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One Winter's Day

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After that secret tryst of a full moon’s night your life turned into slow torture. You knew, understood full well, the wisdom in not seeing, not talking and not sending tender looks of insatiable lust from across hallways to protect the secret you and Miki shared, but it didn’t make bearing the loneliness, the need and the longing any easier. Your body ached for Miki’s touch, the memories of your shared moments ghosting through you in completely inappropriate moments, like when you were supposed to serve tea to the old captains and maintain a demure façade. Time did little to cool your emotions, instead your soul ached for him more and more with each passing day.
As days turned into weeks the heat of summer fled Kyōto and was replaced by the first hints of autumn chill. And all you shared with Miki were a few hasty and all the more heated kisses in dark nooks. He would ambush you at the craziest moments, pull you behind a corner to press you into the wall and against him. You rose to his invitation faster and harder than kindling flares into flames. And as quickly these encounters were over, for Nishi Honganji was so full of people, someone would wander too close in mere moments and you’d need to split. Your only solace was that whenever Miki’s lips drank yours, they felt almost as desperately thirsty for you as you felt for him. It was a heady, intoxicating sensation.

And one cold night when a leaden autumn rain fell you were roused from your fitful sleep by the whisper of your shōji sliding open and Miki slipping in. He was shivering with cold and kimono damp with rain. You were too bewildered even to speak, the slow agonising days of being deprived of his presence had made you nigh believe it was all over already, and Miki done with you. Instead he was here, now, and you clumsily helped him shed his kimono, to pull him close, into your warm futon. Frantically you fucked beneath its heavy cover trying not to let any cold air slither in and trying to keep quiet lest the men sleeping only a few rooms down not wake.
Afterwards he held you close, body so warm, strong and real the mere sensation brought stinging tears to your eyes. You blessed the darkness where he would not spy them. But all too soon, Miki groggily grumbled that he had to go, really had to go or he’d sleep all the way to next noon here, within the warm bliss of your futon. Whining you pulled him closer, you let your deepest wish be turned into words and you whispered to him how wonderful it would be to wake up next to him next morning. The noncommittal growl Miki gave you as a reply while disentangling your limbs from his body drove the blade of reality straight into your heart, and it lodged there for good. No more words were shared between the two of you as Miki hunted for his damp clothes in the pitch dark of your room and slipped back into the night.

It didn’t help one bit that after Miki’s latest visit you began torturing yourself with idle fancies like wanting desperately to see his blissfully sleeping face bathed in pale morning light. Unguarded and unaware. What would it be like to share those first waking moments of a morning together with him, without any rush to anywhere? What would he do, what would you do?
How would he look like under the autumn sun filtering through red maple leaves, walking beside you and smiling openly at you? Would he even hold your hand? Where would he take you if you both had all the time in the world?
You knew these thoughts only served to drive you crazier, but you couldn’t stop. Nights were the worst, it was a time you fell deeper into fantasies of a world where you and Miki could live your life out in the open, instead of being separated by these impossible barriers of the Shinsengumi internal politics, and your secrets. No rest, no sleep and still no way to escape.
Doggedly you kept on going about your life even if all your stress was truly starting to weigh you down, but there was nothing you could do about it. Not even try and console the relations between these two factions in the fear that your ulterior motives be found out. What little you saw of Miki showed him looking a bit more harrowed than before, and from what you heard his temper was certainly not improved. He had returned to patrolling with a vengeance after his wound healed, clearly determined to prove himself as a man to all who dared to doubt him. Same sources eagerly continued that he had also thrown himself into sword training zealously, the Shinsengumi men sure loved to gossip.

This was what your life turned into, and barely you kept it together, sometimes feeling so guilty you were now more worried about this man you had known for such a short time rather than worrying about your missing father, the reason you had ended up in this place altogether.

