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[fic] In Search of a Smile (2/?)

Series: Samurai Warriors Series (3 is permanently in my head now. But I always mix all the games together in my fics.)
Title: In Search of a Smile
Pairing(s): Sakon/Mitsunari
Genre: Drama, Romance, Angst
Rating: T for adult situations and conversations about sex
Warnings: Yaoi. UST. Blatant conversations about sex, and a rather casually phrased death threat.
Summary: A comment by Hideyoshi troubles Mitsunari, leading to a journey of self-discovery that Mitsunari may not be ready for.

This was started... um, awhile ago. I finally finished part 2.




"Most of the land is united already. It won't be long before the rest is ours as well. I would expect everyone to be pretty happy about that. So isn't it curious? How is it that one of the most trusted of my men...never smiles?"

Mitsunari couldn't get Hideyoshi's words out of his mind. Even once he and Sakon had returned to Sawayama, they plagued him. It was true that he rarely smiled. Often the times he did it was more in wry amusement than in true pleasure or joy. He'd never stopped to consider the matter. He enjoyed his work, he was pleased with his accomplishments, he was proud to be one of Hideyoshi's most trusted men. What more could he possibly desire?

"Are you happy, Mitsunari?"

Wasn't pleasure in accomplishments happiness? Wasn't he happy that Hideyoshi's dream was nearly fulfilled? Oh, he was no fool - he knew uniting the land was but the first step. Being strong enough to defend that legacy would also matter. Perhaps that was why he was not as carefree as others? But, that didn't mean he wasn't happy, right?

He contemplated his admittedly small group of...acquaintances? Friends? He was somewhat bothered to realize he wasn't sure of the correct word to use. Both Sanada and Kanetsugu were serious minded as well. Though he had seen them both smile before. If he truly contemplated who seemed the most joyous, it would probably be Keiji or Sakon. Previous ronins, both, ironically. Was that the secret to their apparent happiness? That they had been free to choose their path?

He tried to recall the last time he'd simply chosen to do something on whim. It took a sadly long time to recall it. He then found himself contemplating his structured routine, and wondering when the last time it had changed. It had proved efficient, so he'd never questioned it, yet now...

"How is it that one of the most trusted of my men...never smiles?"

If he was happy with things as they were - if he was truly proud of his achievements, happy with his duties, why was the question bothering him so much? What was his life missing that the innocuous question would plague him weeks after he'd been asked it?

Why did he never smile?

What was he missing that so many others seemed to take for granted?

It was nearly two months after the fateful meeting in the garden that Mitsunari lay restlessly awake one morning, and came to the conclusion that perhaps there was something missing. From his life. Or perhaps even from he himself. Something he'd never find if he spent day after day following his usual routine. Still unsure of what he was doing, or if he truly intended to go through with it at all, he dressed and took his battle fan with him, heading toward the stables.




The sun was high in the sky already, not yet at it's zenith but not far off. Sakon was surprised that Mitsunari had not called for him before now. He suspected that if he was preoccupied, it meant some more reports had come in. He approached the office casually; knocked on the door; Waited to hear either a resigned or irritated invitation to enter. But he was greeted instead with silence. "My lord, it's Sakon."

When the words once again went ungreeted, Sakon found himself slightly alarmed. Despite suspecting it would only displease his lord, he had slid the door open without invitation. The office was empty. Neat stacks of scrolls sat on the desk. The ink was closed; the brush rested untouched on its drying stand.

He could not explain the concern growing within him. There had been little fighting of late. Hideyoshi had the land pretty much united, with only petty squabbles here and there. There was no reason to believe his lord would be in any danger, yet his lack of presence concerned him. One of the older servants was making his way down the hall, and Sakon stopped to question him.

The servant had heard that the lord had not emerged from his quarters yet. The words were both comforting and disquieting to the Yamato Samurai. He could not recall even a single day Mitsunari had slept in. Perhaps he was feeling ill? The decision to risk the wrath of disturbing him was easy enough to make, and he found his feet had carried him to Mitsunari's room almost before he's had time to debate on just what could be keeping him.

