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narutogoodfic

[Fic] Pain in the Butt

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Oct. 17th, 2006 | 05:57 pm
posted by: nezumiko in narutogoodfic

Title: Pain in the Butt
Authors: nezumiko and kilerkki
Rating: PG-13
Warnings: blood, language, and some innuendo
Genre: Buddyfic
Status/Worksafe or Not: Complete & worksafe!
Wordcount: 9000 words
Note: This is an RP log based loosely on the Scarlet Spiral universe but not quite fitting in there... Which is why we decided to post it here. Also because we're feedback whores. Extra paragraph breaks indicate a shift in POV, but since there's only the two of them it shouldn't get that confusing.




Pain in the Butt
by Kilerkki and Nezuko


It wasn't until after they'd gotten away from the scene of the skirmish and were safely ensconced in a nice little hideout in some unsuspecting industrialist's machine shop that Genma noticed he was bleeding.

"Shit, Rai, look at my leg. Did I cut it or something?" he asked.

He twisted around trying to see the back of his thigh and grabbed at it with one hand. And damn but that made it start hurting. Right on the seat, really, which was just, he hoped, referred pain. Because who ever heard of a ninja getting their bum cut? Really now.


"Hmm?" Raidou was rigging up the last wire of the last trap to alert them if anyone even approached within five feet of the door of the machine shop; he turned from anchoring it just in time to see Genma twisting around in some peculiar imitation of a contortionist, as if he was trying to check out his own--

Raidou blinked. The light streaming in from the high smokey windows wasn't particularly good. But it was good enough for him to see the dark splash on the back of Genma's trousers. "You got a weird way of wetting yourself, if you didn't," he commented. "Hold still, idiot."


"I didn't wet myself. Gyah," Genma said, exasperated. When Raidou prodded at the wound he flinched and swore. "Dammit, what the hell are you doing to my butt? Don't make it worse!" He twisted around again and tried to see what Raidou was doing, only succeeding in nearly toppling onto his friend.

"Ow ow ow, what the hell? Is there something in it or something?"


"You definitely got something in here," Raidou said, amused in spite of himself. "And deep. Look, hold--" He caught Genma again as the other shinobi tried unsuccessfully to inspect the seat of his own trousers once more. "Less you got more cat in you than human, there's no way you're gonna be able to see it. So just hold still. You're gonna start knocking stuff over in a second."


Genma sighed and straightened, leaning against a dusty drill press while Raidou crouched next to him and poked at the wound some more. He could feel the blood seeping stickily down his leg now, and what had been a slightly annoying burn had become a sharp and insistent stabbing sensation.

"Well, how bad? Can you get it out?" he asked. "And are my pants in the way?"


"F'I knew you a little less, I'd've suspected you of rigging this," Raidou said dryly, purloining Genma's med-kit from the pouch on the back of his belt. "I can't get anything; probably too far in." He set the med-kit out on the dusty floor and flicked through it. "You got tweezers in here? Won't help much anyway... You're gonna have to drop your pants."


"I've got a needlenose pliers in there, use that," Genma answered. "And if I was gonna rig it so I could get you to tell me to drop my pants, I'd make it so I wasn't hurt too bad to enjoy it, dammit." His undid his belt then unfastened the slim-fitting uniform trousers and pushed them off his hips, flinching when the fabric pulled away from the cut.

"So how bad is it? What the hell happened, anyway?" Genma asked, without waiting for Raidou to really have had time to look. He twisted again despite Raidou's admonitions. "Can you see anything yet?"


"Briefs, blood--dammit, Genma, if I need to tie you down I will. Or else you're gonna end up getting a pair of pliers where you really don't want 'em to go." Raidou scowled for principle's sake; Genma couldn't see him anyway, but he really wasn't going to be fiddling around with--in his position, without going on record as Not Enjoying It.

The blood ran from the top of Genma's thigh down nearly to his knee, though it'd smeared and streaked where his trousers had rubbed. The point of origin was fairly clear, though, with an alarming large stain spreading across the right buttock of Genma's briefs. Raidou sighed and set the pliers down long enough to run a hand through his hair.

"Drop 'em."


"You're kidding, right?" Genma said. "No one would ever believe us if we told 'em you threatened to tie me up and demanded I strip off my briefs for you." He chuckled, then turned his head to glance at Raidou's scowl.

