Characters: Sakata Gintoki, Hijikata Toushirou, Tama, Kagura, Shimura Shinpachi
Disclaimer: Sorachi owns. I only play. You do not sue.
Summary: One afternoon at the Yorozuya, Gintoki commits the unfortunate mistake of lamenting his lack of a meaningful romantic relationship within earshot of the one person who can actually help him with that.
Note: Written for Short Precarious Anecdote Month.
Sakata Gintoki sat down on his couch and poured himself some strawberry milk. "Man, I should date somebody. So much sex appeal going to waste."
Kagura pushed her rice bowl aside with a scandalised expression. "You can't do that, Gin-chan, you're the main character."
"I know, isn't it unfair?"
Shinpachi looked up from the Terakado Tsuu photobook he'd been browsing with extreme reverence. "What are you guys even talking about?"
"You know nothing, Pattsuan," Gintoki said. "I'm the main character -- no matter who I end up with, there are going to be pissed-off fans, so the bigwigs frown upon that kind of thing."
"You're seriously blaming your inability to get a girlfriend on the higher-ups? That's pathetic even for you, Gin-san."
"Look at any Jump manga," Gintoki protested. "If the main character's shacking up with somebody, it's either the point of the manga -- like Mashiro in Bakuman: he became a mangaka so he could marry what's her face -- or it happens at the very end, but usually not even then. Have you seen the last chapter of Reborn? That loser even took off all his clothes, and he still didn't get to score."
"That was just the Dying Will Bullet! How perverted to you think the editors are?"
"They also totally made him doubt his feelings for the girl he had a crush on from the start by showing that this other girl was also cute," Kagura said. "Why are you dummies giving me those looks? Everyone knows young girls my age were the actual target demographic for that manga."
Gintoki decided not to dignify that with a response and finished his milk instead. "Maybe I should give this online dating thing a try."
Shinpachi adjusted his glasses. "Wasn't Sacchan going on dates with every single guy who posts a personal ad in hopes that it's you?"
"Good point," Gintoki said, dejected. Thwarted at every turn.
"What about Tsukky?" Kagura asked. "She likes you."
Gintoki shook his head vigorously. "Are you kidding? I accidentally grabbed her boob once and my ears are still ringing from the beating she gave me. I don't want to know what'll happen if I try to feel her up on purpose."
"Maybe you should try a little conversation before you feel people up, Gin-san. You're such a Neanderthal." Shinpachi slid the photobook back in its protective cover and put it aside.
"My mommy said you might as well let men feel you up since they're going to do it anyway," Kagura put in.
"The more you talk about your mom, Kagura-chan, the more I become convinced her life was indescribably awful," Gintoki said. "If somebody tries to feel you up without your permission, you just tell me about it, all right?"
Tama, who had been standing in the corner waiting for Gintoki to cough up the rent money, spoke up. "Gintoki-sama, I couldn't help overhearing your conversation, since I'm right here in the room and my sound receptors are in perfect working order."
"Right, we've established that you overheard us," Gintoki said. "Let it be noted that we've also established that I'm not giving you any money."
"I might have a solution to both problems," Tama said.
"Oh?" Gintoki turned to her. "I'm listening."
"If Gintoki-sama has a life partner, that life partner should assist with living expenses, isn't that correct?"
"Listen here, I don't want to date a person for money," Gintoki snapped. "If I wanted that, I'd just become a host."
Shinpachi snorted. "Like anyone would hire a host who unconcernedly picks his underwear out of his butt wherever he pleases."
Tama stared at Gintoki.
"Augh, fine!" he said, got off the couch and walked over to the desk, where he opened the top drawer. "Here. I was saving it for Kagura's birthday present but if it'll stop you giving weird advice, here's the damn rent."
Kagura made a noise like an overheating tea kettle. "Look what you've done, nasty robot girl. Now I won't get a birthday present, you rustbucket."
"He was clearly lying, Kagura-chan," Shinpachi said. "He's just saying that to turn you against Tama-san. He would've blown it all on pachinko."
"You don't know that!" Kagura protested, leaping at him.
Gintoki, being a very wise adult human being, kept his mouth shut.
"Thank you for the rent payment, Gintoki-sama," Tama said, hiding Gintoki's emergency pachinko fund in her apron pocket. "Would you still like me to run my analysis and find out who is the best suited to be your romantic partner?"
"You can do that? You weren't just bullying me for money?"
Tama nodded. "My data bank has extensive information on everyone who's ever appeared in this anime. I can compare personality traits along several hundred axes and determine a perfect match."
Gintoki looked at Kagura and Shinpachi, who both nodded eagerly. Gintoki took that as encouragement, though maybe Shinpachi was only nodding because Kagura's foot was striking rapidly at the back of his neck.
