“I’m so done with this,” Gintoki muttered angrily.
Zura sighed while Tatsuma laughed loudly. “Your soulmate’s getting roughed up again?”
Gintoki groaned. “Worst timing ever! There was this one Amanto swinging his gigantic sword at me and I was just about to dodge it when, out of fucking nowhere, I feel something stabbing my shoulder! It threw me off and if it weren’t for that, I would have been perfectly healthy right now instead of getting nursed for this stupid wound!” he pointed at the ugly slash across his torso. “Fuck soulmates!”
“Calm down, Gintoki,” Zura scolded. “Your voice is too loud and our fellow soldiers here are trying to rest.”
“Easy for you to say, your soulmate isn’t putting your life on the line!” Gintoki snapped. “I already get enough wounds that hurt like a bitch, why the fuck do I need to feel someone else’s too, dammit!?”
“Ahaha! Kintoki’s so stupid!” Tatsuma exclaimed, goofy grin splitting his face.
“Ha!? The fuck did you just say, asshole?! I dare you to say that again!” Gintoki yelled. He cannot believe the nerve of these jerks, laughing at his misery!
“Gintoki!” Zura warned again before sending the other occupants of the tent apologetic looks.
Tatsuma’s grin widened even more, if possible. “I mean! If you say that you’re getting enough wounds that hurt like a bitch, imagine how much it sucks to be your soulmate, too! They’re hurting over your wounds too!” he remarked smugly.
Gintoki clenched his jaw at the belittling tone this asshole was using with him. What does a moron like Tatsuma know about his struggles anyway!
“Sakamoto’s right,” Zura nodded in agreement. “The whole idea of soul bonds and Mirroring is that soulmates get to share each other’s pain. You shouldn’t take such a meaningful notion so lightly!”
Gintoki scoffed. “Who says I want to deal with such a crappy notion? It’s done nothing but screw me over, and mostly at the shittiest times!”
Tatsuma snickered. “You know, Kintoki, I think it’s safe to say your soulmate’s not a hot babe.”
Gintoki flipped him off and proceeded to lie down and get some actual rest. He didn’t need to hurt his brain trying to hold a conversation with the two biggest idiots he’d ever met.
Begrudgingly, Gintoki found himself agreeing with Tatsuma regarding the kind of person his soulmate was. The incident he’d had today was nowhere near the first time he’d felt the pain of an injury that was undoubtedly caused by a fight.
Whoever his soulmate was, they definitely had a knack for picking fights. It felt like his soulmate had gone into some rebellious phase a couple of years ago and never got over it. And it was so fucking inconvenient because it was around the same time the Joui war had begun.
His friends had pointed out to him once that his soulmate might be a fellow soldier, or – as Takasugi, the little shit, suggested – an Amanto getting his ass kicked by fellow soldiers. He couldn’t tell for sure, but somehow, Gintoki believed it was neither.
And despite Tatsuma’s earlier remark, Gintoki wasn’t ignorant to how much it sucked to be his soulmate. Between the two of them, Gintoki’s injuries were definitely worse, more painful and life-threatening and definitely more crippling. His own body had learned to withstand the pain and keep fighting, his limits were tested day after day and his pain threshold kept changing, too. But he wasn’t normal. His conditions weren’t normal and his limits weren’t normal either, so he could only imagine how much of a burden any injury he got would be on his soulmate's body.
He didn’t understand why such a thing even exists. Soulbonds, Mirroring and all that shit.
Shouyou used to talk about how meaningful it was, to have someone whose soul, whose core of existence, whose very essence, was bound to yours. He would go on and on about how any pain Mirrored onto your body is a reminder that there is someone out there who shares the same pain you have. How intimate and beautiful it is to learn that you’re never actually alone in this world, because your soulmate is always there, whether you’ve met them or not, whether you like them or not, they’re there, if you get hurt, they do too, and if they get hurt, you feel them.
Zura had immediately latched onto that sentiment and burned their sensei’s words into his brain and made it his own belief. He’d never heard the long-haired samurai complain about Mirroring pain a single time. He said he had a soulmate, but for all his fondness of the concept, Zura rarely talked about his soulmate.
Takasugi seemed to be one of the unbound souls in this world. They aren’t exactly rare, but it made Gintoki envious, to not have to be bound to someone, to live freely and not care about hurting someone else or having to get hurt because someone else fucked up.
Tatsuma, unsurprisingly, was as enthusiastic about his soulmate as he was about pretty much everything else. The creepy asshole would often scream things like, “Shit, that hurt! Awesome!” and run around showing off his newfound injury to anyone in sight before it was gone. The idiot’s soulmate definitely healed fast. Gintoki himself usually Mirrored injuries for a couple of hours, depending on how bad it was. He’d gotten the stab in his shoulder around two hours ago, he gave it an hour, two maximum, before it was gone.
As for his soulmate, he would probably still have Gintoki’s wound for the rest of the night.
Apparently, the Mirroring injury appears as soon as one’s soulmate gets it, but it goes away on its own. Treating it doesn’t help if the soulmate that got it in the first place hasn’t patched it up, and the duration of time it stays on the Mirroring soulmate depends on the severity of the injury and the injured soulmate’s recuperation rate.
Stab wounds take longer than bruises, and he was thankful his soulmate had never broken a bone before because he heard they’re painful as fuck and can take up to a day to stop hurting sometimes.
He remembered once getting bruises all over his body, like he’d been ganged up on and kicked all over (he wondered what kind of shit his soulmate must’ve pulled to get battered like that, or if his soulmate was helplessly getting bullied) and it had taken a couple of hours to heal. A while after that, his palms had gotten nasty blisters, and even though they’d barely lasted half an hour, Gintoki was in the middle of a life-or-death battle and holding his sword was a pain in the ass. Talk about shitty timing.
All this made Tatsuma a very peculiar case. His soulmate had broken their arm once and Tatsuma was back to normal less than an hour later. Gintoki chalked it up to him being Sakamoto Tatsuma, the idiot lacked normalcy in every single aspect of his life.
He sighed, deciding that sleep was more important than lamenting about the woes of having a soulmate who was apparently a troublemaker.
The moment he cut his teacher’s head, accompanied by Takasugi’s desperate cries and Zura’s silent tears, Gintoki felt a physical ache in his chest, like his heart literally shattered, and he wondered if people who complained of broken hearts had really meant it just figuratively.
He was currently living it, yet Gintoki could swear this was the lowest moment of his life. The amount of pain, agony and utter despair he was feeling was threatening to choke him, to stop his heart and flatten his lungs.
He had lost everything.
He sat in a cold, damp cell, numb and detached and waiting to be executed without feeling anything at all.
His head probably hadn’t stopped bleeding from the beating he’d taken earlier.
He felt so fucking tired.
He was so, so alone.
Sleep sounded so inviting, just losing consciousness and drifting off. There was a distant alarm in his head warning him against giving into sleep but he didn’t care.
His heavy eyelids were almost shut when he felt it; the familiar pain of a bokken slamming into his gut and knocking the air out of his lungs.
Art by Mechi
His eyes snapped open in surprise. He looked down at the source of the pain to see angry red, a bruise in the making.
He stared at it for a long time.
His soulmate just got their ass handed to them in a dojo fight, apparently.
For some reason, that thought caused something warm and ticklish to bloom in Gintoki’s chest. It kept building up and there was a pressure on his chest, but it wasn’t unpleasant, just overwhelming. It climbed up his throat and before he knew it, he was chuckling, mirthful huffs escaping his lips and fogging the air coming out of his mouth.
He’d been so out of it for a while that he even stopped registering when his soulmate got hurt. Or maybe his soulmate hadn’t gotten hurt in a while? Either way, this was the first time in so long that he remembered he had a soulmate.
Shouyou was right after all. He felt…less alone than he did moments ago.
He didn’t know when was the last time he’d felt anything related to amusement. He didn’t remember the last time he’d felt anything since his heart broke and his life shattered.
This bruise won’t last longer than an hour, Gintoki thought, feeling strangely disappointed.
He wondered if his own beaten head and battered body had anything to do with his soulmate’s loss.
He wondered what his soulmate would feel once Gintoki got executed. He’d heard a couple of things throughout the years from people who lost soulmates. They say the living soulmate is left with a scar that feels a lot like phantom pain for the rest of their lives. Where the scar forms and how much it throbs differs depending on the way the other soulmate died. Zura once had told him the story of a widow he’d met whose deceased husband had gotten stabbed right in his heart. The widow had a scar right over her heart and she’d told Zura that it was blindingly painful for an instance before dulling immediately. She said she'd kept experiencing phantom pain every once in a while; nothing horrible, but enough to remind her of the scar’s presence.
Would his soulmate feel pain around his neck where Gintoki’s head gets cut off? Would he live his life carrying a scar around his neck that reminds him of a beheaded soulmate he’ll never meet?
Would it be easier for his soulmate to cope with his death, seeing how they never met?
Gintoki felt a distant longing to meet them. He’d never wanted a soulmate, he’d still rather not have one, but he did . And even though it was probably too late, he regretted not meeting them.
He eyed the forming bruise again with a faint smile. He always complained about what horrible timing his soulmate’s injuries had, but this one…this one felt like a push from his soulmate to live a little longer.
Realistically, this was probably just another weirdly timed incident, but he’d take it. It wasn’t so ill-timed, after all.
In the end, he didn’t get executed. His executioner decided that he didn’t have the right to cut Gintoki’s head, and set him free.
So Gintoki limped out of there, walked in the biting winter snow, wandered aimlessly until he met an old lady at a graveyard and ate manju on behalf of her dead husband.
He lives on, waiting for a little girl to execute him one day while keeping his promise to protect the old hag, who becomes his landlord and his family.
Years go by, and his soulmate gradually becomes the one responsible for the worse injuries between the two of them. While Gintoki’s life takes a relatively more peaceful, less dangerous turn, his soulmate’s apparently gets more…eventful. Barely a week goes by without Gintoki feeling a nasty cut or a painful fracture or – goddammit – a broken bone. He stopped batting an eyelash at the bruises and light cuts he gets, they’re like an everyday occurrence and they’re gone in minutes. He guesses his soulmate’s recuperation rate improved over time. Good for them.
He never got over his ideas of not wanting to be bound, but he’s learned to accept his soulmate’s existence already. It’s just something that he lives with, just a part of his everyday life, of his normal routine; he’s stopped thinking much of it.
Some days, few and far between, his curiosity would be piqued again. He’d start imagining what kind of person his soulmate is. Gintoki is almost certain his soulmate’s a dude. Someone who gets into fights often. He has no idea how old his soulmate is exactly, but he’s young enough to heal quickly and not have any age-related aches.
On rare occasions, Gintoki allows himself to look forward to meeting his soulmate, if for nothing else then just to see how close his speculations are.
Out of nowhere, Gintoki’s life is crashed with one idiot after another. Starting with one pair of glasses with a gorilla for a sister, followed by an alien kid with a black hole for a stomach, and then an idiot he’s known since childhood, whose stupidity just worsened with age and suddenly Gintoki’s dealing with bombs and terrorists and government dogs.
One sorry excuse of a policeman decides to fight him for fun and another one has a fucking bazooka of all things! That horrible day ends with Gintoki throwing a bomb to the sky while hanging off a building.
He figured – hoped – that would be the last he’ll see of his stupid war comrade and the bloodthirsty police but no .
Apparently he unknowingly got on the dogs’ bad side by beating a gorilla who turned out to be their Commander of all things. That’s when he runs into that sorry excuse of an officer again. On a rooftop he’s been unlucky enough to repair.
He fights well. He catches Gintoki off guard with that acrobatic swing he makes in mid-air, his sword slashes Gintoki’s left shoulder and Gintoki decides that alright , he’ll draw the fucking sword.
He breaks the man’s sword and turns to leave, roof-repair be damned. The Shinsengumi officer asks him what he’s protecting.
He’ll admit that, despite his rotten work as an officer of the law, the man is using his sword to protect what he values, be it his Commander’s honor or the Shinsengumi’s. Gintoki doesn’t think he’s that bad, so he decides to grace him with an answer.
When he turns around, he notices how the officer’s looking at him. Even as he says, “My own rules,” he doesn’t think the expression on the black-haired man’s face has anything to do with how he lost or what Gintoki’s answer was.
He looks stunned, like he just had a revelation or something.
Well, whatever. It’s none of Gintoki’s business, so he shrugs it off and keeps walking.
As his fucking life would have it, he keeps getting shoved into one random chaos after another with the Shinsengumi. Like that one time they went out for a peaceful Hanami picnic and ended up going up against the tax thieves in a rock-paper-scissors war. Gintoki doesn’t remember much beyond bickering with their Vice-Commander and challenging him to one drinking match after another. He woke up with his head in a vending machine and that tax thief bastard sleeping on top of it. He doesn’t remember how any of that happened but he can’t say it was a bad day.
And then there was that pregnant, blood-sucking Amanto woman the dumb police mistook for a ghost of all things! How stupid! And they were scared, too! Especially that resident nicotine freak of theirs! He was shitting himself with fear, how pitiful! Gintoki was totally fine though! He doesn’t know what he did to be lumped together with that pathetic Vice-Commander, but he totally kept his cool!
Then there was that time he and his kids got played into getting involved with some illegal, underground fights, no thanks to the Shinsengumi’s sadist. One minute the sadist and the bastard with V-shaped bangs claim they’re not getting involved, and the next they won’t even admit they got help from the Yorozuya!
They’re infuriating and annoying and total tax-stealing scumbags, but Gintoki gets to know them better with every encounter and he realizes that they’re not so bad after all.
Their shitty Vice-Commander gets on Gintoki’s nerves the most.
He follows him everywhere! He can’t eat in peace because the shithead decides to desecrate whatever meal he’s having with mayonnaise, he can’t watch a movie in peace because the shithead keeps sniffling two rows down, who the fuck cries over such a childish movie!? Certainly not Gintoki!
He can’t even sit in the sauna room in peace, nor leave in peace because that bastard just has to be so fucking stubborn! He’s a dumbass who was totally going to die out of dehydration because of his stupid ego! Gintoki was totally fine though.
So they might have some similarities, big deal! He still can’t stand the shitty bastard.
Running into Sakamoto Tatsuma after so many years of the man deciding to chase for the stars is, as everything is with Tatsuma, a chaotic experience.
Tatsuma tells him, on their way back to Earth, about his soulmate, who’s apparently the second-in-command of the Kaientai.
“Her name’s Mutsu,” Tatsuma tells him, tone fond and it catches Gintoki off guard. The brown-haired idiot smiles broadly as he says, “She kicks my ass all the time!”
Gintoki snorts. “Wouldn’t expect less from someone who’s exposed to you for more than five minutes.”
The brown-haired idiot laughs annoyingly loudly – something that hasn’t changed, Gintoki notes with relief he refuses to admit – and keeps rambling on about his soulmate. He tells Gintoki about how he met her, how he realized she was his soulmate, and some of their wildest adventures together.
“How did it feel?” Gintoki asks, voice barely above a whisper, not really knowing whether he wants to be heard or not.
“Hmm? How did what feel?” Tatsuma turns to look at him.
“Meeting your soulmate.”
Tatsuma blinks, apparently taken back by the question, or maybe by the fact that Gintoki just asked it. Gintoki, who doesn’t give a shit about soulmates.
Tatsuma smiles, never once looking away from him while Gintoki finds the wall more interesting. “It felt right,” the Kaientai leader answers.
Gintoki grunts in response, trying for nonchalance he wonders why he doesn’t actually have. Tatsuma’s answer is both unsettling and unsatisfying. It’s too short, too simple. The dumbass just spent – what, hours? – talking his ear off about all kinds of shenanigans and adventures he’s been through with his soulmate and the rest of the Kaientai. He’s been boasting about Mutsu nonstop, too, so really, he could have given a more explanatory answer than three fucking words.
“I guess you haven’t met your soulmate yet, have you, Kintoki,” he says – says, not asks, the little shit – so Gintoki scowls at him. That sets Tatsuma off again, the asshole cackling before looking at Gintoki again in that unsettling way when Tatsuma doesn’t seem like the stupid little shit that he is and more like the warrior Gintoki fought alongside, the man who actually reads people enough to know how to make a successful trade.
“Do you still not want anything to do with them?”
Gintoki sighs. “I don’t know. I got used to them, got used to Mirroring them, it doesn’t bother me the way it did before but…” he trails off, not sure how to finish that thought.
When he looks back at Tatsuma, he looks thoughtful, downright serious. He opens his mouth and Gintoki braces himself.
“I wanna hang out with hot babes in a cabaret club,” he says wistfully, longingly.
Why the fuck did I even bother? What fucking else was I expecting? Gintoki thinks while digging his heel deeper into the fucker’s face.
His soulmate gets some ugly beating to his head during the time when the Yorozuya and the Shinsengumi’s three idiots break into the Yagyuu family's dojo to get Otae back.
The pain he feels from the beating isn’t anything too bad compared to some of the injuries he’d Mirrored during the past couple of years, but it seems like his soulmate’s infamous shitty timing is making a magnificent comeback.
His bowel is already giving him enough hell as it is, so when he starts feeling the pain of the beatings (that feel suspiciously a lot like a bokken – what’s with his soulmate and getting their ass handed to them in dojo fights, dammit!?) he literally just feels like wringing his soulmate’s throat. The pain is gone by the time he makes it out of the stall, and once he starts fighting that Yoda rip-off, he forgets all about it. He eventually gets a bokken beating to his head as well (it feels creepily similar to the pain he Mirrored moments ago) and falls over a pointed rock and it hurts like a bitch but it takes his mind off his soulmate’s crappy timing.
The whole mess ends with Shinpachi winning, Kyuubei and Otae hugging it out and everything’s okay again.
He attends the saddest, most miserable wedding ceremony he’s ever seen, but of course it all ends up being a huge mess. How could it not when just having the Yorozuya and the Shinsengumi in the same vicinity is a usual recipe for disaster? Add to that both alien and human gorillas! It was a total wreck.
But both Kondou-san and Otae ended up being happily unmarried, so all is well.
Okita Mitsuba throws him off.
She seems soft-spoken and graceful, a typical Yamato Nadeshiko, that if she didn’t look like the adult, female version of her little brother, Gintoki would’ve never believed they were related.
Well, until she pulls Tabasco sauce out of nowhere and pours the whole fucking bottle over his precious chocolate parfait and forces him (well, the sword Okita-kun points to his throat is what’s forcing him, really) to eat that abomination.
Does everyone in Bushuu have fucked up eating habits!? They cover edible food in mayo and Tabasco and they act like he ’s the freak for not liking it!
After his face and digestive tract stop feeling like they’re on fire, he can make enough sense of the situation again to think, yeah, they’re definitely siblings.
She’s beautiful, with kind eyes and a pretty smile, subtle mischievousness and lighthearted playfulness, that he almost forgets about Souichirou-kun (“It’s Sougo.”) telling him she has a lung disease.
Over the course of the following days, Gintoki learns so much more about the older Okita sibling and the stupid tax thieves.
There’s a thing between Okita Mitsuba and Hijikata Toushirou. It’s so easy to see and while he barely saw them interact, barely saw the Mayora at all, it’s heavy enough to take notice of immediately.
Whatever thing it is, it’s also connected to the weirdness of relationship the Shinsengumi’s sadist and the nicotine freak have. The atmosphere turned cold and somber in the few seconds they spent in each other’s presence.
Despite how Gintoki had wanted nothing to do with Sofa-kun’s pretense game at the beginning, he’d grown weirdly attached to his older sister in the single day they spent together, so he decides to visit her again. She’s lively, pleasant to talk to and quirky in an endearing way; too stark a contrast to the hospital gown she’s wearing and the antiseptic smell of the room.
She tells him about the country bumpkins she’s so fond of, who are always up to no good and who left her behind. She sounds equally sad and proud, and always, always affectionate. She recalls one story after another about the tax thieves in simpler times, and the more she talks, the more Gintoki understands the thing between her and the Vice-Commander.
