If At First the Bushes are Occupied...

by Talya Firedancer

Sano had gotten lost...yet again.

In the woods near Kyoto, last known location of his gaunt chain-smoking lover, the ex-brawler was searching diligently for any traces of the whereabouts of a certain amber-eyed Wolf of Mibu.

"Damn you, Saitou!" Sano railed, shaking his fist before felling another tree, picturing a smirking lean face with narrow yellow eyes. "Temee!" He looked around. He scratched his head. He chewed some more on the fishbone jutting from the corner of his mouth. He seemed to be thoroughly lost.

He tripped and would have fallen flat on his face but for his quick reflexes. He looked up. Shinomori Aoshi sat cross-legged and still as a stone, hands laid in his lap, meditating.

"Shinomori...Aoshi," Sanosuke uttered in that surprised tone that seemed to grip everyone when speaking the former okashira's name, not forgetting to include the significant pause. "What are you doing here on Mount Hiei?"

Aoshi looked up, dark fringes of bang half-obscuring the jade green eyes.

"..." Aoshi replied.

Sanosuke scratched at his dark hair some more and looked into those soulful eyes. "Which way is Kyoto?" he asked at last, shaking himself free of comparisons to his current lover's lean sinewy body.

Aoshi unfurled himself and stood in one liquid movement reminiscent of his effortless water flow. He squinted up at the sun and opened his mouth. "......"

"Ah, yes," Sano agreed with him, tone biting. "Very eloquent."

"Sagara," Aoshi finally said, blue-green eyes lighting on him as if noticing him for the first time.

"Yeah," Sano tucked his hands into his pockets. "Which way to Kyoto?"

Aoshi just looked at him for a long moment. Then, "Sagara."

Sanosuke was getting irritated. "Yeah, yeah, it's me -- I'm a bit lost. Hey, have you seen Saitou anywhere?"

This was cause for Aoshi to take another moment. "Saitou...Hajime."

"Are you *dense?*" Sano blurted. "*Yes,* I'm Sagara. I'm looking for Saitou. You seen 'im? If not, which way to Kyoto?"

Aoshi looked at him some more. Those glacial eyes traveled up the length of his body. "Why are you looking for him?"

Sano shifted uncomfortably from one foot to another, extracting one hand from his pocket to scratch at his spiky bristles of chestnut hair. "Er...none of your business."

Aoshi cocked his head; continued his silent appraisal.

"Anyhow, what are you doing here?" Sano tried to change the subject.

Aoshi's shoulders moved in a subtle shrug. "It's impossible to meditate in the temple near the Aoiya with Misao running back and forth, yelling my name at the top of her lungs."

Sano snickered. "Yeah, it would be, wouldn't it?"

Aoshi's attention was still fixed to him. "I suppose you haven't yet finished your grudge match against Saitou?"

Sano *almost* blushed. "Well, uh...that wasn't exactly why I was looking for him."

Aoshi's gaze sharpened. "Is that so?"

Sano shrugged uncomfortably, preparing a lame excuse for a disclaimer.

From the shadows, a ripple of movement manifested.

Sano and Aoshi looked up, tensing, instantly alert. Sano cracked his knuckles and Aoshi reached down and retrieved the long wooden sheath that lay on the ground behind him.

"Oi...I thought you weren't gonna use that no more," Sanosuke scowled.

"I was meditating upon the nature of my weapon," Aoshi replied blandly.

The shadows sprang at them, and they were armed, and definitely hostile.

"Yeah -- well, I hope you won't be meditating for too much longer!" Sano yelled as he launched himself at the first of his opponents with fists of fury.

"Oh, I'm still meditating on it," Aoshi assured him as he loosed the nitou kodachi from the long sheath. He wielded the kodachi with swift, deadly efficiency. "As I slice them up I commend their souls to my companions ...Beshimi... Hyottoko... Shikijou... Hannya..."

Sanosuke rolled his eyes and beat his opponents to a bloody pulp. Aoshi staggered in the middle of the fight but kept carving up the black-garbed shinobi until there was no one left to face.