"Oh gods, you're serious." Genma said with surprise. When Raidou's frown deepened Genma's own face fell. "Alright, alright. I'm going." He gave Raidou one more look, almost as if to be sure the other man really meant it, then pushed his briefs down as well.

"Fuuuuuuuuck," he whined. "It's from that bomb thing, isn't it?"


"Gotta be." Raidou managed not to wince in sympathy when Genma was looking, at least. By the amount of blood, and the area it covered, more than one chunk of shrapnel had to have embedded itself deep in the muscle-layer. He'd thought they'd both been out of the blast radius by the time that bomb had gone off... But Genma had been covering his back, and Raidou had heard him make a faint grunt, as if of surprise, when the world behind them had exploded and they'd both been hurled nearly off their feet. Before their ears had stopped ringing the enemy'd been upon them again, though; this was the first chance they'd had to stop since then, and the fighting and running they'd done had probably just worked the shrapnel in further.

Damn.

He pulled his canteen out of his own pouch, splashed some water into his cupped hand, and set about trying to wash the clotting blood off the back of Genma's leg. "Tell me when it hurts most, 'kay? I can't tell how much or where, yet."


"'Kay," Genma agreed and gritted his teeth. "Man, I can't believe I didn't notice before. Guess I was just having too much fun playing with those idiots." He flinched hard when Raidou's hand passed over one of the embedded fragments, and couldn't quite stifle a little yelp. "There. It hurts there," he said, hands tightening into white-knuckled fists on the tool he was leaning on.

"You didn't take any, right?" he asked. "I should check your back, too."


Raidou shook his head--stupid, since Genma couldn't see. "I'm fine. Just scratches." And a little more than scratches, where a kunai bit into his biceps, but that was nothing worse than he'd get in sparring. He'd come off easy on this mission, especially given that he was usually the one to get injured. "Looks like your karma-stuff's rebounded on you."

He prodded the place where Genma had indicated pain once more, and this time he felt the slight hardness under the skin, just above the crease of buttock and thigh. He really would need those pliers. But he paused as he picked them up, scowling a little more thoughtfully. "You gonna be okay? We've gotta keep it down..."


"I'm fine," Genma said tensely. "Not gonna scream like a girl or anything." His breath hissed sharply between his teeth when Raidou pushed at the flesh, trying to expose the embedded shard. He wasn't going to scream, no, because that lacked dignity. Curse though, definitely curse.

"Karma's a bitch, but if I'm getting it in this lifetime it ought to be for something bad I did in a previous one. I don't even want to think what I'm coming back as after this one. Probably another ninja."


"So you were prolly a serial killer in your previous life?" Raidou asked as cheerfully as he could manage, considering that he was currently digging around in the raw mess a shard of shrapnel had left when it tore into his best friend's rear end, trying to extract said shard of shrapnel. His fingers were already getting slick with blood. Dammit, if he screwed around here much longer Genma was going to bleed to death from shrapnel in his ass...

"Got it!" He eased the wedge-shaped chunk of scrap steel out triumphantly. It was nearly an inch long. This time, Raidou didn't do so well at suppressing the wince.


Genma's legs trembled and beads of sweat stood out on his tense upper lip. He bit down on the senbon he held between his teeth as fiercely as if he were trying to snap the metal in half, and he whimpered. To hell with dignity, this hurt!

"I never thought I'd see the day when I wanted to puke from having a cute guy playing with my ass," he said, in a voice that rang just a little false. He panted and chewed his needle and swallowed a few times.

He could feel warm liquid running down his leg and seeping into the cloth that was bunched around his knees. "Let me see it. Is that the only one? And shit, I'm bleeding like a stuck pig, aren't I?"


"Go ahead and puke," Raidou gritted through clenched teeth. Why couldn't it have been the shoulder, or the calf, or--really anywhere without so many nerve clusters and quite so much flesh for a hungry piece of metal to sink into? Anywhere else, the shrapnel would've hit bone and stopped...

Or else hit organ, and kept going, and that was an image that didn't even bear thinking about.

He wiped his bloody pliers and fingers off on the thigh of his trousers, and took a deep breath, and laid a steadying hand on the bunched muscles at Genma's waist. "Looks like just one more. Hold still; it'll be over soon."