She’s in love with him. The mere sound of his name leaving her lips, the tone of every, “Toushirou-san,” she says is filled with yearning and longing that he doesn’t know if she even bothers hiding. She paints an image of a Hijikata Toushirou he’s never seen or known, not intentionally but she always seems to veer off towards talking more about him during whatever story she’s relaying. Gintoki can’t stop from wondering why she’s even bothering with a fiancé when she clearly hasn’t stopped loving the V-shaped bangs shithead.
Things spiral quickly after that. Her condition worsens, the Shinsengumi is going through internal conflict and apparently, their Vice-Commander is being a sacrificial, reckless idiot.
He doesn’t know how they all think he’s still asleep when Kondou punches the younger Okita sibling straight into his makeshift bed. The brat starts a reflective monologue and the whole picture is painted clear for Gintoki.
Hijikata Toushirou chose to break Okita Mitsuba’s heart so she could move on and find someone who isn’t living everyday not knowing if it’s his last day, someone not bound by sword or duty. He let go of the woman he loves because he wanted her to be happy and he knew he could never give her that.
Gintoki wonders if she knows that the Mayora loves her back. Because at this point, even Gintoki can tell; but then again, his brain works similarly to the bastard's, so he can see his way of loving her in all the things he didn’t say and didn’t do. His devotion to her, the fact that Hijikata-kun never seemed to ever look at women whenever he accompanied the Gorilla to Otae’s cabaret club, his deeper understanding of romantic interests compared to his stalker of a Commander or the sadistic little shit, the way he couldn’t bring himself to leave when she collapsed in front of her fiancé’s mansion until her little brother showed up despite all the shit Gintoki and Jimmy-kun had been giving him, the way he never actually denied anything, opting for a, “None of your business!” instead.
The way that, right now, he’s playing the role of the asshole all too willingly, breaking his own heart and walking over his feelings to protect her little brother, who’s her pride and joy. The fact that he’s currently taking on an armed group of terrorists by himself, forced to be there swinging his sword while all he likely wants is to be here with her and not leave her side in her last moments.
Gintoki doesn’t really have an idea about what to do with the knowledge that he knows now what Hijikata Toushirou is like when he’s in love. He still can’t stop his mind from filing away the information that Hijikata Toushirou loves subtly and silently, but stubbornly and fiercely.
At some point, the Shinsengumi officers are done talking, and decide to go fight alongside their Vice-Commander, and he drops the sleep act and lets the young Captain ride on the back of his scooter.
They’re on their way to the battlefield when he feels a sharp, blinding pain in his right leg, just below his calf. Gintoki sucks in a pained breath and loses control over the motor scooter for a second enough to stagger a bit and alert the younger sadist.
Gintoki bites the inside of his cheek and regains control of the vehicle. “Sorry, I nearly dozed off, is all.”
“Uh, please don’t fall asleep while driving. At least not when I’m riding with you,” the little shit says flatly.
“I’ll try not to.”
So he says but apparently, that’s not the end of it with his soulmate. There’s a sudden onslaught of pain running through him, his head, his arms, his back and his chest, the pain in his leg is still screaming at him, piercing and unyielding. It all goes downhill and he tries his damn hardest to just keep going with it and hope to God that Okita-kun would be too caught up in their predicament to notice Gintoki’s current state.
Eventually they make it in time, there’s smoke and fire and swords clanging and bombs exploding and men screaming their battle cries.
He finds Hijikata on top of the piece-of-shit-fiancé’s car, his sword stabbing through the car roof and nailing the scumbag in his shoulder. He sure as fuck isn’t running away. Gintoki pierces the tire closest to him and once Hijikata notices the figure standing ahead, he takes care of the tire on the opposite side before Okita-kun cuts the car and its occupants in two.
The two don’t exchange any words. Hijikata gruffly asks him to take the sandy-haired boy back to the hospital and tells him the rest will follow shortly as soon as the fight is wrapped up.
The Shinsengumi Captain silently rides on the back of his scooter, and before they move, Gintoki turns to Hijikata, who’s already limping back to the battle. “Oi,” he calls out and the black-haired man turns to him in response. “That senbei, you deliver it to her.”
The man looks at him for a long moment. His gaze is intense, searching. Gintoki refuses to budge and meets him head-on. It’s another one of these weird looks Hijikata gives him from time to time, it unsettles him and he doesn’t know why but what he does know is that right now there’s no way he’s backing down.
And suddenly the look is gone; Hijikata turns his back to them and resumes limping. But then he hears a breathy, “Yeah,” and that’s enough for him to rev the engine and race back to the hospital.
As promised, the rest of the Shinsengumi reach the hospital not long after Gintoki and their sadist. The younger Okita heads into the room where his sister is, dying. The doctor tells them when she passes away and Gintoki witnesses anguish and sadness contorting the men's faces. He’s only known her for a couple of days, but it does nothing to stop him from mourning her anyway.
He heads to the rooftop minutes after he sees Hijikata slipping away from the grieving crowd, bandaged and patched up. He finds him standing near the railing, facing the sunrise, his hunched back to Gintoki.
Gintoki wordlessly walks onto the rooftop, deciding to rest his back against the wall on the opposite side, to give the man his space to mourn, but still be there.
He knows he hasn’t made any noise when he walked into the rooftop, but he’s sure Hijikata knows someone’s there, that Gintoki is there.
He hears the sound of a bag opening and the subsequent crunch of a cracker bitten; the spicy crackers that Gintoki threw at Hijikata and told him to deliver to her himself.
“Man, this is too spicy,” he hears the other man muttering. Another crunch. “Dammit, this is too fucking spicy, it’s making me tear up, dammit!” the cop exclaims in a broken, wet voice, followed by sniffling and muttered curses.
She deserved better than this , Gintoki thinks sadly. She deserved better and so do you, Hijikata-kun.
Gintoki bites into his own senbei and says, “It’s spicy.” He’s not trying to comfort the black-haired man, he just thinks he’s been too alone in this whole ordeal and he can’t bring himself to let him be alone now, too.
He hears Hijikata shift and the Mirrored wound in his leg gives a throbbing reminder that it hasn’t disappeared yet.
It’s not like he hasn’t noticed the irony behind getting a Mirrored wound in the same leg that Hijikata had gotten shot at. But he’s not planning on digging too deeply into this because his soulmate’s known for their astoundingly shitty timing, and this grieving man could have just lost his soulmate for all Gintoki knows. So he takes this ironic coincidence with a grain of salt and lets the whole thing go.
He doesn’t know how to describe it.
There’s hollowness in his chest that’s…throbbing. It’s like something that should be there is slipping away. It doesn’t even hurt, it’s just bothersome enough to alarm Gintoki, but not bad enough that he aches or can’t function with it.
The fact that it’s not painful is, hilariously, making it harder to ignore.
And it’s not constant. The first two times it happened, he simply thought he ate something bad – he probably did anyway – but then it kept persisting. Whenever he thinks he’s rid of it, it unsettles him again. Until it just won’t go away anymore.
So, really, he’s sorta thankful for whatever stupid disguise the Shinsengumi’s mayo freak is trying to pull because it provides the perfect distraction (and years worth of blackmail and mockery) to get Gintoki’s mind off the weirdness that’s nested in his chest.
He feels another distant throb as Hijikata says, “What are you saying, Sakata-shi?” Sakata-shi!?
Wow, okay. Perfect distraction it is.
The whole thing goes downhill from there; Hijikata tells them he got fired from the Shinsengumi, that he wasn’t suited for it anyway, that he’s working on a fucking To-Love-Ru doujinshi of all things (and it sucks ass, if Gintoki may say), and that he's going to sell his sword to get more money to spend it on more otaku crap.
The words “cursed sword” and the Mayora’s disgusting interpretation and subsequent reaction to leads them to visiting Murata Tetsuko.
Huh. So the bastard is just gonna let a NEET-haunted sword devour his soul and that’s it? That’s the end of the Demon Vice-Commander of the Shinsengumi? That stubborn bastard who outstayed him in the sauna room even at the risk of dehydration ends like this? The reckless idiot who nearly took out an entire armed faction of the Joui all by himself for the sake of the ones he cares about is, what, just gonna turn into some hardcore otaku with an embarrassing fashion taste and no value for his samurai principles?
That pisses Gintoki off. It’s just fucking wrong.
And then he smells it. Cigarette smoke.
He turns to face him, and that damn mug, that cocky smirk and confident tone…that’s the him that Gintoki knows.
“I came to have my last cigarette,” he forces out, fingers trembling around the cigarette, sweat matting his face, exertion visible in his tone. “Out of everyone, it had to be you guys…”
He kneels in front of them. He begs them to protect his Shinsengumi.
It’s so wrong. So fucking wrong.
And then he’s gone. And Tosshi is back.
And it’s only when Tosshi’s back does he notice that the hollowness that wasn’t there just moments prior, has come back in full force. He doesn’t know what to do with that, anymore than he knows what to do with the asshole’s so-called last request.
So Jimmy-kun’s been killed, apparently, and the Shinsengumi is trying to assassinate Hijikata and the Gorilla. So much for not wanting to get dragged into this. He literally was just lazing around on his couch in peace, how did he suddenly find himself in a coup d’état involving one of the government’s strongest police forces!? Why does this always happen to him, dammit!?
Whatever. He’s already balls-deep in this crap anyway, might as well dive as deep as he can go.
“Who am I, you say?” he snaps back. “I’m the Vice-Commander of the Shinsengumi, Hijikata Toushirou, you bastard!” he yells, letting out all his building frustration into this statement.
Turning to the source of all this crap and his next target, he pours the rest of his anger out. “If you’re gonna die, then do it while swinging your sword and protecting the things you treasure! Isn’t that who you are!?” he screams, gripping the asshole’s stupid denim vest with enough force to rip the crappy thing off.
Letting out his frustration at this situation works horribly well, because the moment he’s done, the hollowness in his chest fades away and he hears a mutter from the man.
Which should have been his warning to back off before the jackass slams his fucking head into the car. What an ungrateful dick. But it’s the ungrateful dick he knows, and that’s enough.
Only, he keeps shifting between the bloodthirsty of a cop that he knows and the embarrassing loser of an otaku that isn’t him. Gintoki sees Hijikata’s soul struggling to grasp at the control of his own body, and he slips through the cracks of Tosshi’s soul more and more the closer they get to Kondou Isao. The last bit of control is taken over by Hijikata at the draw of his demonic sword.
The Demon Vice-Commander of the Shinsengumi growls out an unmistakable, loud and genuine, “Thank you!” with the same force it took for him to draw his sword out.
Gintoki can’t think of a proper response, one that doesn’t include him being an asshole and mocking Hijikata, which suits him just fine. He’s gotten dragged into some grade-A shit because of this asshole and he deserves his fun. “Oi, oi, did your soul get devoured again?” he drawls. “Tosshi? Are you Tosshi?”
The response he was granted was totally worth it.
“I’m the Shinsengumi’s Vice-Commander, Hijikata Toushirou!”
He’s not sure if the pain and soreness in his body are all his injuries, or if he’s Mirroring at the crappiest times again.
He did fall off a train and a helicopter and there were a lot of explosions and he nearly had his limbs ripped off by those steel strings…he decides that he probably just overdid it and cuts his soulmate some slack.
He stands with Shinpachi and Kagura and watches as the Shinsengumi pull through again. They watch as they allow their traitor the chance to die with dignity, as the Vice-Commander hands him a sword before cutting him down without hesitation, a testimony to how much he’s willing to put the blond man to rest.
Gintoki realizes – or better yet is reminded again of – one fact: Hijikata Toushirou is a good man.
“A sword that won’t leave your side, you’re truly one with your sword. Doesn’t that suit you just fine?” Gintoki says playfully, but still meaning every word of it. He’s his Shinsengumi’s own demonic sword; it works just as well that he’d have a demonic sword that persistently won’t leave his side.
“You’re saying that so easily,” Hijikata grumbles in a tired but light tone. Taking his last stick of mayo-covered dango (utter desecration of dango, dammit!) the bastard starts walking away, mumbling a, “Thanks for your help,” in between his bites.
There really is no need to worry about that jerk.
“I’ll carry it all on my back and move forward, so they won’t laugh at me in Hell.”
Gintoki smiles. That sounds like the kind of bastard he’d have a rotten yet unbreakable bond with, alright.
His chest feels incredibly light.
Gintoki feels a rush of pride settling and swelling in his chest at the sight of Patsuan giving it his all and holding his ground against Hiji – well, Tosshi, technically, but with Hijikata’s build and Hijikata’s muscles, which are a lot to hold yourself against, Gintoki knows well; having been the recipient of that chain-smoking asshole’s punches too many times to count.
The whole affair is honestly ridiculous, but this is a matter of principle. There’s no way the Yorozuya will back out of a fight with the Shinsengumi, no matter what the stakes are. And they fought for less; video games, turd-eating beetles, and spots in the park just to name a few. So, the title of the official Terakado Tsuu fanclub isn’t really the stupidest thing they fought the Shinsengumi for, and it really means a lot to Shinpachi.
The two otakus continue to exchange blows as he and Kagura cheer for Shinpachi, while Kondou and Jimmy-kun cheer for Tosshi, and Sofa-kun doesn’t try to hide the fact that he couldn’t care less about how this ends.
The fight comes to an end when Tosshi and Shinpachi knock each other out. Gintoki and Kagura rush to Shinpachi’s side as the Shinsengumi (not Okita-kun though, he just looks happy to leave) rush to Tosshi’s. They’re both unconscious, so Gintoki gently carries Shinpachi out of the ring and he sees Kondou doing the same. His gaze locks with Kondou’s and the Commander sends him a resigned smile. Gintoki knows a white flag when he sees one; his lips twitch and he nods back at Kondou.
The pride swelling in his chest is nearly enough to drown out the fleeting emptiness he felt moments ago. But he notices, and this isn’t the first time he’s felt like this.
Taking care of Shinpachi comes first, though.
As he and Kagura start walking away, the Shinsengumi men approach them, both teams heading out to take care of their unconscious teammates.
“He really did great,” Kondou says, nodding to Shinpachi sleeping on Gintoki’s back, pride evident in his tone.
“He did,” Gintoki agrees, a smile forming on his lips.
“It’s pretty impressive that he didn’t get knocked out the first time Vice-Commander threw a punch at him!” the Shinsengumi’s spy exclaims.
“Glasses probably landed more hits, shows you what a wimp our Vice-Commander is. I hope he never wakes up,” Souichirou-kun drawls in his bored, flat tone.
“Shut up, you sadistic Chihuahua!” Kagura snaps back, uninterested in the conversation but never wasting a chance to pick a fight with the Shinsengumi’s sadist.
“Oi, Kagura! No more fighting for the day! If you get knocked out, I’m leaving you behind!” Gintoki warns.
“Like this dumb brat can touch me!” Kagura yells at the same time Sofa-kun mockingly says, “You should listen to your boss, China brat.”
Kondou sighs out a weary, “Sougo,” and apparently that’s enough to get the sadist to drop the fight.
“Will Vice-Commander be okay, though?”
“Of course! What are you worried about, Zaki?” Kondou asks.
Mohawk-head shrugs. “Do you think he’ll struggle with Tosshi again? The fact that Tosshi took hold of Vice-Commander’s body again…”
“I don’t think so,” Gintoki pipes in. “I mean, Tosshi showing up, isn’t that because it’s his fight?”
He glances at Hijikata Toushirou’s unconscious form, supported by Gorilla and Mohawk-head. “Isn’t your Vice-Commander the type of guy who knows when to let someone fight their own battle?”
The Commander of the Shinsengumi chuckles affectionately. “Yeah, that’s our Toushi, alright.”
Jimmy-kun smiles at the Mayora’s unconscious form, wordlessly agreeing.
Gintoki never gets the chance to look into that recurring emptiness in his chest, as it fades just a while after they bring Shinpachi home and watch as his sister fusses over his bruises.
His feet are dangling from the edge of the engawa at the Shimura household, nighttime settling in and weather cooling down. With an empty cup of tea beside him, Gintoki stares at the night sky. He hears footsteps approaching him and moments later, Shinpachi – now all bandaged up – settles down next to him.
“How’re you feeling?”
“Good,” Patsuan answers, smile evident in his voice. “Tired, pretty sore all over, but I feel good.”
Gintoki hums. Silence falls over them for a few moments before Shinpachi breaks it.
“Thank you for doing this with me, Gin-san,” the teen says.
Gintoki shrugs. “It’s coming out of your paycheck, anyways.” He gives the bespectacled boy a teasing grin.
Shinpachi tries to scowl but ends up snorting. “What paycheck?” he responds, mirth coating his retort.
“I think I’m actually gonna miss Tosshi,” he admits a few moments later, voice low and unsure. “He…was a good guy, Gin-san. Just really unlucky to have no space for his soul to exist but in Hijikata-san’s body.”
Gintoki looks at him, waiting for him to continue because Shinpachi looks like he has a lot to put into words.
“I don’t think he meant any harm when he took over Hijikata-san’s body last time…he just wanted to exist. And for someone who’s barely had a few days of existence, he was really passionate,” Patsuan says, each thought put into words carefully. “I’m really happy I got to meet him, Gin-san. I feel really happy for finding a rival in him.” He smiles. “Whether it’s Tosshi or Hijikata-san, I had fun going against two souls who gave their all against me.”
Gintoki smiles back.
“Wouldn’t you rather Tosshi just take over and put that nicotine freak to eternal sleep?” he jokes.
Shinpachi laughs before giving him a shit-eating grin. “But then you’ll be lonely, Gin-san!”
“I actually like Hijikata-san, you know. Regardless of how much they get on our nerves, and how we can’t run into them without fighting, I kinda like the Shinsengumi as it is,” he utters out, frown etched on his face as if it pains him to admit that. He sighs before looking straight at Gintoki, a small smile on his face. “Hijikata-san is a good man. And I know you believe so, too, Gin-san.”
It’s the truth. Shinpachi is saying nothing but the truth that they all know but none of them would ever acknowledge out loud. He’s mostly speaking for himself with his admission, even though he knows Gintoki, and even Kagura, share the sentiment to a certain degree.
Shinpachi is saying nothing that explains why Gintoki feels caught off guard, why his breath hitches and his mouth feels dry.
“Gin-san…?” Shinpachi frowns in concern. “Are you okay?” he asks slowly.
Gintoki doesn’t know what kind of face he’s making. He doesn’t know what the fuck is going on. His head feels like a mess of too many things and completely blank at the same time, go figure.
He forces himself to swallow, forces the air to move past his trachea and forces out a response. “Of course I’m not okay! Don’t talk about such gross things like liking the Shinsengumi! What would your sister say, huh!?”
Patsuan deadpans, all hints of concern gone and replaced with exasperation at Gintoki’s childish response.
But thankfully, he drops it by getting up and making sure his sister isn’t in the kitchen, muttering something about, “I'd rather take a left hook from Hijikata-san himself for dinner than eat black matter.”
And while that is very, very true and Gintoki would have found it hilarious at any other time, he’s too busy trying to figure out why the thought of liking the Shinsengumi or Hijikata elicited such a strong and uncalled for reaction from him.
Out of all the people he considers friends, or at the very least, acquaintances, Tatsuma is so far the only person whose soulmate Gintoki has met. Zura apparently still doesn’t know his either, same for his kids – though he has noticed Kagura Mirroring a few times – and Otae apparently doesn’t have a soulmate, according to Shinpachi. Gintoki has no idea if Kyuubei has a soulmate, the old hag’s soulmate is her dead husband, Tama’s a robot, and he would rather rip his ears off and burn them to ashes and then shit on those ashes than learn about Catherine having a soulmate. Hasegawa-san’s soulmate is apparently his wife, who probably drew the shortest straw amongst the human race in regards to who her soulmate is, the poor woman. He doesn’t know if his masochistic stalker has a soulmate, and God does he hope she has one who will come and sweep her off her feet and away from his ceiling and mirrors and below his desk and behind every fucking corner he walks by on the street.
He doesn’t know if the Shinsengumi’s Gorilla or the sadistic brat have soulmates or whether they’ve met them, and he’s not sure if Mayora's soulmate is the older Okita sibling.
He knows that at some point, he’ll find out when one of the many people in his life meet their soulmate.