"Oi...you all right?" Sanosuke turned to the other man, noticing the former okashira stumble slightly. His eyes widened as he noticed the dart that clung to the green-eyed man's shoulder like a burr. "Oi...you took a dart..." Quickly he pulled the thing out and threw it away into the bushes. A muffled sound ensued but Sano ignored it. Aoshi was still swaying.

"Sanosuke...I think it was poisoned," Aoshi groaned, his face already dewed with sweat. Sano missed the glitter of those green eyes. "You're just going to have to...suck the poison out."

Sano screwed his face up in a grimace. "That's disgusting."

"Yes, well," Aoshi gave a shrug of his shoulders and winced again. Sano blinked and began to pull aside Aoshi's shirt. He put his lips to the wound and began to suck.

Aoshi's long fingers threaded into his hair and at first Sano failed to notice. Then he turned his head to spit Aoshi's blood and yelped as the hand tugged, pulling his head up then covering his lips with a rough mouth. A tongue slid over his lips, licking away the coppery traces.

There was a long moment of stillness.

Birds chirped.

A few bees swayed drunkenly over pollen-heavy flowers.

"WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING!?" Sano yelled as he shoved at the former okashira's scarred, bared chest, trapped abruptly in the circle of hard arms.

"What the hell does it seem like?" Aoshi returned equably, moving in for another kiss and getting a mouthful of ear as Sano turned his head. Undeterred, he latched onto the lobe and suckled.

Sano's eyes went wide. "What the hell was in that dart -- oh shit." For a moment he went limp in Aoshi's arms.

Aoshi took it as giving in, and moved his nipping kisses to the hollow of Sano's throat. "Probably a very powerful aphrodisiac," he mumbled, sounding like he didn't much care.

Sano began to struggle. "Oi...stop that," he rasped, clutching at Aoshi's arms. "Grr! Ahh...what about Misao??" he tried again. Then he growled louder as Aoshi paid attention to the sensitive nerve cluster below his ear, near the jawline.

"What about Misao?" Aoshi returned, beginning to mouth along his jaw.

Sano's eyes were half-closed, his arms falling from the grip on Aoshi's to his sides. "Err...I don't remember."

"She's too young," Aoshi told him, then nipped the corner of his mouth.

"I'm only three years older than she is," Sanosuke protested.

"Yes, but you're not jailbait..."

"This is true..."

Aoshi began to pay attention to Sano's mouth again, and this time the ex-gangster cooperated fully. By the time they broke the kiss, both men were panting, entangled in each other's arms.

Sano stared into the frosted green eyes. "Who gets to be top?" he finally asked.

Aoshi just LOOKED at him.

Sano bristled. "No way! Uh-uh! I'm NOT gonna be stuck on bottom again!"

"Again?" Aoshi smirked, a wicked light in his eyes.

"No way! Saitou always gets top! This time *I'm* gonna be top!" Sano averred, tightening his grip on Aoshi.

"No," Aoshi said flatly.

Sano held up one fist. "Fight you for it."

Aoshi appeared to consider this.


Aoshi conked Sano on the head with the hilt of his kodachi and began to drag him off into the convenient, curiously thick shrubbery. He nearly tripped over the nearly-nude redhead half-covered by the bushes. "Kenshin!? What are you doing here on Mount Hiei?"

"Mount Hiei?" the redhead exclaimed, a flush spreading over his cheeks. "How did you know--"

Aoshi got a better look. "You're not Kenshin," he observed, noting that this boy was younger and had no crossed scars, and besides, he was bedding with a spiky black-haired boy who looked half his age. "Is he old enough for you to be doing...what you're obviously about to do?"

"I should hope nearly fifteen hundred years would qualify for him to be as 'old enough,'" the black-haired boy growled, then pulled up a patch of shrubbery and gave him a pointed crimson glare. "Go find your own bush."

Aoshi shrugged and dragged Sano a little deeper into the woods.

