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December, 1884

Asakusa

On a very cold and cloudy day with fat snowflakes swirling in the air and coating the ground in thick white drifts, Himura Kaoru crossed the bridge over the Sumida River toward the Oguni Clinic in Asakusa. She was planning on spending the day there to help Oguni-sensei out. He had had various assistants come and go since Megumi had left for Aizu six years ago, but none had been as good as the Vixen. To try to ease the aging doctor's burdens, Kaoru, Kenshin, Yahiko, Yutaro and Tsubame now all took turns helping out at the clinic. The change in the weather had seen the old doctor fall ill and it worried Kaoru that he didn't have a permanent, knowledgeable assistant to help him. Help from those who weren't trained in medicine could only go so far.

Kaoru arrived at the clinic and entered after leaving her sandals in the genkan. She looked around for Oguni-sensei, but he was nowhere to be found.

'That's odd. He should be out here since he's expecting me,' she thought.

"Oguni-sensei? It's Kaoru! Are you here?!" she called out.

Silence.

Kaoru became a bit worried. No way would Oguni-sensei ever just leave the clinic open and unattended! Kaoru went through the clinic area and back into the living quarters, looking for the old doctor. She checked the kitchen and found it bare. It seemed as if no one had been in there for at least a day. Kaoru proceeded back to the bedrooms. She stopped outside the door to Oguni-sensei's room and tapped on the door.

"Oguni-sensei? Are you in there?" she called.

Silence.

"I'm coming in," said Kaoru as she swung the Western style door open.

When she got into the room, her eyes widened at the sight. Oguni-sensei lay in his bed, eyes closed, face as white as the snow falling outside. His chest didn't rise and fall with breath. He was unquestionably dead, looking as though he went in his sleep. The coldness of shock numbing her from the inside, Kaoru knelt at the side of the doctor's bed and checked for a pulse, hoping against hope. There was nothing. 

"Oguni-sensei..." said Kaoru, face going pale as numbness chilled her.

Oguni-sensei had been the Kamiya family's doctor since before Kaoru was born and had been the one to deliver her. As she grew up, he had been like a second grandfather to her. He had cared for Kaoru's mother before she died and made her transition to the next world as painless as possible, for which Kaoru had always been grateful. After the death of Kamiya Koshijiro, Oguni-sensei had offered Kaoru as much comfort as he could, though he couldn't stay at the dojo with her because of his clinic.

His death was a blow to her and would be for the whole town as well when the news got out. Oguni-sensei had been one of the most trusted physicians for well over 50 years.

Kaoru stood up and left quickly, heading for the temple to get a priest.


Purification

Kaoru went to the nearby temple and notified the priest on duty of Oguni-sensei's passing. She and the priest returned to the clinic, where the priest immediately went to work with the purification rites.

He moistened the body's lips in the Matsugo no Mizu ceremony. Next the priest performed Kamidana-fuji, where he covered the household shrine with white paper to keep away impure spirits.

Kaoru placed a small table decorated with flowers, incense, and a candle next to the doctor's bed. A knife was placed on top of his chest to drive away evil spirits.

After the purification was taken care of, Kaoru returned to the dojo, where she found Kenshin in the backyard sitting on the engawa, watching Kenji try to catch snowflakes on his tongue. Upon seeing his wife back home so unexpectedly, Kenshin was on his feet instantly, looking Kaoru in the eye.

"Kaoru? Did something happen?" he asked.

"Oguni-sensei... he's..." Kaoru trailed off.

Kenshin understood and closed his eyes for a second to compose himself.

"Has he been purified?" he asked.

Kaoru nodded.

"Alright, I'll go inform Chief Uramura. Stay here with Kenji. I'll be back," said Kenshin.

Kaoru nodded and took Kenshin's place on the engawa. Kenji, who had watched the exchange between his parents, approached his mother.

"Mommy, are you sad?" he asked.

"A bit, yes," said Kaoru. "Kenji, come sit with me for a second. There's something I need to tell you."

Kenji sat down by his mother and regarded her with a wide-eyed gaze as Kaoru figured the best way to tell the boy about Oguni-sensei's passing.

"Kenji, do you remember last year when you told me about the white rabbit?" asked Kaoru.

