the same edge and harness to his eyes. It was dangerously close to becoming an argument. He closed his eyes and sighed heavily.
"Make me smile, Susumu. What will you do, once I've died and you can go back to Japan? Give me something to look forward to, so I wont feel guilty for leaving you alone..."
“A real life?” Susumu repeated, “Ch. That‘s a good one.” His fingers had curled into a fist at some point; though he only realized it now. He hadn’t intended for this type of conversation to happen.
“And what do you propose I do? Get a family, start a business? Souji, I cant walk down a street without looking for buildings that would be easy to climb, or unintentionally listening in on conversations.”
His parents had done what he does now. There might not have ever been a time when he lived ‘normally’.
And when Souji died…would he run back to Saito to beg for a mission, a job, anything to keep his himself busy and his mind off it? Or pretend the wolves of mibu, the battles, the wars were all a passing breeze and live like the rest of the townspeople.
Neither seemed appealing.
Souji’s disease was blaringly obvious at times… but he didn’t want to think it might be so soon.
“I was never good at making people smile. I’m going to let you down.”
He was still glaring.
"You could if you tried." Souji said quietly, disappointment heavy in his voice. He meant all of it, too. The family, a job... a life that was something worthwhile... smiling... He might not worry so much if Susumu sometimes seemed happy with his life... "You and Saitou... You do everything asked of you, except live your own lives."
Souji had had a wonderful childhood. He'd had his adolescence and fame... it had been a good life. He had regrets, but only a few. He wanted the same for the people he cared about. Susumu was the only one still alive he thought he could maybe help.
"Hijikata and Kondou san would want it, too." He said. He knew it wasn't fair, dragging them into the argument, knowing how Susumu felt about them. "They would want you to be happy. Why are you afraid of living for real? You haven't done anything wrong. You did your best, and so did I."
Susumu averted his eyes back to the table, and watched the steam come up from the cooling tea.
“Don‘t worry about me,” he said; part of him wanting to finish it with ‘you’re the one who’s dying, stupid.’ He pushed a cup toward Souji; the one he had emptied the packet into.
“I’m not afraid. I‘m not completely unhappy. I‘m just not sure. I’ve pretended to be enough people to know how they act and live their lives, but…” he shook his head and sighed. He was better at taking orders than anything else. But the men he had loyally followed were gone, and his good friend was heading in their direction. It would be strange deciding what to do with himself afterwards.
Souji smiled a bit, and reached for his tea, taking a sip of it as Susumu, ever the ninja, quietly tried to slink off. But no one ever won a fight against souji. Even if it was just a verbal battle. He used to talk the demon commander down from rages with a carefully placed argument.
"That's just is. You've spent your life being other people and living their lives.... I want to see Susumu live his life, even if I can only see a little bit... Kondou and Hijikata will ask when I see them, you know. You’d be so cruel to send me to them with news you’re still grumpy and need to get laid as badly as ever??."
Souji gave Susumu a smile, and then tipped back the cup, draining the medicine-laced tea. He set the cup down and then stretched, signalling he had dropped the argument for now.
"I want to drink tonight." he stated, levelling his gaze at Susumu again. "Will my doctor give me permission?"
Susumu listened somberly until his ‘need to get laid’ was mentioned; then the ninja made an exasperated groan and leaned forward until his head came in contact with the table with a dull thud.
A sign of his accepted defeat.
They needed to move to a new topic anyway.
“Fine! Fine. You can have a drink. I need a drink just from talking with you.” he replied, bringing his face from the table and propping it up with his hand. He scowled at the other man, projecting the thought of; ‘do you realize what you put me through?’
Souji couldn't help but feel victorious as Susumu's head hit the table. He may not have been the demon vice commander, but had been raised by demons... He did offer a quiet chuckle as he left Susumu, head on the table and went to fetch the sake and cups. They were going to need to find themselves a woman to keep the house clean. Souji didn't mind the jobs--he'd done it most of his life--but if he got too sick, he wouldn't be able to do it anymore, and he would feel bad, having susumu care for him. It was hard enough on Susumu as it was.