His knock was met by silence; the feeling of concern by then had started to turn into alarm. "My lord, it's Sakon." The words were a repeat. And somehow he knew even before he had slid the door open that he'd find the room empty. He treaded the empty space, eyes looking for clues. But there was no sign of a struggle or fighting. The futon was even perfectly rolled up. But something was missing, and the empty space where Mitsunari's battle fan should have been was like a warning bell in his mind.

To his frustration, despite the number of servants in the castle, it took him almost an hour to trace Mitsunari's departure from the stables early that morning. He had his own horse saddled in a matter of minutes.

He could not explain this behavior. It was completely unlike the young man to simply go for a ride when there was work to be done. His concern was compounded by the fact that with his head start, and having no knowledge of where he was heading, it would be nigh on impossible to find him. Or, he reflected, it should have been, when he found the trail of hoofprints. The sun had only reached its zenith when the younger man's horse came into view ahead. His pace was almost casual, and Sakon found himself wondering if Mitsunari had wanted to be found.

"Have you lost your mind, my lord?" The title following the question made the greeting rather ironic sounding.

Mitsunari was completely unsurprised by his appearance. He'd only shrugged at the query. "Maybe."

"What are you doing?" Sakon could almost feel irritated by the uninterested response. He'd been highly alarmed, so to find Mitsunari had simply gone gallivanting off with no notice was slightly infuriating.

"...I wanted to know what it was like." Mitsunari's voice was distant and thoughtful. Sakon's irritation dissolved as he tried to puzzle out his tone.

"What?"

"To choose a road and just travel it. No responsibilities. No stacks of paperwork."

"You'll hate it." Sakon told him. Mitsunari thrived on order. What had inspired this venture exactly, he wondered.

Mitsunari had frowned at his words. "Why can't I decide that for myself?"

Mitsunari had not stopped the forward motion of his horse at all, not that it was moving fast. Sakon had merely matched the pace. The words made him thoughtful, recalling that Hideyoshi had said Mitsunari was fairly young when he'd come into his service. He had no idea where he'd been before that, but since joining it was obvious he'd been a dedicated retainer. Had lived his life in the service of his lord. Had joining Hideyoshi been his choice? Had the younger man ever had a choice about his future?

But that had never seemed to bother him before. In fact his dedication to the Toyotomi was one of the bases for his very existence. On top of that was a thousand thoughts of things that could happen to Mitsunari should he venture alone into the seedier parts of the lands and cities. Oh, heck. There was probably a lot of things his young lord was completely naive about. Sakon was not about to let him risk his life on a whim.

"Being a ronin is not a game." The words were harder than he perhaps intended.

Mitsunari had not responded at first, and they had ridden in silence. "I see. And is that what you'd consider my years of service to Lord Hideyoshi? The battles I've fought in? A game?"

He supposed the reminder that he had taken care of himself long before Sakon had entered the picture could have been couched in harder terms. "In battle one knows who one's enemies are. Alone, out here, it's different."

"You should try navigating the courts."

Sakon couldn't stop the chuckle that emerged. Mitsunari glanced over at him, and he noted something in his eyes. Something was definitely troubling him. But what? "You really determined to do this?"

Mitsunari seemed to hesitate. He turned to look out over the forest. "I just... want to know what it's like."

"Well, if we're going to do this, we have to do it right." Mitsunari sent a confused glance his way, and Sakon made a point of looking his attire over. "No one's going to mistake you as anything but a lord dressed like that...my lord."

Mitsunari seemed to be discomforted by his gaze, and when he looked at his face again, he swore he saw a hint of red across his cheeks. "Oh, so you're going to dress me for the part?"

"Leave it all to me." He felt a smirk curl his lips. "But you have to do me a favor, and leave word at the castle that you're going away. Tell them anything. Tell them you have a mission. Tell them you're going to enjoy yourself. Just so long as there's word. We wouldn't want anyone else to think you've gone missing."

"Is that what you thought?" There was a hint of amusement in Mitsunari's tone.

"I didn't know what to think." Sakon confessed. "Next time you get a sudden notion in your head, can you go over it with me first?"

"It's doubtful you'll have to worry about it again any time soon. I think I can list the spontaneous things I've done in my life on one hand."

Once again, Sakon wished he knew what was behind this venture. But regardless of the reasons, his duty was clear. Keep Mitsunari safe, no matter how hard his lord intended to make the task.




