He re-closes his kimono a second time, third, pale hands against a dark-blue weave. Carabet girls press into his sides, giggle into his sleeves while he says again, again, /I'd rather you not/.

The night wears on.
Hijikata's disgusted expression wears itself into the crinkles of his unlit cigarette. His everyday-wear is tied up at the sleeves; a weary, grey-blue fabric bunched together by thin twine. "You /live/ like this?" he asks Gintoki, whose eyes (pausing in yet another rest on the criss-cross of Hijikata's back) slide to the side in some semblance of embarrassment.

"No, s'not usually this bad." Arm raising to scratch himself at the neck, sleeve limp at his waist. "It's just that we had, y'know, like ten people under that kotatsu for days."

"Yeah right. You're so poor you don't even have ribbon."

And Hijikata bends down, the hesitant tinkle of a neighbor's windchime filtering through the milky paper of the window. Ever a traditional family, the Anything-Everythings had yet again given up on affording glass — and the pale muscles of Hijikata's arms, brushed faint-yellow by the sunlight, flex slightly as he picks up yet another crumpled comic magazine.

The twine presses more firmly into the back of his shoulders.

"I saw you at the cabaret the other night," says Gintoki, leaning against the doorway, and on second thought the wall. "So you don't go there for the women, eh?"

"...You tellin' me you /would/?"

"Hah! Those things're more like monsters'n women." A pause. "Anyway, there's only one woman for me 'n that's Ketsuno Ana."

Hijikata straightens up, hands moving to press against his own lower back. "Funny, there's only one woman for me as well, and she's similarly unattainable."

"What, Hot Sauce Sis? Prob'ly the only chick you've ever known? Who died without as much as a single sweet word from your sour liddle lips? As if that's love!"

"You're one to talk! You say you've got the hots for some two-bit weather girl, but what really turns your crank is — !" He stops himself just in time, flushing, looking away. "I mean... well."


"Not that it's any of my business, but even her /name's/ 'ketsu no ana', Gintoki."

"I can't help what she's named; her whole family's naming sense is screwed up. Your point is?"

He watches Hijikata's hands clenched at his sides, the diverted gaze, the curve of his bare ankle.

"...I mean you're probably a little too violet, Gintoki."

He smiles. "You're projecting, Hijikata-kun."

"No no, I... look, s'not just that. The way you... treat women ain't normal. Ain't normal for a guy who, y'know, has /those/ kinda thoughts." He's looking increasingly uncomfortable, patting himself down, thoughts towards the entryway for his jacket. "Hey, lemme smoke."

"Not in the house — and by the way, there's a reason why I hardly ever visit your goddamn headquarters."

"Fine, but come out with me to the balcony then."

Gintoki moves, just slightly. Hijikata's hands are trembling in front of him.

Gintoki and Hijikata are drinking in the corner of the garden when Ketsuno Ana finds them,