He returned with the alcohol and the cups and settled back at the table, pouring them each a generous serving.
"Well, if you didn't fight me, when I clearly know better, I would go easier on you?" Souji asked finally, grinning and he sipped at his drink.
“If you didn’t get on my nerves so often I wouldn’t feel the need to.” Susumu replied, reaching for the other drink Souji had poured. He took a substantial amount into his mouth, and sighed back into the cup after he swallowed.
“But lets be honest. You‘d be bored out of your mind if nobody ever fought back.”
Swords, words, whatever; Susumu knew Souji liked to win, and winning was impossible if nobody took up the challenge. Not that he fought back to keep the captain entertained. Susumu‘s short temper just couldn’t handle the boy most of the time.
The spy leaned back and took another (considerably smaller) sip of his drink.
"If we're being honest, being bored out of my mind is why I pick on you, Susumu." Souji said, offering a smile. "I go crazy if I'm too still and quiet for too long..."
It was yet another reason why he refused to 'rest'. If he stopped to rest, he might never be able to get up again.
"Think of my tormenting you as a public service. It means I'm not apt to go out and cause trouble for myself..."
He gave Susumu a bright drink and reached for the bottle, holding it out to re-fill Susumu's cup.
"It should." Souji replied, topping off his cup after he had refilled Susumu's. He chuckled and drank it back, thinking about his adolescence at the Sheikan and the trouble he, Sano and Heisuke had gotten into. And the trouble they'd had to have Hijikata, Gen-san and Kondou get them out of... Susumu hadn't been with them then. He Might not know just how bad they'd been...
"Trust me. It's better than the alternative. You're the only one available to help me get out of it..." He offered Susumu a dazzlingly cheerful smile.
"You should thank me for my consideration!"
The ninja regarded his friend carefully for a moment, and fixed him with a serious look.
“Insanity must be a trait of demon offspring.” he mumbled in return to the ridiculous smile.
He picked up his cup again, but ran a few fingers along the side instead of taking a drink. The finish was a slightly different texture in some places. These cups were worn, probably something Souji had had shipped from Japan when he came. They must have cost extra to pack and transport, being fragile items; it would been more efficient to buy a new set upon arriving.
He took a sip and set it back down, thinking momentarily of some of the items he had brought himself. They had both tried to bring part of ‘home’ with them, hadn’t they?
“Do you remember that book you gave me?” He asked. He was both curious, and eager to turn the conversation. The idea that his new purpose was only to keep the young samurai out of trouble tested his temper; despite the alcohol beginning to make its way through his system.
Souji blinked at Susumu as he changed the topic and he tried to think of what book the ninja was talking about. Both he and Susumu had shared a passion for reading, and had often exchanged books... but there was one that suddenly jolted his memory--the first present he had gifted Susumu with-- and he felt his lips curl into a smile.
"The ghost story with the trashy ane-san?" he asked, finishing his cup of alcohol and reaching to re-fill both of theirs.
“Mmhm. It’s embarrassing that I’ve kept it this long.” he responded.
What Yamazaki failed to specify was that it was upstairs in his bag.
It embarrassed him that he liked the same ridiculous novels Souji read; even after years of book swapping. They suited the samurai perfectly, but if someone caught Susumu reading anything other than medical manuals or ordinances they would likely die of shock. Funny how something like that had cohered him into a friendship.
The smile melted from Souji's face and was replaced with curiosity. "You mean you still have it?" He asked, taken back. He hadn't expected that. THe look of surprise softened after a moment and he closed his eyes, feeling the warm tingling of alcohol begin to affect his mind.
"When I gave it to you, I didn't think you'd ever read it..." Souji admitted, leaning his chin on his hand. "But I wanted to be friends, and books were the only way I could think of..."
Susumu picked up his cup and took a sip, only mildly aware of the pace at which the two were consuming their drinks.
“I didn’t really want to be friends with anyone,” he said, “and I was mostly nocturnal those days anyway.”