"I don't think you mean that," Genma said. "If I start retching it'll probably make me move around too much. S'not that bad, anyway." He leaned his forehead against the cool metal of the drill press and smelled dust and oil, and the tang of blood. "I'm just being a baby. Hell of an embarrassing place to get hurt and all."

He stood as still as he could manage while Raidou fished around for the other shard. "Just yank it the hell out if you find it. You need a flashlight or something? Take the one in my pouch."

He hoped Raidou really was nearly finished, though. The last thing either of them needed was him wimping out and passing out. Especially over something as altogether stupid as a piece of metal in his butt.


"'m fine," Raidou said, wriggling the pliers around just once more. This piece was closer to the surface, which he sure hoped meant it was smaller, or at least hadn't worked in quite so far. The light was bad, down here between several giant and nameless pieces of machinery (if they had names, he didn't know and didn't care), but he was working more by feel than by sight anyway. And he'd have needed an extra hand or three to hold a flashlight.

Besides, he was nearly-- There. Done. A slender sliver slid cleanly out of the abused flesh; more blood followed, enough that Raidou dropped both pliers and shrapnel in his haste to rip off a wad of bandage from the med-kit's roll and press it to the wound. He swore in a strained voice. "There's no artery back here, is there? You're bleeding pretty bad."


"There's arteries everywhere," Genma said. "Is it pulsing out, or just steady? There's the gluteal artery and the hypogastric artery, but both should be too deep for that to have penetrated, but there are smaller ones that could be hit." He shifted a little, trying to take the weight off his right leg.

"How the hell are we gonna bandage this? Damn, feels like you ripped a hole in my ass." If it was really bleeding a lot, they'd have to do something. Maybe cauterize it, but that would hurt like the devil and wasn't necessarily easily pulled off.

How much could you really bleed from a cut ass anyway?

"Least it stayed in the muscle and didn't hit anything I actually care about," Genma said, trying for lighthearted but only achieving somewhat forced-sounding and tense.


"Shrapnel ripped the hole," Raidou retorted, holding the wad of bandages to the wound one-handed while he unrolled more, pinned the loose end with his knee, and tore. The first layer of bandages were already soaked through; he switched handfuls quickly, trying to maintain pressure. "Bleeding's steady, though." Which meant probably non-arterial, which meant they could probably stop the bleeding and patch Genma up at least well enough to last until they got home...

Except there was no way he was going to be walking home with one non-functional leg. Not soon, at least. Well, they had a fairly decent little den here; the sign on the front door of the shop had said it was closed for the weekend, which should give them at least another twenty-four hours of recovery time. And they'd made damn sure their enemies weren't going to be following them here, or anyone anywhere...

He risked another look beneath the pad of bandages; the bloodflow was slowing down. He didn't bother trying to hold back his sigh of relief.

"Good news, Genma. I think you're gonna live."


"Oh good, I was worried," Genma said, and let out a small sigh of his own. "I didn't think I could face having cause of death on the mission report being 'Shiranui had his ass blown off.'" He swallowed again, and leaned more heavily against the machine. "You wouldn't have done that to me, though, right? You'd make up something less stupid for the report."

He rummaged in a vest pocket and produced a roll of elastic bandage. "Can you use this? How in hell's name are you gonna bandage it? Or do I just need to sit on gauze until it stops bleeding now?"


" 'Shiranui sustained severe shrapnel wounds and nearly bled to death before being saved by Namiashi's courageous efforts,' " Raidou said promptly. "Told you I don't ever intend on writing your cause of death." He leaned around Genma to snag the roll of elastic bandage, then rocked back on his heels, gazing doubtfully at the slow red leak into the handful of bandaging still pressed over the wound. "That's a damned awkward place, though."

Medical tape wouldn't hold a bandage on, if they had to go on the move; they'd need some way to anchor it. But if they taped a layer of bandages over the wound, then used the elastic bandaging to hold it on...

"Here." He grabbed Genma's hand, guided it around to press against the wad of bandages. "Give it plenty of pressure. I'm gonna work out a better one back here."


"'Kay, how much... Shit, Raidou, there's a lot of gauze here. And ewww. Am I really bleeding that much? These are wet." Genma pressed the squishy handful of bandages, bent over in what could only be described as the most awkward of crouches. He looked at the floor, where a red-soaked jumble of used bandages lay next to his pliers and a glistening shard of metal.