Winter was upon you and all the magnificently red maples had shed their coats leaving behind only naked branches reaching for the clear blue sky. A chill was gnawing at your fingers and toes as you sat on the veranda before the Shinsengumi’s main hall waiting for Okita and his men to take you out on patrol. He was late, and you felt the dread of having to spend the day with the sharp man like a black shadow weighing on your shoulders. The yard was suspiciously deserted, though, and the uncomfortable sensation roiling in your belly was getting worse with each passing moment. Unexpectedly, the shōji behind you slid open with a clack, and you spied Inoue and Kondō stepping out, looking grim.
“I’m sorry” Kondō began, looking pale “Souji has fallen ill so he can’t go out on patrol today.”
“Oh no” was the thing you managed to mutter out loud as a mix of emotions flitted through you. You hadn’t been on patrol for a while and had been looking forward to getting out of the compound and your ever-circling mind for even a bit, but then again Okita scared you like no other captain did, so avoiding his jibes and threatening brain should’ve been a relief, but…
“I hope it is nothing serious” you added as an afterthought, chiding yourself for your self-centredness, as you clambered to your feet.
“The other units have left already, so there’s no one to take you along on patrol–” Kondō continued looking so pained it made your own chest ache, but he was interrupted by a voice behind you, still rather far away but nonetheless able to rouse your entire body into a storm of shivers and goose bumps.
“The captain of the first division out of commission?” You saw the faces of Kondō and Inoue grow dark as you heard gravel whisper under Miki’s feet. Unable to stop you turned to look over your shoulder, quite sure the fright on your face could not have been interpreted as anything but what it was, a genuine scare.
“I’ll take his place then” Miki smiled, cocksure and voice full of his certainty of himself “I’ll take the page along too if he has an errand to run” his tone was taunting, but not dismissing of Okita’s ailing health, still you were sure Kondō would not be pleased no matter how kindhearted he was. Miki, who had surely gone insane your panicking brain screamed, was still not stupid:
“I mean Okita shouldered quite the chunk of my burden as I was recovering from my wound” and for once Miki’s voice was not out to rile up all present. You could not say he sounded completely diplomatic either, nor desperate you thought to your relief, but just sincere. He was surrounded by a handful of his closest men, clearly having been going to practice swordplay on his day off from patrolling.
“Oh, we couldn’t bother you with such trifle matters” Kondō replied, and you heard how taken aback he too was with Miki’s sudden invitation and how he was grasping at straws to find a polite way to refuse him without baring his intentions.
“Nah, it’s not a bother at all, we were going to practice anyway, so patrolling is almost the same, right lads?” He turned to his comrades who gave their affirmatives, some more enthusiastic than others.

All the while you stood on the stairs between these men, trying frantically to decide where to look, how to act and most of all how not to faint. Miki was there, just a few steps away from you, speaking so many words where you could hear them. Oh, how you had missed his voice, even if it was not directed at you. And, so, you were intensely afraid to look at him, for you were sure your longing for him would be visible all the way to the moon. Your vision swam with panic and yearning, even as you feverish brain tried to decide how to act in this situation without baring yourself, getting angry at Miki was not an option, nor would your traitorous heart let you refuse his offering, but neither could you accept it just like that for Kondō and Inoue would certainly suspect something…
“Mi-miki-san, I-i” pathetically you stuttered teetering on the stair, feeling so sure you’d just fall any second now.
“Are we not brothers in arms?” Miki’s voice was low, and you felt their mirroring of your earlier words sting in your soul, as apparently did Inoue, judging from the way his face fell. The implications of Miki’s words hung heavily over you all, Kondō looked at you uncertain and you couldn’t stop an encouraging smile from tugging your lips. Leave it to me, I can handle this you tried to tell him, ready to risk everything for a few hours with this man. You were furious with Miki, who had so explicitly banned any contact between the two of you, and now here was trying to steal you away with all the Shinsengumi to see! Straight from Kondō himself, no less! But you’d be damned if you just let an insane chance like this slip from between your fingers like so much sand.
“I-it’s not as if my page was going to do anything of great import, just watch and learn the ways patrolling really…” Kondō tried for nonchalance but failed, thus he continued “And use his less threatening looks to gather intel.”