Any other lord, and he would probably have had to go to town to buy something simpler for them to wear on such a venture. Glancing through Mitsunari's choice of attire, Sakon was hit by the urge to go to town to buy him something fancy instead. Most of his clothing couldn't even boast a pattern. A few even showed signs of wear, though they were pieces he hadn't seen him dressed in, they were still in his closet. Good for this venture, but it felt strangely wrong for a well paid administrator. Was he truly so stingy?

"Sakon. I can get ready for a banquet with Lord Hideyoshi faster than this."

"I don't see how, with these choices."

"Meaning what exactly?"

"I think my clothing is fancier. I'm sure it wouldn't kill your wallet to have a few showy pieces."

To his surprise, Mitsunari's expression became strangely disconcerted. "It's not a matter of price."

"Then what is it a matter of?" Mitsunari did not reply to the question right away, and Sakon turned back to the wardrobe. "I am still new in your employ, I understand if you don't trust me with-"

"There was talk."

"Talk? Of what?"

"How I was trying to show everyone up. Who I was trying to impress. Who I might have been sharing a bed with that night."

"Gossip." Sakon looked over at him, but Mitsunari was turned toward the window - eyes distant. He found himself taking in his young lord's appearance again. Pale skin; delicate features; the brilliant shade of his hair. Dressed up, he was probably quite the sight, which would of course cause jealousy in his peers.

"Like I said. Talk."

"Talk and gossip are two different things. After a few times, they'd find something else to-"

"It's not worth the bother. It's unnecessary anyhow."

"So what happened to those fancy outfits? You sold them?"

Mitsunari's face pinched. "Why does it matter?"

"How does a ronin still making a name for himself attract attention from potential masters?"

"You tell me."

"By being a little showy. So. Do I have to buy nice clothing for my lord or is he hiding some somewhere?"

Mitsunari scowled, then pushed between him and the wardrobe to yank up the flooring. "They were almost all presents from Lord Hideyoshi. Of course I preserved them."

Sakon let out a whistle. There was probably a dozen outfits. Expensive fabrics and fine trims. He pulled the first one out, studying the separate pieces.

"Please promise me you aren't going to make me look ridiculous."

"By whose standards?"

'You're purposefully trying to make me regret this. Aren't you?"

Sakon tossed him one of the worn kimonos and a patterned set of hakama. "Start with those."

"So you want fancy accessories, but you're pairing them with a worn out kimono?" There was wry amusement in his tone.

"Welcome to the life of a ronin."

Mitsunari snorted, but Sakon heard the rustle of fabric as he began to change.

"Can you use a sword?"

"Not exactly my weapon of choice. Why?"

"Your fan is a bit..." He paused to find the right word.

"It was a gift from Kanetsugu." Mitsunari was quick to defend it.

"It's recognizable."

Another sigh, then Mitsunari was pushing between him and the wardrobe again, this time to dig a carefully wrapped object out from the clothing. "Will this suffice?" The wrap was quickly tossed aside, and a metal fan was spread out for his inspection. It was smaller than what he carried now, but nicks and a small tear stated that it had seen combat. No words graced either side.

"Anyone be able to recognize this?"

"Lord Hideyoshi. Lady Nene. Hanbei. Possibly Kiyomasa and Masanori."

"Well, we shouldn't be anywhere near them. It'll work."

"So glad you approve." Sarcasm dripped from his words.

Sakon chuckled as the other withdrew. "What are you calling yourself?"

"Calling?"

"I'd imagine you want to go incognito. Should word get back that there was a ronin calling himself Ishida Mitsunari..."

"That cannot happen!"

"Hence a Psuedo name. One you won't have trouble remembering is you?"

"...my childhood name was Sakichi."

"And a surname?"

"...Sawa." There was a tinge of humor to the word.

Sakon chuckled. "And what force did you serve before becoming a ronin?"

"Is so much info necessary? I mean, how nosy do they get?"

"It's rather common to chat about previous masters. What battles you've been involved in. That sort of thing."

"...The Shibata then."

"Might be best to claim you were administration, and only recently became a ronin. In case we run into any other Shibata."

"...fine." He did not sound pleased, but he was making a rather minimum amount of fuss.

