Actions

Work Header

Soothe Me, Save Me

Chapter Text

Chizuru peruses a stand, eying the vegetables as she debates what they should have for dinner that night. She had grabbed tofu from under his nose, or so she thought, tucking it securely beneath some of the other assorted ingredients. It made him smile, touched she thought to pick up his unspoken favorite. It had been so careful, so deliberate, no doubt she hoped to surprise him.

Saito is more than willing to play along if it will make her smile. It’s disarming just how willing he is to go out of his way for her contentment.

He’s been feeling good, strong, for the first time in a long while. Enough so he actually felt comfortable resuming his strict practice regime, getting a feel for his body’s current limitations even as the muscle memory rose through his limbs.

Chizuru had watched him on a handful of occasions practice, asking questions when they come to her about form and technique. She joined, once, the only woman he’s met to have actively studied the art of the blade. It came nowhere near the challenge of his fellow captains, but she was impressive regardless, rivaling a number of their newest recruits.

She inquired about his left-handedness early on, but without any of the judgment he has grown accustomed to, easily accepting his quirk with grace. Saito assumes she saw the remains of defensiveness in his eyes, commenting only that his skill surpasses what she could have imagined.

It has been a rather speedy recovery, thanks to Chizuru. Saito watches as she exchanges pleasantries with the merchant, a beaming smile on her sweet face. It makes his heart warm mildly, lips tilting so faintly he’s not sure anyone would ever catch it.

She looks over at him, eyeing the expression while trying to juggle the conversation. Saito can almost feel her soften, the doting look he’s not sure he deserves slowly blooming on her features. It’s overwhelming, what he feels for her. It’s out of his depth, deeper than he could have imagined, and equally unexpected.

It terrifies him. Their relationship is reminiscent of the bombs of the West -  inevitably, it will explode, leaving only devastation in its wake. And Saito isn’t so sure how he’ll feel about the remnants.

Chizuru finally slips away from her conversation, carrying the large basket back to him. “Shall we head home?”

Home. She doesn’t think anything of the question, of course not sparing it a second thought, but the way she says home makes his insides squirm.

He’s never had a home before the Shinsengumi. And although he still considers them his family, he’s grown so comfortable in the small abode it makes him second guess himself. They’ve built a little world amidst the medical journals, an illusion of peace. It’s counterfeit, doomed to shatter at any time.

Swallowing down the emotions, Saito nods, easily taking the basket out of her hands and ignoring her protests. There is a pull on his free hand, and then cool fingers intertwine with his. He doesn’t miss the faint blush on her cheeks that forms, nor the way his own heat up in response at the easy kindness.

It’s a short walk to the small residence, but the recent chill in the air is lessened by the sun high in the afternoon sky. Undoubtedly, as soon as it disappears, the impending winter will make itself known. Chizuru relays her conversation with the merchant, how he had been friendly with her Father and made note of his extended absence. Unfortunately, he is no more aware of his location than the pair of them, offering a plethora of theories they’ve both already considered.

It isn’t until they’re in the yard that he spots the one things to shatter the calm built like a careful illusion.

There’s a letter there, solitary, imposing. It’s simply set against the door, and a sense of duty washes over him in a moment. He can feel himself standing a bit taller, a bit straighter, eyes narrowing as obligation swallows him whole.

Saito had sent off an explanation after his wound allowed him to move somewhat easier. He offered a general overview of the situation, as well as details on the men he fought that night. It was as detailed as Saito felt was appropriate, enough to inform his superior of who to keep an eye out for and why he cannot resume his captain duties immediately.

It had been a bit longer than he thought it would be for a response, but the message was much the same as he anticipated. It lacks any overt detail, too risky an enemy would intercept the messenger. But Hijikata’s handwriting is enough for the loyal warrior to rise once more.

We need you here. Come back as soon as you’re well enough to do so.

He knew he was living with her on borrowed time. Saito was just surprised how reluctant he was to see it come to its inevitable end.

Chizuru waits patiently next to him, her eyes knowing, sad. She doesn’t feign ignorance as to what was hidden on the parchment. It’s one thing he admires about her - the gentle strength she wears on her sleeve.

“You’re leaving.”

It’s a statement, matter-of-fact. He feels it’s only right he responses with an equally frank, “Yes.”

Chizuru smiles, as bright as always. But there is something behind her eyes that shows the pressure she is undoubtedly feelings. He almost reaches out to her, almost does what he can to offer the semblance of comfort he is capable of, when she speaks. “Let’s make dinner. I got your favorite.”