That being said, he’s still pretty surprised at the most unpredictable pair he’s just learned about.
He might’ve noticed it earlier if he wasn’t injured and bloodthirsty for that shithead who calls himself Tsukuyo’s teacher, but alas, he was too busy wanting to throttle the piece of shit and get Tsukuyo away from him to pay attention.
But now that Jiraia’s dead and Tsukuyo’s been taken away by her subordinates to treat her injuries, he can see the wounds that the filthy bastard gave Tsukuyo Mirrored on the man standing in front of him. He’s sure it would’ve been a lot easier to tell if his hair wasn’t covering half of his face, but then again, half of it is showing and it has the exact same bruises and wounds at the exact same places that marred Tsukuyo’s face.
Hattori Zenzou, of all people. Huh.
He’s still weighing the pros and cons of pointing it out before the ninja sighs. “Take a picture, it’ll last longer.”
Gintoki blinks, just realizing he’s been staring at this weirdo’s face for a couple of minutes now. Oh well, guess that decides it. “Nasty bruises you got there,” he points out.
“Don’t wanna hear that from you,” Hattori calmly responds, turning to walk away. Oh, like hell I’m letting you run away from this conversation, you hemorrhoid asshole, Gintoki thinks.
“Well, at least mine are original. Yours look like a cheap copy,” he argues mockingly.
He hears the other man exhale a suffering breath before he turns back to regard Gintoki. “Just get it out of your system so I can go.”
Gintoki doesn’t need to be told twice. “Holy shit, you and Tsukuyo?”
Hattori hums in confirmation. Well, he seems very enthusiastic about this talk, but Gintoki doesn’t care. “Did you know all along?” he asks. Is that why he was here in the first place?
“Nah, just found out when you two ran into Jiraia before. You know, right before I saved your drowning ass ?” he sneers at Gintoki, who flips him off. “I saw her getting those wounds at the same time I felt them on me. It ain’t so hard to put two and two together after that.”
“Aren’t you…you know, going to tell her?” he asks carefully. Gintoki’s pretty sure he’s prying into things that are none of his damn business at this point but unless Hattori tells him as much, he’ll milk it dry.
He doesn’t respond. Silence falls over them and Gintoki is almost sure he’s not getting an answer at this point before the ninja asks back, “You worried I will?”
Gintoki frowns in confusion. “Me? What’s this got to do with me?”
Hattori snorts. “Please. It doesn’t take a genius to see that you two have the hots for each other.”
“Wha – no !” he splutters, shocked at the other’s conclusion. “We’re not – it’s not like that! Are you stupid!?”
The hemorrhoid bastard keeps staring at him, which is more unsettling when he can’t even see his eyes to know what he’s thinking. He remembers Hattori making comments at Tsukuyo being his girlfriend or something, but he didn’t think much of it so he let it pass.
“So you’re telling me,” Hattori starts, walking closer to Gintoki, “that you’re not attracted to her?”
“I’m not!” Gintoki snaps back without thinking. The jerk keeps walking until he’s right in Gintoki’s face, what the fuck .
“Really?” he asks, dragging the word out patronizingly. “You don’t think she’s…I don’t know, pretty? Hot? Sexy?” he peers down at Gintoki, using their height difference to his advantage. “Beautiful?”
At any other time, Gintoki would stare right in his face, but this whole conversation is now making him uncomfortable. This isn’t how it’s supposed to go, dammit, he’s the one who should be making this jerk sweat his ass.
He glares back at his fellow JUMP fan. He doesn’t like where this is going but whatever, he’s not gonna lie. “Of course I do. Any idiot with eyes will think the same thing,” he says through gritted teeth.
Hattori snorts. “Try again, ‘cause any idiot with eyes can see there’s more to it.”
“The fuck do you want me to say?” he snarls out, face twisted into a scowl and frustration seeping through his tone.
Hattori shrugs, backing off. “I don’t feel anything for her, y’know. I don’t even know her. I wouldn’t mind if you’ve got a thing with her, I’m not really all that hyped about the soulmates deal anyway,” he explains. “If that’s the case then it’s better that she doesn’t know, don’tcha think?”
“That’s not the case,” he snaps. “I’m telling you, we’re not like that! She’s a friend!”
“A friend you’re clearly attracted to,” the other man mutters. “She likes you, at the very least.”
“I just told you we’re friends,” Gintoki groans out. He levels Hattori with the sternest look he can muster and says, slowly so that the dumbass can absorb every word: “Yes, I definitely think she’s hot. And yeah, I am attracted to her, but I know for sure it’s not something I’m ever gonna pursue because she’s my friend. ”
Hattori stares at him for a beat too long before he smirks. “You waitin’ on your soulmate, Yorozuya?” he teases.
“Fuck off, I don’t give two shits about that,” he replies wearily. Can’t this conversation fucking end already?
“You’ve got a hot, badass woman that clearly likes you, and you’re on good terms with her that you could easily have more and her soulmate is telling you he could stay out of the picture so things won’t even be complicated, you say you don’t care about soulmates and yet, you insist on being just friends?” he frowns in confusion. “I just don’t get why.” He pauses for a moment before he blurts out, “Dude, you already have someone in mind, don’t you?”
Gintoki’s just about to groan out a big, fat no, when the weirdest thing happens.
His brain, which took one too many hits today apparently, decides to flash him a memory of a jackass with V-shaped bangs and a cigarette dangling from his lips.
Gintoki’s not unfamiliar with shitty timings, courtesy of his dear soulmate. But for his brain to suddenly remember Hijikata fucking Toushirou at such timing, at this sort of questions, this sort of conversations, just. Fuck no.
He snaps out of it when he hears Hattori bark out a short laugh. “You just thought of someone, didn’t you?”
“No I didn’t,” is the only dumb, no-brainer that Gintoki’s messed up head could offer. Why did it sound so sluggish? Why is his lower jaw displaying gravitational force now of all the sudden? What the hell is going on? Honestly, what the fuck .
“What the fuck,” he brilliantly mumbles out loud, unprompted.
The tall fucker just snickers. “Damn, this is turning out a lot better than I thought it would.”
It’s turning into a mountain of crap my Titanic just ran into, Gintoki screeches internally.
“You should see your face; you look like somebody just told you the Earth is round for the first time,” he sniggers.
“Eat shit, hemorrhoids,” he yells. He’s had enough with this talk, he’s done.
“Who’s the unlucky girl?” The Fucker calls after him. Gintoki pretends not to hear him as he stomps away.
The fucking asshole! He’s about to give him a very colorful answer when…asshole…ass…hole…Ketsuno Ana!
“My heart is reserved for Ketsuno Ana, you bastard!” he yells back, happy with himself for remembering the love of his fucking life! Why the fuck did he forget it!? What the fuck is wrong with his brain!?
He can distantly hear the fucker drawl a mocking, “Right,” followed by another snicker. Screw him, what does he know, he probably thinks with his hemorrhoids.
Gintoki forcefully shoves this conversation and his brain’s fuckups into the deepest corner of his mind and wills himself to forget this conversation ever happened.
He stubbornly and pointedly does not think about soulmates and mayonnaise-loving dipshits for the next few days.
Karma’s out for him, though. Because of course he keeps running into the V-shaped bangs asshat when it’s least convenient.
And it’s driving Gintoki crazy because ever since his loathsome conversation with that piece of shit of a ninja, he can’t stop himself from noticing whenever Hijikata’s nearby. He can’t stop his eyes from straying to him, can’t stop himself from attuning to his every move, from listening to his every word.
It’s taking actual, physical effort for Gintoki to keep acting like nothing’s changed, like he isn’t suddenly hyperaware of Hijikata because of his brain's fuckup.
Because that’s all there is to it , Gintoki insists.
He finds himself filing random information about the bastard away in his head instead of just dismissing them. He notices the thrill he gets when they bicker. The bastard’s good looks starts aggravating Gintoki in different ways, not pissing him off like before but calling for his attention. Gintoki does not check out pieces of shit, and to his last breath, he’ll refuse to admit he ever felt attracted to the jerk.
He desperately thinks he’s just in a deep, deep need for a lay to get this out of his system.
Except he can’t find a lay because no one seems right. This makes him want to tear his precious hair out even more, because his libido cannot be failing him when he needs it the most, dammit!
He notices how he’s becoming extra volatile whenever Hijikata’s around, quick to snap and quicker to throw a punch. Shinpachi berates him for it a couple of times but no one really pays heed to his attitude, even the bastard himself doesn’t seem to take notice of it, just meeting him word for word, hit for hit.
The weeks and months of built up frustration over his inability to tune Hijikata out the way he can’t remember how he used to before, the confusion over all the things he’s feeling whenever Hijikata sends a smirk his way, seizes him by the collar and get right in his face, bickers with him without any actual animosity, fights with his back completely open to Gintoki in an unmistakable display of trust and aims his sword at anyone who dares attack Gintoki or any of his precious people; all this continuous accumulation feels like a dam just waiting for that one final crack to flood everything.
And the final crack comes in the form of a cabaret girl who works at Snack Smile.
Under normal circumstances, he wouldn’t willingly endanger himself by being in the same vicinity as a drunk female gorilla if he could help it. But he and Hasegawa-san were out drinking and they ran into the Shinsengum’s Commander and Vice-Commander, the former excitedly invited them to drink together at the cabaret club, and Gintoki was sold the moment he heard the words, “Drinks on me!” leave the Gorilla’s mouth.
He had seen the looks and mutters of disapproval Hijikata kept sending his Commander, something along the lines of, “They’ll milk you dry!” and, “Are you really gonna invite two Madaos to drink with you!?” but the older man, bless his heart, shrugged his warnings off.
Gintoki found himself bitterly thinking in your face, bastard , and really, he should have known that retribution was coming his way.
Kondou wasted no time in ordering DomPeri for Otae to drink with him, and so they were joined by the older Shimura sibling and two other hostesses.
Each hostess sat between two men, and the arrangement put Hijikata and Gintoki at the opposite ends of the table. That suited Gintoki just fine, the surly asshole can smoke like a chimney away from him, and he can pleasantly enjoy his drink with a hot babe pouring him expensive liquor, all is well.
Which is what he’s doing right now; having a wonderful evening, approaching that point where he’s tipsy enough to feel warmly pleasant, and listening to the cute girl beside him tell him and Hasegawa-san on her other side a story about…something. He’s not really paying attention, mostly just nodding and laughing whenever the other two do.
His eyes make the mistake of sweeping his surroundings. He barely registers (or cares) that Otae has planted Kondou’s face into the table – not that the stalker seems to mind it – before they settle on the pair occupying the other end of the table.
The third hostess seems to be having the best time out of all the occupants of their table. Her eyes are wide and gleaming, a rosy blush that seems to be less from alcohol and more of the attention of the dark-haired man beside her sits high on her cheeks, and her smile is wide enough to reach her eyes.
Hijikata seems aloof to the awe radiating from her, his face set in its default resting frown. He seems pretty alert, probably hasn’t drunk much, seeing as his Commander is wasted and someone’s gonna have to be responsible enough to get them home. The hostess says something, probably a joke, and laughs, her hand landing on Hijikata’s upper arm in one flirtatious movement.
The sight twists Gintoki’s insides and a heated knot suffocates his chest. The back of his mouth tastes bitter and there’s a sudden rush of blood that he can hear roaring in his ears. It’s an ugly feeling; he feels his teeth grinding at the unpleasant sensation that tenses his body.
Hijikata casually and respectfully draws his arm back, shifts slightly away, just enough for the girl’s hand to fall off without seeming rude. He nods and a corner of his mouth quirks up in a small, polite smile. The hostess apparently gets the idea because she doesn’t make another attempt to touch him, but also doesn’t seem deterred enough to stop flirting with him, because the angle of her body and the tilt of her head, the half-lidded gaze and the sly smile are all obvious indications that she’s not done basking in the officer’s attention.
Gintoki doesn’t know how long he’s been staring at them, but at some point, while the hostess is busy talking Mayora’s ears off, the man’s gaze locks with his and before Gintoki can think about looking away, the bastard quirks a goading eyebrow at him.
The silver-haired samurai blinks twice before scoffing at him and looking away. But then, because it feels like he just backed down from a challenge, like he just lost to Hijikata, he glares back at him defiantly, his gaze stating: I will look wherever the fuck I want.
The V-shaped bangs asshole raises both eyebrows at him, amusement gleaming in his eyes. Something untwists in Gintoki’s gut, the hot knot unfurling and Gintoki breathes a little easier. He feels his entire body relaxing slightly and the sudden recession of the ugly sensation lightens Gintoki’s mood enough for him to give the other man a subtle middle finger and a playful smirk to go with it.
The chuckle he gets in response feels ridiculously gratifying. It’s another rush and so, so different from the one he had moments ago, it makes him feel lightheaded and weightless and hot all over.
Gintoki’s sober enough to know that one fucking chuckle shouldn’t hold this much power over him. One fucking man shouldn’t have this much power over him.
The hostess, who is probably just doing her job and maybe enjoying it a little extra tonight, calls Hijikata’s name with a confused smile. Whatever she was talking about apparently doesn’t warrant the chuckle Hijikata just let out.
And just like that, the bastard’s attention is back on the woman beside him, immediately dampening Gintoki’s mood which, really, what the fuck.
Gintoki very much does not sulk in the next few moments. He refuses to be this affected by the mayonnaise-loving asshole, he’s gone out to drink and have a good time and that he fucking will.
The moment he moves to swallow every last drop of alcohol in his glass in one go, he sees it. Hijikata’s maintaining eye contact with the hostess, nodding every few beats, so her attention is focused completely on his face – which he can’t even blame her for, fucking bastard – and well, Kondou’s too far gone with all the alcohol he drank and the smashes his head got, Otae’s hiccupping and drinking a whole bottle of DomPeri on her own, one arm twisted around Kondou’s neck – in a chokehold, if he’s not mistaken – and the brown-haired man seems too elated to worry for his deteriorating oxygen levels, and Hasegawa-san and the last hostess are…Gintoki squints. They’re crying, something about lost loves and piss-poor people – and Gintoki really would rather not touch this conversation with a ten foot pole. The point is, no one is there to take notice of the subtle, retaliatory middle finger the ever-so-proper Hijikata Toushirou is displaying proudly on the table for Gintoki to see.
It’s a rude gesture, but it sends a wave of pure ecstasy spreading from his chest and going all the way to the top of his head and the tips of his toes. A breathless laugh escapes him without Gintoki even feeling it building up in his chest.
He’s fucked. He’s pretty fucking sure he’s never felt this with anyone ever before. It’s honestly been staring him straight in the face for weeks, his brain begging him to take the hints it’s been dropping for God knows how long, and it’s probably the state of not-drunk-but-not-really-sober-either that brings forth enough honesty for him to admit it to himself.
The hostess turns away from Hijikata for a few seconds to refill their glasses, and the asshole takes that time to give him a quick glance and a smug, mischievous, boyish smile. It’s gone in an instant really, Hijikata turns back to the hostess to drink from the DomPeri she poured for him.
It’s just a rude gesture, it’s just a mocking smile, it’s just the police officer that’s been pissing Gintoki off since the day he met him.
It’s just Hijikata, but Gintoki knows that’s it really. It’s Hijikata.
It’s Hijikata Toushirou, the man Gintoki has apparently fallen in love with at some point.
It’s Hijikata and Gintoki knows he’s royally fucked.
Gintoki knew shit was gonna hit the fan badly with this, but he did not anticipate how quickly things spiraled out of control.
It was a beautiful day, he’d just finished a job and was on his way back to his place when the whole thing started. He still has problems processing how the fuck he got here. One minute he’s on his scooter, the next thing he knows, he’s on an abandoned building’s rooftop with a group of rapper-wannabe delinquents holding a kid from the Shinsengumi hostage.
And apparently this kid got the Shinsengumi and the shitty elite white cops coming for him. Though as he watches the increasing tension between the two parties, he’d say they’re not really here for the same goal.
It doesn’t take long for things to start heating up, both police forces drawing their swords and shifting their stances to prepare for battle. Gintoki sighs, feeling that his day is about to get a whole lot worse and more complicated than it already has been.
His eyes focus on Hijikata, who’s taking on the white cops’ Commander. He hopes the Mayora wrecks the man, for all his annoyingly persistent and uncharacteristic emails. He barely spoke to the dude, but Gintoki hopes he gets kicked in the fucking face.
Except…it seems that he has the upper hand so far. They barely just started, the Mimawarigumi’s Commander hasn’t landed a hit on the Shinsengumi’s Vice-Commander yet, but it seems he’s more likely to do so first.
Still, it’s Hijikata. Gintoki fought with and fought with the man enough to know that he won’t go down easily, no matter how good his opponent is.
And then, the weirdest thing happens.
He sees in the distance the man called Sasaki landing an acrobatic sort of kick to Hijikata’s jaw and…he feels sudden pain flaring in his own jaw. He tastes blood inside his mouth and feels it drip to his chin.
He barely has time to comprehend what just happened when he sees Sasaki slashing Hijikata’s left arm and feels pain shooting in his upper left arm. He hastily raises his sleeve and looks at what is definitely a sword cut.
He can feel his breath quickening, can feel his heartbeat getting louder and faster and his mind is racing and blank all at the same time and he can’t do anything but let his eyes fall back on Hijikata and focus on him even more.
Because infamous shitty Mirroring timings is one thing, but this…this is too fucking much of a coincidence.
Upper right arm, right thigh, left cheek, one by one he gets them, right as he sees Sasaki leaving the same wounds on Hijikata. Well, he doesn’t really see well enough to tell if Hijikata’s left cheek is bleeding too, but he doesn’t fucking need to.
Because the next bullet that pierces through the nicotine-freak’s left shoulder gets Mirrored on Gintoki right away and he barely contains the pained grunt that gets lodged in his throat.
It helps that his jaw is already clenched, as well as both of his shaking hands. He feels his wide eyes drying as Gintoki denies himself the relief of a single blink lest he misses something, he feels the knot between his eyebrows where they've furrowed tightly. His chest is heaving, and he dully notices that he’s no longer standing, but kneeling, apparently his legs gave out at some point, and Gintoki would find that pathetic had he not been fucking reeling right now.
He can’t help the grunt that escapes him as Sasaki finishes Hijikata with a nasty slash across his back, but it goes unnoticed as the Shinsengumi kid wails at his Vice-Commander’s unmoving figure on the ground.
He distantly hears one of the hoodlums reading a letter Hijikata addressed to Sasaki. He can’t really make sense of it because it’s taking everything in him to get his brain to form that one single realization.
Art by Mechi
Hijikata Toushirou is his fucking soulmate.
Gintoki draws in a shaky breath at this thought. He can still feel the blood roaring in his ears, his mind a jumbled mess of too many thoughts and questions and revelations begging to be picked at. His brain is going on overdrive and he feels like he’s fucking detaching from everything around him, he can hear but he’s not listening, he looks but he doesn’t see, it’s like he’s dived underwater and he can’t find his way up to the surface.
Hijikata’s his soulmate.
Hijikata who gets on his nerves and has the absolute worst taste in food Gintoki’s ever seen, who’s a tax thief and a fucking chimney of a chain-smoker, who’s always there to be a royal pain in Gintoki’s ass, either dragging Gintoki into random shit he’d rather do without or gets in Gintoki’s way when he wants to get something done.
Hijikata who Gintoki knows is a good man, who Gintoki begrudgingly trusts his back to in a life-or-death situation, who likes the same restaurants and movies and sake and a million other things as Gintoki, who thinks a lot like him but also the exact opposite of him.
Hijikata, who Gintoki has fallen for at some point.
This absolutely infuriating man Gintoki picks fights with as easily as he breathes is Gintoki’s soulmate with the infamous shitty timings.
Hijikata Toushirou, the Demon Vice-Commander of the Shinsengumi that would rather start a police war and get drenched in his own blood than let his cherry boy of a subordinate die, is his soulmate.
His soulmate who just cut a fucking bullet coming at him in half before monstrously ramming the elite Commander of the Mimawarigumi into the nearest wall, all while steadily bleeding out his life.