Miki let out a bark of laughter you weren’t sure whether it was meant to be encouraging or mocking
“Then we’ll take real good care of him, and return your page to you much wiser in a few hours from now. Surely, he will benefit from learning from all of us captains.” Kondō gave you a look like he was sending you to a wolf’s den dressed in a meat kimono, while you tried to keep the dread and anticipation from warping your face. Slowly you turned to Miki and his cronies:
“I look forward to working with you, Miki-san, please take care of me” deliberately you lowered your voice as you always tried when talking to Shinsengumi men, but the dark spark in Miki’s eyes threatened to turn your voice into a high pitched squeak then and there. You hid your embarrassing face with a bow deeper than what would’ve been necessary for the situation.
“Likewise page-boy” the immense enjoyment Miki was drawing from this situation was painted all over his face and voice, threatened to paint your face red too, especially after you were graced with one of Miki’s signature sneers “Come along now while we fetch our patrol haori, Okita was going to do the Kiyomizu route today, right?”
Miki turned to Kondō and Inoue managing to sound all business-like and serious, all that mock vanished.

Miki nodded and you found yourself following a bunch of men you usually tried to diligently avoid, falling mute with fright while drowning in the view of Miki walking just a score of steps before you. In the pale brightness of an early winter’s day his wild hair looked almost blue, ruffled by a chilling wind. Finally, it had gotten so cold his glimmering gold embroidered haori occupied both his shoulders, making then seem all the wider, even if you missed sorely the enchanting view of his glowed arm, especially the sliver of skin he so generously shared with the world. His collar did remain defiantly open, not that you could see it from this point of view. You were trying not to stare, really you were, but it was hard, practically impossible.

The men returned to their easy banter quickly, not letting the uncomfortable silence linger too long. They were rough men, the kind of which scared you still a bit even after all these years in the Shinsengumi ranks, even if most of them were part of the samurai class. In these turbulent days it did not mean much anymore.
Few of the bolder ones started prodding you with questions starting from how it was being Kondō’s page and had you been a part of their group already in Shieikan, what kind of girls you liked and if you were old enough to even go to Shimabara. You felt your face heat up like a candle wick.
“Oi. No bothering the page.” Miki did not even need to raise his voice, you felt a shiver run down your spine,
“We’re not here to interrogate the boy, but to impress him with our professionalism.” topped off with that dark laughter of his, and you were already getting a bit dizzy.

After donning the uniforms this small patrol left the compound to oversee Kyōto’s peace. As you got more used to the way in which Miki’s division talked, you relaxed a bit. Miki smoothly and professionally explained to you how his unit would’ve normally been bigger but many of his men had gone out on their day off and thus you were graced only with the inner circle of his unit. Soon you were acquainted with Suzuki Miki’s right-hand man who seemed as trustworthy and amicable as anyone ever could be in the Itō faction.
Somehow you relaxed, slipping easily back into your patrol persona, flitting to and fro at the edges of the patrol to inquire after your father, as the core sauntered forth like they owned the whole of Kyōto. And on occasion Miki would go on a whole teacherly monologue about the delicacies of patrolling with Suzuki backing him up. He was clearly enjoying himself and you couldn’t help but to smile too, the rest of his men treated you nigh like a princess after that single comment. You really had to admire Miki’s leadership, and seeing him working like this made warm waves of affection was over you, not mentioning the much hotter surges you had to suffer through every time he smiled, talked, laughed or well, basically existed there for you to witness, here in broad daylight.

Kiyomizu was beyond Gion and as you walked a wide road in the middle of it, you started to spy more and more fine, fashionable ladies hurrying on their errands, some clearly apprentices to tea houses, geiko and oiran. Kyōto was truly the pinnacle of elegance, and everywhere around you beautiful young ladies floated past like so many heavenly maidens, how you wished you could just be one of them. After a cohort of girls dressed in the latest patterns you had only spied in a book lender’s woodblock print collection of kimono fashions, with hair done up in the current style, completed with a moderate and thus all the more exquisite amount of kanzashi, you maybe did sigh a little.
“What’s this now, is the page boy bored of our uncouth banter” Miki was suddenly right next to you, and his voice so low it was only meant for you. You caught a whiff of his scent, insides coiling into tighter knots of need, despite your best effort to not to you looked him in the eye. Impossibly the tightness in your chest got more painful.
“Oh, no, it is not that.” Not bearing to gaze that which you most desired, especially with the perfectly sultry look Miki was giving you, you let your gaze wander again on the busy street and the pretty girls surrounding you, some of what you felt slipped into your voice.
“Admiring the view, then, they don’t let you out often, now do they” Miki cackled and your face heat up again, certainly turning dark red.
“Ugh, I was just thinking that maiko there has the most exquisite Tango chirimen haori I’ve seen in a while, those white herons were painted so well I thought they might leap out of her jacket into flight” pouting you tried to scoff at Miki, but were taken aback by a soft gasp of surprise from his end.
“Didn’t know you were so interested in fashion” what was this now? Miki sounded genuinely elated, a voice and a look you had never seen on him before, your heart skipped. This was all too much.