"Okay, sure, as long as you promise not to look at the money thing," Gintoki said. He was kind of curious, really. Robot-matched dating. There could be profit in this if he could figure out how to keep this from Otose, who would never let Tama have a part-time job.
"Understood," Tama said. "I will exclude matters of financial security from my analysis. Please stand by."
She closed her eyes and remained still and quiet for so long that Gintoki began to wonder if she hadn't accidentally shut herself down -- and if she had, that was her own damn problem. She'd better not expect them to remember the start-up password; that was seasons ago.
Tama's eyes opened. "Now printing," she said.
She reached into her cleavage and pulled out a photo of Hijikata Toushirou, Vice-Chief of the Shinsengumi.
"Man," Gintoki grunted, sitting down at the table inside the family restaurant. "My throat still hurts from laughing yesterday."
A waitress walked up to the table. "What will it be? Oh, it's you. I'll be right back with your parfait."
Gintoki didn't have enough money for a parfait -- he had meant to order the more modest custard with whipped cream -- but he'd just blame it on the waitress refusing to take his order and get a free parfait out of it. Win, win.
"Yorozuya!" someone roared, and suddenly Gintoki was hauled up by the front of his shirt and staring into the enraged face of one Hijikata Toushirou. Considering yesterday's events, he couldn't help it and started laughing again, but also crying a little because his throat really did hurt like a motherfucker.
"What the hell's so funny? Why are you sending robots to the headquarters with indecent proposals?" Hijikata spluttered, shaking Gintoki.
"I'm sending robots?" Gintoki choked out, throwing Hijikata off. "Tama came up with that all on her own, so don't blame me. I don't know why she decided to tell you about it -- why are you so angry, anyway?"
"Because she marched into the Shinsengumi mess hall and announced the result of her so-called perfect matching to every single officer on the goddamned force!"
Gintoki patted his shoulder, snickering. "There, there, Oogushi-kun. She's a robot, so she can't help it."
"Don't console me, asshole! And I'm not Oogushi-kun!"
"I'm glad you have decided to take my advice, Shinsengumi officer-sama," Tama said from a respectful distance behind Hijikata.
"WHY ARE YOU HERE?" Gintoki and Hijikata demanded, rounding on her.
"I have come to follow up, Gintoki-sama, Shinsengumi officer-sama."
"I'm the one who follows up!" Hijikata screeched. "Why are you stealing my job? And why are you calling me a Shinsengumi officer? I'm the vice chief, and I have a name!"
"My apologies, Vice Chief-sama, I have three names on record for you: Hijikata Toushirou, Oogushi-kun, and Mayora 13. I am never sure which one is correct." Then, in a less apologetic tone. "I see that you have already had a date."
"What part of this looks like a date to you?" Gintoki complained.
"You have entered a family restaurant and exchanged passionate words," Tama said. "According to my data bank, that is one possible configuration for a date."
"Your data bank needs a spring cleaning," Hijikata said.
"Be that as it may," Tama said, and two massive cattle prods slid forward out of the crooks of her elbows. "You will now proceed to a love hotel and consummate your new relationship."
"I don't think so," Gintoki said.
The cattle prod nearest him said, in a pleasantly melodious female voice, "Changing mode to Lethal Eliminator."
It began to glow green and emit cool sci-fi light effects.
"Tama-chan? Tama-chan? I know Shinpachi's not here but you can't just plagiarise from a completely different production studio; even I know that!"
"Please proceed towars the doors, Gintoki-sama, Vice Chief-sama."
As they exited, Gintoki cast a forlorn glance at the parfait currently being carried to the table he no longer occupied. The cattle prod in his side buzzed menacingly.
"Why is there a love hotel one block down from a family restaurant?" Hijikata asked as they rode up to the fifth floor in an outhouse-smelling elevator.
"You're in Kabukichou," Gintoki returned. "This isn't your mama's Edo, dipshit."
"Please don't call your life partner cruel names, Gintoki-sama," Tama said.
"Who's a life partner?" Hijikata snarled. "The women in your life are really scary," he added after a poke with the cattle prod as they left the elevator.
"Here we are," Tama announced, pushing them into a cramped, poorly lit room that smelled of disinfectant and consisted primarily of a bed.
The door shut behind them. The lock clicked into place. "I've hacked into the hotel's booking system and registered this room to Oogushi-sama," she said through the door. "You've got an hour."
"Let's just sit here for a while, then we'll tell her we did it," Gintoki said. "She's a robot, she can't tell the difference."
"Good plan," Hijikata said. Which marked the first and probably last time that he would ever admit that a plan of Gintoki's devising was good.
They sat down on opposite edges of the bed and stared in different directions. With great determination.
Despite himself, Gintoki kind of started wondering what would be happening if they'd actually ended up here of their own volition. Now that he thought about it, Hijikata wasn't even that bad-looking for a tax-thieving dog of the shogunate. But of course Gintoki wasn't going to think about that. Besides, if he was going to take Hijikata to a love hotel, he'd go to a nicer one.
