Rurouni Kenshin Fan Fiction ❯ Return of the Rooster ❯ Matchmaker, Matchmaker ( Chapter 1 )

[ T - Teen: Not suitable for readers under 13 ]
July, 1884

Takani Megumi was doing paperwork in the clinic that she ran with her older brother, Saranou. She'd been overjoyed to learn that he was alive and well when she'd returned to Aizu six years earlier. They'd had a great reunion where she'd met his lovely wife, Meika, who was also in training to be a doctor. Saranou and Meika had no children yet, but were hoping to get pregnant soon. Megumi was delighted at the idea of being an aunt someday.

Saranou, who was a doctor in his own right, had returned to Aizu about a year before Megumi had and had reopened the old Takani family clinic that their parents had run. He and Megumi now ran the clinic as partners. The clinic was important because it was the only one that would take those who couldn't afford to pay the astronomical doctors' fees the other clinics charged.

Megumi was pretty satisfied with her life as it was now. She was very happy to have found one relative left alive and to be working as a doctor for those who needed one most. Every June, she'd take the train down Tokyo and visit with the Himuras, Yahiko and Tsubame. She kept her promise to Kaoru to examine Kenshin every year in June to be certain his body wasn't suffering any side effects from his years wielding Hiten Mitsurugi Ryu. As far as she could tell, the man was still very healthy, which was a great relief to them all. All in all, Megumi was pretty satisfied with her life as it was now. But was she truly happy? The more she reflected on it, the more she doubted that she was. There was an empty spot in her heart, a spot that she was beginning to realize could only be filled by a certain tall, muscular, spiky haired man with roguish brown eyes and a silly, lopsided grin.

When Sano and Megumi had first met in 1878, they hadn't been able to stand each other. Sano blamed Megumi for the death of his friend Yoita, who had overdosed on the spider's web opium Kanryuu Takeda had forced her to make. Sano called her Opium Woman and was very curt to her. But when push came to shove, Sano fought valiantly at Kenshin's side to protect her from the Oniwabanshuu and Kanryuu.

Kamiya Dojo

When Hyotoko attacked by breaking in through the front gate, Sano went up against him without hesitation. He kicked Hyotoko in the gut. Hyotoko burned him by breathing fire on him. However, Sano was able to dodge away, suffering only burns on his legs. Hyotoko was startled and spun around to see Sano standing behind him.

"Not nice, fat boy," said Sano as the smoke rose from his burnt legs.

"Ho ho, you dodged my fire breath, but now your legs are burned," said Hyotoko.

After this, Kenshin took over for a bit and was able to make Hyotoko run out of oil by whirling the Sakabatou in front of him like a shield. After, Sano stepped in front of him and took the fight back.

"Refueling complete," said Hyotoko. "Poor fool, walking to your own cremation!"

"You're the fool," said Sano. "Tricks don't work once you know how they're done."

"'Tricks' he says. 'Freak' he says! I'll burn you both up!" roared Hyotoko.

"I'LL CREMATE YOU ALL!" he roared again as he spewed out flame.

As Hyotoko began his new attack, instead of dodging, Sano ran straight into the source of the flame. He reached deep into Hyotoko's throat and yanked out the oil bag.

"Cheap magic always has a gimmick," he said, holding up the oil bag. "Talk about a dirty trick. You got no chance. Give up now."

"Fool! You're the one with no chance! You can't repeat that punch from befo--," Hyotoko was cut off by a kick to the chin from Sanosuke.

"You forgot about the kicking. Not that a sausage leg like you would think of it," said Sano as Hyotoko keeled over backwards.

"You see? They're both stronger than they look," said Kaoru.

"They're beyond strong. Who are those two?" said Megumi as she stared wide-eyed.

"Who they are to you, I have no idea. But I'm proud to say that they're my friends," said Kaoru as she ran forward to stop Sano from beating Kenshin up.

That had been the first time, Megumi actually saw Sano fight. He proved himself to be a great fighter and a loyal and trustworthy comrade. The fearless Rooster would go up against any opponent, no matter how big or fierce.

But what impressed her even beyond that was how inspirational Sano could be at times. Eventhough he had the brain of a chicken, Sano could say things that made one think.

Kanryuu Mansion

Megumi looked up and was startled when Sano and Yahiko kicked the door of the observatory in.

"AGH! DAMN DOOR!" Sano and Yahiko raged as Kenshin stood behind them with a stupified look on his face.

"Sorry to keep you waiting, Megumi-dono," said Kenshin, smiling his sweet Rurouni smile at her.

Megumi noticed the three wounds on his chest.

"That wound..." she said.

