Those Who Fall

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December 10, 1867

The snow was falling silently outside while Okita sat up in his futon and coughed terribly inside his room. After waiting for a moment to make sure his latest painful brush with almost coughing up one of his own lungs subsided, he removed the small vial of Ochimizu that Nagumo Kaoru had left behind from his sleeve and stared at it. She had claimed it could cure his illness, but...

"!" Okita quickly hid the vial when he heard the sound of approaching footsteps and a familiar silhouette appeared on the other side of his door.

"How are you feeling, Souji?" Kondo asked as opened. "Hey, now! You need to stay lying down," he chided Okita as he entered the room and kneeled down beside his futon, placing his hands on his shoulders. "Your body's freezing cold."

"I'm all right," Okita said, smiling wryly as Kondo immediately began to remove his own haori to give to him.

"No, this won't do," Kondo insisted as he placed the warm haori over Okita's cold shoulders. "Here. Cold causes all kinds of illnesses. You don't want to be scolded by Miyagawa-san again, do you?"

"What's he done that he'd need scolding for?" Sumiko asked as she popped her head into the room, alerting them to her presence. Chizuru smiled wryly as she stood behind her friend and bowed in greeting to them. They had just been on their way to check on Okita when they overheard the tail end of their conversation. "Ah, it's freezing in here! Why didn't you light the hibachi?" Sumiko asked, furrowing her brow in disapproval as she crossed the room to light the charcoal brazier and warm up the room for him. Kondo smiled as he watched and turned back to Chizuru.

"Ah, Yukimura-kun. Sorry, but could you bring a cup of hot tea?" he asked.

"Yes, that's a good idea, Kondo-san," Sumiko said, nodding in approval. "If  you don't take better care of yourself, I'll make you some leek and bak choi soup, if you don't behave yourself," she threatened, earning a grimace from Okita at the mere thought. She'd do it, too.

"Hai," Chizuru said, smiling. She bowed politely and left to make Okita some hot tea to warm him up.

"This smells like Kondo-san," Okita commented with a small smile, enjoying the warmth of the haori.

"It smells!?" Kondo asked, alarmed, as he picked up the sleeve and sniffed it to make sure it wasn't too offensive.

"Pfft, haha," Okita chuckled. That was typical Kondo-san. He was too nice.

"What's so funny, Souji?" Kondo asked, confused.

"Nothing, really," Souji replied with a smile despite the pain he was in from laughing with his sore lungs. "But that's one thing I like about you,  Kondo-san."

"A thing you like? My smell!?" Kondo asked, bewildered.

"Ahaha!" Okita laughed, while Sumiko smiled wryly at the heartwarming scene. She could tell Kondo was like a father to Okita from the way he was smiling, and Kondo's lost expression was priceless. It felt like it had been ages since she'd seen last Okita smile like that.

"Kondo-san. It'll be time to leave soon," Hijikata announced when he spotted the commander through the open doors.

"Yeah," Kondo said, smiling as they turned to face him. Hijikata smiled slightly at the sight of Kondo sitting next to Okita while wearing his kimono. The two of them really looked alike like that, with Okita imitating the commander's hairstyle.

As Kondo left with Hijikata to prepare to leave to attend the war council at Nijo Castle, Chizuru returned with a cup of hot tea on a tray. Okita was quietly sipping his tea when he noticed the looks on the two girls' faces.

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