Spying on groups/persons was infinitely easier at night. Which meant getting back during the early morning, sleeping for a good portion of the day and spending the remaining hours preparing for the next night; he had lived on a different clock than most of the other men, so he rarely spoke to them. Not that he was a very social person to begin with.
“Why did you want to get to know me anyway? I could never understand that.” he asked.
"Because Kondou liked you." Souji replied, sipping at his drink and giving a small shrug. "And, Hijikata trusted you. Which meant... well. Hijikata didn't trust very many people, you know?" Souji said, giving a little smile, and looking into the sake cup.
"There were so many people back then.. who were better off dead. Criminals, spies, people who joined for the money...So many people who I had to eliminate--and that was just within our ranks." He frowned at the cup and then drained it.
"But they trusted you. So it meant you were worth knowing, even if we're completely different and would make better enemies to eachother than friends."
“That’s a good enough reason I suppose.” Susumu responded; leaning back on his hands and staring for a moment at the ceiling. “At least it didn’t end up a disaster.”
He tilted his head toward Souji and smirked. It was still far from a smile, but if it were ever brought up in conversation he would definitely blame the alcohol.
"Well, I'm also nice and unless you were going around seducing and killing off men in our divisions for sport, I couldn't hate, you." Souji said, thinking back absently to one case where he'd actually felt loathing for someone and had stepped in to take care of things...
"It doesn't explain at all why you tolerate me." Souji pointed out. "It's not as if I bullied you into a friendship..."
Not really anyway. Wore him down, yes, but force? hardly that.
Susumu paused for a moment of consideration; the alcohol making the edges of his thoughts a bit fuzzy. “Because I’m a masochist?” He replied.
He shook his head, “Heh, I don’t think I have a good answer. I’m not even sure myself. … Though I do know that when I’m rid of you for long periods of time, things aren’t nearly as interesting.” He took another sip, finishing another cup. When he was younger he would have never imagined himself wanting company. He took pride in how devoted he was to the group, and having distractions of any kind was practically sacrilegious. Apparently though, even ninja are human, and an eventual friendship with somebodyorother was unavoidable.
Souji had started to laugh at the `machochist` comment, and by the time Susumu had finished speaking, he was almost doubled up on the table, shaking with it. Laughter came easily to Okita, but the alcohol made it much worse. And Susumu was clearly being influenced by it.
`I am going to remember every word of this conversation to annoy you in the future with.` he said when he had finally regained control enough to speak, offering a bright smile to the surley ninja.
`And since you`re a machochist, you`ll apparently enjoy it when I taunt you. I don`t ever have to feel guilty for being an aoonyance now!` Souji gloated.
Susumu slapped a hand down on the table, as if that motion would quiet Souji’s fit of laughter. “If I’m the only one who comes away from this worse off, I’m absolutely going to kill you.” He shot back; the alcohol keeping most of the anger from his voice. Like hell he was going to teased double for the next week without some sort of revenge. Souji’s hangover had at least better be worse than his.
“I might. It would be an intense battle,” Susumu replied, the hint of a morbid look playing across his face. “except…” he blindly pawed for his cup for a moment, then looked back and took a hold of it. “I think we’re both getting drunk.” Susumu could see them running through the house hitting everything but each other, and having to clean it all up the next morning; that didn’t appeal to him.
Souji's eyes glittered with the promise of a fight, the alcohol making it seem far more an amusing a prospect. Souji felt slightly drunk, but he had fought under more intoxicated conditions. But this was Susumu. One of the few people who could match him in a fight.
"Shall we find out?" Souji asked, his eyes getting a familiar battle lust sheen to them. "I think we're more than able still. We haven't had much to drink at all... and it's been a while...."
Souji badly wanted to spar, it was written on his face; and Susumu himself hadn’t had much exercise lately.
“Well, we’d have to move to the garden for more space, and I forget if I’ve unpacked my…” Susumu paused in mid sentence, realizing that being somewhat intoxicated had nearly caused him to forget.
