Okita spills tea. Written for Canis M.
A cough threatens to betray him, fluttering against his ribs like a trapped butterfly. But he clenches his teeth together and does not let it escape.
Hijikata sits just beside him, turned slightly away, his writing table moved close enough to allow him to keep vigil over Okita. He writes with the same brutal efficiency as he exhibits in swordplay: less a thing of beauty than of precision, force, concentration on the outcome alone. His technique is flawless, but there is something that makes the artist and master that he lacks, clutching his sleeve back in one fist and gesturing sharply over the paper with bold strokes. Still, there is something beautiful in its raw artlessness; Okita props himself up on his elbows so he can see the words being written, unnoticed thanks to Hijikata's fierce concentration.
He cannot help but laugh to see the look on Hijikata's face, all furrowed brow and frowning mouth. The laugh turns into a cough immediately, but he does not regret it, even as Hijikata drops his brush with a shout of "Souji!"
He waves Hijikata away, still half-laughing, half-choking, but accepts the cup of lukewarm tea shoved towards him. The bitter taste of medicine blooms on his tongue, unexpected, and the strength of his hands wavers. He blinks and it has happened: the cup lies overturned on the floor, spreading a wide fan of barely green liquid over the woven straw.
As he reaches for the overturned cup he sees ink on paper flowering into a greyish bloom. The butterflies in his chest flutter more furiously, to the brink of his capacity to contain them. He looks up and he sees that Hijikata would not let him fight this battle alone, but Okita knows that it is his alone to lose. In some ways, he must be the Vice Captain's strength, and not the other way around.
He is afraid to speak, lest the coughing return, but he makes himself do so anyway. He smiles and teases, the way he has done since they were both so very much younger. "My tea makes better paintings than you do, Hijikata-san!"
The force of Hijikata's scowl eases him, sets the butterflies at momentary peace. Hijikata glowers at the paper, and then his brow furrows. "Maybe you're right," he concedes. Hijikata sets himself in motion, leaning out and shouting for Tetsu to clean the spilled tea, pouring another cup for Okita and stirring in the medicine he has mixed with his own hands. In the midst of it, handing the new cup to Okita, he looks back at the paper. The ink has bloomed further, spread to nearly a quarter of the page.
He is thoughtful as he says, "It almost looks like a butterfly, doesn't it?"
Okita's hands quaver, but he does not lose his grip on the cup this time.