His fucking soulmate who just left everyone stunned, with varying degrees of awe and horror on their faces.
The rampaging demon with too much bloodlust to be decent for a cop. The samurai that proved time and time again how far he’s willing to go for his Shinsengumi’s safety and his comrades’ honor.
This man, who’s so rough around the edges, always barking orders and biting at people, with the worst temper, always throwing tantrums that either end in him raising his sword at whoever (easily) pisses him off or smoking his frustrations aggressively, is the person who’s felt all of Gintoki’s pain his entire life.
This is the person who unintentionally stopped him from giving up on his life when all hope was lost. This is the person Gintoki’s always wondered about, rarely let himself look forward to meeting.
His soulmate has been around him for a long while now and he already got under Gintoki’s skin and made a spot for himself in his heart and in his life before Gintoki even knew that Hijikata Toushirou was his person . The one whose soul was bound to Gintoki’s in a way no one else in the world will ever know. They’re linked in a way that is only theirs, that only the two of them will ever feel, whether they’re friends or enemies or strangers, no one gets to replace the two of them.
Hijikata Toushirou is his soulmate and –
Tatsuma smiles, never once looking away from him while Gintoki finds the wall more interesting. “It felt right,” the Kaientai leader answers.
– it feels right.
So the moment Hijikata makes his way to the rooftop, Gintoki wills himself to stand up, determined to do what he feels will be right, too.
“If you think you can take the head of the Joui patriot, the Shiroyasha,” he taunts with a smirk, “then go ahead and try.”
The laugh Hijikata barks out, followed by a relieved smile and an understanding speech spoken with an almost gentle tone, with eyes looking solely at him like there’s no one else around, like they aren’t in the middle of a battle, tells Gintoki he’s done the right thing.
They resume the fight, effortlessly taking down the white cops, because as Hijikata said, he is more than they can handle.
But him and Hijikata? They’re easily everyone’s worst nightmare, and that thought brings a crazed, bloodthirsty grin to his face, and he catches the glimpse of an identical one on the bastard’s face and that just makes him go fucking wild .
It feels so fucking right.
For all the lifetime he spent thinking he’ll never be free because of his soulbond, this moment feels absolutely liberating.
As he sits in a police car, handcuffed and surrounded by cops, he’s not feeling so liberated anymore. Hijikata barely has time to mock and taunt him about being the Shiroyasha before he passes out.
Gintoki can’t tell if the thorny bastard knew they were soulmates already or not. He didn’t seem to notice that Gintoki’s Mirroring his injuries, but then again, they were preoccupied with fighting the white cops and saving the cherry boy subordinate.
He did catch the sadist and the plain spy eyeing the blood across his back from Mirroring the wound Sasaki slashed across Hijikata’s back, but he ignored them. Whatever suspicions they had would be gone by now as they hover over their Vice-Commander’s passed-out form.
The Shinsengumi offers to drive him to the hospital along with their injured members but Gintoki declines, and for a police force that has just caught one of the most notoriously powerful ( former! ) Joui patriots, they let him go so easily it’s hilarious.
But he knows it’s because they know him; they know who he is where it matters, beyond a name he gained at a war that ended years ago, they know who he is now, and they trust him. Gintoki is both warmed and exasperated by this. There’s no breaking their rotten bond, it seems.
Sleep doesn’t come easy at night. His brain is still trying to recover from going haywire a couple of hours ago after learning such a monumental thing.
They don’t talk about it.
Gintoki isn’t sure what “talking about it” entitles, doesn’t even know if Hijikata realizes their connection. The two of them have fought alongside and against each other enough times that they should’ve seen the hints the universe has been dropping all along. But Gintoki missed it, so he can expect Hijikata to miss it, too.
But there’s also the possibility that Hijikata is aware of them being soulmates, in which case…Gintoki doesn’t really know what to think. If Hijikata knew and didn’t give Gintoki any heads-up, what does that mean? He didn’t know how to approach it? He decided to wait until Gintoki figured it out himself? He didn’t want to do anything about it?
If the Yorozuya boss were to be honest, he isn’t sure how to approach this either, so he can’t really fault the dark-haired man for not broaching the topic. He and the Shinsengumi Vice-Commander might not be the best of friends, but neither of them is dumb enough to be ignorant of how tight their bond has grown, individually as well as the Yorozuya and the Shinsengumi as a whole. They run into each other often, drink or eat together often, get involved in the stupidest hijinks together very often and have each other’s backs in fights often, too.
He trusts the man with his life, if Gintoki’s being really fucking honest. And he knows the cop reciprocates that trust. He knows the rotten-bond dynamics the Yorozuya and the Shinsengumi have developed over time only grows deeper and tighter with every predicament they face, so he’s not really sure if this new revelation will mess things up.
He’s not really sure he wants to find out.
Being soulmates doesn’t mean the pair has to fall in love and get married and have their happily-ever-after together. He’s seen lots of soulmates who want nothing to do with each other, others who lived their lives perfectly content never having met their soulmates, and even some people whose soulmates are either relatives or close friends. It doesn’t have to mean anything.
It doesn’t have to change anything. He can sit Hijikata down and rub the truth in his face and they could just keep going the way they’ve always been, even with that knowledge.
Gintoki isn’t sure how he’d feel about that.
Because…because it complicates everything when your soulmate is the one person you’ve ever fallen in love with.
Things have been emotionally brutal. He wouldn’t say he’s sworn off feeling affection or growing attached to others because here he is, taking care of two kids and a giant dog and an old hag with a robot maid and a cat thief. And those are just the ones he sees on a daily basis, never mind the number of people he’s met over the past few months that he’s grown fond of and would literally die for.
Gintoki knows he’s capable of love. He’s just never been the type to actually, seriously and pathetically fall in love with someone. Ever. So things were already complicated when he started noticing how especially, differently fond he is of Hijikata, how things slowly shifted from him getting pissed off at the other man’s good looks to finding himself attracted to him, sometimes a bit caught off-guard by how handsome he can be.
It was already hard enough not letting it slip how much he enjoyed their antics, how ridiculously good it felt to be allowed in his personal space. It really had been difficult to cope with the realization of feeling something for this one man in a way that he can’t remember feeling for anyone else when said man was supposed to be the bane of his existence and vice versa.
Things were already complex enough when he had to go and fall for Hijikata Toushirou out of everyone else, to still act normal like the nicotine-freak didn’t have anything to do with Gintoki worrying over romantic feelings of all things, like he wasn’t the center of Gintoki’s newly formed love life. Like Gintoki wasn’t harboring unrequited feelings for the Demon Vice-Commander of Shinsengumi.
No, life just had to kick him while he’s down and make him have unrequited feelings for the surly bastard who’s his fucking soulmate!
Fuck my life doesn’t even begin to cover how pleasant his current situation is.
So time goes by while Gintoki thinks about what to do next, or whether or not to do anything in the first place, worries about actions and consequences until he’s had it with going around in circles and just ignores the whole fucking thing, maybe it’ll fuck off on its own.
A lot of things happen, a lot of fights take place and Gintoki receives a lot of nasty injuries and now he can’t help but think of how Hijikata will be feeling this, will be Mirroring this, and those thoughts are what mess him up the most. Because they bring out a torrent of emotions Gintoki can’t fucking handle. Because his chest fills with warmth and twists in yearning and expands with affection that it’s this man he fell in love with that Gintoki gets to share this with. It makes him feel special and hopeful and they’re dangerous things to think about because he knows it’s gonna bite him in the ass eventually, if he doesn’t rein in these persistent emotions.
It’s also inconvenient as fuck because he can’t help feeling guilty whenever his wounds are particularly awful, when they’re deep and painful and will take a while to heal, he can’t help but think about how Hijikata is supposed to work and go on patrols and fight Joui terrorists everyday with such hindrance. It also worries him every time he ends up Mirroring the policeman’s injuries, which is ridiculous, because he knows very well that Hijikata is more than capable of taking care of himself, that the man is strong and definitely won’t be killed easily. Hell, now that he thinks about it, he’s Mirrored wounds a lot nastier before he knew about his soulmate’s identity, and things turned out fine eventually, so really…worrying about that asshole’s injuries is just ludicrous, he hates it.
He also starts taking notice of Hijikata’s reactions when they’re fighting the same battle.
It happens often enough. Every once in a while new trouble arises and threatens Edo and most of the time, the Yorozuya and the Shinsengumi will find themselves roped into these messes.
So Gintoki starts to measure the bastard’s reactions to the wounds he’s Mirroring, see if he notices that Gintoki’s the source, if he glances in Gintoki’s way or lets his eyes roam over his injuries the way Gintoki does.
Except, if Hijikata has ever given any reaction or shown any indication of noticing Gintoki’s wounds, then Gintoki definitely keeps missing it every fucking time.
His fight against Oboro and Sadasada’s men had been particularly vicious. He’s lost a lot of blood and broke a couple of ribs and was generally aching all over, and he knows Hijikata and the rest of the Shingumi had been nearby, they were fighting alongside them, alongside the Shogun, and while he definitely passed by Hijikata at some point after the fight ended, the other man hadn’t looked his way, too busy with handling the aftermath of everything that took place.
Even though the bastard was covered with blood, and Gintoki doesn’t recall Mirroring any injury from his soulmate – but then again, he was barely standing and couldn’t be bothered to tell his injuries from Hijikata’s – which means Hijikata would recognize his soulmate’s injuries if he saw them, since he probably hardly had any of his own.
Hell, anyone who saw how they were identically covered in blood and sporting the exact same bruises and cuts could have pieced it together, so why the fuck was the almighty brain of the Shinsengumi not seeing this!?
He’ll begrudgingly admit that the whole soulmate thing wasn’t at the front of his mind when he was facing the man that forced him to cut his master’s head. He was filled with too much rage at that point to think of anything else. But when he passed by Hijikata…he couldn’t stop himself from glancing at the other man anyway.
The frustration doesn’t stop there. It happens again when Obi One shows up, and he ends up doing the exact same thing Hijikata has done back when his sword was sucking out his soul and bows his head to beg them to keep Shinpachi and Otae safe and away while he brings their aniki back. Kagura was hauling his beaten body back to Koudoukan and Gintoki remembers running into some members of the Yagyuu clan and the Shinsengumi, but he doesn’t know if the Mayora was among them.
Hilariously enough, the time Gintoki swears Hijikata knows everything is when he’s got a sword up his ass for the better half of the entire predicament that took place.
The moment he saw Hijikata after getting dragged to the Shinsengumi’s headquarters by Okita-kun, he was certain.
The man already looked like he found walking to be a pain in the ass – literally – and the look of recognition that flashed in his eyes at the sight of the sword up Gintoki’s ass was all the confirmation he needed to know for sure that Hijikata fucking knows . Like he finally knew why his ass was in pain (and man, what Gintoki wouldn’t give to know what Hijikata thought the cause was!).
So if Gintoki let his pettiness take over and pointed out how the fucking bastard and his Gorilla of a Commander lost to him when they first met, well, he had every fucking right. And if there were better ways of diverting Maganagi’s bloodlust away from the nicotine addict and unto himself than throwing turd at the bastard’s face, then well. Gintoki missed the fucking memo; sue him for saving an officer’s life.
And at the point where his fight against Okita-kun reached its climax, he willingly stabbed himself in the ass with Kusanagi and the resultant, “Mother fucker !” he heard Hijikata screech somewhere from the sidelines only made his smirk grow wider. Fucking serves you right, you asshole.
Yet when everything's over and everyone starts heading back, he shamelessly keeps staring at Hijikata, daring him silently to ignore his gaze. And it works, the thorny bastard looks back at him and Gintoki just stands there, his face holding no expression, waiting to see how the cop’s gonna react.
The absolute jackass scowls at him, gives him the middle finger and starts walking away.
Huh. Well. It doesn’t matter if he’s in love with him or if that man’s his soulmate, he’s the biggest, shittiest jerk in the history of all jerks and he makes Gintoki want to tear his fucking hair out and stab him to death.
But he settles for a double middle finger with an ugly sneer twisting his face, and he fucking feels the vein in his temple about to burst. This piece of shit is bad for his fucking health.
And if he’s not gonna back down and acknowledge this first, well, then neither was Gintoki. Fuck Hijikata Toushirou. Fuck soulmates.
They keep refusing to address what’s between them. Gintoki knows the bastard won’t acknowledge it and he knows that Hijikata knows that Gintoki won’t acknowledge it either. They keep going around in circles, they keep bickering as usual whenever they run into each other, even though Gintoki sometimes can’t stop his eyes from roaming Hijikata’s body in search of a place where he Mirrored an injury, and he's caught Hijikata doing the same. He doesn’t know what to think of this.
He doesn’t know what he wants from Hijikata, or what he expects from all of this. He’s waiting for something, but he doesn’t know what.
He looks at Zura, who still doesn’t know who his soulmate is, and yet fearlessly loves a widowed woman with a dead husband for a soulmate. He looks at Hattori Zenzou and Tsukuyo, one won’t tell the other they’re soulmates and the other lives in oblivion. He thinks about Tatsuma and Mutsu, the former being so content and happy with the latter being his soulmate and wonders how the V-shaped bangs asshole felt when he found out Gintoki’s his soulmate.
Gintoki still can’t guess when Hijikata knew about them, but he knows for sure that he knew before the silver-haired man himself.
Even when things come to a full circle, when Gintoki meets the little girl that promised to execute him painlessly, when he gets reminded of that night when he should have been beheaded – that time Hijikata unknowingly had given him a little push to live longer, when he gets shot in the chest and knows that Hijikata was nearby, nothing changes.
Even when they switch souls, when they make a mess out of each other’s organizations, when they still Mirror even though the pain is inflicted upon their original bodies – which makes sense to Gintoki later, how he Mirrors Hijikata’s soul, not his physical body, remembers how he watched a full boxing match between Shinpachi and Tosshi and didn’t feel a single blow, because it wasn’t Hijikata’s soul moving that body (and that makes Gintoki realize that the hollowness he's felt before, whenever Tosshi took over Hijikata's body, had been his soul's way of missing its counterpart) – when they literally walk in each other’s shoes and learn more about each other and their surroundings, their friends and their daily lives, when they’ve come to know too many intimate and personal details about each other that Gintoki knows Hijikata’s just as confused and clueless about what to do with these pieces of information; still, nothing changes.
(Except that Gintoki knows at least the whole incident cleared up Hijikata’s misunderstanding about the kind of relationship he has with Otae. Though he’ll never admit he cares about that. He doesn’t.)
However, things do change, very fucking drastically, when the Yorozuya are involved in the plot to smuggle the Shogun out of Edo. It’s the first time Gintoki is fighting this closely to Hijikata since his discovery of their soulbond.
It’s an absolute disaster. They’re barely holding their own against the Yato army while trying to defend the Shogun, and each blow the powerful Amanto hit them with is a bitch to dodge and a bigger bitch to take. It’s taking everything to resist giving into their enemies’ overwhelming power, but it’s made even more of a nightmare by his and Hijikata’s Mirroring at the same time. It’s taking everything in him to focus on the Yato in front of him as it is, but when he feels the brunt of a hit his soulmate has just taken, he can’t stop the flinch of pain, can’t stop his eyes from straying towards the black-haired man. They barely get by, and Gintoki can’t even tell which one’s his injury and which one’s Hijikata’s.
It’s a really bad time to be sharing a soulmate’s pain when Gintoki’s trying to keep standing on his two feet for as long as he can, because he knows this is nothing. He knows the real fight starts when he lays his eyes on his former comrade, the man who was one of his oldest friends and who has turned into one of his worst enemies.
That’s why, as difficult as it is, as much as it’s tearing him apart to have to turn his back on his allies, his friends, his soulmate, he knows this has to be done, so Gintoki grits his teeth, clenches his fists, straightens his back and takes that first step forward, away from Hijikata and Kondou. It’s all he can do to believe in their strength and trust them to stay alive. And he takes another step and another until they finally meet the Kiheitai and the Harusame’s leaders.
As he expected, the fight reaches its peak the moment his sword clashes against Takasugi’s.
It’s one of the bloodiest, rawest and most vicious fights Gintoki’s ever had, he’s losing so much blood, and not a second goes by without him or Takasugi landing a lethal hit on each other. He’s sure he’s got more of his blood outside his body than inside, and he’s sure Takasugi is at that point too. He distantly feels a spike of pain from a new injury that isn't his, seeing as Takasugi has backed away and they’re gasping for air, and he knows it’s Hijikata.
He’s sure he’s never, ever screwed Hijikata over as much as he is right now, getting three new injuries every ten seconds. To have to fight against an army of bloodthirsty and battle-loving Yato while Mirroring all the stabs, fractures and fatal slashes he’s getting from clashing against Takasugi again and again, he really might as well dig Hijikata’s grave with his own two hands.
He’s just gonna have to take it, he’s gotta take it, dammit , he thinks briefly before charging forward with a battle cry, and exchanges blows with Takasugi.
Both of them have lost so much blood that he knows they’re only moving by sheer force of willpower and a raw despair that’s been festering since the day Gintoki broke both their hearts when he cut Yoshida Shouyou’s head with his own two hands.
It never stopped eating at Gintoki’s heart, he never went a day without looking at his hands and remembering what they did. And now, looking at Takasugi again just brings everything back in full force, he can clearly hear Takasugi’s shouts of horror and heartbreak, can feel the wetness of the tear he couldn’t stop himself from shedding, can feel his heart threatening to break all over again in his chest at the pain and hatred he sees in Takasugi’s eye.
But he doesn’t stop. He falls and crawls and gets back to his feet again and again, and before he knows it, Oboro and his lackeys are here, Kagura and her brother have joined them, the two sided war has just gained another third party, he’s getting hauled by Kagura and both their legs give out once they reach their friends.
He doesn’t remember much of what happened after that.
He wakes up to find himself in a dark, unfamiliar room. He can’t quite manage to stop the pained gasp from escaping past his lips as the numbness gives way to an ugly, vicious wave of pain, a rude reminder from his body of how much he drove it beyond its limits.
He clenches his jaw against the continuous spikes of pain as he tries to sit up and take in his surroundings. He spots Shinpachi passed out next to him, and Kagura’s sitting by the window, her back turned to him and staring at the night sky.
“Oi, Kagura,” he whispers.
The Yato girl turns around, seemingly surprised at seeing him awake. “Gin-chan! You’re up!” she whispers, but Kagura’s attempts at whispering is equivalent to a normal person’s regular volume, so he casts a quick look at Shinpachi to make sure he’s still sleeping undisturbed.
After confirming that Patsuan is still knocked out, Gintoki goes through the mindnumbingly painful experience of getting out of his futon and crawling to where Kagura’s sitting.
“So, what happened? I don’t remember much after we got to Shinpachi and the others,” he asks in a low voice. The moment he sees Kagura’s mouth open, he hisses, “And keep your voice down!”
The loud idiot’s mouth snaps shut and she pouts at him before answering, with a surprisingly low voice: “You’ve been out for over a day, Gin-chan!”
Gintoki hums, not really surprised since it’s mostly a miracle he even made it out alive with all the injuries and blood loss he was suffering from the last time he was conscious. “Where’s the Shogun?”
“Sho-chan and Soyo-chan are gone, they headed to Kyou a few hours ago,” she answers with a frown, no doubt already missing her friend. “Sa-chan told us to stay here in Iga until Gin-chan’s healed enough to move.”
He nods, the move causing a stab of pain in his head and neck. “Everyone’s alright?”
“Everyone’s doing better than Gin-chan, don’t worry!” the little shit answers cheerfully. He doesn’t think she even means the jab, so he sighs and lets it go, relieved to hear no one’s died while he’s been out.
Silence falls over them as they stare out at the dark starry sky. There’s a nice, cool breeze and not a single cloud in sight. It’s so peaceful, like they weren’t fighting to death just less than two days ago.
“Gin-chan,” Kagura says in a small voice, and Gintoki is reminded of how young this girl really is. He hums in response. “The granny treating us said you’ll feel better when your Mirroring wounds fade away.”