"Yes, there was a little trouble," said Kenshin, likely trying to downplay what had just happened. "But never mind that. What's important is that you're not hurt."

"I'm so sorry. I got you into this. I put you all in danger," said Megumi as she raised her tanto. "But it's almost over. Soon your worries will end with me."

"Megumi-dono!" cried Kenshin.

"Look what I've become, making opium. Living selfishly, so desperate to see my family again," said Megumi as she neared the tanto to her skin. "If nothing else, I got to meet all of you."

"No!" cried Kenshin as he started forth to stop her.

"Yes," said Megumi as she started to slide the tanto over her skin.

It never touched. Megumi looked up into the angry brown eyes of Sanosuke, whose hand was now bleeding from gripping the tanto.

"YOU STUPID BITCH!" he roared. "Kenshin and Yahiko nearly got themselves killed to rescue you and you want to make it all a waste!"

Sano yanked the tanto from her hands and kept her from making the fatal mistake.

As the months passed, Sanosuke grew in strength and courage (though he seemed to wane in IQ). He learned the Futae no Kiwami and faced Shishio alongside Kenshin and Saitou. By the time they all got back from Kyoto, he was a very strong fighter, though his right hand was frequently shattered in fights. It fell to Megumi to treat his hand over and over again.

When Yukishiro Enishi struck with his Jinchuu and kidnapped Kaoru, they all went to the island together to save her. There Megumi again saw Sanosuke fight, this time one of Wu Heishin's Four Gods. Sano learned how to use his left hand to absorb some of the impact of the Futae no Kiwami, thus minimizing the damage to his right hand. Thus, he played his part in helping Kenshin to rescue Kaoru so they could all return to Tokyo together.

The Rooster had been gone for nearly six years now. He'd left so suddenly, she hadn't even had the chance to say goodbye. One day she'd received a telegraph from Kaoru and Kenshin saying that Sano had left the country to escape arrest and they didn't know when he'd return, though Kenshin held out hope that Sano would indeed return one day. Megumi had been deeply hurt that Sano hadn't at least left a note telling her he was leaving. She made up her mind to simply not think about him at all. At first it was pretty easy. She dismissed all thoughts of Sano from her head and busied herself with her medical practice and reuniting with Saranou. Whenever Sano was brought up in conversations during her annual visit with the Himuras, she responded politely, but ignored him otherwise.

Lately though, thoughts of the Rooster had been invading her dreams. She'd dream of seeing Sano on a boat, drifting into the horizon. She'd go out into the water and try to swim after him, but could never catch up. She'd always be downcast after waking up from such dreams. Would she ever find happiness, or was she doomed to dream over and over again of that idiot Rooster?


Megumi took the train down to Tokyo for her annual visit. Kenshin, Kaoru, Kenji, Yahiko and Tsubame met her at the train station as was their custom and took her to the dojo. Megumi felt very much alone as she watched Kenshin, Kaoru and Kenji as well as Yahiko and Tsubame as they talked and laughed with each other. Both couples seemed so happy and close. Although not yet engaged, Yahiko and Tsubame were the quintessential young couple. They spent practically every spare moment together. Kenshin and Kaoru were joined at the hip and both loved and doted on little Kenji. Every year, it got harder for her to watch them and know that she'd probably never have anyone to share her life with except for Saranou and his wife.

At the dojo, the conversation turned to what to have for lunch. Yahiko innocently commented that he wanted chicken. Megumi felt her heart squeeze at the mention of fowl and promptly left the room. No one but Kenshin noticed her leave. He found her standing on the engawa in the backyard, looking at the sakura tree that grew in the corner.

"Are you alright, Megumi-dono?" he asked, coming up behind her and making her jump a bit.

"Still as stealthy as ever, ne Ken-san?" asked Megumi. "I'm fine. I just needed some air."

"Did something upset you?" Kenshin pressed.

"Not really," said Megumi. "C'mon it's time for your checkup."

Megumi and Kenshin went into the bedroom, sliding the shouji shut. Kenshin shrugged out of his gi and sat down. As Megumi looked him over, she noted that at age 35, Kenshin was in better shape than most men ten years his junior. Giving up Hiten Mitsurugi Ryu two years ago had allowed his body to regain much of its strength. He was still a damn fine swordsman and was strong enough to make the thugs and yakuza that infested Tokyo think twice about messing with him and those dearest to him. None dared to set foot near the Kamiya Dojo.

Megumi had Kenshin follow her finger with his eyes, which he did fine. She traced her fingertips along Kenshin's spine, noting its alignment. She checked Kenshin's pulse at the points on his neck and right wrist, asking the usual questions about his eating and sleeping habits and how he felt in general.