Kenji nodded pensively. Indeed, that snowy day from 11 months ago was still vivid in his memory. His little heart began to thump in his chest. Something was definitely wrong.

"Oguni-sensei has become like the white rabbit and has died," said Kaoru simply.

Kaoru wasn't surprised when not a moment later, the small body beside her was shaking and sobs were torn from a small throat. Oguni-sensei had been like a grandfather to Kenji, always having a new toy or piece of candy ready for him whenever he visited the clinic. She gently encircled Kenji in her arms and rocked him as the tears fell from her own eyes.


Kenshin headed to police HQ and found Chief Uramura sitting at his desk. On seeing Kenshin enter, Uramura was immediately on his feet and bowing respectfully. Kenshin waited patiently for Uramura to straighten up before speaking.

"Oguni-sensei passed away in his sleep last night. My wife found him this morning," said Kenshin in a hushed tone.

"Oh, no..." said Uramura. "Alright, I'll go have a look at the body and issue a death certificate."

Kenshin and Chief Uramura went to the clinic and into the doctor's room where the body lay on the bed. Uramura glanced at the body and shook his head. It had been Oguni-sensei and Megumi who had saved the lives of all the policeman the berserker Whale Mouth had beaten up when he had escaped jail and rampaged into Tokyo six years ago.

"He was one of our best doctors. He'll be missed," said Uramura as he drafted a death certificate.

Kenshin said nothing.

"As far as we know, he didn't have any living relatives. You and your wife were the closest thing he had to a family. Would you be willing to hold his wake and funeral?" asked Uramura.

Kenshin nodded. It was certainly true. He, Kaoru, Megumi, Yahiko and Sano had been the closest thing Oguni-sensei had like a family to him. He had patched them up on numerous occasions and now it was their turn to do something for him.

The next thing to do was send notice to Sano and Megumi in Aizu. Megumi would definitely want to attend the wake and funeral since Oguni-sensei had given her the chance to become a real doctor by working for him.


Aizu

Takani Clinic

Sano was sweeping the clinic floor after a long day with many patients. He was very tired because there had been an unusually steady flow of them and he had spent the day assisting Megumi, Saranou and Meika as they attended to various illnesses and injuries. His muscles screamed for respite, but first there was cleaning to do.

'This sucks. Travelin' 'round the world was easier than workin' in this damn clinic. But if it nets me the Vixen, it's worth it,' Sano thought to himself resolutely.

Just then, Takani Saranou entered the room with a telegram and held it out to Sano.

"A telegram from Himura Kenshin in Tokyo," said Saranou.

"From Kenshin?" ejaculated Sano, letting the broom slip from his hand with a clatter and taking the telegram.

Sano and Kenshin had been writing letters back and forth to each other in the four months Sano had been living in Aizu. A telegram would only be sent for a matter of great importance. Nervously, Sano opened the envelope and read its contents.

"TO: Sagara Sanosuke and Takani Megumi:

URGENT

Oguni-sensei has crossed the River of Three Hells. Funeral preparations under way. Please come and pay respects.

FROM: Himura Kenshin"

"Aw, shit..." said Sano softly.

"I take it the news is not of a pleasant nature?" said Saranou.

"Yeah, Oguni-sensei, the doc Megumi worked for in Tokyo, just died," said Sano. "Kenshin wants me 'n Megumi to go to the funeral."

"Of course. I'll go find Megumi and let you tell her the news," said Saranou.

"Thanks," said Sano. "This ain't gonna be too easy for her to hear."

"What's not going to be too easy for me to hear?" asked Megumi, entering the room from the kitchen.

Sano held out the telegram for her. Megumi looked into his sad brown eyes and guessed as to the nature of the epistle. With a trembling hand, she took the telegram and read it. Tears came into her eyes.

"I never even knew he was ill. If someone had told me..." she trailed off.

"He prob'bly didn't say cuz he didn't want us makin' a fuss over him," said Sano softly. "We're goin', right?"

Megumi looked to her brother, who merely nodded.

"Of course. Let's get packed," she responded.

"I'll buy us some train tickets," said Sano.


Kamiya Dojo

Kenshin was awakened from a light sleep by the sound of muffled sobbing. He turned his head and saw his wife's form wracking quietly in the light of the Hunter's Moon that shone through the rice paper window screen.