Gintoki feels his eyebrows climbing up as he turns to look at Kagura. She’s never talked to him about soulmates. He’s always been surprised by how loud and boisterous Kagura can be about everything, yet she’s never brought up this topic before, he’s expected her to persistently ask him about soulmates and demand to know who his soulmate was, since she’s always curious about everything. She never did, though. This is the first time she broaches this topic.
She looks at him, the frown on her face displaying all the questions she wants to ask. He feels his face shifting back into its lax default and looks back at his surrogate daughter. “She said your wounds were already so bad and it was a miracle you didn’t die.” Her frown deepens. “When she came back to check on Gin-chan again, she said you were already doing better because she took care of the wounds you were Mirroring, so you’ll only have your wounds to worry about when you wake up.”
Gintoki sighs, if Kagura of all people learned this much, then he’s sure everyone and their grandmas have put two and two together at this point. “And?” he prompts.
“Toushi was doing really badly, but Gori still wanted Granny to treat Gin-chan first,” Kagura informs him. “When she was treating you, Toushi was getting better, too, Gin-chan.” Kagura’s gaze is so innocent yet penetrating, curious yet questioning, boring into Gintoki’s soul. “Shinpachi said Toushi’s Gin-chan’s soulmate, and that Gori knew it.”
He doesn’t know why he feels a sudden rush at hearing someone else acknowledge his connection to Hijikata, but at this point, he’s given up at analyzing every little thing Hijikata makes him feel, even indirectly. “Ah, so the Gorilla already knew,” he mutters.
“Gin-chan, you knew?” Kagura asks.
He can’t help the small smile at the wonder and awe in her tone. “Yeah, I did,” he whispers, and the admission makes his body feel weirdly lighter.
Kagura stares at him, her eyes wide and mouth slightly agape. She blinks a couple of times before her mouth snaps shut, preparing to undoubtedly bombard Gintoki with questions.
“What do you do when you meet your soulmate, Gin-chan?” she asks in that small voice, her eyes looking outside the window, sounding lost in thought that it surprises Gintoki a little, as if the question itself doesn’t unsettle him enough already.
He turns his gaze to the sky, and doesn’t answer for a while. He doesn’t want to disappoint Kagura, but he doesn’t want to lie to her either. It hits him how ridiculous he’d sound if he just tells her how he stubbornly refuses to be the first one to acknowledge his soulbond with the Mayora, how silly he and his thorny bastard of a soulmate have been about the matter.
“I don’t know,” he answers truthfully.
“So even grownups don’t know?”
Gintoki ruffles her hair, ignoring the pain the movement causes. “There are things even grownups have to learn.”
Kagura says nothing for a while; Gintoki decides to have mercy on his poor body and drops his hand to his side. He wonders if Kagura’s thinking about her soulmate, wonders if she already knows who it is, despite being as young as she is. Even when she Mirrors, Kagura acts like nothing’s happening. The most he’s ever seen her react was sulking and muttering under her breath. And now this, he supposes.
“Mayora’s not so bad, Gin-chan,” she states when he’s nearly fallen asleep sitting there, propped up against the wall. He blinks the drowsiness away and turns his head to look at her. Kagura smiles back at him, small, gentle and genuine.
He smiles back, warmth flooding in his chest at her statement. He knows she’s happy for him; that she must be much fonder of Hijikata than she lets on to say something like that. She does take after him, after all.
“Guess not,” he whispers, “but that’s our secret, okay?”
She nods and giggles and he grins back at her.
Things hit rock bottom so fast that Gintoki barely has any time coming to terms with everything.
The Shogun is dead, Kondou is to be executed, and the Shinsengumi is disbanded. There’s no time for one shock to wear off before they’re hit with another.
And Gintoki knows, he knows that Hijikata’s the one who’s taking the brunt of all of this more than anyone else. He knows that somewhere deep inside where he won’t allow anyone to see, the Demon Vice-Commander is despairing. He’s torn apart.
It hurts him to look at Hijikata because it feels so fucking familiar, the scene of Takasugi and Zura forced on the ground with their teacher, tied and forced on his knees in the middle keeps flashing in his mind. He’d die before he lets his damned nicotine addict of a soulmate go through this pain. He won’t fucking allow it.
But it’s not up to him to make that decision.
He tries to pull Hijikata out of the deep pit of depression he’s in, but the asshole is too far gone. It takes an assault from (and to) the sperm-eyebrow Shogun and the rest of the Shinsengumi teaming up with Zura’s faction to get him in front of the Shinsengumi’s barracks.
But Gintoki sees all the fear, hesitance and second-guessing that’s clawing at the Vice-Commander’s mind, so he gives him one last push. And he’d be lying if he said he’s not shocked by how easy it is to talk to Hijikata about the most traumatizing moment of his life. The admission spills so smoothly, and Gintoki knows the black-haired man understands the weight of his words, that despite having shared physical pain all their lives, Gintoki’s willingly letting himself share his emotional pain too, and he’s at peace with Hijikata seeing this vulnerability. Hijikata’s wide eyes are finally looking more alive, brimming with shock and understanding and a vulnerability of their own to match Gintoki’s openness.
Gintoki smiles at his soulmate, encouraging and supportive and reassuring. “You can still save both.”
And so the war begins.
The ship is bustling with men trying to patch their comrades up. He sees Otae tending to the Commander of the Shinsengumi across the room, Shinpachi and Zura just off to the side.
Speaking of Zura and the Gorilla…
Apparently those two dumbasses are soulmates. If the atmosphere wasn’t so heavy with people mourning their lost comrades and the death of Sasaki Isaburou, if Gintoki himself wasn’t so busy trying to get the image of that Shouyou lookalike out of his head, he would have rolled on the floor laughing his ass off at how much of a hilarious match the Commander of the Shinsengumi and the leader of the Joui patriots make.
As it is, he’s just thinking that those two make him and Hijikata less of an atrocious match. He wonders how it’ll turn out for them. They are allies right now; they have apparently fought for each others’ lives as persistently as their own. But for how long? Are they going to let their soulbond affect their transition from enemies to allies or will the years of enmity between them rule over their souls’ connection?
He feels Kagura shifting beside him and turns his head to check on her. She’s fallen asleep as soon as her wounds were taken care of. Curiously, many of her worse injuries were Mirrored ones. This isn’t the first time he sees Kagura Mirroring nearly-fatal wounds after a battle. In fact, it’s becoming too often of an occurrence to be dismissed.
Gintoki’s not too much of an idiot to not put two and two together at this point.
Kagura mumbles something unintelligible and her head starts to fall to the side, dragging the rest of her propped up body to hit Gintoki’s arm, head resting on the curve of his shoulder. He tries to minimize his movements as not to jostle her awake.
Except it’s Kagura, who had once squeezed her pet to death in her sleep, so of course it’s not that simple. Minutes later, she twitches and, through whatever dream she’s seeing, decides to twist and plant her elbow as deep as it goes into Gintoki’s very much injured shoulder. He wheezes and tries to remove the offending appendage before his wound reopens.
She opens her eyes enough to look at Gintoki holding her elbow, scowls at him, draws her arm back and moves to lay down and passes out once more all in a couple of seconds.
Gintoki sighs and decides to move somewhere else where he won’t have a sleeping Yato threatening to reopen all his injuries, dammit.
He heads to the deck for fresh air.
The sky is still dark; the air is cold enough for him to want a damn blanket, but refreshing enough to withstand it.
The smell of smoke is the final confirmation he needs to know his missing soulmate is here, too.
He walks to where the dark-haired man is sitting, back resting against the wall and his knees drawn up and spread a bit apart with his arms resting on them. A cigarette is dangling from his lips, his Shinsengumi jacket is thrown over his shoulders and his gaze is hazy and unfocused.
Gintoki sits a foot or so to Hijikata’s left, crosses his legs and rests his back to the wall behind.
They don’t say anything for a few moments, and to Gintoki’s surprise, Hijikata breaks the silence first. “How did you hit your injured shoulder just now? That hurt like a bitch.”
Gintoki’s breath hitches. Did he just…
“Kagura tosses a lot in her sleep,” he explains. “Are we finally gonna acknowledge it?” he asks.
He hears Hijikata snort and can’t really bring himself to look at him lest he breaks whatever spell that’s fallen over them. He can’t take it if the Mayora backs out at this point. “’Bout time, don’t you think?”
“Me? You’re the one who won’t face it!” Gintoki snaps. “You’re either playing dumb or just outright ignoring it!”
The other man sighs, which honestly surprises Gintoki a little because he thought they’re going to get into a screaming match. He risks a glance to his right, and sees Hijikata sucking a deep breath from the cancer stick and slowly releasing it. The asshole keeps looking ahead so Gintoki somehow does the same.
“Yeah,” he simply admits.
The silver-haired man feels frustration and anger building up, a scowl contorting his face, and grits out, “That’s all you’re gonna say? Really?”
“I didn’t know what to do, alright!?” Hijikata says, his own frustration evident in his tone. “Was I supposed to just walk up to you and say, ‘hey asshole, just so you know, we’re soulmates!’ because it sure as fuck is easier said than done!” He feels the policeman shift, and knows he’s looking at Gintoki now, probably glaring. “You didn’t do much yourself either, don’t put this all on me.”
“I wasn’t sure if you knew or not!” he growls. “What was I supposed to do, huh?!”
“That’s literally what I just said, that’s my fucking problem too,” Hijikata bites back.
“How long have you known, anyway?” Gintoki asks the questions that’s been plaguing him for so long. “Definitely before I did, I already gathered as much,” he mutters.
Hijikata doesn’t answer immediately so Gintoki turns to look at him, and the man doesn’t look tense anymore, his body is lax as he takes another smoke. He looks back at Gintoki, and his mouth twitches into a small smirk. “Take a wild guess, why don’t you?”
Gintoki raises an eyebrow at that. He doesn’t know if the asshole is deliberately trying to piss him off or is actually expecting an answer. “Answer the damn question, bastard.”
Hijikata chuckles. “Man, you really are a forgetful asshole,” he teases. He breaks their eye contact, looks up to the sky, and brings the cigarette to his lips. After taking a drag and letting it out, he warns, “The answer will probably piss you off, you sure you wanna hear it?”
“Just say it, you shitty Mayora,” he growls.
He chuckles again and turns his gaze back to Gintoki. “When we fought at the rooftop you were repairing? After you cheated to beat Kondou-san? That shoulder wound I gave you?” he says in a low voice, tone mocking and mirthful, a corner of his mouth turned up in a lopsided smirk and eyebrows slightly raised to taunt him.
Gintoki can’t even bring himself to feel pissed at Hijikata’s expression because he’s barely processing when that time was…It was…
“Wasn’t that like the first time we met or something!?” he exclaims. “What the fuck!”
“Second,” Hijikata corrects, tone still light and teasing.
“What the fuck!” Gintoki repeats. “That long!? You literally knew all along!?”
Hijikata hums with a nod. “I literally knew all along,” he repeats softly. His gaze flits away for a second before he looks back at Gintoki, mirth gone. “Before you bite my head off, listen,” he says. Gintoki notes that they’ve both twisted so that only half of their backs are touching the wall, and they’re ridiculously closer now that they’re facing each other. Gintoki can see the slight frown slowly forming on Hijikata’s face, his eyes holding equal amounts of determination and genuineness in them.
Gintoki huffs out the last of his temper tantrum and nods. He’ll listen.
“When I knew you were my soulmate, I didn’t know what to do. You were a shady guy that I’ve only seen once with Katsura, and once humiliating my Commander. At that point all I knew was you were good with swords and you were acquainted with the biggest pain in the ass of a terrorist we’d been chasing down. I had no fucking idea what to even think, let alone do with this knowledge,” he stops, inhales another drag, lets it out and goes on, “I even had Yamazaki spy on you to see if you were involved with Katsura’s faction or any other Jouishishi. I acted like I didn’t know anything, ‘cause I had a duty to commit to, and soulmate or not, I wasn’t going to let you slip away.”
Gintoki grunts in understanding. He can imagine how shitty Hijikata’s position must’ve been back then.
The black-haired man shrugs. “I…we slowly started running into you and your kids and I guess I sorta started knowing you,” his frowns deepens, gaze fixed on a spot to the side, away from Gintoki’s intense one, “you guys were mostly just a pain in the ass to deal with, there was trouble whenever you were around, but we started learning you maybe…weren’t bad people,” he grumbles.
Gintoki lets out an amused breath, the sight of how uncomfortable the Demon Vice-Commander is with admitting that the Yorozuya grew on him and the rest of the Shinsengumi is absolutely amusing. But he chooses not to say anything to avoid the bastard clamming up and deciding to drop this whole conversation.
“Shut up,” Hijikata mutters, eyes flitting to Gintoki’s for a moment before he looks away again. “Anyway, at some point you were nearly always there whenever the Shinsengumi was going through some shit or another, and…” he huffs in frustration, probably at himself with how hesitant his tone is and how much he keeps pausing mid-sentence. Gintoki’s eyes soften as he looks at his soulmate, who’s doing his best to give Gintoki the explanation he deserves while being completely out of his element. He knows Hijikata’s not unlike him, he’d rather convey through actions than words, but there’s no way around this conversation. He still can’t stop the appreciation bubbling in his chest for the dark-haired man who's forcing the words out for Gintoki’s sake.
“And by the time the Yorozuya became people we trust our backs to in a battle, it felt like…like somewhere along the way I missed my chance to say or do anything,” he admits, tone resigned. “You seemed like you had no idea, and I didn’t wanna…” he shrugs helplessly, “I didn’t wanna make things awkward or mess up or.” He stops abruptly, his frown deeper than before.
When more than a couple of seconds pass without Hijikata finishing his sentence, Gintoki gently and carefully prompts, “Or?”
Hijikata looks down for a moment, and Gintoki sees his jaw twitching, teeth likely clenched. The policeman exhales through his nose and keeps staring at the floor. Gintoki lets him be.
“Or disappoint you,” he whispers in a tone so low that if Gintoki was a couple feet further away, he wouldn’t have heard him.
But he did, and he feels his chest tightening at the words. “Disappoint me?” he repeats, “disappoint me, how?”
Hijikata shrugs for the nth time and raises his head, all the way to look at the sky. “Who the fuck knows what kind of expectations you had in mind for your soulmate,” he says in lieu of explaining.
Gintoki blinks at the sudden vulnerability in both Hijikata’s voice and words. He’s baffled by the Demon Vice-Commander having thoughts like worrying about not meeting his soulmate’s expectations. It seems so uncharacteristic of him that Gintoki just stares at him for a couple of seconds without any response.
Hijikata scowls at him. “What?”
Gintoki menally shakes himself and clears his throat. “It’s not like I had any grand expectations to begin with,” he shrugs. “I cursed your shitty timings so often it sort of became a running gag in my head.” He chuckles.
“What shitty timings?” Hijikata asks, defensive and ready to fight.
Gintoki scoffs. “Oh, where do I even start? Do you know how many times I nearly died on the battlefield because you suddenly decided to get your ass handed to you while an army of Amanto is swinging at me!?” he reprimands.
“Are you shitting me!? You’re the one who gets an ungodly amount of ugly ass injuries on a fucking daily basis that I literally had to learn to function with moderately-to-severely injured being my normal status!” Hijikata fires back. “I literally can’t remember a single day of these years in my life where I wasn’t nursing one wound or another!”
“Maybe you wouldn’t have had to if you didn’t go and get your ass kicked so often! How hard is it for a country bumpkin to stay out of trouble, dammit!”
“Do you fucking hear yourself, you shameless son of a bitch!? You were literally responsible for like ninety percent of all the pain we went through in our teenage years, and you actually have the audacity to blame me!?” Hijikata nearly-shouts incredulously.
“You had a bigger role in these injuries than what you’re giving yourself credit for, Hijikata-kun,” Gintoki snarls mockingly.
“Okay, so what, eighty-five percent is your responsibility? Still don’t seem sorry to me,” Hijikata sasses out.
“Oh fuck you, I’m a war veteran!”
“Ain’t my fucking problem, Shiroyasha.”
“Ain’t mine either, Thorny Toushi.”
That gets him a middle finger shoved right in his face, so he rubs his own in the bastard’s face. They end up swatting at each other, only stopping when Gintoki accidentally hits Hijikata’s injured forearm and feels the resultant throb of pain.
They both scoff and turn away from each other, back to their original positions, back completely touching the wall and both facing ahead.
They sit in silence for a while and Gintoki takes the time to revel in everything that just transpired between them. Not only have they finally acknowledged their connection, but Hijikata told him his own perspective, and while a part of Gintoki is still reeling over how long the cop has known, another is just at peace with knowing that Hijikata’s been just as confused about how to approach him as Gintoki himself has been, that Hijikata cared enough to not want to disappoint Gintoki.
That thought alone is driving him fucking crazy. He’s already feeling so much lighter now, but the fact that Hijikata thought he could have disappointed Gintoki and held back for him is making him feel dangerous things. It’s making him fucking breathless, dammit.
He also realizes it’s been a while since he’s seen Hijikata this relaxed, this alive. It’s the first decent conversation they have since they decided to rescue Kondou.
That thought brings a sudden memory from their battle to his mind and he decides to share it, seeing how they’re in a weird ass honesty mode right now.
“So, Hijikata-kun,” Gintoki starts. The man hums in response and Gintoki goes on, “there was this moment when, uh,” he pauses, reluctant to make the man relive that moment of utter despair when he thought he’d lost his Commander forever.
“When what, Yorozuya?” Hijikata urges him.
“When…we thought your Gorilla was dead,” Gintoki mumbled, glancing briefly at Hijikata to assess the damage he’s done. A dark look twists his soulmate’s face for a moment before it’s gone. He grunts, prompting him to go on. “So this weird thing happened. I felt this,” Gintoki frowns in thought, trying to find a way to explain it. “This sudden stab of pain in my chest, and I wasn’t really being attacked or anything, and well, I thought I was Mirroring you so I checked and you weren’t either. It didn’t last long…It was there and it was gone in an instant,” he says, softly and carefully without really knowing why.
“It’s not like that sight made me happy or anything, but I was hit with this vicious wave of anguish…that was beyond almost anything I’ve ever felt in my life,” Gintoki murmurs, recalling the agony and helplessness that hit him full-force out of nowhere and left him breathless, staggering.
Hijikata chuckles mirthlessly. “Yeah, that was definitely me.”
Gintoki swallows the sudden emotions that Hijikata’s unguarded admission set off. “But soulbonds don’t really do that, do they? It’s supposed to be physical pain that is shared, not…”
“I guess,” Hijikata says slowly, and Gintoki turns to him, “sometimes you feel things too strongly that it just…manifests physically.”
The sudden urge to reach out to him wrecks Gintoki and he has to do everything in his power to hold it in. It’s gotta be unhealthy for him to have a conversation like this with the person he’s fucking in love with, it’s nothing but self-torture.
“You know,” Hijikata’s voice snaps him out of his self-pitying thoughts, “I felt that too, once.” He’s looking at Gintoki with hesitance and cautiousness.
Hijikata swallows, gaze flitting away for a second before settling back to meet Gintoki’s. “I mean, I Mirrored something like that before, too.”
Gintoki freezes. The memory of a day that scarred him to his very soul flashes before him, followed by the face of the specter he cut down just hours ago. He blinks out of his daze and sees his soulmate looking at him with open concern. He tries to regain whatever bit of composure he can capture. “Oh,” is all he’s capable of.
“It was…a few days before we heard that the Joui war ended. I,” Hijikata sighs, “I always thought that what I felt that day was the actual, physical definition of a heart breaking.”
Gintoki can’t even tell what expression he’s wearing right now, he doesn’t dare hope his face is still blank.
“I was at the dojo when it happened, and I had to sit out of training,” Hijikata murmurs, “Our sensei was an old man, who favored Sougo too fucking much by the way, but he was observant when we didn’t want him to be. So he noticed and asked me about it and,” he scoffs, “I guess I was kinda panicking over it and told him about it, and he said that…” he frowns, guilty and concerned and never letting his eyes stray away from Gintoki’s, “That my soulmate must be suffering through one of the worst days in their lives if I’m feeling the echoes of it.”