Er. Not that he would take Hijikata to a love hotel.
Five extremely slow minutes later, Tama knocked on the door. "I detect no measurable changes in either of your heart rates. The average healthy human male is supposed to take 5.4 minutes to reach orgasm. If you would like some sexual wellness aids in order to consummate your relationship, you may find them in the bottom drawer on the right side of the bed. I cannot vouch for their hygienic safety, however."
Gintoki looked at Hijikata, sizing him up. "Should we just do it?"
Hijikata's face turned crimson. "Of course we shouldn't, are you insane? Besides, have you even done it with a guy before?"
"None of your business," Gintoki muttered. Wait, why did he say "even"? Does that mean--?
Hijikata was gaping at him. "Wait, you have?"
Gintoki rolled his eyes. "Look, we were young and horny and Takasugi's kind of handsome, so..."
"You fucked Takasugi?"
"Erm, not exactly..."
"Forget the details, when the hell did you manage that?"
"It was during the war, you bastard! We were trapped in a cave during a lightning storm--"
"Trapped in a cave? What were you in, a Naruto fan fiction?"
Tama's voice broke in. "Is either of you experiencing erectile dysfunction?"
"That's it, I've had enough," Gintoki snarled, striding towards the door. "Stand back, Tama." He pulled his bokutou out and smashed the lock on the door, kicking it open. "You can't just force people to like each other, no matter how compatible you think they are!"
"I don't understand why it's necessary to like each other," Tama said. "Sexual congress is an enjoyable activity, is it not?"
"It's enjoyable if you're not with some mayo-obsessed asshole!" Gintoki said, glaring as Hijikata exited the room. Why did he say "even"? Doesn't that imply that he was already assuming he's the more experienced one here?
"But it is not logical to expect that people who become chemically infatuated will always feel that way. It is much more prudent to establish relationships based on overall compatibility," Tama insisted.
"There's nothing prudent about love," Gintoki said. "Let's go home, Tama. Sorry for the trouble, Oogushi-kun."
"...yeah, whatever," Hijikata mumbled, slinking off towards the stairwell.
"The act of vandalism at the love hotel appears to be an isolated incident," Ketsuno Ana chirped, bouncing up and down excitedly in front of the scene Gintoki had fled not an hour ago. "The police have no leads at this time, as the name under which the room was registered appears to have been fictitious."
Ketsuno Ana or not, he really didn't want to look at that. "What a slow news day. Who gives a shit about some seedy hotel. Right, Kagura-chan?"
"Shh," Kagura said, watching the report with great interest. Shinpachi was back to staring at his Terakado Tsuu photobook and ignoring reality. Reality in which a glasses-wearing fan club president would never win the affections of a megastar, and a former Joui fighter would never get along with a Shinsengumi vice-chief, statistical analysis and compatibility be damned.
Now why on earth would that make Gintoki feel maudlin? Had Tama's interference possibly affected the way he looked at Hijikata? No, no, no way in hell. So what if they were compatible? That didn't mean anything. People who were too much alike could never get along; everyone knew that. Everyone!
What did Hijikata mean by "even"?
"Gin-chan, the time sale on toilet paper is starting in thirty minutes," Kagura said. "We should go now or we'll have to fight old ladies for it, like last time."
"Let's give those old ladies a break," Gintoki said, rising. "Are you coming, Shinpachi?"
Shinpachi put the photo-book back in the cover with a long-suffering sigh. "If I don't, you'll just yell at me next time we run out of toilet paper, since it's one package per customer, right?"
"Right you are," Gintoki confirmed as they filed out to put their shoes on.
He spotted Hijikata and Okita skulking near an alley a few blocks from the Oedo Mart. Okita darted into the alley, and Hijikata was about to follow when he noticed Gintoki.
Their eyes met for an instant, and they both looked away just as quickly. There was something really embarrassing about having spent fifteen or so minutes in a sleazy hotel room together while a robot encouraged you to have sex, all right?
Kagura and Shinpachi were walking ahead of Gintoki now, and he hurried after them.
Gintoki stopped. "What?"
"Let's go out for a drink sometime."
Gintoki turned to look at him. "A drink or more like a date?"
"I dunno," Hijikata said, averting his eyes again.
"Are you buying?"
Hijikata snorted as he looked back up at Gintoki. "Of course I'm not."
"Gin-chan! Buy me a fish!" Kagura yelled from down the street. She was pointing to a sign he couldn't read from this far.
"Learn to fish and catch one, brat!" Gintoki yelled back. "Any time you want," he told Hijikata, walking away to check out Kagura's sign.
He didn't understand why he suddenly felt better about-- well, about everything. Which made no sense, since he hadn't even been feeling bad in the first place.
He decided not to dwell on it. Some things were just best left unexplained.
Like cattle prods.