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.