"Is that it? Shit, that's like a kunai blade. No wonder it hurts." Then his eyes caught the larger, more ragged piece of shrapnel Raidou had discarded first.

"Well shit. Alright I feel slightly less stupid, if that thing's what made the hole."


"You're repeating yourself," Raidou said, without looking up from the neat square of gauze he was folding on his knee, the nearest-to-clean surface within reach. He added another layer, held it up judgingly, nodded to himself, and cut the bandage trailing back to the (now much smaller) roll with a flick of a kunai. Antibiotic cream next; he had to dig around in the kit for a while before he finally found the tube and could smear a healthy amount over the surface of the new bandage. Medical tape came last. He laid a strip carefully over each side of the large square of bandage, tapped them to make sure they'd adhere firmly, and then nudged Genma's hand out of the way and quickly swapped the wad of gauze for his neat new square.

The blood was beginning to clot; Raidou ran his thumbnail around each strip of medical tape without seeing even a shadow of crimson through the thick pad of bandages. Excellent. He wiped his hands on his pants again and reached for the elastic bandages. "Gonna need your help with this." He anchored one end of the bandage to the bare flesh just below Genma's waist, ran it around his back, and shoved it up at his hand. "Toss it around to me again, will you? We're gonna need a couple loops here and down on your leg to anchor it."


"You're planning on running this between my legs or something, aren't you?" Genma asked, doing as Raidou instructed and making a belt of the bandage around his hips. "Hell of a way to get your hands there. You could always have just asked."

It was pretty lame, as jokes go, but really the opportunity was there, and the situation was so ridiculous. Here he was, ass bared and Raidou's hands all over him, and it was because of a stupid mission accident? It would never happen again, definitely. And never happen the way he'd have wanted it to.

"Don't worry, I won't make you touch the squishy bits."


"I could just let you bleed to death," Raidou pointed out. "Or help it along. Lots of pointy sharp things back here."

But he took the roll of bandage when Genma handed it back, ran it over the pad of gauze, and tapped it on the back of Genma's thigh. "Take it from here again; I figure two more loops till it's secure."


"Okay okay, spoilsport. You're no fun at all, you know that?" Genma wrapped the bandage around his hip, then twice more around his thigh and tucked it under the edge of one of the previous loops. "How's that? Will that hold it?"

He bent over to reach for his bloodied briefs and trousers to pull them into place, once Raidou gave him the all clear.

"And what do you want to do now? Hide out here, or should we try to get moving again?"


"You just lost a lot of blood." Raidou thought that made it pretty clear. As long as they were safe here, they could hold out until he was sure Genma'd be steady on his feet for as long as he needed to be. "We've got a good place; shop's closed for the weekend, we've got rations, there's a faucet. Should at least spend the night." It would be dark soon, and he wasn't particularly excited about the idea of carting Genma out for a night in the woods and the risk of further infection or fever. Especially not when they both still reeked of fresh blood.

He gathered up the bloody bandages, rolling them into some semblance of a ball, and looked around for some place to dispose of both bandages and shrapnel. There was a metal barrel near the door, half-full of scraps of paper and metal and ancient lunches; he dumped the whole mess in, and stood back thoughtfully.

"You know any fire jutsu that wouldn't take up half the shop with it?"


"Yeah. It's a pretty easy one, too. I'll come do it." Genma stood up and stepped away from the drill press for the first time since they'd stopped, and suddenly realized how right Raidou was about staying put for the night. He swayed wildly for a second before his vision cleared and he could start limping over to the trash can.

"Um, Raidou?" Genma said in a strained voice. "Move."

He brushed past the other man and leaned over the barrel, willing the sudden nausea to go the hell away. After a few long moments of fighting with himself the ill feeling receded and he straightened a little.

"Ugh." That pretty much said it all.


Raidou hated hovering. Hovering meant you couldn't do anything but you couldn't go away; it left you weak and powerless and absolutely useless, and Raidou'd sworn long ago he'd never be any of those. So while Genma tried to decide whether or not he was going to heave his guts out on top of the bloody bandages, Raidou started searching through his kit. He'd found the little canister by the time Genma was pushing himself straight again, and he tucked it back into his pants pocket as he pulled his friend away from the trash barrel.

