30 Romances Theme: Walk (the two steps taken by Saitoh)
Author's note: This is for Buffalocatz, a faithful reviewer, who asked if I could write about the first time Hajime and Tokio saw each other after spending three years apart, as was mentioned in my series of 'drabbles', Life the Saitoh Fujita Way, that was originally written for the 30 Romances LJ and posted here on ffnet. It was a terrific idea. Thanks Buffalocatz!
You see someone you love for the first time in three years. Your meeting with him was totally unexpected, and you were sure that he never knew how you felt about him. What are you going to do?
"The impossible, but hoped for, sometimes happens."
A Long Awaited Reunion
"Tokio-chan, I need you to do a favor for me," Teru-hime confided. Since I moved to Tokyo three years ago, she and I have seen each other on a regular basis. It is almost like old times before the Bakumatsu, except that now she is no longer my princess, and I am no longer her secretary.
Now we are friends, and equals in social position. Not that we weren't friends before, because we were, but due to our respective stations in life, there were certain rules of decorum that needed to be observed between us. In this new Meiji era, the formalities are gone, along with the old class system, or at least that is the way it is supposed to be.
"Yes, of course," I replied to her. I still do what I can for her whenever she asks. She is not one to make idle requests, either. She only asks me when there is something important that she needs help with.
That is why I am waiting in this room, kneeling on a cushion before a low table. I am to have an audience with someone on her behalf. She wants me to interview this person to ask the questions that she feels are not appropriate for someone of her former station to ask. She is considering hiring him to help her manage her financial affairs, and she trusts my judgment in matters such as this. So I sit and wait for the man to arrive. We will have our discussion over a cup of tea.
There are footsteps in the hallway and soon the shoji slides open. I focus my attention on the door, only to find myself stunned beyond words. I am confused at first, but then I realize that I must be the victim of some sort of deception.
My breath catches in my throat and I can feel tears threatening to well in my eyes. I can barely whisper the word that is on my lips, "Hajime-san…" Quickly, I look down in my lap, my fingers clasping together so tightly that I am sure I will soon lose feeling in them. My breath comes in shallow wisps as I try to figure out what this means, and why he is here, now. I cannot bear to look him in the face. I cannot allow him to see me cry, because I am sure that will be the result of this sudden, unexpected reunion.
If I was not frozen in place, and if he was not married to another, I would be tempted to throw myself at him and bury my head in his shoulder just to feel his warmth. He has been on my mind ever since I left Tonami.
Closing the door behind me I walk silently to the table and kneel on the cushion facing her, "Tokio-san," I greet with an appropriate bow. Teru-hime told me that she thinks she is here to interview a potential advisor. She looked at me and spoke hesitantly when I first entered, but now she is looking in her lap, griping her fingers as if they were some sort of life line. This has to be a shock to her. She has neither seen me, nor heard from me since the day she left Tonami, when she gave me that look that revealed what was in her heart.
Several months before my arranged marriage to Yaso ended, I wrote to Matsudaira Katamori, asking him if he could enquire about Takagi Tokio. I was relieved when I learned that she and his sister had resumed their acquaintance and saw each other often. That should have made it easier to learn if her feelings for me were still as ripe and deep as I suspected they were the day she left for Tokyo three years ago.
Teru-hime confirmed to Katamori that Tokio still thinks of me, but she refused to be more specific. Talking about their hopes and regrets, as all women are prone to do, I am sure that she knows more about Tokio-san's feelings than she is willing to reveal. That is why I am a bit unsettled, and it is a feeling that I do not like, and do not often experience.
Staring at her intently, I speak, my voice low but clear, "I am no longer married to Yaso." Pausing, I gather my thoughts. I rarely explain myself to anyone, but I feel that I must do this for Tokio, so that she will understand my actions. I have never cared before, if anyone approved of, or understood, why I make the choices that I do, or act in a certain manner. But for some reason it is important to me that she understand.
"After the Boshin War, I was in a group of prisoners scheduled to be executed. It was only through the intervention of Kurasawa-san that I was transferred to a group that was being exiled to Tonami. I owed my life to him. I repaid my debt when I married at his request." That is all she needs to know.
I raise my eyes to look at him, not believing what I am hearing. Not believing that this usually silent and stoic man, who sits before me, is giving me an explanation. I can feel my heart as it beats in my chest, a tiny glimmer of hope beginning to invade me. There are now tears streaking down my cheeks, I could not stop them. These days, where he is concerned, my emotions are close to the surface.
"I have spoken to Katamori-san," I reveal to her. "I have asked him to broker a marriage."
My heart feels like it stops in my chest, my hands rise from my lap to cover my eyes, as I try to stifle a sob. Why is he telling me this?
"A marriage to you," I state. Although I know I am still in her thoughts, Teru-hime refused to tell me anything further. I have no idea if Tokio will be receptive to my offer, and her current behavior offers me little in the way of clues.
"Marriage? To me?" I manage to blurt out in disbelief, as I lower my hands from my face, and focus my gaze back to him. His amber eyes are as mesmerizing as I remember. The shroud of confusion that enveloped me begins to lift as my mind processes his words. 'Marriage to me?'
I really do not know what to say. Are we even the same people who parted that day so many years ago? It is beyond hope. Slowly, I realize that he would never change. He will always remain true to his ideals, and focused on his goals. Back then, I never knew if he had feelings for me, but somehow he must have known what I felt for him, even though I tried so hard to conceal it.
I rise from the tatami, waiting for her response, waiting to learn exactly what those tears of hers mean. Kami. I will not leave until I know.
Still somewhat stunned by what has just transpired, I find myself standing as well. "Hajime," I whisper, again, this time my voice full of emotion.
Closing the gap between us with two steps, I hesitantly reach out for her shoulders and pull her towards me. The memory of her flinching away from me, the last time I tried to touch her, comes back to me. I cannot blame her for that. What else could she do after I told her that I was marrying someone else?
I feel his grasp, but it does not seem real. Is this a dream? It can't be. I am soon drawn close to his lean body, and breathe in the faint scent of cigarettes. Slowly, I relax in his touch and raise my arms just high enough to slip around his waist, drawing myself even closer to him, resting my cheek on his warm chest.
The tears are still streaming down my face; I have no control over them. I press myself against him, and we stand together, quietly, linked in an embrace. Feeling a light kiss on the top of my head, I know this is the place where I belong.
Author's Note: Teru-hime knew exactly how Tokio felt about the wolf, but she was not about to reveal anything to him that would make him smugly confident about the outcome of his first meeting with Tokio after three years of being apart from her, married to another woman.
"The Place Where I Belong" is the title of an AU/fantasy fic about Saitoh and Tokio by Jesphoenix05 and posted on ffnet. Those words seemed a fitting way to end this ficlet of mine.