Kenshin turned over on his side and began gently rubbing circles in Kaoru's back with his free hand. Kaoru turned over slowly and looked at Kenshin with her tear-streaked face. She melted into his embrace and gratefully cried into his yukata while he stroked her hair. After a bit, Kaoru's sobs died down as she became calmer.

Soon, she was asleep, nestled deeply in Kenshin's warm embrace. They stayed like that for the rest of the night.


On the train...

Megumi's thoughts were far away as she gazed out the train window at the scenery whipping by them. The only sound she heard other than that of the train wheels clicking over the track was the incessant growling of Sano's stomach.

"Sanosuke, tell me a story," Megumi said at length.

"Huh?" asked Sano.

"About your train travels across the States. What was it like?" continued Megumi.

"Not as nice as this. I rode in or on top of freight and box cars," explained Sano.

"You never once paid for a ticket, I'll venture?" inquired Megumi.

"You know me!" said Sano with a cheesy grin.

"All too well," said Megumi with a roll of her eyes.

"Well, there was this one time I was ridin' through the Great Plains in a box car. The train stopped at some station in Nebraska. This big guy got on and tol' me to get off. I told him to fuck off. He attacked me and I punched him off the car. I hid real good when the cops came to the car and saw him lyin' on the ground. They didn't catch me," the Rooster finished with a cocky grin.

"Charming story," said Megumi.

"You want charmin', you read Murasaki. You want bad-ass adventure, you listen to me!" declared Sano.

"I'll remember that," said Megumi disdainfully.


Shinbashi Station...

The next day saw the return of the sun. The snow glittered like diamonds as each little crystal refracted the sun's rays. It was a beautiful winter's day. The Himura family along with Yahiko, Yutaro, whose right arm had been treated by Oguni and Megumi, and Tsubame met Sano and Megumi as they exited the train. Snuggling into their hanten for warmth, everyone walked to the Oguni Clinic where the wake would be held today.

As they walked, no one made a sound or did any of their usual antics. Even Sano, Yahiko, Yutaro and Kenji were on their best behavior. Kenshin and Kaoru both felt like they had been to far too many funerals in their lives.

The sun's cheerful brightness mocked the little group's mood.


The wake...

Oguni-sensei's body had been washed and draped in a fine white kimono with the right flap folded over the left. A bag containing six coins for fare to cross the River of the Three Hells was placed in the casket along with a few things Oguni-sensei had been fond of in life. The casket reposed on an altar with the head facing north.

The Himura family entered along with Yahiko, Yutaro and Tsubame, followed by Megumi and Sanosuke. Megumi knelt down near the coffin to act as the chief mourner. Throughout the morning, townspeople, many of whom had been patients of Oguni-sensei all their lives, as well as Chief Uramura, Third Officer Shinichi Kosaburo and Higashidani Outa came to the clinic and passed by the coffin. Each would stop and say a few words to Megumi, who thanked them for dropping by, then would put their condolence money by Oguni-sensei's coffin.

Everyone took their seats with the Kenshingumi up front. The priest read a sutra. Each of the Kenshin-gumi offered incense three times to the urn beside Oguni-sensei's coffin. The wake ended when the priest completed the sutra. Each departing guest was given a gift, which was of the value of about half or one quarter of the condolence money they had left. The Kenshingumi prepared to stay overnight with Oguni-sensei's body.


Procession to the temple...

The next day saw a return of the gray, dreary weather. White flakes of snow poured in a steady descent from fat, gray clouds. It was as if the weather were in mourning for Oguni-sensei as well. Kenshin was the first one awake and sighed when he saw the snow falling outside. Snow always brought him sad memories.

Soon everyone had arrived. The casket was hoisted on the shoulders of the soshikigumi, the neighborhood funeral collective who helped with all funerary arrangements. The Kenshingumi walked behind the soshikigumi, their heads bowed in respect. They were followed by many of the townspeople on their way to the temple.

At the temple, the priest returned and the funeral ceremony began, this time with only the Himura family, Sano and Megumi and the three teenagers in attendance. Again, each of them gave three offerings of incense to the urn while the priest read off a sutra.

After the reading, a new Buddhist name, or kaimyo was purchased for Oguni-sensei by Himura Kenshin for a fee of 1,000 yen. This would be the name he would be mentioned by from now on for fear that his ghost might haunt the speaker of his old name.