The next shrub was occupied, as well. A blond man looked up at him and smirked. Aoshi narrowed his eyes at the strange blue glow that seemed to pervade the bush. "Tasukete...onegai..." a nasal voice emitted from the depths of the shrubbery. The blond man's eyes narrowed and he vanished deeper into the bush.

"Ahou," the man's voice answered.

At that Sano began to stir.

Aoshi hurried up the pace and dragged Sano determinedly for the next bush. He discovered...a potted palm. The former okashira eyed it, not quite knowing what to do. Since potted palms are not indigenous to Japan, he had never seen one before, but it didn't take a great amount of brains to realize the plant didn't belong there. The potted palm grew a pair of intense blue eyes and the plant growled at him. "Omae o korosu." The voice was strangely similar to the blond man's captive, nasal and flat.

"Ooh, koi, I love it when you say that...it's so sexy...the way your breath catches and then it just spills from your lips, and--"

"You talk too much."

The wet silence that followed could only be an esophogeal probe. [1]

Aoshi gritted his teeth and stared around wildly. Sano was beginning to wake up. He couldn't hit him again or he might not be able to wake him when the time came. Finally he spotted a small shack and hoisted Sano over one bony shoulder, hoping that it wasn't currently tenanted. With the fire of the drug coursing through his veins, even he, with precise control over his body, would not be able to hold its effects back for long -- so any inhabitants would get one hell of a show.

Aoshi kicked the door open and dumped Sano unceremoniously on the first pallet he saw. His own shirt was already gone, discarded after the battle, so the only impediments were Sano's clothing and his own pants. He paused in the act of disrobing as a cloud of smoke wafted over him, streaming out the partly-open door.

His eyes traveled over the dirt floor of the shack to a desk wedged up against the far wall. A lean hand decorated with a burning cigarette slowly ground the butt out as Aoshi's eyes traveled up the attached arm to the functional purple outfit to the lean features of the man himself.

"Shinomori.....Aoshi," Saitou Hajime uttered, not looking as surprised as he ought. "I'd heard you were in the area." His eyes flicked to the unconscious figure of Sanosuke lying on the pallet.

"Moto-Shinsengumi-sanban-taikumi-chou Saitou Hajime," Aoshi returned the greeting. "What are you doing back in Kyoto?"

"I'm in hiding," Saitou replied blandly.

"Dangerous killers on the loose? Broke your cover?"

"My wife found out I was in Tokyo," Saitou contradicted, "and tore through five officers to get my address. I had to retreat and leave the ahou behind for his own protection. He never admits when he's outmatched."

Aoshi made no reply. If the wielder of the most deadly Gatotsu was afraid of this woman, what kind of a monster was she?

"And what," Saitou Hajime said slowly and precisely, "do you think you're doing with my ahou?"

"It should be obvious," Aoshi smirked, "I'm proving that I'm the strongest."

Saitou lifted a brow, flicking the cigarette with a practiced snap of his fingers as he rose from his desk. The crumpled butt sprayed a few feeble glowing sparks as it hit the packed dirt of the floor.

"He's mine," Saitou said calmly, but his yellow eyes held a dangerous glint. "Go find your own ahou."

Aoshi wiped beads of sweat away from his forehead. He didn't have time to find another ahou. All the boys in the bushes seemed to be occupied. The thought of seeking Misao out was repellent, for more reasons than just seeking relief from the aphrodisiac. So as his response, he pulled his nitou kodachi free from their sheath.

"I see," Saitou stated, sounding more amused than anything else. He picked up the katana leaning against the rickety desk and withdrew the gleaming blade. "So that's how it's going to be."

Aoshi sized him up with cold, narrowed eyes. He would have to finish Saitou quickly; time was running out. And Sano was stirring in the corner, muttering something about getting the number of -- a train? If he employed his Water Flow technique as Saitou launched his Gatotsu, and did it quickly enough, he should be able to evade the force of Saitou's strike and slip to his right side, taking him out with the six final slashes to the chest.

Saitou assumed his patented Fanged Thrust stance, and for the first time Aoshi found himself assailed by truly ecchii thoughts.