Sakon turned to offer some chosen accessories and froze as he found himself staring at the naked curve of Mitsunari's back. Pale, soft skin with remarkably few scars for someone who had in fact seen action on the field, covered a lithe body that was deceptively delicate looking. Unaware he was being watched, Mitsunari finished pulling up the kimono, and reached back to untuck his hair - revealing the back of his neck. Long, unflawed, and extremely inviting.

Sakon forced his gaze back to the wardrobe, and firmly told all the blood running south of his belt that lusting after his lord was a bad idea on many levels.

He wondered how much practice Mitsunari had turning down inappropriate advances by men and women alike. Because, with neither name or title to protect him, he was going to get a lot of offers. Asking about his sexual history was not a topic he was looking forward to broaching with the prickly man. He wondered if a bottle of Sake would help. Or three.




He was going on inspection. No, he didn't need troops, Sakon would be with him. He'd be incognito. He'd ridden out incognito before, though the kimono was a bit more shabby than normal. He'd refused to put on anything "showy" until they'd left Sawayama behind them. When they came to the first crossroads, Sakon had turned to him with a smile. "Well, this is what you wanted. Pick a road, my lord."

"If you keep "my lord"-ing me, we're not going to fool anyone." His tone had been drab, but he'd felt nervous as he glanced up both paths. Pick a road and travel it. No responsibilities. It felt equal parts exciting and terrifying at that moment. He turned his horse down one path, ignoring that his strongest urge was to turn back to Sawayama, and was very aware of Sakon following. He was surprised to find that he found the knowledge soothing.

Though Sakon's reputation well proceeded him, Mitsunari was never one to put stock in other's opinions. He'd formed his own opinion, based upon their previous meeting and his own research. Nor had Sakon disappointed once he had gotten him into his employ. All the same, he'd only truly knew the man for a matter of weeks. He shouldn't have found it so easy to rely on a near-stranger. Shouldn't have felt that his presence was such a calming influence. Yet, he did. There wasn't a logical explanation for it. There was just something about Sakon himself, some part of his very essence, that made him feel safe with him. Sometimes he wondered if that was a good thing.




He chose a small inn that lay along their path, not too near any large town, to spend their first evening out. There were still a few things he wanted to know before the charade got much farther. When he brought out the sake bottles, Mitsunari's look was equal parts resigned and wary. "Not my first choice of how to spend an evening." He commented.

"Isn't this about stepping out of your routine?" Sakon challenged.

Mitsunari hesitated a moment longer before taking a cup. "I'll take that as a challenge." A fire was burning in the center of the private room he'd rented, and they gathered around it, even while opening the door to take in the sight of the woods and night sky.

"I take it you have gotten drunk before?"

In response, Mitsunari emptied the cup before holding it out in a silent challenge. Sakon emptied his own before refilling them both. "I realize I don't have a reputation as a carouser, but just how protected a life do you honestly think I've led?"

"Perhaps that's what I'm trying to figure out."

"I simply prefer to be in control of myself."

"Just yourself?" The words held a teasing lilt, and Mitsunari favored him with scowl. Sakon raised his cup in response, and emptied it. There was a brief hesitation before the younger man met the challenge, draining his own.

"I can outdrink Yukimura."

"Unless his stamina has improved since leaving the Takeda, that doesn't say much. His ninja can outdrink him."

"You got Kunoichi to drink? Keiji tried to get her to drink all night once, and failed."

"It was a long time ago. Shingen was alive then." The death of the Takeda lord had changed Yukimura and Kunoichi both, he'd noted, when meeting them again. It had taken it's toll on him as well, but he'd been older and better prepared for it.

"... Yukimura said once that Shingen was an amazing lord."

There was no hint of jealousy in Mitsunari's tone, or displeasure at the turn in conversation. Sakon wondered what Yukimura had said. It was good for the samurai and ninja both that circumstances had led Yukimura to his friendship with Mitsunari and Kanetsugu Naoe. He'd seemed lost after the fall of the Takeda to the Oda, and Sakon had often expected to hear news of his death, and consequently that of his loyal ninja's. Fate seemed to have intervened, at least so far. Mitsunari was waiting for a response to his statement, and Sakon chose the simplest answer on the subject. "He was."