From thereon you fell into an enthusiastic exchange of views and opinions on the elegant tastes of the capital and ruthlessly analysing the attire of Kyōtoites passing by. You had not had this much fun in years, like a heavy cloud had finally been dispersed and sunlight was flooding your head. Miki surprised you with the extent of knowledge and enthusiasm for the latest fads of Kyōto. In retrospect it should not have surprised you since the man was always clad in the most refined of clothing, but deep down you had always thought it was Itō behind all of that. But you had been so utterly wrong, it had always been Miki himself and you felt a pang of guilt for thinking him a brute.

Near the hill leading to Kiyomizudera your patrol stopped for a break and Miki treated you to dango accompanied by tea, and you truly felt like you were on a date, like it was only you and him in this entire world. Miki sat next to you, but before he could even get a word out, Suzuki sat next to him and, with quite a dash of gravitas in his voice, whispered:
“My esteemed captain, I find myself having to remind you that we are out on patrol, and not entertaining prospective lovers.” You nearly choked on the tea you were sipping, flustered, no mortified, but Miki just laughed raucously.
“Hah, Suzuki, I’m sorry, it’s just so rare to find a man of taste anywhere” he slapped your back all brotherly, making you nigh inhale another mouthful of tea just as you were recovering from your first close encounter with death.
“But duly noted” Miki’s tone turned more serious, nervously you glanced at Miki’s other men who were indeed leering at the two of you more than just a bit. They did seem prideful of their captain’s charming ways, too, not just mocking your looseness. Miki himself seemed absolutely unfazed but took the rest of the patrol into more sombre hands, even you remembered to try and gather a few tidbits of information as you made your way back to the Shinsengumi headquarters. Luckily, and probably to the chagrin of the men, your patrol was rather uneventful.

As you drew near to Nishi Honganji a heavy feeling settled again into the pit of your stomach, soon this strange, fanciful dream would be over too, and probably due to its consequences Miki would leave you alone to suffer for weeks and weeks. There was no way Miki’s men wouldn’t boast about their captain’s prowess and all too many eyes would be spying both of your movements. You were sure the older captains would not be too happy to hear what had happened, fearing for your safety and for your secrets.

Inside the gates Miki dismissed his men, thanking them for sacrificing their precious day of freedom for the sake of yet another patrol.
“And I’ll go and return this page to his master, safe and sound as promised” he added, manoeuvring you towards Kondō’s office. The knowing smile Suzuki gave the both of you made an embarrassing heat rise from beneath your collar to your cheeks, quickly you turned away to flee. Just as quickly you stopped, turned around on your heels, nigh bumping into Miki, bowing deep to thank the men for taking care of you today. Seriously, you had lost your manners with your wits. It made both Miki and Suzuki cackle.
“Off we go” Miki ordered and keeping boldly at pace with him you started walking together across the wide yard. There were not many men in sight, Shinsengumi nor monks, you glanced around like a thief in the night.
“Quit that gaping, even the old tree will think you’re up to no good” Miki said without turning his head towards you.
“I’m sorry!” you squeaked, snapping your head back forward.
“Didn’t ask for your apology.”