"You're not pulling any jutsu in this shape." He peeled out of his vest, dropped it on the floor in their little alcove between the drill press and the lathe. "Sit down or lie down or levitate yourself, just don't move, all right? I've got matches." He pulled the little container of waterproof strike-anywhere's out of his pocket, waved it warningly at Genma--You may have jutsu but I got phosphorus!--and headed back to the trash barrel.

He was halfway there before he started wishing he'd kept his vest. The vest zipper was usually the perfect surface for striking a match, and while his sandals might work, they were probably still wet and muddy from the running fight through the woods just outside this little town. His hitai'ate was too smooth; the same went for the trash barrel.

Well, there was always another zipper available. Raidou spent a little time arranging the paper scraps and unbloodied bandage ends in the best location before he stood back, popped a match out of the canister, and struck it on his fly.

The fire caught, and caught well. He cracked open a nearby window for ventilation (they'd just have to hope no one passed by and observed the slight drift of greasy black smoke) and headed back.


"If you had matches, why'd you ask me about a jutsu in the first place?" Genma grumbled. He let Raidou move him but stayed standing, leaning against a pile of dusty lumber while he watched his friend.

"Damn, man, I always knew you had a hot dick," Genma laughed, when Raidou struck the match. He held his hands up in a placating gesture when the other man turned back towards him.

"If you're gonna punch me for that, I'd advise not going for the guts, or I'm still liable to spew."


"Jutsu'd do it faster, with less smoke." Raidou switched from a thoughtful glare at the burning barrel to a just-shy-of-homicidal glare at Genma. There wasn't much change in his overall expression, except for a very slight narrowing of already-narrowed dark eyes.

"If you know I'm gonna punch you, why d'you do it?"


"Cause I couldn't pass up the chance?" Genma said. "I mean, you just struck a match off your crotch, Rai-chan. How could I not say something?"

He pushed away from the lumber pile and crossed the dusty floor that separated him from Raidou. When he got there he latched onto his friend for support. "Sorry, I think I'm a little unsteady. You pick where we should put down for the night."

Genma frowned at himself. The joking and teasing were always a part of him, and a distraction from what he was really thinking: That it was damn stupid for them to have to hide out because he'd managed to get himself hurt. Not that there had really been a way to know it was going to happen, but still.

"Damn short timer on that bomb, anyway. We should have cleared the blast easy."


He was moving on, at least. Raidou sometimes wondered whether Genma really did have the attention span of a kleptomaniac ninja in a room of very shiny weapons, or whether the swift subject-changes were just Genma's way of tactfully dropping one unprofitable line of conversation and picking up another. He followed along, more than a little grateful to be discussing bombs instead of...other types of equipment.

"You were the one planting it," he said, slinging an arm around Genma's shoulders to help him back to where they'd left most of their gear by the drill press. When they'd first entered the shop, he'd planned for them to kip in this little alcove, but the blood splattered on the floor was enough to start him rethinking. Parking Genma by the press again, he stooped to snag his vest again and start re-assembling the med-kit.

"The table over there--" He jerked his thumb at a work table beside the band-saw--"should be high enough, and the floor's decently clean. Out of sight from any of the windows, too, but we'd have to..."

He paused. "I'm sure there's a reason the lube goes in the front of your kit and the antibiotic cream goes in the back, but I'm not sure I want to know what it is."


"If you don't want to know, you shouldn't have brought it up," Genma said with a grin. "Besides, you know what they say, put the things you need most frequently closest to hand." He watched Raidou putting things back together and considered asking him to toss him the bottle of pain tablets. But it wasn't too bad, really. Well it hurt like a son of a bitch, but it was a cut on his ass, for crying out loud. Genma didn't think he could take the jokes asking for medicine for a pain in the ass would bring down on him.

He went on with an analysis of how they'd ended up needing to hole up here instead. "I set it to give us a ten second running start. It detonated at six. Something was wrong with it," he groused. "There's no way either of us should have been caught in the blast." Another long look at Raidou kneeling on the bloody floor.

"You're sure you didn't get hurt at all, right?"


Cue rolling of eyes. "If you see any blood on my ass, be sure to tell me. No, I didn't get hit. Nothing worse than a cut on the arm, and that stopped bleeding a while ago."