"... it seems to change a man. The death of his lord." Mitsunari's gaze was distant, his tone thoughtful. He always seemed to have his mind on the future. It was one of the things that gave him hope on his choice of who to serve, but at the same time it worried him. It was just as easy to mess things up by looking too far ahead as it was by not looking far enough.

"Death is change. And it changes all it touches."

"I can't imagine life without Lord Hideyoshi. Even though I know that day will come."

This wasn't where he'd intended the conversation to go when he'd brought out the sake. It was a dark turn indeed. He'd lost two lords himself now, and he did not intend to outlive another. That, though, was not knowledge he intended to share with anyone, including Mitsunari. "Better not to think about it."

"I have to. I have to be prepared for that day. That much I do know."

There was a weight to those words. A hint of things to come. Inevitable things. Hideyoshi's death, when it happened, would weigh heavily on his chosen lord. Both professionally and personally. As far as he knew, Mitsunari had never known another lord but Hideyoshi. From what he'd seen, his feelings for him were built as much on affection as respect. Losing Hideyoshi would be like losing a member of his family. Sakon realized he was not looking forward to watching Mitsunari go through that painful experience. "I hope it's many years in the future."

A wry smile curved Mitsunari's lips, and he raised his cup. "That I'll drink to."

Sakon raised his cup, and they drained their glasses together. Mitsunari held out his cup, and Sakon couldn't help but smile as he refilled it. "When was the first time you got drunk?"

Mitsunari snorted in response. "If you're looking for a story of wild drunken escapades, you're going to be disappointed."

"Oh?"

"The first time I got drunk involved sake bottles Masanori won gambling with older soldiers, a room we thought was private enough at Lord Hideyoshi's manor, a lot of puking, and Lady Nene at her scariest." When his loyal retainer burst out laughing, Mitsunari was tempted to dump his drink over his head. He settled for stealing the sake bottle. "What about you?"

"Meaning?" He hadn't refilled his own cup, and was slightly surprised when Mitsunari did. A lord did not fill a retainer's glass. He wondered if Mitsunari was getting drunk, or simply didn't care about that particular protocol. And if he didn't care, was it because of the particular venture they were on, because he'd promised to hire him as an equal, or because he simply didn't care?

"If you're going to ask personal questions, it only seems fair to return the favor."

"So you want to know about the first time I got drunk?"

"Well, if involves a whorehouse or any number of private activities, please feel free to leave me in the dark."

Sakon chuckled. "Well, I have several stories I could tell you about those kind of drunken escapades-"

"I wonder why that doesn't surprise me-"

"But that wasn't the first time."

Mitsunari paused, his gaze searching. "It wasn't?"

Sakon's smile was tinged with melancholy. "No. That would be the night after my first battle."

"...your first kill?"

"Nineteen kills."

"I see."

He said no more words, and he didn't need to. His tone said that he understood. Mitsunari had seen his share of battles. How had he handled his first kill? Had he, too, drunken away the pain that came with taking a life for the first time? "How many your first battle?"

"...none. I froze."

"Ah."

"Kiyomasa had to protect me. I swear, no matter how many years pass he's never forgotten that. Even though I had more kills than him the next time we took the field together."

"Was that during your second battle?"

"Third."

"So your second battle was your first kill?"

"...it was an ambush. I'd been left in charge of a supply depot, away from the battle, but... the battle found us."

"How many?"

"Twenty-seven."

"Twenty-seven?"

"I did say that."

"You aren't padding those numbers a little, are you?"

"Sakon, I exist on numbers, and there's nothing I hate more than someone padding them or messing with them." Mitsunari scowled at him. "Why?"

Sakon raised his glass. "Cuz that's eight more than me. Nineteen, remember?"

Mitsunari hesitated. "I suppose it is... but defending a depot is different than attacking. I mean-"

"I was defending a supply depot."

The words made Mitsunari freeze. It was strange, like a connection between them. Slightly dismal and morbid, but there. "You were?"

"I was a new recruit. New recruits always get the boring jobs. Only it didn't turn out so boring." Sakon raised his glass. "Twenty-seven. Impressive, my lord."

Mitsunari shook his head, but raised his glass. "You have to stop with the "my lord" if this is going to last longer than a day."