-

Saito packs up his belongings slowly, meticulously. Everything has a place, a compartment, an area where he will be able to find it in a moment. The dark kimono and scarf that was damaged so thoroughly the night of the incident looks as good as new and lays waiting for him to take up his self-imposed armor. His sword has been cared for, in peak condition, as if he would settle for any less. He’s already burnt the letter. Soon, there will be no trace of him to have ever graced the Yukimura residence.

That thought alone is sobering.

There’s a knock, delicate, soft. There’s only one person it could possibly be, however late the hour. Certainly, it’s far later than propriety deems customary for a young woman to come to his door.

Saito swallows those thoughts. He can hardly tell her to leave - he’s certain she’s seen his moments. And, although he has trouble admitting it to himself, he wants to see her. He softly breathes, “Come in.”

“Excuse me,” Chizuru says and she slides open the shoji screen, polite as ever. It warms his heart.

“It’s late,” he remarks. She’s fiddling with her sleeves, eyes slipping to the knapsack he’s just finished packing. He’s overcome with the nonsensical urge to hide it from sight.

“It is,” she pushes a stray hair behind her ear, “I… wasn’t sure what time you intend on leaving.”

“Early. It’s a long journey.”

His comment only results in silence, too candid. Saito has wished on more than one occasion that he was better with people, more adept at handling their emotions. Maybe then he would know what to do, to make her smile despite the situation.

He hates to leave her alone in this house, wondering where he is and where her father is and why she was left behind. Undoubtedly, it’s heavy on her mind, thoughts swirling as he contemplates how to possibly convey his regret - that the last thing he would ever want is to force her back into solitude. The strangers could return any day, the ones bent on bringing her with them. He hopes only that he posed enough of a threat to keep her safe, for now.

Saito wonders if she can sense his indecision, or if it’s something else that makes her surge forward, hands gripping his kimono tightly. It takes him a moment to recover, to contend with the sudden, suffocating proximity.

It takes him a minute too long to respond - she almost pulls away. Saito can’t think of anything he desires less at the moment, and without overthinking it, he sets a hand on the back of her head. Chizuru rests against him, in turn, silky hair tickling his chin.

“I’m sorry,” Saito murmurs, voice in her ear and trying not to feel the way it makes her shiver against him, “I don’t know what to say, how to make this better.”

She pulls her head away just enough to see him, deep blue meeting rich brown. Saito sets his head against her forehead, lost in her eyes against the moonlight.

“You don’t need to. Being with you is enough.”

She’s right, of course she is, so he kisses her instead. It hasn’t been a common occurrence since that first time, just a light brush of lips to say good morning, or absently when she’s bright and laughing in that captivating way of hers. But Saito knows he’s clumsy at best, and isn’t always the best at expressing what’s in his heart.

But tonight, the walls fall. Calloused hands fall to her waist, pulling soft curves flush against lithe muscle. Chizuru’s breathe hitches, but he kisses through the gasps, lips moving skillfully, wanting nothing more than to draw more of those sounds out of her pretty lips.

It’s nothing like he’s ever felt before, raw and unrestrained. Her mouth is open from the noises she’s making and he takes the opportunity to explore, see what she tastes like.

He can tell she needs to breathe, needs to recover, but the idea of pulling away is nothing short of traumatic. So instead, lips move from her own to the side of her mouth, grazing her jawline. He can see her collarbones, elegant, and he wonders if it would be inappropriate to kiss them next. He settles just beneath her ear and on the high plane of her neck, at war on how far he would like to push himself tonight.

“Saito-san,” she sighs, and the noise is beautiful but wrong. Not what he wants, not what he desires.

“Hajime,” he insists, and when he talks his lips hit her earlobe.

“W-what?” Dazed, Chizuru blinks, caught off guard by the turn of events.

“Call me Hajime.”

She goes to argue, even as her flushed cheeks and heavy breathing give her away. Silly girl, so concerned about decorum as the fabric falls from her shoulder, exposing the smooth, unblemished skin to the night air.

He insists, once again, accompanied by a sharp nip to her earlobe, fascinated by the feel and texture.

And when this time she sighs, “Hajime,” it does things to him he wasn’t totally prepared for - cheeks reddening but eyes darkening. This lust is new, all-encompassing. He wonders if he should be worried about all of the new emotions she invokes in him, when he’s actively spent years trying to limit their pull on him.

