Consciousness hits Tatsunosuke like a rush of blood to the head, and he wakes with a sickening jolt.
Consciousness hits Tatsunosuke like a rush of blood to the head, and he wakes with a sickening jolt. There is light. Why is there light?
He lifts himself slightly, shifting his weight and supporting himself on his right elbow. He slowly opens his eyes, squinting against the light that resonates from the south-east corner of the room. A rustle of paper against paper draws his attention.
"Sakamoto-san! Why in the hell are you in my room?!"
Tatsunosuke feels his face go hot and can only think that he must look a mess, breath coming in gradually stabalizing - but still erratic - gasps, his yukata a combination of restricting circulation and falling off.
"Language, language, Dragon Boy!"
The other man grins widely and lets slip a low chuckle. For a split second, Tatsunosuke is reminded of his father. However, his father never looked quite so mischevious as Ryouma does, the light from the small, paper lantern in the corner kissing his skin, making it glow a dull bronze.
"You really should keep a closer eye on that adorable little brother of yours. Wandering around outside alone after dark and telling certain wanted criminals where to find certain Shinsengumi accountants, oh me, oh my."
Tatsunosuke is about to release a frustrated breath when he sees Ryouma's face tighten grimly.
The light that is reflected from his dark eyes does not change with his expression.
"Anyway, I originally dropped by to give you another shot at joining up with me and all that hullabaloo, but..." he pauses to lift a worn looking book with surprising elegance from the small desk to his right, "...I found myself another reason."
Tatsunosuke's eyes go wide as Ryouma opens to a specific page.
"What'd I tell you about this gun nonsense of yours?"
Ryouma stares at him with an analytical glint in his eyes for a moment before slowly rising, as if he were some decrepit old man with rheumatism and a bad back. He makes his way slowly over to Tatsunosuke and crouches, elbows resting on his knees, beside him.
"I was serious when I said that, Tatsunosuke. That kind of life ain't for you. It ain't quite for your little brother either, but he's got the spirit for it. Seeing that awfulness day in and day out would break you."
Tatsunosuke can feel hot tears pooling in his eyes and he turns his face down in the hopes that the other man won't see, drawing in a breath to yell, but Ryouma cuts him off.
"And before you get all emotional, I ain't saying you're weak, neither. You been taking care of that shorty out there, keeping him in line, and that takes balls."
Ryouma tilts Tatsunosuke's chin up with a crooked index finger, and when Tatsunosuke looks up, the dark expression is gone from the other man's face, replaced with a gentle, encouraging smile.
"All I'm saying...is that you keep doing what you're doing, and you protect that kid as best you can, and for everything else, I'll be right there with you."
Ryouma pats him on the cheek twice before getting up again and walking toward the shouji and whispering through it harshly.
"Hey, Tetsu-chan, the coast clear?"
The shouji opens quickly, and he can hear his brother respond through clenched teeth.
"I'm not 'Tetsu-chan', you stupid old man!"
Tatsunosuke closes his eyes against the notion that his brother has heard every word of their conversation.
Ryouma looks back before slipping out the door, and Tatsunosuke does not see him.
yukata - basically, a lighter, cotton version of a kimono
shouji - sliding, paper door