Gintoki really wants to look away, to walk away even, but his body stays rooted where it is, and his eyes remain locked to Hijikata’s.
“He told me,” Hijikata recalls, “that when I meet my soulmate, I should try my best to never let them feel that way again, if I can help it.”
Gintoki blinks twice, not expecting that. He’s just about to open his mouth when Hijikata speaks again. “Yorozuya,” he says, his tone demanding every last bit of Gintoki’s attention, and the silver-haired samurai feels his spine straighten unintentionally.
“What?” he croaks out.
Hijikata takes a deep breath, seemingly steeling himself for whatever he’s about to say, and it makes Gintoki’s breath hitch in anticipation.
“I don’t know what you’d had in mind for a soulmate. I don’t know what you expected and I don’t know if you want anything from me, as your soulmate. I don’t know what to do with this connection, I knew you’re my soulmate for all the months that we've known each other, and I still don’t know what I should do about it,” Hijikata confesses. He swallows before continuing, “All I know is that at some point, I don’t even know when – it doesn’t matter. All I know is at this point, I’ve come to actually be that person that sensei said I should be when I meet my soulmate.” Hijikata smiles a little, before whispering, in a much lower, warmer voice, “And I don’t think it’s solely because of our soulbond.”
Gintoki feels himself taking in a shaky breath. His mind is blank, his body is responding to all the emotions that Gintoki’s brain is failing to process at the moment, distantly registering how his fingers are viciously tightened over his ankles, or how his mouth is agape, eyes burning, and a knot in his throat.
“Damn.” Hijikata laughs lightly. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen you show what you're feeling this much before,” he teases, lifting his arm to touch Gintoki’s chin with his index finger and forcing his mouth shut.
Art by Mechi
That snaps him out of it.
He slaps the bastard’s hand away, feeling himself flush under the jerk’s playful gaze and smug smirk. “Asshole, what kind of sappy crap was that? I’m gonna hurl all over your stupid mug!”
The bastard clicks his tongue. “Don’t get used to it. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime thing, better fucking savor it, you shitty perm.”
“Don’t fucking need to, it’ll be flushed down the toilet next time I throw up,” he snaps.
He doesn’t fucking know why he’s viciously ruining the moment and the peaceful atmosphere they’ve built. He wants to put his fucking foot in his mouth. He fucking likes this guy, he should wanna hear this more, goddammit!
“If only toilets were bigger to handle a human-sized piece of crap like you,” Hijikata sneers.
“You should be grateful that’s not a thing, you’d have been flushed down the drains ages ago!”
“Says the one who probably was given birth to by defecation!”
The banter continues for a while, they actually have to pause every few sentences when one of them says something particularly roasting and absolutely hilarious that it’s impossible not to laugh at it.
They only sober up when the sun begins to rise and the rest of the police force joins them on deck to pay respect to the fallen Sasaki Isaburou.
When Gintoki’s brain functions enough to process Hijikata’s words and the moments they shared, he knows that despite his words, he’ll probably never be able to forget a single detail of their conversation for the rest of his fucking life, he’ll savor the absolute shit out of.
Because he knows, deep down, that his days with Hijikata close by are coming to an end.
He’s been bracing himself for this moment. He’d known it’s coming the moment the Shinsengumi decided to fight for their Commander, and he knows they knew it, too.
But even that knowledge isn’t making it easier to say goodbye right now.
Even Hijikata’s promise to come back once Gintoki’s finished drinking all his fancy liquor isn’t enough.
Even knowing that this is for the best, that it’s a temporary thing and they’ll definitely meet again isn’t fucking helping.
He knows, he understands, but he sure as fuck isn’t gonna like it.
Gintoki distantly registers they’re bidding Granny farewell, Hijikata more so than himself, and once they step outside, the rain’s gone and the clouds are dispersing, rays of sunlight shining through the spaces.
Hijikata clears his throat, and Gintoki turns his head to regard him. He has one hand clenched over his sword and the other rubbing the back of his neck, a small frown etched on his face. “So, this is it.”
A casual hum is all Gintoki’s capable of.
Hijikata sighs and Gintoki sees some of the tension leaving his body, his shoulders a bit more relaxed. He steps a bit closer to Gintoki (which makes the air halt in his windpipe) and punches his shoulder, playfully and lightly, a small smirk on his face. “Stay out of trouble, Yorozuya.”
“Won’t be hard without you hoodlum cops dragging us into trouble,” Gintoki says with a small smile, hoping his voice is steady enough not to betray the yearning clawing at his chest. He aims a retaliatory kick to the bastard’s shin just because he still can.
Hijikata clicks his tongue and replies, “More like dragging your ungrateful asses out of trouble.”
The two of them chuckle lightly and then Hijikata takes a deep breath and steps away. Gintoki feels the smile falling off right away, his hand itching to reach out and hold him back, but he ignores the itch. He has to.
His soulmate turns away, his back now facing Gintoki, and he starts walking away. He forces himself to turn away too, not trusting himself to keep looking at the tobacco-addict’s back without doing something stupid. It takes him so much effort to take that one step away, his feet turning to lead and he grits his teeth and pushes forward.
“I will be back, Yorozuya,” he hears Hijikata promise.
He bites viciously on his lower lip and starts walking away, two steps and he forces out, “I know,” in a voice that probably doesn’t sound too steady. But Hijikata’s whispered promise wasn’t really casual either so fuck it.
He walks until he reaches his own doorstep, and the moment he steps in and sees a dripping wet Kagura standing in the middle of the room, staring distantly at nothing, he knows he’s not the only one who just had to say goodbye to his soulmate.
Gintoki can’t say he thinks about Hijikata often after their separation because things get incredibly hectic.
That being said, he can’t help his thoughts from straying to his soulmate when he sees Tatsuma and Mutsu’s interactions in the aftermath of their battle on Rakuyou. The last time he’s had a deeper insight into their relationship was when Mutsu and him had drunk together and she ended up telling him about the kind of person Tatsuma was to her and the rest of the Kaientai.
Back then, she hadn’t mentioned a single thing about the two of them being soulmates, and Gintoki didn’t feel like it was his place to pry.
(He also learned from the last time he pried for more than he should know with Hattori and how that conversation had bitten him in the ass. For what it’s worth, Mutsu scares him more than the hemorrhoids asshole and Gintoki’s survival instincts are sharp enough to know when to step back and keep his mouth shut.)
She didn’t need to tell Gintoki that Tatsuma was her soulmate for her to convey just how important he is to her. The warmth and affection she couldn’t – or maybe didn’t bother – hide was a striking contrast to how exasperated and violent she acted towards Tatsuma. She had the softest expression on her face and the gentlest smile talking about him, Gintoki almost felt uncomfortable like he was intruding, or seeing something that wasn’t for him to see. He’d known that Hijikata was his soulmate back then but they were still refusing to acknowledge their soulbond. That wasn’t enough to stop the treacherous thought of can that bastard and I ever have this? from invading his head, regardless of how quickly he dismissed it.
Now, though, it’s even more intense, filled with longing and so, so dangerous.
Because the intimacy of Mutsu talking about Tatsuma the way she did is nothing compared to the glances they give each other now. It’s subtle, really. They’re all slowly recuperating and getting their injuries tended to, there’s a lot of people moving around and helping each other: the sperm-eyebrow Shogun’s men, Zura’s faction and Tatsuma’s Kaientai.
Mutsu’s movement is barely hindered by whatever injury she’s gotten at some point. It’s just one stiff movement, and Gintoki only catches it because the Yato woman’s helping Kagura with her wounds and talking to her, and he’s still a bit worried about Kagura’s physical and emotional state following the blow-out with her father and brother, so he’s keeping an eye on her.
Mutsu’s stiffness is gone in an instant like nothing happened, but Gintoki sees it: Tatsuma freezes, whatever he’s saying to Zura gets cut off abruptly by the glance Tatsuma sends his Vice-Captain’s way. And somehow, Mutsu catches him looking her way immediately, her gaze softening the slightest bit as they make eye-contact for two seconds at most, then both of them look away and continue their respective conversations like nothing happened.
Gintoki’s almost ashamed to admit it, but that brief, unintentional display of intimacy sucks the air out of his lungs and leaves him breathless.
A couple of hours after that, when the bustling and the fretting lessens, things are relatively calmer, and the injured are stabilized and resting, he catches his idiot friend and his soulmate in another moment and Gintoki fucking swears he’s not a creep or into voyeurism or anything. It’s Zura’s fault, really!
Zura says something along the lines of, “The Shinsengumi is probably having a field day with all the vicious Mirroring their Commander and Vice-Commander are suffering with today,” with a small smile.
Gintoki doesn’t even bother asking how Zura knew he and Hijikata were soulmates because at this point, it’s common knowledge apparently. He chuckles in response, says something about how it serves those hoodlums right and catches the look on Zura’s face. His face is mostly neutral, if not for the rise of his eyebrows and the gleam of curiosity in his eyes. Gintoki follows his gaze to find him looking at Tatsuma and Mutsu.
They’re facing each other and standing really close, just barely a foot apart. Tatsuma has a small frown on his face that makes him look something other than stupid for once, and Mutsu’s face is mostly set in its usual exasperated and flat default while she says something to him. Tatsuma furrows his eyebrows and looks down, somewhere at the woman’s torso and his hand moves, apparently set on touching wherever he’s looking, but the movement halts when Mutsu gives his shin what was probably intended to be a light kick but is more of a tap. Tatsuma’s eyes snap up to lock with Mutsu’s and she mutters something, her eyes soft and the corners of her mouth quirked up slightly, and it’s enough to get Tatsuma to deflate, hand dropping to his side and the previous furrow of his eyebrows smoothing out to be replaced by an affectionate look.
“They’re lovers,” Zura states and snaps him out of his trance. Gintoki turns to the long-haired man with a question on the tip of his tongue but Zura beats him to it. “I assume so, at least,” he adds with a shrug.
“They’re soulmates,” Gintoki informs him, as if that explains the intimacy the two have, which it does but also not really.
Zura nods. “I know. But that doesn’t seem to be all of it. It feels like something’s changed since the time we went to space to save Elizabeth,” he murmurs thoughtfully, still staring at the two soulmates. “Plus, you and Hijikata, as well as Kondou and I are soulmates, we do not act like that.”
Gintoki almost flinches at that. It was just an innocent statement, but it pushes him into a place he doesn’t want to visit.
“Yo!” Tatsuma approaches them, a wide grin on his face. “Whatcha guys talkin’ about?”
Before Gintoki can say anything, Zura – the real dumbass, if you ask Gintoki – tells Tatsuma, as if he’s talking about the fucking weather, “Gintoki and I were just discussing whether you and Mutsu-dono are lovers or not.”
Gintoki looks at Zura in disbelief, he’s sure his face has at least five variations of the phrase, “How stupid are you!?” written on it.
Tatsuma, of course, just laughs obnoxiously before nodding, “I see, I see! You’re gossiping about me and Mutsu, ahaha! Keep going!”
Gintoki turns his head, his disbelief at how stupid a human can be now aimed at the brown-haired dumbass now. “What the fuck do you mean ‘keep going’!?”
Well, Zura gets it apparently, because he does keep going. “Gintoki assumes your closeness is due to your soulbond, but I believe there’s more to it,” he explains. “You two seem closer, or maybe just close in a different sense, than you were last time I saw you together.”
Tatsuma looks surprised by the answer, but quickly morphs into a soft smile. He chuckles goodheartedly before muttering, “I almost forgot how sharp you were, Zura.”
That answer piques Gintoki’s curiosity enough to drop the whole tact thing and just ask – he’s dealing with dumbasses anyway so no tact is needed. “So he’s right?”
Tatsuma nods, his smile still softer than what Gintoki’s used to seeing on the goof’s face.
Zura smiles. “Congratulations, Sakamoto. I really am happy for you.”
Gintoki hums in agreement, a smile forming on his face too. “Figures you’d be the type who gets turned on by getting his ass handed to him by a girl,” he teases.
Tatsuma beams at them, which turns into a laugh at Gintoki’s jab. “Guess I am! Ahahaha!” he gives them a sheepish smile, his hand rubbing the back of his head as he informs them, “It hasn’t been that long, but it doesn’t feel new either!”
“Did you just wake up one day and think she’s hot or something?” Gintoki asks, not really joking. He’s so fucking curious and this whole situation is going to make him have thoughts he’s better off never entertaining.
Tatsuma squints his eyes and hums in thought, the hand previously rubbing his head is now pinching his chin. “Kinda? I mean yeah but not really? I always knew Mutsu’s hot! But it’s more like,” he pauses, crossing his arms and frowning in contemplation of the appropriate words, “like that’s where it was headed? And it doesn’t feel new, which is weird, but I think it’s because I’ve been in love with her for a lot longer than I realize,” he finishes in a gentle voice and equally gentle smile.
Zura nods in understanding, smile still glued to his face. “Good for you.”
Gintoki musters a smile and a grunt in agreement and he’s impressed he managed even that with how rapidly his heart is beating, how dry his throat feels, because he’s incapable of denying himself thoughts of how much he yearns to have this with his dumb, mayo-addicted, tobacco-smelling, thorny soulmate.
He’d known he was fucked the moment he realized he was in love with Hijikata Toushirou because that’s one of the dumbest and most self-destructive things Gintoki’s ever done. It’s not like he doesn’t know how hopeless it is, like he doesn’t realize that despite how much Hijikata sounded like he truly cared about Gintoki, that doesn’t mean he stands a chance.
He knows that, he fucking knows it very well because he was sitting on that same rooftop when the bastard cried over the love of his life, he was there when he mourned her, he fucking met her and visited her in the hospital and listened to her longingly talk about him, and even had thought that the two of them deserved better than the tragedy that had taken place. Hell, he even thought she might’ve been his soulmate!
So yes, Gintoki understands very well that it's incredibly foolish to think of his feelings ever coming to fruition. But that doesn’t stop him from looking at Tatsuma and Mutsu’s intimacy and thinking I want that , it doesn’t stop him from listening to Tatsuma admit he and his soulmate are lovers and yearning I want that , it doesn’t stop him from imagining what it would be like to be on the receiving end of one of the soft glances or affectionate smiles the Kaientai Captain and Vice-Captain have exchanged.
It was already incredibly hard to control himself from not getting greedy and wanting too much from Hijikata once he knew the man he’s fallen for is actually his soulmate. It’s so fucking easy to love your soulmate, and Gintoki already loved his before he even knew they were bound. He’s been putting in so much effort to shove any thoughts of loving Hijikata to the back of his mind (especially after their soulbond revelation) to keep his sanity, his heart and his relationship with Hijikata intact.
The willpower that was fueling him to put in all that effort was chipping away bit by bit with every moment he shares with Hijikata. A huge chunk of it was ripped away the night they acknowledged everything and he’d seen Hijikata willingly wear his heart on his sleeve for him, and their separation tricked him into a false sense of security where he thought he could lower his defenses because Hijikata was away so he wouldn’t think of him too much, but his brain just threw all these thoughts of hopeless want back at him in vengeance after being denied for so long.
So Sakata Gintoki resigns himself to look at Sakamoto Tatsuma and Mutsu and yearn in silence.
The Shinsengumi make their comeback as Gintoki hits an all-time low, one breath away from dropping his sword and giving up on everything.
It’s almost unfair how invincible their presence makes him feel, he’s pulled out from the deep pit of despair so quickly he gets a metaphorical whiplash. He can see the effect of their presence on his kids too, it’s like all of them had gone from nearly zero to a 120% in an instant.
He gets to fight alongside his soulmate again, throwing jabs and insults at each other, bickering in the middle of a war, and Gintoki really can’t bottle up his happiness and relief at being near these barbaric cops and their asshole of a Vice-Commander again, so he just lets a smirk take over while he and Hijikata have their usual banter, like they’re not slicing enemies left and right. It’s really just the usual with them, they’ve had so many conversations surrounded by people who wanted them dead it really feels like home. Gintoki chuckles at how fucked up it sounds and how much this atrocious normalcy suits him and Hijikata.
Things gradually get more serious, more dangerous, a lot worse and the two of them are back to having to fight while Mirroring each other’s lethal wounds. There’s so much blood, so fucking much, and they are both one foot into their graves and Gintoki’s not sure how or if they’re gonna make it out alive.
Eventually, they do make it out alive, putting an end to Utsuro but end up losing a lot. The Yorozuya lost their giant dumb dog and they can only console themselves with the fact that had it not been for Sadaharu’s sacrifice, they wouldn’t have made it.
Gintoki doesn’t get to see Hijikata much in the aftermath of the war, never gets the chance to talk to him alone, and that suits him just fine.
It’ll be easier to leave this way.
Gintoki had chosen this solidarity, this isolation, this loneliness all on his own. No one forced him to give up everything and everyone he had for a reason no one even knows.
He keeps telling himself to suck it up, that this isn’t the first time he’s been all on his own, that just because he got used to being surrounded by all kinds of idiots it doesn’t mean he can’t deal with this crippling loneliness.
He tells himself that at least this time, the reason isn’t because he’d lost everything, but it’s to keep everything and everyone he holds dear safe. It’s for the greater good, and that’s enough motivation to keep Gintoki going.
The days turn into weeks and before he knows it, it’s been almost a year since he had last seen anyone he recognizes.
Today, he lets himself wallow in self-pity just a little, he allows himself this momentary weakness at remembering how this day had been the year before and how it is right now.
It’s October 10th, the day Gintoki’s celebrated his birthday ever since he met Shouyou. He doesn’t really care about it, he never really did after Shouka Sonjuku was burned down to ashes and Yoshida Shouyou was taken away right before his eyes.
Until he found himself a new family, until he was surrounded by all kinds of morons that he would die for. Morons who cared about celebrating him, who wanted to make him smile, who liked having him around.
Last year, the kids had planned a surprise party for him. Kyuubei and Otae got him cake. The old hag let him drink an unlimited amount of her best sake without biting his head off about payment. Tama fussed over him and Catherine was less annoying than usual. Gorilla (who got maimed less than usual) and Hasegawa-san drank with him. Sa-chan only tried to throw herself at him like twenty times, which was a lot less than her usual. He was really lucky to black out before Tsukuyo turned into a drunk terminator.
All in all, this day last year had been a really good one.
He sits in a dimly lit, barely warm room at a random inn in the middle of nowhere, stares out his window at the dark sky littered with twinkling stars, and allows himself the crushing admission that he misses his life, misses Edo and misses his family and friends.
His throat aches and swallowing doesn’t help, the lump doesn’t go away and he lets the sadness and loneliness wash over him. Just for tonight, tomorrow he’ll go back to sucking it up again.
He feels a slight prickling on his skin, on the inside of his left forearm. He lifts his yukata’s sleeve and finds blood, barely droplets. It’s barely a scratch, it doesn’t even hurt, it’s just there.
He’s about to dismiss it, chalk it up to a paper cut Hijikata’s gotten while doing paperwork or something but it happens again. And again. And again. Gintoki looks at the forming scratches and frowns in confusion, because no one gets paper cuts in succession like this normally. And they’re not usually this deep, either.
The scratches…look like something. Gintoki squints at them. It looks like a bunch of katakana, what the fuck.
It is a bunch of katakana , Gintoki realizes, when the final scratch is Mirrored on his skin and an intelligible phrase forms.
Gintoki exhales a sharp breath in disbelief. He blinks at the cuts once, twice and it stares back at him in all its rude glory. He’s breathless for a few moments, before he gasps a gulp of air that is barked out in an incredulous, too-loud laughter. He laughs until he clutches at his sides, until his abdominal muscles protest in pain, until he literally gasps for air and his vision blurs with tears.
“That absolute bastard!” Gintoki exclaims between one fit of laughter and another, the sound of his laugh is almost foreign to him at this point; he truly cannot remember the last time he made this sound.
It takes him quite a bit to calm down, for the high and the surprise to ebb away, leaving behind warmth and a painful, painful longing.
The message, Hijikata’s cheeky greeting, shitty bastard , is already beginning to heal and fade away from his skin and Gintoki’s heart hurts. He’s practically begging his body not to heal itself, to give him just a little bit longer, he just wants to look at this for a little bit longer.