The funeral ceremony took all day with the readings, offerings and burnings of incense. During the day, Kaoru needed to shush Kenji, who with the passing of long hours in the bitter cold, grew increasingly irritable.

At the end of the funeral ceremony, flowers were placed in the casket before it was sealed and put on the palanquin for transportation to the crematorium, which rested beyond the borders of Tokyo proper. 


The cremation...

After the funeral, the coffin and palanquin were again hoisted onto the shoulders of the soshikigumi. They moved slowly through the streets toward the edge of the city, out of the city proper and down the dirt road toward the crematorium.

Kenji fidgeted restlessly in Kaoru's arms. Having been cooped up in the temple all night and day and now being out in the cold evening air, the little boy was understandably at his limit. Kaoru hoped she could get her son to behave himself for just a while longer, though she was sympathetic.

When they reached the crematorium, Kenshin handed the permit to the chief cremator. The coffin was handed from the soshikigumi to the crematorium staff. 

“WAAAAAAAAAAAHHHH!!!! I WANNA GO HOOOOOOOOME!”

The still of the winter air was shattered by a shrill cry as a little boy, distressed by the day's events, finally snapped and burst into tears born of exhaustion and cold.

Kenshin was by his wife and son's side in an instant, lifting the little boy out of his harried mother's arms.

"Kenji, Kenji, it's alright. We can go home now," Kenshin said placatingly.

His efforts were rewarded by another shriek and a vicious yank on his hair.

“AAAAAAAAAAHAAAAAAAAAAHHH!!!!!!”

"ORO!"

Kenshin and Kaoru looked into each other's eyes and mutually nodded. Indeed, the hour was late, the air was cold and Kenji's cries voiced everyone's exhaustion from the events of the day.

"Sorry, everyone. We'd better go before Kenji yanks all Kenshin's hair out by the roots," said Kaoru with a bow. "We'll meet up with you tomorrow."

Everyone bowed their quiet goodbyes and the Himuras turned and hurried to the dojo before the fractious Kenji did anymore bodily harm to his tired parents.


The next morning...

Having gotten a few hours of sleep the night before, the Kenshingumi walked to the crematorium for the final solemnity for Oguni-sensei, the bone picking. 

Yahiko sighed inwardly. Having been the only surviving relative, he had had to pick his mother's bones at the tender age of seven. This ceremony brought back bitter memories for the young swordsman. Feeling a slight brush on his left arm, he glanced over to his side and saw Tsubame smiling at him. Yahiko's cheeks turned red as he returned the smile quickly before looking back ahead.

Yutaro felt a pang of jealousy knife through his heart as he caught sight of Yahiko and Tsubame's hands joining. However, now was neither the time nor the place for their rivalry, so he repressed it and looked straight ahead.

The group solemnly approached the pile of ash and bone that remained and began picking bone fragments out of the ashes with mismatched chopsticks, one made of wood, the other of bamboo. Along the right side, Kaoru picked out a fragment of foot and passed it to Megumi's chopsticks, who passed it to Sano, who passed it up to where Kenshin stood at the head. Along the left, Tsubame passed fragments to Yutaro, who passed them to Yahiko, who passed them to Kenshin. They moved along the body in this manner. Kenshin put each fragment he received into the urn, starting with the feet and ending with the Adam's apple. 

Kenji stood back from the rest of the group, being too short to help with the bone picking. Pulling his hanten tighter around his shoulders, the little boy shivered and wondered to himself why it was necessary for them to return to this place and stand out in the cold. A night's sleep had improved his mood somewhat, but he didn't know how long he could take just standing out here in the cold, not even able to play or romp in the snow as he loved to do.

The solemnity completed, the priest sealed the urn with a sutra over the lid to keep Oguni-sensei's spirit from haunting anyone. The urn was then taken to be interred in a graveyard that held his deceased relatives.


Funeral ceremonies finally finished, everyone stood around in small groups, talking. Kenshin exchanged some words with Chief Uramura and Shinichi. Sano, who was munching on a rice ball he had snuck along in his pants pocket, overheard their conversation.

"As far as I know, Oguni-sensei had no living descendants or apprentices. I'm not certain to whom his clinic will go now," said Chief Uramura sadly.