"Fine as always, thank you," said Kenshin.

"That's good to hear," said Megumi with a small smile as she wrapped the cuff of the sphygometer around Kenshin's left arm. She squeezed the bulb several times, taking his blood pressure. Just as it was starting to get a bit tight, Megumi stopped squeezing and let the air out, noting the results.

After unwrapping the cuff from Kenshin's arm, she put the stethoscope in her ears and touched it to his back, having him breathe deeply and cough. She repeated this as she moved the stethoscope to different areas of his back so she could listen to his breathing from different angles.

"Lie back now," she said.

Touching the stethoscope to his chest, she listened to his heartbeat. The health of Kenshin's heart was a source of concern for her, given the punishment his body had gone through in his younger days. For now though, his heart sounded strong. Megumi moved the stethoscope farther down and listened to the churning of his stomach and the growling of his intestines. After putting the stethoscope aside, she began gently pressing on his abdomen with the flats of her fingers, moving in small circles.

"You seem down," he said as she probed his belly.

"I'm fine," she answered carelessly. "Everything's going well at the clinic. Meika's coming along quickly. She'll be a full-fledged doctor within the year. Let's check your joints now."

Megumi took hold of Kenshin's right leg and moved it in different directions, rotating it gently. She asked him if there was any discomfort, to which Kenshin responded in the negative. She repeated this on his left leg with the same result. Kenshin watched her with that gaze that was able to probe the soul. Try as she might, she couldn't hide her sadness from an observer as keen as he.

Megumi had Kenshin sit up again and checked his shoulders and arms, watching the muscles move in his shoulder blades while she had him flex and rotate his arms. He indicated no discomfort.

"You're lonely, aren't you?" said Kenshin. Megumi was taken aback by the direct question from the usually demure and polite man.

"You're still bad for the heart, Ken-san," she said, putting her stuff away.

"Aren't there any men in Aizu who have caught your eye?" persisted Kenshin as he pulled his gi back on.

"None of the men there want to be with a 'woman doctor'. Aizu's not as open-minded as Tokyo. They're happy to receive the free service, but actually having a relationship with a 'pioneer' like myself just isn't done," said Megumi.

"That's a shame," said Kenshin.

"Yes. Well if it's meant to be, it'll happen. If it isn't, it won't. I have my brother and my practice. How much more of life have I the right to ask for?" said Megumi as she and Kenshin exited the room.

'Much,' thought Kenshin.

Himura Kenshin, Kaoru and five-year-old Kenji were walking home together on a July evening after a glorious day in the sakura fields. It had been hot and sunny, the perfect day for a picnic. Kenshin and Kaoru had spent the day romping with Kenji, playing tag, hide-and-seek and all manner of childish games. When their lion cub wore himself out and fell asleep on the blanket, Kenshin and Kaoru walked around the field hand-in-hand. Of course they never strayed out of sight of the blanket, lest Kenji awaken to find himself alone.

The Kamiya dojo was just coming into sight when Kenshin sensed it: strong ki. As he analyzed it, the ki felt more and more familiar. Letting go of Kenji's hand, he began to run on ahead of Kenji and Kaoru. Kaoru picked up the little boy as the questions about where Daddy had gone started to babble forth and ran forward, trying in vain to keep up with her husband's godlike speed.

Kenshin approached the dojo and saw that the front gate was open. He launched himself into the air and landed on top of the perimeter fence, his eyes scouring the grounds for any sign of the intruder. His ken-ki flared up again. To the right! Kenshin looked to the right and saw a giant figure standing in the shadows.

"I know you're there," he said simply.

"Sharp as ever," said a familiar voice as a tall figure stepped out into the light of the dying sun.

Instantly Kenshin was off the fence and standing in front of Sagara Sanosuke. The two men clasped each other's hands in joyous reunion.

"Said I'd come back," said Sano, wearing that silly lopsided grin of his.

"Welcome home," said Kenshin, his violet eyes shining.

The two men smiled and looked each other over. Kenshin looked pretty much the same as Sano remembered him, though there were some differences that the Rooster noted: the cruciform scar seemed to be fading, his eyes had a softness in them born of his years living peacefully with his family and he no longer wielded the Sakabatou, having bequeathed it to Yahiko two years ago.

Sano had filled out in the six years he'd been gone. No longer the tall gangly teen of Kenshin's memory, he was very muscular and built like a bear. Sano still wore the red headband of the Sekihoutai. He'd traded in his Aku jacket for a large tiger-skin cloak. His hair was now long enough to pull back into a small ponytail, though characteristic of the slacker he was, he just let it spike out every which way. He also sported a full, brown beard.