"Oi....OI! What's going on here?" Sano sat up in the corner, rubbing his head, eyes wide as he watched Aoshi assume his own ready stance, kodachi clasped to either side, grasped firmly by the hilts.

Saitou's eyes flicked over him. "Ahou. Just keep taking your nap."

Aoshi's lip quirked. "Not for too long. I'll have use of you in a few minutes."

"Shinomori, prepare to experience my Gatotsu," Saitou snarled, eyes flaring with amber fire.

"You'll experience my ougi first," Aoshi snapped back.

"HEY!! What about me, here?" Sano yelled. "Neither of you assholes are gonna get lucky if you keep this up!"

"Ahou," Saitou spoke to him again, "you're distracting us. Go be genki in traffic."

Sano stared at him, then slowly got up. "Isn't any traffic in the woods near Mount Hiei," he mumbled, shuffling out the door rubbing at the lump on his head.

Aoshi stared after his retreating back and the 'evil' sign blazoned there in quietly growing desperation. No, he couldn't leave! Aoshi hadn't even gotten started, let alone finished!

"As I was saying," Saitou's feral eyes were fixed on him once more, "Gatotsu. Prepare. Die." Then he sprang into action.

Aoshi cursed and slid into the blurring movement of the Water Flow technique.

And promptly miscalculated Saitou's speed as the point of the older man's katana headed for his throat with dismaying accuracy. *Must be the drugs...*

Aoshi wrenched up his kodachi into a cross-lock to defend the strike...


The voice blasted through the tiny shack and Saitou actually *paled,* nearly dropping his katana. Aoshi stepped back and looked round.

"Anata, you're really in for it now," a small, dainty, porcelain doll-figure of a woman with tumbling masses of sunshine hair informed him, her arms folded across pert little breasts.

Saitou was shifting uncomfortably from foot to foot, his expression bearing a look no living mortal had seen imprinted there before. Complete and utter chagrin. "T-Tokio..." he choked, sheathing his katana.

"Don't you 'Tokio' me, Saitou Hajime," the dainty little woman blasted back at him, blue eyes hard as steel. "Or are we the Fujitas today? Have you got any idea how long you've been away from home?"

Saitou began to count on his fingers.

"Never mind," Tokio said icily, mincing towards him in her floral-print kimono with perfect tiny steps. He watched her approach with trepidation. Tokio reached up and pinched his ear in her dainty little fingers, and Saitou Hajime howled. "You're coming home with me *now.*"

"But, Tokio..." Saitou protested, throwing Aoshi a hate-filled glare. "I was in the middle of a battle..."

"Not with that Gatotsu of yours again!" Tokio threw up her free hand. "Honestly, Hajime, after twenty years of playing with that sword you'd think you would be over your overcompensating stage."

Saitou turned blue. "TOKIO."

A lesser woman would have been fazed. Tokio merely gripped his ear tighter, making Saitou yelp, and began to drag him out of the shack. "I've told you time and again, you're perfectly well-endowed for an Asian man."

"TOKIO..." The bellow was anguished this time.

Once they were out of the shack Aoshi heard Saitou Tokio begin to berate her husband in explicit terms, involving his probable ancestry, his deplorable habits, his unhealthy fascination in younger men, and his neglect of 'family duties,' including a running commentary on his sexual hang-ups. It trailed off into the distance.

Aoshi's mouth twitched.

A bristly chestnut head poked cautiously around the corner of the open door.

"Is she gone?" Sagara Sanosuke quavered.

Aoshi inclined his head.

Sanosuke edged into the room, a bemused expression crossing his face. "I had no idea Saitou was that whipped..." He shivered, looking startled as he rubbed at his arms. "Kaoru and Megumi have nothing on that woman!"

Aoshi shrugged. His eyes acquired a speculative gleam as Sano re-entered the shack. He considered a range of seduction techniques varying from a suggestive look to the most expedient, ripping off his clothes. He felt flushed and altogether peculiar -- a warm sensation unfurling in the depths of his body that informed him that he could be feeling very, very good. The 'ahou' was only a few steps away.