"I'm certain someone will be found eventually. With the introduction of Western medicine, many talented young people have begun studying it," said Kenshin, trying to be optimistic.

"Perhaps, but after Oguni-sensei's tenure, that person will have some large sandals to fill," said Shinichi.

'Successor, eh?' thought Sano. 'I wonder...'

He glanced over at Megumi as she chatted with Kaoru, who held an utterly-bored-looking Kenji in her arms. The Oguni Clinic needed a successor. Megumi was the best assistant Oguni-sensei had had. Kaoru had told him about some of the other assistants who came and went after Megumi's departure and none could measure up.

'The Vixen's the only one good enough. Honestly, Saranou and Meika got things in hand at the Takani Clinic. Me and the Vixen should come back here and take the clinic over!' Sano thought.

What remained was convincing Saranou of the idea. 

As the group gathered and headed to the Akabeko for breakfast, Sano made a discreet exit and headed for the telegraph office. Upon arriving, Sano paid the fee and dictated this telegram to Megumi's brother:

"TO: Takani Saranou

Oguni-sensei's funeral's over. His clinic has no successor. I was thinking since you and your wife have the Takani Clinic running good, maybe Megumi could take over the Oguni Clinic down here.

I'm asking if me and Megumi can get hitched so we can stay at the clinic down here and help the people of Tokyo out. I've been working real hard at your clinic and hope I've proven to you how responsible I am and what a good husband I'd be. What do you think?

FROM: Sagara Sanosuke"

Not knowing how long it would take to receive a reply, Sano left the telegraph office and made his way back to find the others. He met them as they were just arriving at the Akabeko, which Tae had graciously reserved for only the mourners.

"Hey Rooster, where did you disappear to?" sniped Megumi as Sano fell in alongside her.

"Had business to take of," grunted Sano.

"Gambling, I suppose? Honestly, you can't think of anyone but yourself for more than two minutes, can you?" sniffed Megumi, looking straight ahead.

Sano was a bit put off by Megumi's attitude, but didn't want to spoil the surprise.

"Guess not," was his nonchalant reply.

With a huff, Megumi walked away from Sano and joined the Himuras and the teenagers. Sano was miffed when Megumi sat between the three teenagers and Kaoru and Kenshin instead of next to him, but decided to tolerate the Vixen's attitude, for now. 

The midday meal was a somber one; no one really in much of a mood for speaking. Sano pretended to be interested in his food, but kept a secret eye on Megumi, who was now cooing over Kenji, who had fallen asleep in Kaoru's arms.

Several times, Megumi looked up and caught Sano staring directly at her. Each time, she blushed and looked down at her food. Sano smirked to himself and continued to shovel it in.

After the meal was finished, Sano went back to the telegraph office and found no reply. 

'He better answer by tomorrow,' Sano sulked as he walked through the cold air.


The next day...

Sano made his way to the Oguni Clinic where Megumi had spent the night in case anyone needed medical attention. After stepping out of his shoes, Sano stepped inside and was shocked to be greeted by Megumi, Saranou and Meika.

"Wha?" he gaped.

"We thought a personal answer would be more appropriate than a telegram," explained Saranou.

"Alright, Saranou, he's here. Now will someone please tell me what's going on?" fumed Megumi.

Saranou smiled at Sanosuke.

"I believe you had something you wished to ask my sister," he said.

"I did?" asked Sano.

Saranou gave him a look. Sano's brain finally kicked in.

"Oh, yeah!" said Sano. "OK, Vixen, you and me been livin' in Aizu five months now. I know I fucked up with that stunt I pulled last summer, but I've been workin' hard since then and I hope I've, uh made amends in yer eyes..."

Megumi's eyes widened, willing the Rooster to continue.

"And uh... well I was thinkin' that since this clinic's got no one to run it now... maybe you 'n' me could have a go at it and git hitched?" Sano looked hopefully up at Megumi.

"Sanosuke," said Megumi in surprise. 

She looked to Saranou and Meika.

"That's why we're here on such short notice," said Saranou with a smile.

"Sanosuke-kun sent Saranou a telegram asking for your hand in marriage," said Meika with an excited smile.

"Meika and I can run the Takani Clinic and you could take this one over and act in Oguni-sensei's stead here," said Saranou.