"How are you?" asked Kenshin when he could speak again.

"I'm doing great. Had a lotta fun traveling. Saw the world and all that good shit. But when all's said and done, Tokyo's home," said Sano. "You look like you're doing great too buddy!"

"Yes. I am," said Kenshin, his voice trailing off.

"Didja like my little gift two years ago?" said Sano.

"Yes. We all love it. Kaoru's been collecting records like there's no tomorrow. We have a music library now," laughed Kenshin. Just then he sensed his wife and son's approach.

Kaoru stepped into the yard and almost dropped Kenji when she saw Sano standing there. "Sanosuke!" she cried out and ran forward to greet the Rooster. Sano hugged her warmly. Kaoru kissed Sano on the cheek.

"Jou-chan!" he said. Then he looked at little Kenji. "No doubt whose kid you are," he said, noting Kenji's titian hair.

"You look like a rooster!" laughed Kenji, not in the least afraid of the man his parents seemed so happy to see.

"Aw, you've been letting him hang out with the punk," winced Sano. "Well, you look like a little Midget."

"Rooster!" shouted Kenji, scowling at Sano.

"Midget," returned Sano. From then on, he and Kenji would know each other by those nicknames and never their real ones.

"When did you get back?" asked Kaoru.

"Week ago. I had to run like hell before the crew found me stowing away in the cargo bay and made me pay, so I jumped off before the ship pulled into Kyoto harbor and swam the rest of the way, then I hightailed it over to the Aoiya and got some free grub off Okina. Seems like the Ice Man and Weasel Girl are finally engaged. About the hell time," said Sano.

"You actually made it from Kyoto to here without getting lost?" said Kaoru.

"I hitched on a merchant's wagon and jumped off when we arrived in Tokyo," said Sano.

"Once a freeloader, always a freeloader," quipped Kaoru.

"Meh..." shrugged Sano.

"Sano, would you like to come for some food?" offered Kenshin.

"That's why I came here first," said Sano.

"You'll never change, will you?" said Kaoru.

"Probably not," laughed Sano as the four of them went into the house, Kenshin shutting the gate behind them and locking it.

After Kaoru put Kenji to bed, the three adults sat down and talked over tea. Sano told them in great detail of his journey around the world. He told them about all the bar fights he'd been in, all the jails he'd broken out of, all the bones he'd broken, and of course all the money he'd lost gambling and all the booze he'd drunk. He aroused a lot of laughter with his story of going to Venice, Italy and almost drowning when he walked out of the inn in the morning, forgetting that the city was perpetually flooded.

By now it was quite late and everyone was tired. Kenshin and Kaoru invited Sano to stay the night. After shaving off his beard, which was beginning to itch since he'd never washed it, Sano took the futon in the guestroom. He didn't get much sleep though. Visions of a certain Vixen kept popping into his mind. He'd force them out, only to have them return en masse.

Kenshin and Kaoru lay in bed, talking about Roosters and Vixens. Kenshin had told Kaoru about his conversation with Megumi two weeks ago.

"She was trying to hide her sadness, but it was so obvious. She and Sano had feelings for each other, but they never had the chance to explore them before he was chased out of the country," said Kenshin.

"I hate to see Megumi all alone," said Kaoru. "She's a beautiful and smart woman. I can't believe all those pig-headed men refusing her because she's a doctor. Kenshin, do you think we could do anything to help her and Sano?"

"I hate to meddle in other people's affairs," started Kenshin. "But maybe if we do this right, we can point them toward each other and they'll come together on their own. I'll try to find out if Sano still has feelings for Megumi-dono tomorrow."

"We need to be careful, anata. If we do this wrong, we could end up hurting them," said Kaoru.

"I promise to be careful," said Kenshin, kissing his wife. Roosters and Vixens forgotten for the time being, Kenshin and Kaoru made sweet love together.

The next day after breakfast, Kaoru took Kenji out shopping with her to give Sano and Kenshin some time for "male bonding". Kenshin and Sano took rods and bait and went down to the river to fish. It was a beautiful morning with nary a cloud in the sky. The sun was shining, the birds were singing. It was a perfect day for fishing.

Sano and Kenshin settled themselves at a comfortable spot under a large tree. The two men baited their hooks and cast their lines into the water. They fished in silence for a while, watching as the occasional bird flew over the water, catching a fish in its beak. Finally, Sano decided to open things up a bit, as Kenshin seemed content with just fishing.

"So, what's been going on while I've been gone? Yahiko and the lil' girl hitched yet?" he asked in his usual subtle way.

"Heh heh, no they're still dancing around the question. I'd say they're courting right now," said Kenshin.