"Nobody's here but us." Sakon reminded him, drinking down his glass.

"You'll say it out of habit." Mitsunari followed suit.

"So I should call you Sakichi?"

Mitsunari choked, and Sakon looked at him with concern. "That's a bit personal, Sakon."

Sakon studied him for a moment. "So I should call you-"

"Sawa."

"Right..." Sakon considered the statement for a moment. "So, did anyone ever call you Sakichi?"

"You're full of questions tonight." Mitsunari frowned at him.

"I'm prone to curiosity. It's my weakness." He offered a grin.

"A few."

"What about Mitsunari? Anyone close enough to you to call you that? Aside from your Lord and Lady Nene, I mean."

"A few." Mitsunari pointedly repeated his answer, and refilled their cups.

"And would those few be merely... close friends?" Sakon phrased the question carefully. Mitsunari had no such qualms.

"If I didn't know better, I'd think you were questioning me about my sexual prowess."

"Let's say you don't know better."

"It isn't an interesting tale either, Sakon. I consider intimate relationships a distraction. And I've never had any inclination toward carousing."

"You're not telling me you've had no experience, are you?" He was rather unnerved at the thought that might be the case, and that would be disastrous where they would be going.

"I didn't say that." Mitsunari's reply was tart. The sour mood didn't hold, however, and he sighed heavily. "Of course I've had sex before. It would have been hard to avoid, wouldn't it?"

"You would have been growing up in Hideyoshi's care around the time of Nobunaga's reign." Sakon mentioned slowly.

Mitsunari glanced at him over the rim of his sake cup. "Your point?"

"Nobunaga was known to appreciate the company of pretty young men."

"Lord Nobunaga was... an unusual man. But my own interaction with him was limited at best, and non-existent at most."

"And others in his court?"

"I had offers." Mitsunari's chuckle was mocking. "Many offers."

"But you weren't interested?"

Maybe it was the sake. Or the atmosphere. The quiet room at the inn that made it seem like they were the only ones around for miles. The night chorus of insects outside the room sang on, and inside the fire crackled in the center hearth. Warm and inviting in the chilly night.

"I was a mature youth. Intelligent, in control. I understood the offers on one level. But on another... well, I guess I wasn't as mature as I liked to think of myself as."

The wry amusement in his voice made Sakon smile, but the amusement faded quickly.

"One night, I went for a walk. And I saw..." His grip tightened on the cup he held - his eyes distant. "I saw more than I should have. I shut myself up in my room for awhile after that. I don't know whether Nene told him to come, or if he somehow guessed what had happened, but Lord Hideyoshi came to see me. He was... gentle about it. Told me that it was my decision if I wanted to be with anyone in that fashion. That he and Nene would never let anyone force such a relationship against my will." He gave a half shrug. "I told him I didn't want anyone to touch me like that. Ever."

Sakon gave him a dubious look. "Ever?"

"I was young." Was Mitsunari's excuse. "Hideyoshi-sama, he told me I'd change my mind. That someday I'd want somebody to touch me. I was determined otherwise. When... when I started to feel those feelings, it bothered me. I didn't want to want anyone's touch. It seemed too much like a weakness."

Sakon watched him carefully. When the silence stretched, he pushed the conversation along gently. "When was your first time?"

Mitsunari glanced down at the sake cup he held, chuckling in a way that spoke more of irony that amusement. "I got drunk one night with another of the younger financial aides and things happened."

"Where's that man now?"

Mitsunari shrugged. "Not sure. I would have nothing more to do with him after that night. A few times I saw him watching me, but he didn't pursue the matter at all."

"Other lovers?"

"There's been a few. A widow I met who ran her late husband's trading business. She later remarried. A petty officer one cold winter night. He died on the field a few days later."

He might as well have been listing off supply carriers, Sakon thought. "Nothing lasting. Nothing with any... real intimacy."

Mitsunari shrugged. "You talk as if that's a problem. Or a tragedy. Ironic, considering your own case."

Sakon glanced at him, torn between amusement and insult. "And what is my case?"

"I'm sure you've had no shortage of lovers. Especially considering how we first met. But, truly, Sakon, it's not as if you have a wife waiting for you at the castle. And I see no lover following alongside you. So how can you be in a position to lecture me about lasting or long term relationships?"