Megumi didn't know what to say; being inundated by emotion. The past few months in Aizu had shown a new side of Sanosuke. He had worked so very hard at the clinic and had spent every free moment with her, courting her, buying things for her, taking her out to dinner, etc. He had done everything in his power to make up for his "slip-up" from last summer.* Megumi looked up at Sano, who was anticipating her reply.

"I accept," she said, blinking back tears.

"Great!" said Sano, whipping out a jug of sake. 

The four spent the next hour pouring sake for each other to celebrate. 

*A/N: Read Return of the Rooster.


Kamiya Dojo, later that morning...

Kenshin and Kaoru were awakened by a loud pounding on the front gate. Kenshin got to his feet and grasped his bokken until he felt the familiar, blatant ki wash over him.

"HEY, KENSHIN! OPEN UP!" came the familiar voice.

"Orooo," went Kenshin, setting the bokken aside.

Kenshin crossed the yard to the gate, which opened to reveal Sano and Megumi standing together.

"Me 'n' the Vixen's gittin' hitched," grinned Sano.

"Ororooooooroooooooooooooo," cried the startled Kenshin, eyes turning to swirls.

"What's going on out here?" demanded Kaoru, upon hearing her swirly-eyed husband's cries.

"Orooooooo..."

Kaoru sighed.

CRACK!

"Ow!" Kenshin rubbed his poor head as Kaoru nudged him aside.

"We're engaged," said Megumi.

"Megumi-san!" said Kaoru happily.

"Me 'n' the Vixen's gittin' hitched at th' Clinic in April. You guys're invited," said Sano.

"Congratulations!" said Kenshin, finally able to speak sensibly.

"Hey, what's goin' on out here?" came the tiny, plaintive voice of Kenji as the boy strode out into the snowy yard in only his yukata and zori, clutching his rooster.

"Kenji, you'll catch a cold," said Kaoru disapprovingly as she quickly scooped the boy up and tucked him into the flap of her hanten. "Uncle Sano and Aunty Meg are going to get married." 

"Is that it?" asked Kenji in disappointment.

"I'm afraid so, son," said Kenshin indulgently.

"Then I'm goin' back to bed," said the boy as he wriggled out of his mother's arms and retreated to the warmth of his room.

Kaoru flashed Sano and Megumi an apologetic smile before she and Kenshin led Sano and Megumi into the living area of the dojo.

"Have you two eaten yet?" Kenshin offered.

"Nah, just had a couple jugs a sake this mornin'," said Sano.

Kenshin could tell that by the smell of Sano's breath and how he slurred his words more than usual.

Kaoru questioned the engaged couple while Kenshin went to work preparing a hearty breakfast of dorayaki and gyoza.

"So, how did this come about?" Kaoru ventured as they ate.

"It was all this big lug's idea," said Megumi with a smile.

"Aaw, it was nothin'," blushed Sano.

"I thought he'd left the group to go gambling yesterday, but he went to the telegraph office and sent notice to Saranou and Meika, asking for my hand in marriage," explained Megumi.

"Why Sano, you actually thought of that on your own?" asked Kaoru incredulously.

"Yes," said Sano as he glared indignantly at Kaoru.

"The world's coming to an end," said Kaoru.

"After we're done here, we'll head over to th' Akabeko 'n' tell the Punk, Cat Eyes, the lil' girl 'n' Tae," said Sano as he continued to shovel his food in.


"Oh, Sanosuke-han and Megumi-han, that's such wonderful news!" cried Tae upon hearing the joyous announcement. "The Akabeko will happily cater your wedding!"

"Congratulations," was Tsubame's quiet response.

"I just hope your kids inherit Megumi's brains," came Yahiko's offering.

"Good one, Yahiko," grinned Yutaro.

"You lil punk!" growled Sano as he and Yahiko got into a rough and tumble fight in the middle of the restaurant.

"Take it outside, you idiots!" roared Tae as she and Megumi tried to herd the two outside.


The next day, Sano and Megumi went back to Aizu with Saranou and Meika to pack their belongings and move permanently back to Tokyo. Sano helped Megumi put her clothes and equipment into boxes which would be shipped to Tokyo. Sano didn't really have much of anything to pack since he wore the same clothes every day.

Upon returning to Tokyo, the Himuras along with Tae, Yahiko, Yutaro and Tsubame helped the engaged couple get unpacked and settled in. 