He finished repacking the kit (much more neatly than it had been packed originally), closed it, and tossed it back to Genma. Then he shrugged back into his vest, splashed a little water from his canteen over the bloody floor, pushed himself to his feet, and swiped a muddy sandal over the new puddle of bloodstains. This didn't accomplish much, other than spreading the stain around. Raidou sighed.


"If it really bothers you, Rai-chan, I'm sure there's a barrel of sawdust you could tip over it. Or you could let me work an evidence erasing jutsu and clean it up that way." Genma slipped his medkit back into his hip pouch and watched Raidou's futile attempts to clean the floor. "It's a machine shop, I'm sure they've had accidents in here before that spilled a little red on the concrete."

Of course that was more than just a little, and that was the problem, really. The dark liquid pooled and ran into cracks and crevices on the dirty floor. Raidou's fruitless efforts suddenly struck Genma as hilarious, and he giggled.

"Look at you, like a kid playing in rain puddles, splashing around in the blood." He tested his weight on his injured leg, then thought better of it and went back to leaning against the drill press. "That is kinda a lot, huh?"


"Lot more than 'a little red'," Raidou agreed, glancing around again for the faucet he'd noticed earlier. If there was a bucket, he could sluice the floor down...

No bucket in sight. He could either wait for the barrel to finish burning, or he could squelch all the instincts that screamed out against leaving both evidence and a mess, and let Genma take care of it when he felt up to it. Raidou's evidence-erasing tended more towards the silencing of people who'd seen what they shouldn't; for cleaning up problems like this, he preferred to rely on soap and a good scrubbing brush. Neither of which seemed to exist in this dusty shop.

He rubbed his hands together, scraping with blunt nails at the clotting blood that still streaked his fingers, then gave it up as a bad job and crossed to the little sink in the corner. The water was icy cold, but at least it washed the blood away. He glanced back over at Genma. "Toss me your canteen, will you? Might as well fill 'em up now. You've still got rat bars, right?"


Genma nodded and threw his canteen to his partner. "Two flavors at least. Maybe three," he said. "You hungry? I know I have a peanut butter one, because those are edible. Don't know what other ones, though." He shifted carefully, trying not to disturb his leg, which was now stiffening and really hurting whenever he flexed his hip, and reached into a side pocket on his vest.

"Got, um..." Genma pulled out two foil-wrapped bars and squinted at them in the dim afternoon light coming in through the grimy skylight. "Cinnamon-vanilla, and one of those weird fruit ones. Strawberry something or other."

He contemplated eating one himself, but was still feeling somewhat off. No need to add to the mess on the floor, he thought, and decided against eating for the moment. Actually, Raidou's earlier instruction that he sit down or lie down was starting to have some appeal, even if a bare concrete floor was going to have to be his bed.


Raidou shrugged. "I got my own." Including at least one peanut butter, because Genma was known to complain loudly and at length when nothing but honey-oatmeal was available. It was easier to shut him up by chucking a peanut butter rat bar at his head than by explaining that honey-oatmeal really wasn't all that bad, and that rat bars weren't supposed to taste good anyway.

He capped the canteen, turned off the faucet, and returned his own canteen to his hip pouch. "It's just after four o'clock," he reported, as he returned to the drill press and handed Genma's canteen back. "I figure we should stay put till early morning; could move out around three and have a couple hours of darkness to get away before anyone comes to open this place up. You gonna be okay?"


"Yeah. Of course," Genma said with what passed for a derisive sneer. "It's not that bad. Just a little scrape. We could go now, except maybe you ought to rest up a little first." He pulled out a battered-looking pack of cigarettes and put one between his lips without lighting it, then took a step towards his friend and nearly fell.

"Floors a little uneven here," he said, grabbing on to the drill press again. "So watch your step."

Gods what he wouldn't give for a decent bed right about now.


Derisive sneers came across much better when half your face was mauled by a massive scar and when you weren't currently clinging to a large piece of machinery for dear life. Raidou was, therefore, very good at them.

"If an inch of steel in your ass is just a little scrape, what d'you call losing a limb? Just a flesh wound?" He snorted, grabbed Genma's elbow, and towed him towards the table he'd already staked out. Maybe sleeping underneath a table was just a bit too paranoid... But hey, they were ninja. Paranoid was practically a job requirement.


