title: a Pair of Primrose
fandom: Bakumatsu Kikansetsu Irohanihoheto
characters/pairings: Akidzuki, Hijikata
rating: G
warnings: none
summary: Akidzuki and Hijikata talk under the moon.
notes: based on ep 16 of the anime; could be read as a companion to the Pursuit of Perfection

He had closed his eyes, but he could still feel the moon above them, the fire, Hijikata-san to his left, and the Chief and that child asleep to his right. The two of them were breathing deeply together, as if they were out camping.

It was not necessary for both he and Hijikata-san to stay awake, but he didn't ask about rounds, because it was obvious that neither of them would sleep. It could perhaps have been a lack of trust, or merely a reflection of the danger that surrounded them; either way, the result was the same so the cause was insignificant. He would rest as he could, and he expected Hijikata-san to do the same, but he didn't expect either of them to let their guard down.

Not when they were so close to each other.

"Why were you with Okita when he died?"

The question was as soft as the wind, and not any more unexpected. He opened his eyes slowly. "Are you asking me what my relationship with Okita-san was?"

He turned to look at Hijikata-san at his slightly dismissive grunt. "You were his student. One of many."

He didn't precisely take it as a barb, simply because it was true. "It was fate, perhaps. I came upon him in the end stage of his illness."

Hijikata nodded, and narrowed his eyes. Akidzuki... wondered if what he felt was jealousy. Would a man feel jealous of another man's grief? "He would have. Wanted to die with his sword in his hand."

Akidzuki turned his face, and rubbed his bottom lip with his thumb. "He tried to," he muttered.

It was enough, though, for Hijikata-san to hear. He chuckled, and turned his sword around, his thumb running over the leather wrapping of the hilt. "I would imagine. That even right up to the end, his blade was a thing of pure beauty."

Akidzuki could only nod at that. Okita-san... was probably the closest thing that Akidzuki could comprehend as an artist. Perhaps he had been wrong to prevent Okita-san from having a meaningless death by throwing his precious blade around wantonly, though.

"I wonder..." Hijikata-san sighed, and looked up at the stars, his expression clouded.

Akidzuki patiently waited.

"They say that a samurai's honor depends on what he fights to protect. Kondo-sensei has gone ahead, and now... Okita... Yamanami..." He winced, and looked away, partially covering his face with his hand. "Is there anything else in this country to protect?"

Hijikata-san sounded bitter, almost mournful. Akidzuki had no response, on either level. His blade existed for a different purpose than protection, per se. Soutetsu-sensei spoke of Japan, but it had no relative meaning to Akidzuki. Japan was the place where he was. When he tried to protect people... he failed. On the other front, he could not consider himself to have ever been as close to anyone as Hijikata-san was to Okita and the other leaders of the Shinsengumi, save perhaps to Sakamoto-sama. Still.

"I forget, now, why we decided to leave for Kyoto. I don't remember if we had a lofty goal, or if we were just full of ourselves. It feels like it was a different life. When I was in different skin, with different blood..." Hijikata-san sighed. He was talking to himself. Perhaps it was a measure of respect, that he allowed himself to be that much at ease in Akidzuki's presence.

Perhaps it was because he considered Akidzuki to be nothing.

"I could not speak for that time. But you were full of yourself," Akidzuki yawned, looking away. Annoyed, but uncertain as to the cause of his annoyance.

Hijikata-san barked out a single, crisp laugh. "So were you, if I remember correctly. There were so many pups who idolized Okita. I never bothered to keep them all straight."

"He was a worthy subject of idolization," Akidzuki said stiffly.

"You did not know him," Hijikata-san replied swiftly, coolly, sadly.

Akidzuki tipped his head back, and looked up at the stars. "No. I didn't."

After a minute, Hijikata-san threw a stick into the fire, a gesture of aggravation. "I'm not sure I did, either. Maybe it's just the way of life. It's probably just as well that there are battles for men of the sword to keep throwing themselves into," he spat out in a vicious whisper.

Was that grief's voice? Was Hijikata-san truly a samurai without a path, or was he just looking back at what had already been lost?

Akidzuki had no answers. His memories of Okita-san and the time in Kyoto were fond, and somewhat confused. It had nothing to do with his destiny, or his future.

"I did not expect to be the last of them," Hijikata-san sighed, and a quiet fell upon them, comprised of the crackling of the dwindling fire, the coos of the birds in the trees, and the wind and leaves meeting. That last comment was probably the end of Hijikata-san's self-indulgence for the night.

Akidzuki closed his eyes, and he could still feel the slight weight of Okita-san in his arms. Smell the mixture of sweat and soap and medicine from his skin. See the pain in Okita-san's clear eyes.

Faced now with Hijikata-san, Akidzuki felt a bit like a thief for having that memory, but that changed nothing.