Aoshi pounced.

There was a long silence as the former okashira of the Oniwabanshu locked his lips to the former brawler's, prisoning the lean body in his wiry arms. Sano began to struggle and tore his mouth away.

"Pervert!!" he gasped. "Molester! Despoiler of young men!"

Aoshi smirked. "Isn't it hard to despoil something that's already been despoiled?" he questioned, then reapplied his lips thoroughly, licking at Sano's mouth then transferring his attentions to the sensitive skin of his neck.

"Yarou!" Sano gasped.

"But you like it like that," Aoshi returned in a smug murmur. His hands began to wander.

"Hey..." Sano was suddenly struck by a stray homeless thought. "Hey, do you know what you're doing?"

Aoshi pulled away just long enough to give him that Look again.

"Oi," Sano got defensive, "It's a reasonable question. I mean, the only love interest in your life has been Misao."

"Misao is NOT my love interest," Aoshi contradicted flatly, "and I have done this before." His hands resumed their downward progress.

Sano squirmed like a virgin on prom night. "Wait -- wait!" he batted at Aoshi's hands, "who *have* you been with?" His eyes were wide. This was a side of Aoshi he'd never seen before. This was a side of Aoshi NO one had seen before.

Aoshi just smirked and bent his mouth to Sano's neck, then moved up to tortur--er, tease the sensitive crevices of his ear. But, it could be noted, many many miles away in the outskirts of Tokyo, a certain red-headed laundry-washing rurouni sneezed.

Sano jerked, struggled, made a fuss, and gnawed on his shoulder. Aoshi made note of this and began to strip Sano.

"Wait!" Sano tried to push him away again. "Wait, I mean...I'm not sure..." He jumped in Aoshi's arms and batted at his shoulder, a confused expression on his face. "Ow..."

Aoshi looked over his shoulder with a clinical expression, then jerked out the dart that was embedded in there. He examined the tip. "It's another drug dart," he said calmly, but little green demons of glee were dancing -- sedately -- in the depths of his normally glacial eyes. This was the removal of the last obstacle.

"Oh, *bleep*."

Aoshi smirked and continued to remove Sano's clothing. After a few minutes, the lean brawler began to cooperate quite enthusiastically. They tumbled to the pallet together.


"Did you get him?"

The redhead with gold streaks squinted. "I got 'im." Unsuppressed satisfaction welled up in her voice.

"Remind me why, again, we had to shoot them up with darts?" the dark-haired girl inquired in a bitingly ironic tone.

"They were being right bastards," the redhead replied in an injured tone. "Every other time I tried to slash them, they killed each other. It was most disturbing."

"Ah," the brunette said dryly. "So instead, we drug them."

The redhead beamed. "Exactly!"

A few moments passed. The redhead looked at the brunette. "You didn't forget the cameras, did you?"

"They're rolling," the brunette replied with a snicker. "We should get good footage."

"I love these little outings of ours," the redhead grinned. "Remind me to have us do it more often."


Sano rolled over to meet the pair of calm, slightly smug blue-green eyes.

"I think I need a cigarette," he groaned. Aoshi raised a brow. "You're out of luck," he replied, "I don't smoke, nor do I drink."

"You're no fun at all," Sano accused.

Aoshi rolled him over and proved once more just *exactly* how much fun he was.



Author's notes: Wow. Aoshi-Sano....the only thing I have to say is, I guess... Sorry, boys!! *flees for her life* I probably wouldn't have written one if not for Kristi's birthday. It's horribly late, and terribly lame -- not the serious one I had considered writing, in which they *did* kill each other, more than once, in violent and creative ways... Men. *sulks* So Kazumi and I went hunting. We were the ones with the darts and cameras, of course. My final words on this are -- Puu, don't kill me!! It was in the name of Evil!

[1] -- borrowed courtesy of my 'mouto Kazumi from her "Wufei's Birthday" multiple-crossover seiyuu (and Twister[TM]) chaos fic. ^_^