"Yeah, something like that," Genma said. He found he really did have to lean on Raidou's arm as they crossed the shop floor, and he winced and cursed at every jolt. When they stopped at the table he held on to it while Raidou crouched down next to it.

"Is it nasty under there?" he asked. "And how about warm? Is it warmer? Cause it's getting cold in here. I think it's gonna rain." Genma glanced up at the leaden sky through the high shop windows just as a big wet splot landed on the glass.

"Yep, definitely gonna rain," he said, as the clouds opened up. The sudden roar on the metal roof over their heads was deafening. "Sounds like hail." Genma glanced over at the smoldering waste can and wished they'd taken advantage of the fire.


"Good thing we're not moving on, then," Raidou said cheerfully. He could barely even hear himself, and he had to raise his voice nearly to a shout for his report.

"Dusty, but not too bad. No blood." No draft, either--which was probably the biggest benefit, seeing as their flak vests were the closest thing they had to blankets. He ducked his head and crawled under the table; it wasn't quite high enough for him to sit upright, though Genma could probably make it with the top of his head just brushing the bottom of the table. With the table muffling the sound of the rain on the roof, it was quite a bit quieter, too.

"C'mon under. No diseases crawling around." He squashed a spider with the side of his hand and flopped down on his stomach, pillowing his head on his arms. "And the floor's even."


Genma started to crouch and immediately swore vehemently and gave up on that idea. "Damn, I'm getting all stiff," he said, "and not in a good way." He could almost hear Raidou scowl, which on the whole was exactly the reaction he'd been aiming for. He used the table for leverage and lowered himself awkwardly to the floor, cursing under his breath the whole way, then slid over next to Raidou.

"Dammit. I guess if it had to hurt it's better now than when we were running. Still don't quite get how I managed to not notice." Genma lay on his left side, facing Raidou, with an arm propping his head up. "Guess those Mist guys had it worse than us, though, so it all works out in the end. I swear they breed 'em extra nasty down here or something though."


"You got painkillers," Raidou said, not without feeling; he was already pushing himself up on one elbow, reaching back for his own hip-pouch and med-kit. Genma kept his kit "organized" with a system that he claimed made perfect sense but which baffled Raidou (relative placements of lube and antibiotic ointment being a case in point.) In contrast, Raidou's kit was organized so carefully and precisely that he could locate his small tin of painkillers by feel. He popped the lid off, tossed two over to Genma, recapped the container and closed his pouch, and returned to his thoughtful inspection of the cracks in the floor.

"Think any of 'em got away? I'd've sworn we got 'em all, but I didn't check."


"If any got away, he didn't get far," Genma said with a wry smile. He swallowed the tablets Raidou had given him dry, made a face, and reached for his canteen. "They'd have had to run back out that kind of narrow place, and I rigged up a nice little trap there. And the stuff I had my senbon dipped in is nasty with a capital N. Taisei helped me work it out."

He drank and sighed and lay down the rest of the way. "Jobs like this, we're a good team for, you know? But I gotta say, any mission you get your ass busted on is one where you really earned your pay."


"Good thing getting your ass busted isn't the only requirement for earning your pay, or we'd be a hell of a lot poorer." Raidou propped his chin up on his fist and lay silent for a few moments, listening to the thunder of the rain on the roof and the rather more distant roll of real thunder somewhere to the east. Then he hunched upright again, just managing not to crack his skull on the table, and peeled out of his vest.

"Might as well get some sleep, while we're here." He zipped the vest up again, dropped it on the floor in a small cloud of dust, sneezed, and rolled onto his side with his head pillowed on the thick olive-drab padding. He grinned crookedly at Genma. "One good thing about being stuck out here--you can't be throwing a party on the other side of the wall."


"If I threw half as many parties as you accuse me of, I'd be twice as broke as I am," Genma answered, "and four times as exhausted." He grinned back and tried to get comfortable without a pillow, but found it nearly impossible, and eventually followed suit, wriggling out of his own vest and cushioning his head with it.

"We're gonna freeze with our vests off, you know," he said, and shivered. "Man, I hate getting caught out like this. I've got a thermal blanket in my kit though, if you don't mind sharing." He started digging in his hip pouch again, and was more colorful in his curses as the motion jostled his injured leg. Eventually he made a triumphant little "Hah!" and produced a crinkly foil blanket folded into a tiny square.

