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19 July 2011 @ 10:39 am
Something’s Burning: Nautical Dawn. [Gintama, 6/8]  
GINTAMA and all characters/ideas/concepts/places therein are not mine, although the writing certainly is.



Title: Something’s Burning: Nautical dawn.
Characters/Pairing(s): Kawakami Bansai and Takasugi Shinsuke
Rating: PG
Summary: A possible look into how Kawakami Bansai and Takasugi Shinsuke met, and why Bansai follows Takasugi in the first place. Part six of eight.
Warnings? N/A
Notes:
+ This takes place before the start of Gintama, well after the end of the Joui resistance but years before the beginning of the series.
+ We're all still in the dark, I would think, about how things fell apart before the series, so I'm taking some liberties here.



Something’s Burning: Nautical dawn.


Waking up the first time around was like swimming up from the bottom of a very deep lake. Even now, even with a mind bereft of noise and nothing but the pain of rediscovering the fact that one was alive, it took a little more time to register everything.


A new room, with new air and a new bed. What he had been doing during the time that he had lost himself was not a distant memory, but in the face of the unfamiliar, it had the same blurred edges and complex mess and mix of so many unidentifiable things as dreams often did.


The pain grew worse, blackening everything, driving him back under. Before he could completely sink, he thought he heard something he recognized, thought he felt a warmth and smelled a smell that he had once known. Sleep took him before he could figure out what it was.


The second time was an exercise in learning how to breathe again, taking in air one beat after another, trying to remember how to do it right. It was almost as if being driven almost to the point of death meant relearning everything that had once been so simple, the actions he had previously taken for granted. He also knew, though, that he was tired. Tired like he had never been before, hurting in a way that he was not comfortable with.


It had been too many years since he had felt the way he was feeling at that moment.


The sound came again, pulling him away from his thoughts. What was it? That pluck of a string. The music. His eyes wandered about, absorbing his surroundings a little better. He was not alone, it seemed. He had not noticed until now.


A name. The man had a name. He wasn’t a ghost. Wasn’t from…


Don’t.


His throat closed up at the possibility, threatening to choke him. He chose to remember, instead, that hand putting a sword to his neck. That hand slipping a knife between his ribs.


“Bansai?”


Takasugi Shinsuke could not recognize his own voice. Perhaps he should have cared, but the lack of anything in Kawakami Bansai’s expression grabbed his attention more. The man was sitting in the far corner of the room with his shamisen resting on his lap, against his body. He was not wearing his shades, nor his headphones.


“Shinsuke.” The assassin turned away, setting the shamisen aside. “Welcome back.”


His name rolling off of another pair of lips, with that self-same lack of effort and natural turn. He remembered, then, and remembered, and ached. Distracted as he was by attempting to bury it, he did not notice the fact that Bansai had drawn close until the older man was already there. He was kneeling by the futon he was on, reaching out to press a finger against the pulse on one of his bandaged wrists.


“How long?”


“Two weeks.”


The familiarity and care with which Bansai conducted himself threatened to shake up the walls around Takasugi’s mind yet again. Still, it was comforting to feel something soft and alive against his skin.


He was too weak to show his appreciation. His slumped against Bansai’s palm, letting out a sigh.


“Was it difficult for you?”


“My place is here.”


It was not a ‘no’, or a ‘yes’: it was something far more certain than either one of those answers could have ever been. That realization hurt, as sharp and cold and physical as a blow to the chest.


“I am thirsty.”


Bansai parted his lips open with a thumb and moved in to kiss him. Takasugi opened up to that mouth pressed over his own, sharing the man’s air.


He would not think about how all of that could be his undoing, how that same level of trust had ruined him. Bansai understood. That was all he needed to focus on.


***



“They left before the war was over, one after the other. Sakamoto first: he was the wanderer among us, and the only one who had not known our teacher. He left next. He went out to join another fight, and just didn’t come back.”


Later on, after his bandages had been changed, Takasugi was lying still with his head on Bansai’s lap. He started speaking in spite of himself, thought to stop, then decided not to.


“He was the best man out of the four of us. What could take a person years to learn in swordsmanship, he picked up in a month or less. It wasn’t hard to resent him, but doing so was pointless. Types like him simply exist. They’re on a level above everyone else. His skills, though, weren’t what really defined him during the war. It was the fact that he, out of all of us, had the most reason to want to destroy our enemies. They had taken more than just everything he had. They had stolen everything that he could possibly become, as well.”


Bansai had taken to running his fingers through Takasugi’s hair. From where he was, the younger man could not see his companion’s expression. Perhaps he could, if he turned to look. Doing that, however, felt like too much effort.


“We could have done something, I think, if he had stayed. Perhaps the collapse would not have been so terrible. Perhaps we should not have had to bury that many of us if he had seen things through. But he left, and more of us died. It wasn’t long before the Amanto took advantage of the rift between Katsura and I and tore our forces apart. Katsura was nearly killed. I was dragged in before the Shogunate. They let the Amanto keep me for themselves, calling me a ‘gift’. They enjoyed me up until I broke out of their prison. By then, though, there was nothing left.”


Bansai’s hand stilled, resting on the top of his head. It drifted down in the next moment, cupping his face against its palm. He enjoyed the chill of the other man’s skin against his own, but not as much as the way that gesture seemed to hold him in place with its weight, pressing him down, keeping him together.


“The blood of our comrades is on all of our hands, but he chose to run away from it. I decided to stare the reality right in the face and do what I could to avenge them. They’re still with me. They aren’t ever going to leave. Maybe I do not want them to.”


He could feel his eyes closing. The exhaustion he felt was so utterly complete; the ache of being alive again only made the prospect of drifting back to somewhere dark and quiet all the more appealing.


“Did you love him, Shinsuke?”


It took him one moment too long to answer.

“What he and I had is something that will remain between us alone. If our paths cross again, I will cut him down myself.”


Bansai’s silence stretched out for a long time, long enough for him to think that the issue had been dropped, long enough for him to succumb to the fatigue.


“If you can’t, then I will do it for you.”


Perhaps he had, indeed, heard Bansai say that. Perhaps he had been imagining it. It did not matter. He could think about it later, if he remembered to.
 
 
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