"Perhaps you're right." Sakon's words were thoughtful. "But in my case, it's only because I've never met anyone who captivated me enough to want it. Not because I choose not to have such a relationship."

"By choice or not, it seems we are in the same position." Mitsunari drank deeply from the sake cup, eyes closing briefly.

"Perhaps that is not a bad thing." He heard Sakon murmur, and when he lowered the cup, his retainer had already picked up the bottle to refill their glasses.




There was a sound, almost like a windchime, yet Sakon's instincts told him it was a weapon. He was awake, and reaching for his sword, instantly - scanning the room for intruders or a shadow creeping by the outside wall. There was nothing to see, but the sound came again. Mitsunari turned restlessly in his sleep - clearly trying to awaken despite the overload of alcohol in his system. "Lord Hideyoshi..."

The name and sound connected in his mind, and when he slid open the door he was not as surprised as he could have been by what he found. Hideyoshi was crouched down, too far to cast a shadow on their door, but close enough that the chime as he swayed his staff lightly was distinct to the ear. It was obvious that Hideyoshi was surprised by him emerging rather than Mitsunari, and he glanced past him into the room.

Sakon was hit by the realization that the situation probably didn't look so good a second before Hideyoshi threw him a speculative glance. New retainer; pretty young lord; lots of sake bottles. He had the rather absurd desire to hold up his hands and protest his innocence. Okay, he wasn't completely innocent. He'd had a few lustful thoughts, but he had more restraint than to act upon them.

Hideyoshi strode towards him, and as he lowered himself to his knees, he was half expecting to get bashed by that staff. The other man ignored him, however, and knelt down by Mitsunari instead. "Nevermind, Mitsunari. I figured it out."

Mitsunari relaxed, face clearing. "My lord." His tone was rather petulant, and Hideyoshi chuckled, reaching out a hand to smooth the younger man's hair.

It was a private moment, and Sakon felt very much the intruder. Hideyoshi's gaze was fond, and he realized that while Nene may treat their closest retainers as children, she was certainly not the only one with parental feelings for them. There was more father and son than lord and retainer to the interaction he was now witnessing.

Hideyoshi was up and by his side the next moment - the man was fast, he'd be a tricky opponent on the field - and by the tilt of his head his instruction was clear. Follow.

Neither spoke as they withdrew from the room, moving a safe distance away to be able talk freely.

"I decided to drop by Sawayama for an unplanned visit." Hideyoshi told him. "It's looking great, too. Well, maybe not aesthetically as he hasn't decorated it much, but structurally speaking, excellently done."

Hideyoshi had once built a castle in a day. It was high praise, in truth. Though the one he was praising wasn't present to hear it. No response was clearly expected, and the other man continued.

"Upon my arrival, however, there's no sign of my clever little fox. Off on inspection, they tell me. Incognito - and only taking his new retainer. Stranger and stranger. He usually informs me when he'll be away well in advance." There was a long pause. "You missed your cue, there, Sakon. Now is when you fill me in."

"I would if I could." Sakon chose his words carefully. "But I'm at about as much at a loss as you."

"Now you've really made me curious."

"Yesterday morning, my lord left Sawayama without leaving word. As you can imagine, I was rather alarmed." Hideyoshi said nothing, so he continued. "When I found him, he expressed a desire to get away from it all, so to speak. My duty is to protect my lord, not tell him how to run his life. If he wants to go on a random jaunt to nowhere, all I can do is advise him how best to stay safe."

"Hmmm... so how does getting him drunk come into it?"

"It wasn't exactly my intention to get him drunk. Just loosen his lips a little. I was a bit worried about what might happen if... a certain type of situation-"

Hideyoshi cackled. "Speak plainly. Speak plainly." He gave a wave of his hand, clearly still amused. "You were worried about his reaction to getting propositioned."

Sakon felt himself relax a little at his reaction. "Incognito, it's rather likely."

"Well, I - for one - hope someone does, and he, for a change, accepts. The boy needs some fun in his life." Hideyoshi swung his staff over his shoulders. "Try to see that he has some fun, eh?" He walked past him, heading off down the road. "Oh, but, Sakon..."

There was a change of tone that caught his attention immediately. "Lord Toyotomi?"