You knew the way but let Miki lead you anyway, and it all went along familiar tracks until suddenly Miki turned a tight corner leading you two to a narrower corridor, completely deserted. Instantaneously your heart was hammering, another two steps and he pulled a seemingly random shōji open to a room clearly used for storage. His iron grip was on your wrist and he pulled you in, straight into his chest. You barely registered the shōji clacking shut behind you, for your head was filled with Miki’s scent, the agitated rising of his chest against your cheek beneath which you felt the gallop of his heart. You moaned, and as you were still moaning Miki was already turning, pushing you against a closet door, hands circling behind to pull you closer as he pressed more firmly against you.
Intuitively you lifted your face, just as Miki’s fingers carded into your hair.
You were afraid to look, for you were sure just seeing his face this close after all that had happened would just break you into such fine pieces you’d never get them back together, but at the same time not looking was entirely impossible. He growled and it was enough of an order, you cracked your eyes open. It was dark in the tiny storage room, but you basked in the impossible purple of Miki’s eyes, only for a moment, for Miki tilted your head a dove in to kiss you. His tongue slipped past your eagerly opening lips as yours darted out to meet his, he pushed you harder into the door and maybe it did creak painfully beneath.
Your hands twined first around his shoulders, still wrapped in too many layers of silk, the pale blue of the Shinsengumi uniform still on top of everything. Moaning louder you slipped your hands inside, around his waist.
A bubbling heat was eagerly boiling within you, sending tingling wracks of arousal coursing through you. All his familiar teasing was gone as he pushed a thigh between your legs and your hips rolled out to press into that welcome hardness, while Miki’s own hips rubbed against yours. He was already hard, and you sobbed into his mouth in need, making him groan too, as you ground against him.
“I shouldn’t have done that” he whispered between kisses, calloused fingers suddenly caressing your cheek as he softly muttered your name. It was terrifying, how your body reacted to those few syllables, how his voice sounded, how his eyes were so dark, how rending the pain in your entire body was just then.
“We can’t do this” Miki continued, and you pulled him closer whimpering a denial. His mouth was on your neck, biting and licking.
“I need to stop” he said, hot breath tickling your skin and you tilted your head lower to invite him deeper, frenzied fingers pulling at his belt, looking for a way in, to his skin. He bit you at the crook of the neck, a place that tore out the most desperate, needy moans out of you, and he was not disappointed. The pain of his teeth digging into you shot straight through you like wave of flame, settling into your throbbing sex, weeping already for the visceral need of him.
“S-Saburō” you whined, tears already spilling over, tears of pure, unadulterated need, hands settling on his ass to drag him closer again, the hardness of his dick so close to your throbbing pussy the most vexing thing you had ever hoped to experience. Desperate, you ground against him, moaning again when Miki mirrored the movement, pressing his erection into you, grinding,
“Don’t— stop, I— ” you panted against his shoulder, probably drooling onto his haori already, but beyond caring, you just didn’t want this to end.
One his hands slid to your front to press against your tingling pussy, and you had to take a mouthful of his haori to clamp you teeth with to stop a wail from escaping. In retribution you grabbed his collar and started pulling all that obstructing fabric from his shoulders, the coldness of winter be damned. You at least felt hot enough to ignite any second now.
Growling Miki flipped you around on your feet, pressing you face first into the lacquered door. His hand dipped deeper, and harder between your legs, and as his body pressed into your back. You felt the hardness of his dick press against your ass. You were mewling in need, too loud even you knew, squirming against him:
“Please, please Saburō…”
Miki hissed against your ear, voice a husky growl:
“Shhhit, just… quiet” his other hand was clawing at the linen bindage of your chest to drag them from the way by force–

The tell-tale thunk of heavy steps on wood. How either of you even noticed them was a miracle in itself, but you did.

The both of you froze, and Miki’s palm was on top of your mouth before you had the time to even register what was happening. You heard muffled talking from a few paper screens down, monks on some task. The voices were getting closer. Your lust was mixed with adrenaline, you wanted to bolt and run, but Miki held you against him. You heard a shōji hiss open just a few steps away.
Luckily the men were only fetching something quickly and their voices soon subsided, but the both of you fully grasped the reality of your situation. Reluctantly you once again untangled from each other’s’ arms.
“I mean you’re right, it was pretty stupid” you whispered as a small but uncrossable distance was settled between the two of you in this tiny storage room,
“But I’m glad” and idiotic smile spread on your lips, you couldn’t even hope to stop it, as hopeless was any wish to stifle the warmth spreading in your chest at everything that had transpired this day. Miki smiled back at you, and if anything could throw you off pace today it was that
“Yeah, me too” was the only thing he said, but it too only served to drag you deeper.
And you split, Miki going back to his men and you going back to report to Kondō of all the maltreatments you had suffered in the clutches of the vile Miki Saburō.

Dread was ahead of you, not only in the form of the older captains, but also in the way your foolish heart was singing and your head in the clouds, how each little proof of Miki’s desire for you was feeding the flame of your futile love for him further and further. One day it would certainly consume you.