Because this is the closest he’s been to Hijikata in months. Sure, he’s Mirrored injuries this past year, but this one is his. This is meant for him. Hijikata Toushirou has willingly drawn his own blood out to remind Gintoki that he’s still there, that even if he leaves and they’re a thousand miles away, their connection will never break.
This heartfelt reminder, disguised as a rude insult that feels more affectionate to Gintoki than any ‘happy birthday’ ever could, is just a nudge from his soulmate to fight a little longer, to chase his loneliness away and tell him he’s got himself a crazy idiot who’s willing to walk around with scratches that read shitty bastard ( which Hijikata definitely is , Gintoki thinks warmly) etched onto his skin.
His facial muscles ache from how widely he's smiling. He huffs a few mirthful breaths every few minutes because he just can’t get over it. He can’t believe that little shit’s audacity to deliberately wound himself just so he can have a way to insult Gintoki.
His heart really hurts with how much he fucking misses that asshole, how much he loves that piece of shit, how much he longs for him and how desperately he wants to see him, touch him, hold him close and kiss the living lights out of him.
The lump in his throat is back, feeling heavier than ever, and his eyes sting and burn. His vision turns blurry – because he’s been staring at Hijikata’s display of rudeness reflected on his skin for too long, he tells himself – and before the dampness in his eyes could do something outrageous like trail down his face, he squeezes his eyes shut and brings the injured spot of his forearm to his face and holds it there.
And Gintoki will never, ever, ever admit placing a kiss on that part of his forearm.
Despite how long he’s spent yearning to see Hijikata Toushirou, when he actually does, Gintoki feels like screaming and tearing his hair out, because not now! Not when he’s got Shouyou’s heart hidden in the folds of his yukata, when he’s close to uncovering what Takasugi is up to, when he needs his resolve the most and just the mere sound of Hijikata’s voice makes it crumble a bit.
It’s dangerous, spending any time with his soulmate. Even if Gintoki’s able to keep his resolve intact, he can’t do anything about how sharp and intuitive Hijikata Toushirou is, and he can’t have him involved in this mess now. The asshole already knows too much. Hell, Gintoki even learns a thing or two from him.
He runs away the first chance he gets.
Except it turns out to be useless, as he ends up back in Edo, surrounded by the idiots he’s missed for the past two years and fights for his master along with his fellow disciples one last time.
Takasugi’s death rips his heart apart despite the man telling him he’s slowly dying. The weight of his childhood friend and oldest rival’s corpse on his lap pierces Gintoki’s chest and he can’t stop the tears from rolling down his face once Takasugi’s right eye closes for good.
But he stands up and he keeps going, for Takasugi, for Shouyou, for Zura and for all the idiots that have chosen to fight by his side again. For himself.
He gets his closure this time. He gets to properly send his master off, and miraculously, lives.
That night, him, Zura and Tatsuma mourn their friend’s death and drink themselves stupid.
The next day, he wakes up to Shinpachi and Kagura’s annoyingly loud voices drilling into Gintoki’s skull, and somewhere underneath the feeling of absolute death and god-awful hangover, he revels in the fact that he’s home at last.
Things don’t go back to the exact way they were before, but a lot has changed since the last time everyone could exist in Edo peacefully without a certain darkness looming over their heads, so this new norm isn’t so bad.
One of the biggest, most hilarious changes in Gintoki’s opinion is just how close the Shinsengumi’s Commander and Zura have gotten since the time they found out they were soulmates on Kokujo Island. Gintoki sees them hanging out together so often it’s honestly started giving him a headache.
They’re either meeting up for drinks somewhere by themselves, or accompanied by other members of the Shinsengumi and Elizabeth. One time while he and Hasegawa-san were barhopping, he swears he wasn’t drunk enough to hallucinate seeing Kondou Isao, Katsura Koutarou and Matsudaira Katakuriko having drinks together and laughing.
So yeah, things definitely changed.
But as disastrous as it is having two dumbasses like Gorilla and Zura as soulmates, witnessing how they embraced their connection in their own way – becoming such close friends that Ikumatsu and Kondou speak freely now (he’s apparently been playing wingman for Zura and Gintoki does not even want to know how it’s going), while Zura knows enough about the Shinsengumi’s business that even Gintoki’s own soulmate doesn’t seem too cautious in engaging Zura about one politic topic or another – fascinates Gintoki and leaves him a little bit in awe of seeing the way those two former mortal enemies have changed.
“It probably makes sense because they can finally share a single, full brain cell,” Hijikata jokingly mutters. Gintoki snorts and chokes on his sake, coughs turning into snickers.
“For real, it’s a good improvement, I always thought Zura’s head was empty,” Gintoki sniggers and his soulmate chuckles along.
A coincidence has lead Gintoki to share a small booth with Hijikata, Zura, Kondou and surprisingly, Hattori, at a yakiniku place that Gintoki was invited to after running into the two officer, who already planned to meet Zura there, and Hattori was just unlucky enough to have been there at the same time.
They’ve been here for around two hours now, and the men have moved past stuffing their faces with meat to drinking and talking. It’s a pleasant evening, if Gintoki’s being honest. He was planning on hitting the jackpot with pachinko tonight but this ain’t so bad either. Plus, he’s spending time with his soulmate, so that’s good.
Because he doesn’t think he’s managed a decent conversation with Hijikata since he came back to Edo.
It’s not like he’s tried, though. Gintoki himself has been low-key avoiding the V-shaped bangs asshole since he returned. Nothing too major, he still talks to him and treats him normally if they run into each other, but to the best of Gintoki’s ability, he’s been making sure – as subtly as he can – to limit their interactions, always be surrounded by others and briefly kill any conversation if it’s just the two of them. He doesn’t know for sure why he’s acting like this.
There’s something about the yearning that scorched his veins a little over two years ago when he witnessed Tatsuma and Mutsu’s relationship, along with the yearning that ate at his heart on his birthday when Hijikata’s crazy manipulation of their soulbond was his one salvation from the bottomless pit of loneliness, and now the yearning he gets when he sees how effortlessly and easily Kondou and Zura meshed their lives together, unwaveringly and trustingly making a spot for each other in their lives, like no complications or consequences have to be considered. And maybe there really aren’t any complications with them, they’ve grown to be close friends who rely on each other, who can be stupid together, who freely share things with each other that Gintoki yearns for this, too.
At this point, Gintoki’s so fucking lost about what he and Hijikata are that he selfishly yearns for everything he sees. And it disgusts him. He’s disgusted with himself; he’s never been one to take things for granted, never one to bite for more than he can chew, never let greed or envy consume him to the point where he selfishly looks at every pair of soulmates and finds something in them that he wants for himself with Hijikata.
And maybe that’s why he can’t really bring himself to just be around Hijikata like everything’s okay, because he isn’t okay. He needs to fix himself and rein in his ever-growing desires before he can look his soulmate in the eye and feel worthy of sharing this bond with him.
Because the things he wants from Hijikata would probably just wear him down. Because Hijikata Toushirou already had someone to look at the way Tatsuma looks at Mutsu. Because Hijikata probably already has a close friend in his Commander and even in his sandy-haired bratty subordinate that he begrudgingly shares things with. Because he’s seen that crazed bloodlust gleaming in his eyes with a manic grin to go with it while he raised his sword against Sasaki Isaburou and Itou Kamotarou, the same one he’s fucked up enough to want when he sees Kagura and Sofa-kun ignoring everyone else around them, having no eyes for anyone but each other to quench their need for a fight worthy of making their blood dance in their veins in anticipation, in the thrill of having a rival that is theirs and theirs alone.
Because he really doesn’t fucking know what he is to Hijikata Toushirou, and everywhere he looks, he can’t fit himself. He only knows he’s his soulmate, but what the fuck does that even mean when he can’t even be anything to Hijikata but the bastard that gave him so many injuries and pushed him close to death doors time and time again?
Contrary to his shameless attitude, Gintoki feels weirdly ashamed of just how much he wants from Hijikata. He feels nauseous at the idea of Hijikata learning about Gintoki’s lust for him in so many ways that will ruin their relationship beyond repair – even though he knows his soulmate’s not an asshole to ditch him just like that.
He knows Hijikata would probably take it upon himself to try to ease Gintoki’s guilt and shame, to try to respond to his desires even if he doesn’t really feel anything himself. He had learned time and time again that Hijikata Toushirou is a good man, and he knows that this time won't be an exception.
The asshole apparently left his beloved Shinsengumi behind for two years to search for Gintoki – to bring the Yorozuya back together, to repay Gintoki for a debt that doesn’t even exist. And Gintoki’s still too much of a fucking coward to confront him about that, despite Shinpachi and Kagura’s acknowledgement and gratitude for what the policemen have done for them, how they've looked after them and done their best to reunite them.
It messes with Gintoki’s head even more, these – these grand gestures Hijikata does, or the things he said to him. It messes with his head and plants even more seeds of desire whose roots settle in Gintoki’s heart and chest while it grows into a monster of longing and wanting that is beyond his ability to pluck out. These actions and words that Gintoki would rather leave unaddressed because he doesn’t know how much common sense he can maintain if he thinks about them too much, doesn’t know how it’d be physically possible to confront Hijikata about them without spilling his guts about everything he wishes these words and actions could mean.
So Gintoki takes a step back from Hijikata’s life, satisfying himself with letting the two of them exist in each other’s periphery. But he fucking misses him. He has over two years worth of missing Hijikata built up in every fiber of his being and it’s so, so fucking hard not to give in and bask in his soulmate’s presence just to release a little of the accumulated pining that’s been eating at him for all this time.
So for now, he’ll blame the alcohol for throwing caution out the window and enjoying this banter with the mayo-loving jackass. His heart feels so fucking light at how easy it still is to talk to the dark-haired man, to let their thoughts click and make fun of their friends together. He’ll never get tired of how fun it is and how happy it makes him to be reminded again and again of their brains’ identical wavelengths; instances like these make him feel like they really do make sense as soulmates, after all.
The pleasantness of the evening crashes down in the form of one hemorrhoids asshole.
Zura and Gorilla are discussing the latter’s love life – or the lack thereof – when Hattori pipes in, “By the way, Yorozuya, what happened to that chick you’ve had in mind?”
The whole table falls silent and Gintoki feels four pairs of eyes drilling holes into his head in curiosity. The silver-haired man freezes for a moment, his brain scrambling for any excuse to shoot this conversation down immediately but all he comes up with is a snarky, “None of your fucking business.”
Which is definitely the wrong response, because it just gets Zura and Kondou going. “What chick!?” Kondou asks excitedly while Zura demands, “Gintoki! You have a woman I don’t know about!?”
Gintoki grits his teeth, because he’s nowhere near drunk enough to tolerate this absolute shitstorm happening right now. “There’s no fucking chick, this fucker thinks with his hemorrhoids, don’t believe everything he says!”
Hijikata’s not saying anything and Gintoki is not willing to risk glancing his way. Things could go very wrong here if he’s not careful. And apparently, Hattori Zenzou is set out on turning this evening into a nightmare, because he addresses Hijikata with, “Since you’re his soulmate, do ya know anything, Hijikata?”
Gintoki’s so fucking close to screeching, tearing his precious hair out and strangling Hattori simultaneously. He doesn’t get far before he hears Hijikata (because he’ll be damned if he dares look the man’s way to assess the damage of the hemorrhoids fucker running his mouth) clear his throat and answer, “Nah, we don’t talk about things like that, he and I,” in a causal tone.
Gintoki forgets for a millisecond why it’s a bad idea to look Hijikata’s way and lets his eyes fall on the man’s face, just to see him staring back at Gintoki, gaze penetrative and calculating. The look he’s pinning Gintoki with betrays the nonchalance that coated his words.
Gintoki swallows and rapidly digs up a deflection method, looking away from Hijikata to the ninja fucker who doesn’t know when to keep his damn mouth shut. “Speaking of soulmates ,” he draws the word out, “whatever happened to you and Tsukuyo, hm?” he asks sweetly, words laced with poison.
And the table is immediately flooded with screamed questions and loud exclamations from Zura and Gorilla. He thinks Hattori’s giving him a dirty look but, oh well – he’s the one who decided to cover half his face with his hair, it’s not Gintoki’s fault if any look he gets from the sandy-haired ninja is dismissed.
He smirks in victory, and before he can stop himself, he chances another glance at his soulmate. He’s still looking unblinkingly at Gintoki, and when their eyes meet, Hijikata’s gaze turns expectant. Gintoki doesn’t know what he could possibly be expecting, and because he’s the disgusting coward that he is, he drops Hijikata’s gaze and tunes into the conversation the other occupants of the table are having.
It’s Hijikata who’s got this weird expectant look, but Gintoki’s the one who’s feeling hollow and disappointed at how conversation ended.
But of course, things don’t end there.
They’re discussing the topic of mismatched soulmates, because apparently Gintoki’s not the only one who finds the idea of Hattori Zenzou and Tsukuyo being soulmates to be bizarre.
“But really, it’s not anything as scandalous as the most wanted terrorist in all of Edo and the Commander of the Shinsengumi,” Hattori defends.
The mentioned soulmates blink twice and exchange a confused look before smiling and looking back at the sandy-haired shinobi. “We thought so too at first, but really, beyond our titles, I don’t think we’re that weird of a match,” the brown-haired Commander says with a grin.
Zura nods and adds, “We have the same approach in a handful of situations, it’s quite fascinating.”
“You mean you’re both the same brand of stupid? Yeah, you got that right,” Gintoki jeers.
Kondou yelps out an offended, “Hey!” while Zura gives him a glare. “You say that like you two are any better!” he points at him and Hijikata.
Gintoki shrugs causally, a smirk on his face as he jabs, “We don’t drag each other down the deep hole of idiocy when we talk.”
“Like hell you don’t!” Kondou snaps incredulously, slamming a hand on the table. “Have you seen how you get around each other!?”
“I don’t know, Kondou-san, there’s a difference between a normal, healthy level of competitive conversation and…well, you and Katsura,” Hijikata intervenes, voice teasing and a smirk probably matching Gintoki’s on his face.
“ Healthy level of competitive conversation !?” Zura repeats with disbelief. “You don’t hold a conversation! You scream and hit each other two words in!”
“No, we don’t!” Gintoki and Hijikata petulantly deny at the same time.
“Honestly, seeing you two agreeing on something for once is scary, stop it.” Kondou shivers.
“You say that like we’re Sougo and China! We’re adults, not immature little shits,” Hijikata responds and Gintoki nods in agreement.
“Well…” Hattori starts and all eyes turn to him. “Not to interrupt or anything, but don’t those two,” he nods to Hijikata and Gintoki, “actually make perfect sense?”
Gintoki feels his eyebrows climbing to his hairline and casts a glance to see Hijikata in the same state of surprise. He looks back at Hattori and squints at him before skeptically asking, “We do?”
Hattori hums in confirmation and then shrugs at Zura’s exclaims of, “Are you serious!?”
“I haven’t seen you two together that often,” he addresses Gintoki and Hijikata, “but I know the two of you enough to know that you’re the same type of samurai, and depending on the situation, you’re either polar opposites or carbon copies, and from what I’ve seen on the battlefield, your fighting styles are different, but they complement each other.” He wrinkles his nose and finishes with, “This turned out gross, but ya get the gist.”
Gintoki is utterly speechless, he knows his mouth is slightly agape, his eyebrows almost touching his hairline. He chances another look at Hijikata to see his face mostly blank if not for his slightly widened eyes and raised eyebrows.
An awkward silence settles between them for a couple of seconds that Kondou breaks, clearing his throat and says with a mirthful tone, “Now that you mention it, it does make sense. I think there’s a side to Toushi that only Yorozuya brings out!” he grins at his Vice-Commander.
Zura nods in agreement. “They do get along well despite how different they are.”
“We don’t get along,” Gintoki and Hijikata retort at the same time and scowl at each other. “Stop copying me!” they demand simultaneously.
The other three occupants of the booth laugh at them, and Hattori says, “Yep, that’s what I meant,” and Gintoki’s stare-off with Hijikata is broken by the contagious amusement. He notices the corner of his soulmate’s mouth twitching and lets himself release the laugh trapped in his throat.
Once they’ve moved to another topic, Gintoki tells himself that this is enough. He can still have these playful banters with Hijikata, he can still joke around and talk to him normally, he’s not the special person to Hijikata that the man is to him, but that’s alright. He’s happy with this. He has to be happy with this.
He stops avoiding Hijikata. It was hard at first – not that it’s easy now but the ache’s dulled and Gintoki’s learned to live with it. He’s learned to ignore the twists and flutters of his chest when the tobacco-smoking bastard looks at him in a certain way or treats him with a somewhat playful attitude. He’s grown accustomed to the breathlessness when the jerk’s in his space or touching him.
He’s learned to shove whatever desires he feels when he looks at other pairs of soulmates to the back of his mind and pretend like they don’t exist.
Gintoki really, really believes he’s doing well. He’s always been told how hard he is to read, how people can never tell what he’s thinking with his blank face, so he’s confident he’s doing a good job bottling everything up until someday it dies and rots away inside him.
Apparently, he hasn’t been doing the greatest job though.
It’s his birthday. It’s been exactly two years since Hijikata bled himself to chase Gintoki’s loneliness away and made the silver-haired man fall deeper for him.
Everyone’s gathered at Snack House, and Gintoki’s sure Shinpachi and Kagura had planned this. The bar’s filled with his drunken friends, the ambience is boisterous, lively and everyone’s having fun. Gintoki is having fun, and while he’s always known never to take things for granted, he’s feeling a little more thankful for all the good things and good people he has in his life. He’s a little overwhelmed, if he’s being really, really honest.
But the atmosphere is a little stifling, there are way too many people to fit comfortably in the old hag’s bar, and his head is starting to hurt a little from how loud his friends are. So he decides to step outside for some air.
He lets out a relieved sigh as he slides the bar’s door shut behind him and breathes in the late night’s fresh air. It’s not that cold, but Gintoki still shivers at the difference in temperature. He inhales deeply and exhales slowly, letting the pleasantness of the night wash over him.
At the distinct smell of tobacco, he cranes his head to find Hijikata sitting on the stairs leading to the Yorozuya’s office, a cigarette in hand.
“ Of course you’d be out here breathing cancer into your lungs instead of having a good time like a decent human being,” Gintoki jabs lightly, moving to sit near him.
“Yeah, what’s your excuse?” Hijikata snipes back.
“That’s the same as mine, dipshit.”
“You’re literally polluting the air, assface.”
“Fuck off and find your fresh air somewhere else, I was here first.”
“I live here.”
“Technically, I’m not inside your office, so no, you don’t fucking live here.”
“Technically, you’re a bag of crap.”
“Brilliant comeback, birthday boy.”
“I emit brilliance, can’t help it.”
“Whatever you’re emitting, it sure is brilliantly annoying.”
“You’re just jealous of my charm, how petty.”
“Are you gonna shut up any time soon or am I gonna have to leave this block entirely to smoke in peace?”
“I’m the birthday boy, you can’t tell me to shut up. In fact, I demand a better attitude than this from you!”
“You can take your demand and shove it up your ass, consider that my present, birthday bitch.”
“It’s birthday boy , fucker.”
“That’s what I said, birthday bitch .”
Gintoki laughs and shakes his head at their ridiculous back-and-forth, and he sees Hijikata allowing an exasperated smirk to form on his face.
“For real though, I’m surprised you managed to last this long, you don’t like to drink in big crowds,” Gintoki admits, twisting so his back rests on the railing, his right knee drawn to his chest and his left leg rests on the step below. He looks up at Hijikata, sitting two steps above him.
The dark-haired man shrugs. “It’s fine once in a while,” he explains. “I’ve kinda gotten used to those noisy friends of yours anyway.”
Gintoki hums, a smile tugging at the corners of his mouth. “Still prefer drinking alone though, right?”
Hijikata considers his question for a moment before nodding slowly. “Yeah, probably.” He pauses for a moment, scratches the back of his head and mumbles, “Drinking with you is fine though.”