It’s recklessly inappropriate for an unwed man and woman to promise themselves to each other in such a way, he’s far too aware of his traditional philosophies. But simultaneously, Saito understands this is it. He would never dream of giving himself to another, not when Chizuru is there and so achingly complete.

“Chizuru,” his hands tighten in her disheveled apparel, “stop me.”

It’s a helpless plea, but one he means. If she doesn’t want this, if she’s uncomfortable, he’ll pull himself away right now. It will remain a distant memory, the last thing before his lengthy trek home tomorrow.  

Chizuru grabs his face, small hands cupping his cheeks. She kisses him, carefully, affectionately, her thumb running over a cheekbone. “No. Please, Hajime.”

The nail fits beautifully in the coffin, he thinks.

Saito’s painfully out of his element, so far removed from his realm of experience. He can conquer an entire room of ronin, can fight any foe who dares questions his way, but he hasn’t the foggiest idea how to approach the art of making love.

The whispers of his comrades and what they do in the dark of night or at Shimabara come to him, but they feel so wrong, so… detached. If he’s giving his heart and soul to this woman, then he fully intends to go about it in a way that really portrays such unabashed adoration.

Saito gulps, pulling gently at the tie keeping her attire closed. “May I?” he asks, voice far lower than is customary.

Chizuru nods, glancing at him through her eyelashes. Deft fingers pull at the fabric, pleased to see it is slipping, exposing more of the soft skin to his eager eyes. Finally, the robe falls, and she shivers. She’s as beautiful as he imagined, surpassing even his wildest of dreams.

Lowering her slowly onto the tatami mat, Saito watches as her hair fans out elegantly behind her, watches how her chest rises and falls with rapt fascination. He hasn’t come to terms with the idea that he can touch her, feel her, be selfish.

Chizuru takes his hand, setting it atop her chest. He takes the opportunity for what it is, feeling her carefully. The breast fits perfectly in his hand, and he massages it, enjoying the feel. He takes his thumb and teases the bud carefully.

Saito ducks his head, letting his lips find her collarbone as he has wanted to for a while. He bites at the skin, fascinated by the way it makes her breathe hitches and forces a light gasp to blossom from her parted lips.

A small hand runs through his hair, down his neck, until it reaches the opening of his own attire. Chizuru pulls at it, attempting to free him from the confines until he is equally exposed. It comes as a relief, really. He had been so focused on her Saito hadn’t acknowledged how warm he’s gotten, or the throbbing that’s becoming rather uncomfortable.

Saito pulls away enough to give her what she wants, satisfied when she sits up enough to help him out of the cumbersome garb. He takes note of the way her eyes scan up and down his body, a sort of masculine pride he’s never felt before coming to life at the satisfaction in her gaze.

Saito braces himself on his right arm, elegant fingers tracing their way down her torso until it reaches lower lower lower. Passing the curls above her entrance, he carefully traces the folds, surprised to feel just how wet the area is. He explores, feeling the way she responses to different stimulus, until he reaches a spot that has her moaning his name again, in that way that drives him oh-so crazy.

He circles a small bud just above her opening, fascinated by her expression shifting and changing with the motions. Deft fingers caress in a way that has her moving against him, her own hair moving to his hair and forcing his head down into a kiss.

Saito keeps his thumb on the bud, thrusting a long finger into her opening, and another, feeling the way she moves around him.

Chizuru sets her head against his shoulder, before kissing it, placing affectionate bites on the exposed skin. It makes him groan, the feeling of her marking the area just how he did to her earlier oddly satisfying. His scarf will conceal the marks, regardless.

Her noises increase in volume, a beautiful symphony, and it takes Saito perhaps longer than it should to realize she’s climaxing. Chizuru’s face is stunning, mouth open and eyes half-lidded in such a way he knows he’ll see it in his dreams.

He retracts his hand, using his other to push dark bangs out of her face. He swoops down to kiss her once more but is rendered immobile by a delicate hand grasping his length. Chizuru feels him, slowly, adjusting to the sensation.

It’s incredible, and almost too much to know that Chizuru’s the one bringing out these feelings, to know that she’s the one caressing him. That thought alone challenges his self-control.

In a swift motion, Saito uses all of that razor-sharp discipline to grasp her delicate wrist, halting the deliberate strokes. She releases him immediately.

“Chizuru,” he bites out, and she immediately freezes, eyes going wide.

“I-I’m sorry. Did I do something wrong?”

The girl looks at him from under her lashes, the concern apparent even through the dilated pupils.