“No. I’m not letting you run around like that. I shouldn’t even be letting you drink.” He took another sip and waved off the idea.
Souji's face had started to light up with delight as Susumu began to entertain thoughts of sparring. It had been so long... He practiced regularly, but he loved that thrill of a true fight... He all but crumbled with Susumu denied him, remembering where they were, and Souji's condition. Souji gave Susumu a devastated look, one he would only sport when truly drunk. It made his boyishness seem all the more childish.
"Susumu!! That's cruel! I've been feeling so well lately!" he lied. Susumu didn't need to know that he'd collapsed the day before.
And as a final procaution, he slid the bottle of sake over to his side of the table, determined to guard it, lest Susumu take away this small pleasure.
Susumu ‘hmph’ed at the other man’s outburst, and in an purposely exaggerated fatherly tone said, “It’s not cruel, I’m doing what’s best for you.” He finished his cup, and with mild amusement watched Souji become a little more protective over the bottle. He could feel some heat in his face, and came to the conclusion that he probably didn’t need anymore. There was no need to be entirely incoherent after all, just plain drunk was fine.
He leaned back on his hands and edged himself down to a more comfortable position lying on the floor.
“If there isn’t much left you can go ahead and finish it.”
"OH no!" Souji said, pointing at Susumu who had laid down on the floor. He leaned over and poured another measure into the ninja's glass and then emptied the last sips into his own. "We're drinking tonight! You can't escape that easily!" Souji said.
He had decided that Susumu was up to something, and although his brain was too fuzzy to figure it out, he wasn't going to let the ninja get away with whatever it was.
"Especially if we aren't going to fight!"
“Escape?” Susumu snorted. He folded an arm behind his head as a pillow and glanced back up, “I have no idea what you’re talking about”
He didn’t see lying down as ‘escaping’ (though that happened to be something the ninja was particularly good at), and wasn’t sure why Souji saw it that way either. Or why he was talking about drinking as if they hadn’t started yet.
Both of them were already drunk, or tipsy at the least. He was certain the alcohol was slowing his thought process in one way or another.
“And we have been drinking.” he added.
Souji half leaned over the table, with an accusory point of his finger. "You're hoping to fall asleep!" He said, sliding his previously protected bottle to the center of the table where his hand rested, supporting his body.
"As the commanding officer here, you have to at least help me finish this."
He hadn’t been hoping for or planning on anything, really. But Souji’s
Susumu sat up on his elbows, tilted his head, and smirked.
“Are you giving me orders now, Okita Souji?”
It had been a long long time since Souji had given anyone orders. Nagakura and Saitou had taken his units when he'd been sick, and they were eventually dispersed into the ranks when it had been clear he'd fallen too ill.
"If it was? Would you disobey it?" Souji asked, glancing down at the table. "Did you ever disobey an order? I wouldn't believe someone if they told me you had...
“If it was, it’d be the most ridiculous order I’ve ever received.” he straightened himself up to a sitting position reluctantly, and followed Souji’s gaze to the table, thinking for a moment.
“No, I didn‘t.”
The spy had followed every order, and sometimes took suggests as if they held that same importance. He was ready to do what Saitou asked of him before the man had even opened his mouth, despite the fact that there wasn’t a Shinsengumi anymore.
His loyalty toward them hadn’t faded.
However, taking orders from Souji -while drunk- was a different story.
Souji's mind dwelled on the answer, and then lost it's train of thought while contemplating the answers, he'd forgotten not his question, but why he was asking it.
He filled Susumu's cup and his own from the bottle and then sat back down on the cushion around the table, sipping at it absently.
"I don't want to give orders anymore." He said, resting his chin in his hand. "I want to get old and fat and have three boys, like Saitou." He told Susumu.
Susumu picked up his cup again, reluctantly began to work on it’s contents, and sighed as he set it down half empty.
“I couldn’t imagine you fat.”
Both of them knew Souji would never reach old age, and Susumu had gotten to the point where he wanted to avoid the topic altogether and sleep off some of the alcohol buzzing through his veins. Drunken denial was definitely the best option.