For the rest of the winter, Sano and Megumi stayed in the clinic and ran it together. They saw people with grippe, croupe, ague, diptheria, mumps, measles, broken bones, etc. At Megumi's insistence, they slept in separate rooms during their engagement. This caused Sano no end of frustration, which he dealt with in the clinic's out house.

Megumi kept in close contact with Saranou and Meika, regularly exchanging news about their respective clinics with them and how her relationship with Sanosuke was progressing.

The rest of the Kenshingumi frequently stopped by the clinic to help the budding couple out as best they could. Kenshin also helped Sano by giving him some pointers on how to woo Megumi properly. Kenshin and Kaoru kept a wary eye on Sano and Megumi's relationship, ready to swoop in if Sano did anything stupid, which miraculously, he didn't.

Sano took Megumi out to restaurants, plays and the various festivals that occurred throughout the year. Megumi found her affection for the goofy, but lovable Sano growing deeper. 


April, 1885

The arrival of spring heralded the return of Saranou and Meika for the wedding, which would be held at the clinic.

All their closest friends were gathered for the wedding: Kenshin, Kaoru, Kenji, Yahiko, Tsubame, Yutaro, Kamishimoemon, Uki, Outa, Tae and Sae, all the Oniwabanshuu, Katsu, Gin, Tomo and Shu. 

Sanosuke was dressed in black hakama and haori and Megumi in a white bridal gown and veil, carrying the kaiken and hakoseko. The couple knelt before the priest who purified them. After purification, Sano and Megumi drank three saucers of sake. Sano read the words of commitment, after which they made an offering to the kami. Sano broke out in a big, goofy grin as he and Megumi were announced as man and wife to everyone in the room.

Right at that moment, there was a terrific flash and a loud popping sound. Katsu pulled a plate out of the camera that he had set up when no one had been looking. 

After the ceremony, everyone sat around a long table and ate food from the Akabeko in a grand and merry feast. Megumi and Sano disappeared and changed their raiment several times during the festivities. 

After the eating part was over, Kenshin proposed a toast to the wedded couple.

"A toast to Sagara Sanosuke for being a reliable team mate to me and those I care for over the years and to Megumi-dono for stitching up all our wounds after our many, many battles," said Kenshin with his saucer raised.

"CHEERS!"

Everyone expressed their sentiments and swallowed the sake.


After the celebration ended and the guests departed, Sano and Megumi were alone in their marriage bed. Sano was plastered and Megumi was socially inebriated.

"Hic hic... Uh, how do I get thing off?" mumbled Sano as he fumbled with Megumi's obi.

"You should know how. You've obviously had plenty of experience," quipped Megumi.

"Wadda hellz'zat s'pos'd t' mean?" slurred Sano as he continued to grope at the ties.

"Never mind," sighed Megumi.

Eventually, Sano figured out the obi, which fell away with the kimono to reveal Megumi's supple body underneath. Sano felt a stiff bulge in his pants.

With a bit more grace in her movements, Megumi relieved Sanosuke of his clothes and appraised his muscular body, which bore a few new scars on it since she'd last seen him in a state of undress. Megumi's eyes widened a bit at the sight of Sano's arousal.

'Aren't we the eager beaver?' she thought to herself as she ran her hands over Sano's chest.

Awkwardly, Sano brought his hands up to massage Megumi's ample breasts.

'Soft,' thought the Rooster. 

Sanosuke and Megumi leaned in to kiss each other deeply for the first time.

GONG! GONG! GONG!

The sounding of the clinic's emergency bell shattered the stillness of the moment. Megumi jumped to her feet quickly, leaving Sanosuke to fall forward and kiss the floor. Stopping only to tie on her kimono, she rushed to the door, followed by a decidedly disgruntled Sano.

"Takani-sensei! We have an emergency! My son's stomach is in a lot of pain!" cried a mother who held a screaming little boy in her arms at the door.

"Can't it wait till t'morrow?" growled Sano, who was promptly elbowed in the gut by his bride.

"Bring him this way!" said Megumi as she escorted the mother and child to the treatment area. "Rooster, go boil water!"

"Aw, shit!" was Sano's only comment as he stomped out to the well.

Such would be the life of a doctor's husband.

~Owari~

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