“No, never,” he huffs. He didn’t mean to upset her. “But-”

Saito stops short, not certain how to articulate what it is he wants. He glances downwards, cheeks blazing once more. He clears his throat, “But if you would like to- to go any further…”

Chizuru smiles reassuringly, through whatever doubts she may secretly be having. “I want to. I want this, Hajime.”

Her wish is his command and he is more than willing to comply. He has a feeling she could ask anything of him at this moment and he would be all too eager to see it come true. An alarming thought, to be sure, but not one he’s willing to think too far on. Not now, not while she’s laying ready and willing looking like that.

Saito fills her slowly, a pleasurable stretch as he works his way into her. Chizuru flinches when he’s finally in, all the way, but concern completely overrides any of the pleasure he’s feeling.

“Are you okay?”

She nods, biting her lip for a moment, as she formulates a response. “Y-yes. Just give me a minute?”

Anything, he wants to say. Instead, he kisses her forehead dotingly. He’ll wait as long as she needs. Even if the feel of her wet and warm and willing is enough to drive him crazy. This is a brand of restraint he has never before contended with.

Chizuru recovers quickly enough, her expression easy into something more pleasurable in just moments. It doesn’t take long before she’s kissing him, telling him it’s okay and to let go.

He moves, finally, and can’t contain the subsequent moan. Thrusting into her once more, he begins to set a tempo, finding a rhythm. And although he had initially planned to keep things slow, Saito finds it’s harder and harder to hold himself back.

Chizuru responds ardently to the increased pace, hands never quite settling in one place. They move from his back where the nails scrape against the muscles, to his shoulders where they firmly grasp, to his hair where they graze his scalp and pull and the long strands. It’s surprisingly pleasurable, enough so he doesn’t even mind when his hair comes loose from its tie, falling freely down his back.

Observing her is a gift. The shifting expressions, gauging her reactions, a detail he never spared a thought on. But seeing what makes her head tilt up, finding what angle makes her bite her lip, the way her eyes light up when she says his given name that way is more than he could have foreseen.

He anticipates his climax is approaching quickly, and he’s too unprepared. She doesn’t seem ready yet, and no , that won’t do. Saito he sits up on his thighs so that he can pull her into his lap, giving him plenty of access to the spot that made her scream before. He toys with it, caressing firmly enough he knows she can feel the waves of pleasure, all-encompassing.

He rocks against her, riding out the peaks until both of their highs finally die down. He’s tired, he realizes, but a content sort of exhaustion that settles through his limbs. Not wanting to crush her he rearranges them so he’s on his back, and Chizuru presses against his side, not quite willing to let the warmth of the afterglow fade. That suits him just fine, really.

He cleans them up quickly, while he still has the energy to do so. Things are quiet for a while, calm, their breathing mingling with the cool air. Saito feels her hand on his bare chest, drawing invisible shapes, telling a tale he is not privy to. Her eyes are honest enough, the good-bye written in them even as they both pretend it is not the case.

Her voice is soft, slipping into the established calm with ease. “Will I ever see you again?”

“...yes.” It’s a cruel promise, one he isn’t certain he will be able to keep, but as he looks into her crystalline eyes he’ll be damned if he doesn’t do everything in his power to see it come true.

Sleep comes too quickly, and the morning even sooner. He awakens feeling far more comfortable and content than he can ever recall. He feels Chizuru’s warm breath on his neck, feels her curled securely against his side and he knows with a resounding clarity what it means to be in complete conflict with oneself.

He’d give up almost everything to wake up like this every day, to feel her warmth pressed securely against him. Everything except what it would take for that dream to come true.

The faces of the Shinsengumi are there, smiling, scowling, fighting - so very alive, even as they put their lives on the line recklessly. Or perhaps that’s why they’re alive, unsure of how many days are left for them, determined to live each day as if it’s their last. Their career offers far more uncertainty than it does anything else. It’s unfair to both her and his organization to continue this ill-fated romance.

Saito has sacrificed too much, fought too hard to be anything other than a swordsman. It’s marked within his soul, a fated path he was destined to walk.

Chizuru grasps the blanket, pulling it more securely against herself. She nuzzles further into the mat, a noise of contentment escaping from swollen lips. It makes him smile, fond.

He’s wasting enough time, he’s far too aware of the sun slowly rising in the East. He kneels, kissing her forehead one final time.

“I love you,” he whispers into the night, heart heavy, and leaves.