He lifted his cup and attempted to finish it, making a strange face as some of it slid down the wrong way.
"I would make a fabulous old man!" Souji said, resting his chin in his hand and sipping at his cup. "I'd be fat and laugh a lot, but I'd shake a boken at the kids in the dojo, and beat them up when they got too imperetenant and full of themselves." It was how he pictured Saitou, except with the fat the laughing. And maybe Saitou would be more terrifying... Souji liked to think about it.
"How about you, Susumu. What will you do when you're old?" He asked. "Will you go back into medicine once your job here is done? You'd make a good doctor... it'd be a waste, really, if you didn't. You're too smart to waste on the government."
He snorted at the images Souji was creating, and set down his cup.
“I think, when I‘m old…” he trailed off, the alcohol was slowing his thought process. “I will become hermit.” Susumu sounded sure in his decision. He wouldn’t have to deal with people if he became an ornery old man who lived in a shack up in the mountains; it was rather appealing.
“But for now I’ll continue with medicine.”
He couldn’t throw away Souji’s compliment or encouragement, and in all honesty he had two routes. One (being a spy/ninja), had a continuously lessened in demand as years passed, and he knew couldn’t do it for much longer even if we wanted. Two, being a doctor held much lest risk to his personal being, and would certainly allow him to live more comfortably.
He ran a hand through his hair and yawned, starting to bore himself with his own thoughts, then glanced at the bottle near the edge of the table. “We drank that entire thing, didn’t we.”
"You're not allowed to become a hermit when I'm dead!" Souji exclaimed with shock and anger. The idea horrified him, and he thought it all too probable.
"You need to get married and have children!" He decided. "You'd be as good a father as Saitou..."
Souji put his head down on his arms and glared at the ninja. "My final order as captain of the Shinsengumi is that you do not live as a hermit and you have lots of children." He said, still scowling.
"Besides. If you're a hermit, no one will see how pretty you are when you're dressed up." he said, not an ounce of teasing in his voice.
Susumu didn’t like the thought of getting married and having children so much as he liked the idea of becoming a hermit. He though it suited him, and honestly couldn’t see himself with children at his heels. Souji was delusional believing he would make a good father. It was strange enough that Saitou had so many boys. He might break time and space if he also settled down with a family. ….Besides, what woman would put up with him? Or more importantly what woman wouldn’t mind him rooting through her clothes and makeup.
He was frowning at Souji until the other man’s last comment, and his own thought process ended on a similar subject. He was flattered, and too drunk to care that it was for the oddest of reasons.
“We should come to a compromise. You let me be a hermit, and I’ll come down to visit you dressed up.”
An attempt at bargaining.
He knew Souji wouldn’t agree.
Souji was far too drunk to consider that this completely unacceptable a situation. His mind was working towards that conclusion, but it was working slowly. Being as Drunk as he was, the only thing that wouldn't have been hindered, was his sword. But thinking things through logically had never been his strongest suite, and drunk it was highly handicapped.
"NO!" He said finally.
"It's settled! We'll find you a pretty girl and you will empregnate her and have babbies. And you can name one Hijikata, and one Kondou and one Souji." He said with finality. "And if you have a daughter you can teacher how to wear make-up, and marry her off to Saitou's oldest boy. You can be a hermit after your daughter is married tho." He said, quite certain that this was the fairest and most logical outcome.
That. Was definitely. The single most ridiculous future anyone had ever imagined for him. Susumu put his hand oh his chin as if seriously considering what his friend had just said, but the more he thought about it, the more absurd it sounded. Even the way it’d been stated was… funny.
Against his will, a smile crawled across the ninja’s lips and he burst into drunken snickers.
“You‘re crazy, Souji! Ahahaha-”
He sealed a hand over his mouth and forced himself to control the laughter and calm back down.
“Alright, I forfeit this match.” he said, raising both his hands up, and agreeing to this fate in the hope that neither would remember it when they sobered up.