Gintoki’s treacherous heart skips a beat, like a fucking school girl , at his soulmate’s admission. He looks away, swallows and lets out a pathetically nervous laugh while saying, “Oh yeah! We haven’t done that in a while!” And out of desperation to bring the topic back to a safe territory, he adds, “Ah, I haven’t seen granny in a while! I wonder how she’s doing.”
It’s a dumb, flustered attempt, and Gintoki internally cringes at it.
He hears Hijikata sigh, and the frustration he can literally hear in the sound pulls his eyes back to look at the man.
It’s visible in the frown etched on Hijikata’s face, in the creases between his furrowed eyebrows, the narrowing of his eyes: the honest display of displeasure, vexation and disappointment that causes Gintoki’s breath to halt.
Gintoki blinks in shock and confusion at the sudden change – rapid deterioration – in Hijikata’s mood. What the fuck just happened?
“How long are you gonna do this, Yorozuya?” Hijikata asks, annoyance dripping from his words. He’s glaring ahead, at some point across the street, and Gintoki sees the way his jaw clenches.
“Do what?” Gintoki asks in confusion. At the exasperated shake of Hijikata’s head, Gintoki feels a sudden anger flare up in his chest. “Hey, the fuck’s wrong with you?” he demands.
“What’s wrong with me ?” Hijikata glares at him. “Me? I’m not the one who keeps pulling away again, and again, and fucking again ! Aren’t you fucking tired!?” he shoots back.
“What the fuck are you talking about!?” Gintoki realizes he’s speaking louder and louder, but he’s beyond caring. “The fuck crawled up your ass and died in the last few seconds!?”
Hijikata barks a bitter laugh out. “ Seconds ? Try years , fucker,” he hisses.
“I said I don’t know – “
“Spare me the fucking bullshit!” Hijikata snaps loudly. He stands up and kicks Gintoki’s leg out of the way as he quickly descends the stairs and attempts to leave.
Gintoki’s barely keeping up with how rapidly this conversation has plummeted. His body automatically follows Hijikata before his brain registers the movement. The fucker’s brisk pace causes Gintoki to jog to catch up to him. “Hey!” he calls out as he closes in on the asshole, blindly reaching for anything and ends up grabbing him by the arm to whirl him around to face Gintoki. “What the actual fuck! We’re not done yet!”
Hijikata aggressively shakes Gintoki’s hand away. “Aren’t we? You tell me when you’re done bullshitting and we’ll see,” he replied coldly.
“I’m telling you,” Gintoki says slowly, each words forced through gritted teeth, barely contained anger, “I don’t fucking know what you’re talking about.”
Hijikata glares harder at him, his entire body tense as he bares his teeth at Gintoki and spits out, “I’m talking about you needing to grow a fucking spine and talking to me instead of shutting me out no matter what I do.”
The dread that slowly starts to settle in Gintoki’s chest gives him a hint about what Hijikata’s saying, but currently, his anger is still winning, so he defends, “I’m not shutting you out of anything, bastard!”
“See, that’s – “ his soulmate shouts, before realizing how loud he is and steadying his voice. His anger is still on full-display through the tightly clenched fist and the trembling finger he points at Gintoki. “Stop fucking denying it, just tell me what you want instead of making me feel like I let you down every single fucking time you look at me!” he growls, growing louder until he screams the last few words.
Gintoki’s eyes widen and he feels his entire body flinching at the other’s words. The anger he’s felt before is all but forgotten in the face of the horror that starts eating at him. “I – I don’t –” he tries, but his head is too much of a mess to form the words.
“Yeah, you do,” Hijikata interrupts, tone equally cold and resigned. “You left Edo without a word, you ran away from me and had me chase you and Takasugi without knowing what you’re up to, and even after that whole thing was over, you avoided me and refused to be around me if you could help it, and when you couldn’t,” Hijikata hangs his head, shoulders coiled in and fists clenched at his sides, “you’d look at others – other soulmates, and then look at me like – like,” he exhales sharpy before he forces out, “like I’m just a fucking disappointment.”
Gintoki squeezes his eyes shut, his teeth grinding and his breath shaky. Is this what he seemed like in his attempts to bottle his feelings and desires up? Is this how he’s been making Hijikata feel for the last two years? Has he been making him live the one fear he’s had that held him back from telling Gintoki about them being soulmates in the first place? Has he been blindly hurting Hijikata in his efforts to save himself from the definite heartbreak of yearning for Hijikata Toushirou in every way? Has he fucked up this badly, this long, without noticing it even a little bit?
“Just,” Hijikata whispers, all the fight gone from his voice, nothing left but a weary tone, “tell me at least what I’m fucking up so disastrously to drive you to this point.”
Gintoki, unable to find his voice or the words to say, just shakes his head. He swallows through the ache in his throat and wills himself to look at Hijikata. “No – no you…you didn’t do anything wrong.”
“Don’t fucking lie,” the other man hisses out, lifting his gaze back to Gintoki’s and glaring at him.
“I’m not lying,” Gintoki hisses back. He lets out a long breath, and tries to calm down the nerves wreaking havoc at his insides. “I chose to leave Edo without anyone knowing because I didn’t want anybody involved, including you. And I couldn’t tell you anything about Shouyou or Takasugi because shit was too dangerous and, again, I didn’t want to drag you into it,” Gintoki explains, doing his damn hardest to keep his voice steady.
“I didn’t – don’t need you to do that,” Hijikata growls.
“I don’t fucking care, and you’d do it if you were in my place, too, so don’t fucking fight me on this,” Gintoki snarls.
Hijikata throws his hands in the air in an exasperated gesture. “Fucking fine! And what about everything else?” he asks accusingly.
Gintoki’s gaze flits away from Hijikata’s and finds an interesting spot behind him. He finally takes in their surroundings: they’re standing off to the side of the road, near an alley, the shops around them closed and surprisingly no one walking around, despite Kabukichou’s usual hustle and bustle at this time of the night. Snack House is just around the corner, but he knows that no one inside could’ve heard his and Hijikata’s heated conversation.
“Well, good talk,” Hijikata spits out and turns to leave, taking Gintoki’s silence as a cue to end this conversation.
The panic that shoots through Gintoki at the sight of Hijikata’s retreating back causes him to blurt out, “It’s me!”
The officer stops and turns back to him, a confused frown on his face. “What?”
Gintoki can barely hear himself over his annoyingly thunderous heartbeat in his ears, can barely swallow past the dryness of his mouth, can barely form the words through the fear gripping his mind. He’s so fucking close to losing this man in front of him, he’s so fucking close and he doesn’t want to. He’ll give up on him, he swears he will, but he can’t deal with Hijikata being out of his life completely. He wonders when he’s become this selfish, this desperate, when this bastard got under his skin that the thought of not having him in Gintoki’s life affects him so strongly.
“You haven’t done anything wrong,” Gintoki admits, his voice is shaky even to his ears. “I – I’m the one who has…issues I gotta settle with myself. You – ” he locks eyes with Hijikata and prays to God the other man can see the sincerity in them when he says, “you’ve never disappointed me. Ever. Not a single time,” he swears.
Hijikata regards him for a moment, his eyes searching Gintoki’s face, his frown softens but the confusion – and the hurt, the pain that Gintoki put there – doesn’t leave his features. “What kind of issues has you acting like that around me?” he asks.
“I’ll work it out,” Gintoki promises.
“That’s not what I asked,” Hijikata insists. “These issues have to do with me, so if I’m not being treated like shit for something I deserved, then I think you owe me this.”
“I said I’m working on it, just fucking drop it,” Gintoki growls.
“No,” Hijikata snaps. “You may think you’re unreadable, but I can tell, shithead. I know whatever’s stewing in that rotten brain of yours has to do with me,” he accuses, “and you know what? I bet it has to do with us being soulmates, too. You,” he frowns and looks away, but Gintoki still catches the flash of hurt in his eyes, “you do it often. Look at other soulmates, then look my way and your whole face just. You fucking shut off, like you just remembered something you’re unhappy with.”
The guilt feels like a physical stab to his chest. He didn’t mean for this to happen, he never meant to make Hijikata think like this.
“What are you so unhappy with, to the point where you can’t even hide it properly?” the dark-haired man asks in a low voice. Gintoki says nothing in response and Hijikata tries again. “Is it the woman Hattori talked about? Am I in your way or something?”
“What!? No!” Gintoki denies loudly before his brain even processes the absurdity of Hijikata’s guess. “It’s nothing like that! There’s no fucking woman or any of that crap!”
“Then what the fuck is it!?”
“I said I’ll deal with it, just let it go!” Gintoki yells in frustration.
“And I fucking said no!” Hijikata fires back. “What the hell are you so afraid of, anyway!? You’ve never had trouble bitching at me before, what is it this time?”
Gintoki sighs. “I said, it’s me, I’m the one who needs to fix his shit, it’s got nothing to do with you.”
“It concerns me, and I’m fucking sick of you pulling away,” Hijikata admits. “You seem like you hate it, but for me having you as my soulmate isn’t really the worst thing ever so…” he trails off.
“I don’t hate it,” Gintoki corrects him. “I never cared about having a soulmate, but I…” Gintoki weighs the pros and cons of confessing this to Hijikata and decides to at least give him this much, “I really am fucking glad it’s you.”
“Then what the fuck is it?” Hijikata insists, frustration bleeding into his tone. “What are you so unhappy with?”
“I’m not unhappy with anything,” Gintoki vaguely answers.
Hijikata draws out a long, tired sigh, before letting his eyes search Gintoki’s face and analyze it. And Gintoki knows the dread in his guts is not unfounded, because this bastard looking at him is one of the sharpest people Gintoki’s ever met, and he’s always been more prone to reading Gintoki than most people. As the seconds tick by, Gintoki’s fear of getting exposed increases.
“What are you unsatisfied with, then?” Hijikata asks at last, looking Gintoki dead in the eyes and daring him to look away.
“I don’t know wh – ”
“So you are unsatisfied with something,” Hijikata concludes and Gintoki curses himself for the slip and the bastard for being able to tell immediately. “Yorozuya,” he walks closer, never breaking eye contact and the determination gleaming in his gaze, “what do you want from me?”
Gintoki nearly crumbles at the question because this is it. This is the right question and its answer is everything Gintoki’s been forcing down for over two years. “I want you to let this go,” he answers weakly, voice trembling.
“I won’t let this go. Especially now that I’m this close to understanding what’s going on in your head,” Hijikata informs him and fuck , he’s still stepping closer, they're nearly touching and the bastard’s eyes are boring into Gintoki’s fucking soul and he feels himself losing and he doesn’t know what to do. Hijikata’s eyes, his entire face softens, and he whispers, “What the hell are you so afraid of, Yorozuya? It’s just me.”
Fucking bastard. Fuck him, fuck him and his ability to throw Gintoki into a storm of emotions with just one sentence, just the tone of his voice, just by being him. It’s because it’s you that it’s a fucking problem, you asshole , Gintoki thinks desperately.
“What does that even mean?” Hijikata asks and Gintoki realizes he just spoke that out loud and he hates himself a little more, miraculously.
When he doesn’t answer, Hijikata presses on, “What about me could have you shut off like this? Fuck , Yorozuya you look like you’re seconds away from a fucking heart attack right now, and I don’t know what to do but just – just calm the fuck down, I don’t know what you’re scared of but I won’t – I won’t react badly, okay?” he says in a calming, placating tone, standing back a little, just to give Gintoki enough room to breathe.
Gintoki’s beyond acting like the elephant in the room isn’t there. “You don’t know that. You can’t promise that when you don’t know,” he argues weakly, desperate to get Hijikata off his case.
Hijikata glares and, in one of his fucking grand gestures that Gintoki hates and loves, raises both hands slowly to cup Gintoki’s head in reassurance. “I swear on the Shinsengumi’s name, and my honor that I won’t react badly. I swear there’s nothing you can’t tell me,” he says with so much conviction and honesty and Gintoki wants to give in so fucking badly. Hijikata’s so fucking close, he’s touching him so intimately, he’s looking at him in a way that takes his breath away and he’s only fucking human.
He says nothing, but he knows Hijikata catches it anyway. He blinks at Gintoki’s face twice, face twisted into an unsure frown, like he’s doubting himself. He stares into Gintoki’s eyes longer, and slowly, Gintoki sees the way his eyes widen slightly, his jaw going slack and hears the small gasp that indicates the moment the realization sinks in.
Gintoki feels numb, his head hanging (Hijikata’s hands haven’t moved) and eyes staring at his boots.
He knows Hijikata will start blaming himself and feeling guilty for Gintoki’s feelings and the thought of having to go through that is making him nauseous. But he feels too powerless to say or do anything right now.
“Yorozuya,” Hijikata croaks out, and the hands cupping Gintoki’s head are trembling slightly. “Hey, look at me.”
Gintoki stubbornly keeps staring down, because Hijikata’s had enough going his way for the night so fuck that, he will look wherever he damn well pleases.
“Hey,” he attempts to force Gintoki’s head up with his hands, but he fights it. “Fuck – just – Gintoki, look at me!”
The use of his name stupefies Gintoki enough into letting Hijikata bring his head up and lock their gazes.
Hijikata looks nothing like Gintoki thought he would. There’s no guilt or unease or disgust. There’s none of the things Gintoki thought his feelings would evoke in Hijikata.
The bastard looks fucking hopeful.
Gintoki doesn’t understand.
“Listen, listen here you stupid permhead, I need you to answer me now or I swear to God I will fucking cut your dick and burn it to ashes,” he threatens. Gintoki’s face contorts into a dubious, slightly horrified expression before Hijikata asks, “Gintoki, what do you want from me?” slowly, speaking every word with careful clarity.
His wide eyes are watching Gintoki, there’s something in his expression that looks expectant, anticipatory, pleading him to give the man an honest answer and somehow, promising he won’t regret it.
It’s weird, it’s fucking weird but Gintoki feels the fear recede at the way Hijikata’s looking at him, the way his fingers are slightly shaking, the way he looks like he wants to be standing this close to Gintoki.
“I – ” Gintoki starts, his voice breaking. He clears his throat, swallows and looks at Hijikata again, his eyes probably conveying the question Gintoki leaves unasked: are you sure you want to hear this?
At Hijikata’s determined nod, Gintoki sighs and simply says, “Everything.”
And because the confession at this point feels so liberating, the relief of releasing the emotions bottled up for years is so intoxicating, Gintoki admits again, “I want everything.”
Hijikata closes his eyes and lets out a breathless chuckle with so much relief that Gintoki lets himself hope. The bastard opens his eyes again and gives him the warmest smile he’s ever seen on Hijikata Toushirou’s face.
It fills Gintoki with courage he thought he’ll live his entire life not knowing, and breaks all the restraints he forced himself into for years. “I want you every single way I can have you. I only looked at you like that because every pair of soulmates I know has something that I want with you and every time I looked at you I remembered that you don’t feel the same,” he confesses, words tumbling out of his mouth before his brain even registers them.
“You dumb fucker, who the fuck said I didn’t want any of that? Where have you been every single time I tried to get closer to you? Every single time I tried to show you that I care and I want you around. How are you so fucking stupid?” he reprimands, but the softness of his smile contradicts his harsh tone.
“You’re the dumb fucker, I – I fucking met the woman you’re in love with, what was I supposed to think after that?” he growls. “I – do you understand what I mean by everything?” he demands.
Hijikata frowns, his eyes growing distant for a moment before he focuses on Gintoki again. “I know what everything means,” he answers softly, “I...she still has a place in my heart that I can't give to anyone else. But it doesn't mean – but you need to understand this: I’ve wanted everything too, for so long.”
Gintoki’s shaking hands settle on Hijikata’s waist and bring him closer. “I’ve wanted this before I even knew we were soulmates, fucking mayo-breath, try to beat that.”
Hijikata groans in annoyance, “And yet, I’m still the one who’s trying to kiss you while you talk shit.”
Gintoki leans in the last few millimeters and captures Hijikata’s lips in a searing kiss, pouring out years worth of yearning and desire. His soulmate kisses back just as eagerly, with the same enthusiasm and an equal intensity of emotions to convey to Gintoki. Gintoki pushes deeper and backs Hijikata to the nearest wall, the dark-haired man slides one hand into his hair and another cups his jaw, with his thumb brushing Gintoki’s cheek.
Art by Mechi
Gintoki licks at Hijikata’s lips, his hands roaming over the officer’s body, until he wraps one arm around his waist to bring him even closer, their chests touching, and the other hand cupping the back of his soulmate’s neck, fingers playing with the soft hairs of his nape.
Hijikata opens his mouth and the kiss turns more heated, with tongues and teeth and lips sliding against each other. They barely break the kiss for a second, catching their breaths and looking at each other before diving in again, this time Hijikata boldly grabbing Gintoki and twisting them so he has the Yorozuya boss pinned to the wall and roughly kisses him like there’s no tomorrow before breaking the kiss to pepper his jaw with affectionate pecks and drags his tongue to lick at his neck, before giving a lewd suck to a particularly sensitive spot. Gintoki groans in response, and pulls Hijikata back to kiss him again.
He has no idea how long they stand there, making out in public, but at some point, when Hijikata notices that they’re approaching the point where their indecency can be scandalous and unstoppable, he puts their make-out session to an end.
They remember the party they're supposed to be at and awkwardly decide to head back. Hijikata starts walking in the direction of Snack House and only stops when he realizes Gintoki's not following.
“Oi, what are you waiting for? Let's go.”
Gintoki knows it's laughable to address this now after they swapped spit and all that, but he still asks, “You're not doing this for my sake, are you?” At Hijikata's confused frown, he clarifies, “This...isn't some fucked up guilt-driven decision? You're not just indulging my selfishness?”
Hijikata stares at him in disbelief for a moment before sighing loudly and pinching the bridge of his nose. “You can't be fucking serious,” the dark haired man mutters before stomping towards Gintoki and getting right in his face. “Listen, fucker. I won't stand for you second-guessing this, I won't tolerate you pulling away again out of some misplaced sense of self-deprecation. No, I'm not doing this out of guilt, I'm doing this because I want it. I'm doing this out of selfishness or whatever you call it, so what's so wrong about being selfish once in your life?” he shrugs before giving Gintoki a lopsided smile. “I'm being selfish with you, so you're allowed to be selfish with me, too.”
Gintoki stares at his soulmate, and doesn't mask the affection he's sure is softening his eyes. He smiles back and nods. “I'm not letting you go, y'know,” he warns playfully.
Hijikata smirks back. “You better fucking not, shitty perm.”
And with that, they start walking back to the bar, shoulders touching.
“By the way,” Gintoki starts, smirking at Hijikata, “I’m still waiting for a better birthday present than a shitty bastard on my arm.”
Hijikata gives him an unimpressed look before tapping a finger to his neck. “That’s your birthday present right there.”
Gintoki frowns in confusion. “Wh – your neck?”
Hijikata chuckles before shaking his head. “Your neck, or, the bruise on your neck.”
Gintoki’s eyes widen and his mouth drops open in shock. “Did you – are you for – you bastard!” he says, laughing in disbelief at the asshole’s smugness. “Fuck you, that’s not a present! And since when were you this bold!? I thought you'd be shy or something!”
“I don’t know, to anyone else, you’d look like you’re having a pretty happy birthday,” Hijikata teases. He raises an eyebrow at Gintoki's assumption. “Shy about what? You're so fucking dense that nothing but boldness works on you apparently.”
That is fair, but Gintoki still can't believe the audacity of this fucker. They approach Snack House’s entrance and before Hijikata slides it open, Gintoki claims his lips one last time and whispers in his ears, “Then I better get the rest of my present later,” and pulls back to smirk at his soulmate.
The light flush on Hijikata’s face is already enough of a reward, but the other still whispers back, “Don’t worry, I’ll make sure you have a happy birthday.”
Then he slides the door open and walks in, leaving a dangerously turned on Gintoki behind.
This is already the happiest birthday Gintoki's ever fucking had, but there's no way he'll tell Hijikata that any time soon. He touches the spot the dark-haired man placed a hickey on, and lets out a low, breathy laugh. With a content smile on his (probably bruised) lips, he follows his soulmate back inside to the crowd celebrating his birthday.