It’s foolhardy - their entire relationship was an optimistic affair - but for an uncharacteristic moment Saito cannot help but imagine what their life would have been like under different circumstances.

-

The Furies were out.

Their howling could be heard easily from the captain's quarters within the base. He's up, grabbing for his sword and throwing on the uniform before his mind has totally caught up, an automatic response to a stimulus he's far too familiar with.

The mark on his abdomen is still tender when he moves certain ways, but he pushes through, giving little thought to the pain as he meets up with Souji and the commander, both fully garbed in the standard blues. They exchange a simple nod of the head and then they're gone running through the streets in search of the lost creatures.

“You two, go to the shopping district. See if they haven't gone for the more populated areas. I'll follow the river and circle around.”

Saito offers a focused, “Hai, Taicho,” and Souji’s lackadaisical hmm of acknowledgment follows. There’s something there that gives Saito no small measure of pause. Despite his nonchalance, he’s buzzing, a spark in his gaze that screams for action. The Sword of the Shinsengumi poised to strike.

He's too eager, Saito thinks, aching to toy with his prey. And though that's fine when there are stray ronin harassing shopkeepers, this a time for discretion. Souji lacks tact at the best of times, but he’s perilous when the mood strikes, far too eager for bloodshed.

Idly, Saito reviews the most efficient way to dispose of the creatures.

It doesn't take long to locate them - perverse laughter echoing through the desolate streets, a macabre call to action. There is too much blood, empty bodies of what once may have been thugs littering the alleyway.

It takes Saito mere moments to see the Furies fall, sword cutting through them smoothly, watching their bodies fall with dispassionate interest. It’s a shame they hadn’t been able to spare the other men. Souji complains immediately about Saito’s quick word, eyes glittering despite himself. Saito reminded Souji that he takes no pleasure in battle, simply doing his duty.

There's a strangled noise, and nothing could have prepared Saito for what he finds pressed, terrified against the adjacent building.

Recognition flickers in her gaze, and he has to consciously take a deep breath to prevent himself from running to her - because it is her, even through the boy’s clothing and hairstyle she cleverly thought to don. Saito’s first thought is that she shouldn't see this, carnage too brutal for someone so pure. He hopes the blood hasn't already spoiled her innocence.

His second thought is what in the world are you doing here. He had informed her months ago that Kodo is not in Kyoto, and has yet to return, from their deductions. So either she decided to follow the sole lead she had, the only city where Kodo has promised to visit.

Or…. or, she wished to find him. He hopes to whatever deity may listen that is not the case, that there is a third option she discovered.

His final thought is that, somehow, those ronin from before never got her. She’s safe, as strange as that is to think when corpses litter the street.

“Saito-san,” her voice is much the same as he remembers, as he’s heard every day since he left in the early morning light. Except now, it’s tinted with something akin to panic. He doubts she expected to see him there, of all people, even less than he could have planned for her sudden appearance.

“Interesting. Didn’t think you had many acquaintances outside of the Shinsengumi, Hajime-kun.”

Saito skillfully ignores the probing comment, far too used to his partner to rise to the bait.

“Edo is far from here. Dangerous. You could have been hurt,” he voices his concerns, caring little for the way Souji watches the exchange. It would have taken him moments to discover their connection, anyways, thinking too far and rapidly for his own good.

“I’ve been careful. Until…” Chizuru’s eyes pointedly look away from the mess, trying to pretend the excessive blood doesn’t bother her.

“Until now,” Saito finishes for her. No use denying the obvious, not when he was the one to slay the monsters so close to attacking her.

“Saito-san, these men, they- what-”

“Uh-oh,” Souji cuts in, coyly watching the woman, “you weren’t supposed to see this. Looks like you have some rotten luck, kid.”

Saito sighs. He may be fond of the older man, but he excels at trying Saito’s extensive patience. Saito doesn’t get the chance to respond, to reprimand his comrade before the vice-commander makes an appearance.

Hijikata is as imposing as ever, pointing a blade strategically at her throat. Chizuru’s eyes widen in a way he would have thought to be comical, in any other circumstance. And although he has faith his commander would never harm a civilian, the image of her with a blade pointed her way doesn’t sit well with him.

The mercy in his eyes is the only thing keeping Saito from stepping in, or out of line. Chizuru won’t do anything rash. Hijikata must sense this, as well, because he withdraws the blade with only a warning. She simply gulps, nodding compliantly.

There’s a handful of deliberation, but ultimately, they decide to take Chizuru back to the base. He can only hope this works out favorably.