"Should anything happen to him under your care..." The threat was left hanging.

"I will accept any punishment you deem acceptable."

"I? Oh, I wouldn't do anything." When he turned to look at him, his face was serious, and his eyes calculating. "But if something did happen to Mitsunari under your care, I can't think of a reason I'd stop Nene either."

"Lady Nene?" The golden clad ninja. Hideyoshi's first wife.

"She's sweet to her friends. Her enemies?" There was a pause to let his meaning sink in before he continued his thought. "She's trained in ways you and I couldn't fathom. Things that make hardened warriors beg for mercy."

This, before him, was the man who had risen to power under a leader as deadly and unfathomable as Nobunaga. The lord set on conquering Japan, and who had that very goal in his grasp. He didn't have to be the best warrior, or the cruelest of opponents - he commanded those who were. All held in check by the charm and cunning of the man before him.

"If anything happens to Mitsunari, it will be over my dead body."

"I'll hold you to that..." Within a blink, the cold expression was gone, and he was smiling again. "Well. Take care. And remember - see that he has some fun!"

Sakon watched his figure for a moment, before returning to the room. Mitsunari was still asleep, and he found himself staring at him thoughtfully, wondering if - for the first time in his life - he'd taken on a task he was inadequate for.


To Be Continued...


So, most stories I've read either portray Mitsunari as extremely virginal, or extremely promiscuous. I'm taking the middle ground. Given the time period, his position, and his lord, I find it highly unlikely that he wouldn't have had at least a few sexual partners. However, I think Mitsunari wouldn't have found it as easy to form an emotional attachment. So that's the take I'm going for.

The history I use here is inspired by a mix of true history and the games, but nothing I use is real history. In fact, if I was, both Mitsunari and Sakon should be married, and I'm pretty sure Mitsunari should even have kids already. However, as none of that is touched on in the game, and I don't feel I could write it in the story without it messing up the story or taking it in a completely different direction, that will not be included in In Search of a Smile.

My favorite scene bar none in this chapter, though, is Hideyoshi and Sakon's scene. Seriously, I don't know how Hideyoshi keeps sneaking in here, but I love how he's turned out.

More to come.



Part 1:
So isn't it curious? How is it that one of the most trusted of my men...never smiles?

Comments

Highly enjoying this! I love your characterization and love your dialog.
Thank-you. Every fic I strive to keep characters, well, in character, but still dig a little deeper, and I'm always glad to hear it seems to be working. I don't think I've ever received a compliment on my dialog before, though. So thank-you very much, I'll try not to disappoint in the upcoming chapters.
Oh!
I definitly had a nice find in here.
I rather like your portrayal of all the characters and their interactions :3

Definitly love how it's going so far, so I'm definitly going to stay tuned *coughsstalking*cough* for new chapters -^^-
I'm glad you enjoyed it, and you like my take on the characters. There will be more chapters, as my goal this year is to finish all the fics I've left hanging. But I am an infamously slow writer...
I enjoyed this a lot! I'm really loving the characterisation here, and the part with Hideyoshi is excellent. It definitely sounds like something he would do :D

So happy to find longfic for this pairing, I'm looking forward to the future chapters!
Thank-you! I'm so glad everyone seems to like how I portray the characters. It's always a relief to me, since you never know. It's one of those things about fanfics, there's all these views of characters and sometimes what you think doesn't align with how other people view them. Which can be both fascinating and endlessly frustrating. I'm really proud of my Hideyoshi, even though he wasn't supposed to be in this fic so much, but doesn't seem to want to go away.

I love Sakon/Mitsunari. And though there's some amazing fics out there, so many either are one shots or unfinished. (Or not in english, for which I rely on translators that lose a lot in translation and many of which are guilty again of being one shots or unfinished.) I really wish there was more, though the fandom seems really quiet lately.
Yes, I think everyone's interpretation of a character is different (even though there may be a lot of overlapping parts) but it's always interesting to see someone else's interpretation, and it's especially great if that interpretation lines up with your own :D

SW fandom seems to have moved to tumblr but fic-wise, there hasn't been much output. So I was really happy to see this fic on my flist!
I'm so in love with this.
Please, please, continue it! Pleaaaase!!!