"Oh yeah. They say first loves are always the toughest," said Sano.

"I know," said Kenshin so softly that Sano almost didn't hear him.

'Shit...' thought Sano. "Well, Yahiko'll propose. He's a smart guy, even if he don't act like it."

"That reminds me of another friend of mine," said Kenshin with a smile.

"Yeah? Who?" said Sano.

Kenshin grinned and shook his head. Maybe he was wrong on that count. The two continued fishing for a few more minutes.

"Your midget's real cute. Looks just like you," said Sano, trying to get a conversation going, which was painfully hard with the reticent Kenshin. Kenshin stirred and a smile pursed his lips.

"He has Kaoru's eyes," the kenkaku answered dreamily. Sano chuckled.

"Which one of you's he take after?" asked Sano.

"His mother. He has her temper," said Kenshin. Sano glanced at the smaller man out of the side of his eye.

"I bet he's a lot like you in other ways," said the Rooster. Kenshin looked up and shook his head.

"I pray that he's nothing like me," he said in a dropped voice.

"Aw, Kenshin. You're a great guy. You gotta have a lil self-respect there, buddy," said Sano, giving Kenshin a pat on the back.

Kenshin smiled at his friend, somewhat comforted by what he said. "Thank you for your words. But it's better for all if Kenji takes after me as little as possible," he said quietly. Sano sighed and let that topic drop.

"Alright. It's good to see ya happy though," said Sano. Kenshin smiled again.

"Thank you. I am happy," he finished in a whisper, as if scared that saying it would shatter his world.

After a few moments of silence, Kenshin spoke up. "What about you? Are you happy?" he asked.

"Eh? Yeah I'm happy. I'm back home and out fishing with my best buddy. What else could a Rooster ask for?" he declared jubilantly. Kenshin laughed.

"What will you do now that you're back, go back to the life you had before, or try something new?" he asked.

"I dunno. Haven't thought that far ahead. Figured I could just go back to my old pad. You think Yahiko'd mind a roomie?" asked Sano.

"I don't think you two would make good room-mates. Yahiko keeps that place clean. You two would be at each other's throats before the first day was out," said Kenshin.

"Yeah you're probably right. Yahiko and I are like oil and water," said Sano. "Eh, guess I could live under a bridge. Wouldn't be the first time."

"Don't be silly," said Kenshin gently. "You'll stay with us till you can find a place of your own, though Kaoru will probably want you to do housework in return for all the food you'll eat."

"Wha? I don't eat THAT much," said Sano.

"Please, only a horse would eat less," teased Kenshin. Sano gaped. When had Kenshin developed such a sense of humor?

Kenshin and Sano fell into silence for about half an hour more, each catching a few fish. Just then, from out of the bushes came a pretty little red fox only about 15 feet away from the two men to drink from the river. Sano and Kenshin stared at it. It was rare to see a fox this close, for they were shy creatures.

"Well I'll be," said Sano. "A pretty little kitsune."

This elicited a quiet laugh from Kenshin. Sano turned and glared at the kenkaku who gazed back at him with amused violet eyes.

"What the hell you laughin' at, Red?" growled the Rooster.

'Red?' thought Kenshin. Aloud, he replied simply, "Nothing."

After a few moments of silence Sano asked the question that had been bothering him since last night.

"Kenshin, how's Megumi doing? Did she find her family in Aizu? Did she find a guy and get hitched?" he asked, with a slight quaver in his voice.

"Megumi-dono only found one living relative, her older brother. They're running a medical clinic up there now that's open to everyone, even those who can't pay. She's never married," said Kenshin, carefully emphasizing the last sentence.

"Why the hell not? She's a pretty woman, but she's not getting any younger. She shoulda got hitched years ago," said Sano.

"She was waiting for the man she loves to return," said Kenshin.

"Return? Where's he been?" said Sano, causing Kenshin to sigh in exasperation.

"He's been abroad for a few years now," said Kenshin.

"What a moron! The Medicine Box is quite a catch. She's worth staying in Japan for," said Sano. "If I ever see this guy, I'll pound his ass."

"You may see him sooner than you think," said the Kenshin, trying not to laugh.

"Yeah? When? I wanna break his face. If there's one thing I hate, it's a guy so dumb, he doesn't know love when it's biting him on the ass," said Sano, smashing his fist into his hand.

Kenshin choked on the fit of laughter that was threatening to erupt from him. Sometimes he wondered if Sano hadn't taken a few too many blows to his skull.

"I think we have enough fish," he said quickly. "Let's get back to the dojo."

"Eh, OK," said the clearly-confused Rooster.