-

Saito is exhausted.

It was an uphill battle on his side, certainly tougher than the Furies from earlier, but somehow Hijikata agreed to let Chizuru not only live but stay with them. Her pleas were sincere, offering to assist the Shinsengumi with their search if they agree to house her until the good doctor is found.

They discovered her connection to Dr. Matsumoto, a talented medic whose practice resides in the center of town. Saito is relieved to see she had a plan, after all, an idea of where to go and spend her proactive energies. Unfortunately, the man is out of

It took everything in Saito to carefully school his expression, maintain the apathy necessary to make it through the discussion. It would have easily fooled a lesser man or someone who is not well-versed in the minimalistic habits his discipline has been unable to break. Unfortunately, Hijikata knows his charges well.

Something tells Saito that the commander is all-too-aware of his… connection to the doctor’s daughter. Souji, too, if the way his gaze flickered with mirth between the two. Shinpachi, Heisuke, Kondou…. likely unaware of the position. Harada, however, is a wildcard. If he hasn’t already caught on, odds are, he would have an idea shortly. It depends on how closely he was watching, where he was focusing his attentions. 

Hijikata had pulled him aside, intentions good despite the awkward approach. Neither of them knows the best way to go about it, so the commander leaves him with a vague warning about the dangers of getting attached in their line of work. As if Saito hasn’t already spent countless sleepless nights dwelling. As if his affections haven’t diminished in the slightest despite the months apart.

He’s leaving the vice commander’s room, warning fresh in his mind. And really, he has countless responsibilities to attend to. None assigned, none official, but Saito has always been something of a workaholic. He needs a goal, a task, a way to serve those whom he has pledged his services to.

Chizuru’s door is there, empty, void of any captains monitoring her. It’s easy to rationalize it's his duty to make sure she doesn’t escape (she’d never dream of it) or is tempted to venture further into the headquarters (she won’t).

Still, Saito approaches her door, wondering if he should knock. The sound may only draw more attention from his peers, their voices littering the hallways. He thinks he may hear Shinpachi’s boisterous laugh somewhere close, no doubt at Heisuke’s expense.

He can’t imagine what they would say if they saw him staring at their charges door. Without a second thought, he pushes back the door.

And then he sees Chizuru, beautiful even through the disguise. She’s staring out the window, watching the moon. It’s full tonight, standing proudly against the dark of the sky.

He clears his throat, unsure of how else to draw her attention. He’s been told on multiple occasions his movements can be silent, difficult to detect even to those attuned to their surroundings.

“Saito-san!” she exclaims, expression brightening when she realizes who has disturbed

“I hope I’m not intruding.”

She shakes her head kindly, gesturing for him to come further into the room she was given.

“You didn’t mention your organization was the Shinsengumi,” Chizuru comments offhandedly, pulling at a strand of hair. He wonders how their reputation is received in Edo, if Serizawa’s poison has reached even there. If her nerves are anything to go by, Saito would assume word travels quickly.

“You never asked,” he counters, knowing it’s a futile comment. He had offered too much information already, had to preserve some of the discretion on who it was that sent him on that preordained mission in the first place.

“Perhaps that’s for the best.” Perhaps they wouldn’t have gotten so close, she wouldn’t have trusted him so willingly. And yet, her heart is open, willing. He has a feeling she would have treated him the same, regardless.

“Indeed.”

“This is the second time you’ve saved me.”

He hums, acknowledging the truth of the statement. And he will save her a thousand times, if necessary. “And this time I wasn’t stabbed.”

She laughs, a light, soothing sound. Saito’s glad she can still do that, laugh, through the situation.

Things go quiet, peaceful. They sit in companionable silence, both lost in their respective thoughts. There are a million things they should discuss, should come to terms with, but nothing measures up to the knowledge that she’s here, with him, alive and healthy.

“I missed you.”

The confession is quiet, unsure. As if she thinks distance could have lessened his affection.

Fool. His cheeks brighten.

“And I, you.”

She looks at him with wide eyes, sparkling. He wonders if she’s surprised to have Hajime the man rather than Saito the warrior at that moment.

Something shifts in her expression, uncertainty fading and she kisses him. It’s awfully sudden, after too much time without her. But he can’t imagine doing anything other than kissing her back, reveling in the joy that she’s there and she’s safe and she’s still his.

There are flurries dancing through the air which is getting colder by the minute, but being here with her in his arms…

It feels like Spring.