"Here, help me spread it out," he said and shook it open towards Raidou.


"No way this is gonna cover both of us," Raidou protested, taking hold of a crinkly corner and pulling the blanket open. If it was one of the standard-issue ones, it'd be a little longer than he was tall, but just over a meter and a half wide. Fine for one man, but it wouldn't cover two men without some rearranging. He should've replaced his before this mission, but he hadn't thought the weather would dip so sharply into autumn, and...

Well, for once Genma was better prepared than he was.

He rotated the unfolding blanket a little, seeking the longer edge. "We could manage it sideways--cold feet, but it'd work." Still a tight squeeze, especially given how broad they both were in the shoulders, but there wasn't much else they could do.


"I promise not to take advantage of you in your sleep," Genma said, shifting closer to Raidou. He raised an arm to pull the blanket over his shoulder and let it drop over his friend. "Unless you want to shift around and get behind me, though, you're probably gonna want to roll over. Cause I'm not lying on my right side, that's just asking for trouble."

As sore as his ass felt now, it was gonna be a bitch when they tried to get moving again. Lying with the injured side down would definitely be a good way to make sure Genma would be too stiff to run when they got moving again.

The foil crinkled and shifted and had no weight at all. "We'll keep warmer if we're spooned, anyway," Genma said. "More body contact."


"Promise not to kill you in your sleep, then," Raidou said generously, rolling onto his other side. He wasn't particularly comfortable sleeping on his left side, and he was even less comfortable with someone at his back, with warm breath stirring his hair and ghosting over the back of his neck, with staring blindly into the shadows under the table...

But it was Genma, so he'd survive.

He shifted a little, easing the weight on his cut left bicep, and then again. If he crooked his arm up under his vest, pillowing his head, it didn't twinge too badly. Couldn't hurt nearly as much as Genma did right now, anyway.

"You okay?" he asked the shadows.


"Yeah, m'fine," Genma replied, without really giving the question consideration. They were alive and for the moment safe, and Raidou was warm even if the air was cold. He shivered again and pressed closer, fitting his knees against the backs of Raidou's. "My arm's gonna go to sleep like this though."

A few twists and an awkward shift and Genma had his left arm crooked up under his head. It left his hand exposed, which he really didn't like, but there wasn't a good alternative, unless he wanted to back away from Raidou and fold his arms up between them, and that would be colder.

After a few moments silence he said, "I thought you were hungry. You gonna eat?"


At this point, he was really more ready to fall asleep than to try breaking his teeth on a rat bar. But if Genma was asking if Raidou was hungry, it probably meant that Genma was hungry. Which meant he'd keep whining about it until he got fed. Raidou sighed.

"Rat bars in my hip pouch. You can have the peanut-butter one. Gimme whatever."


"Kay," Genma said, and used his right hand to unfasten Raidou's pouch. He felt around for the foil-wrapped ration bars, pushing aside a compass, a folded map, some small leather case of some sort, a pencil and tiny notepad, and a few other items in his quest. He wasn't particularly hungry but Raidou had asked about food earlier, and it was a good idea to eat now, while they knew they had some time. If they left it until morning and then had to run on empty stomachs, that would be poor planning. The pain tablets Raidou had given him, though, were making Genma sleepy and a little queasy. He hoped the ration bar would settle his stomach and not make things worse.

"How much crap do you have in here, anyway?" Genma asked, still groping awkwardly in the pouch. "Wait, here, got it!" He extracted two bars and peered at them in the semi-dark. It was impossible to read the labels. Well one of them was bound to be peanut butter, right? They could tell by scent once they unwrapped them.


"You're not messing it up, are you?" Raidou twisted to look over his shoulder, scowling in sudden worry. He should've thought... "If I've got half a second to pull out a smoke bomb and I can't find it because you rearranged things, it'll be your fault I'm dead."


"You're not pinning that on me," Genma said with a frown. "I didn't get your toys out of order, don't worry. And you don't keep your smoke bombs in the same pouch you keep your food in anyway, unless you want to die young. They go in with your weapons."

He reached around Raidou's shoulder and pressed the bars into his hand. "Can you tell which is which? Cause I can't. Just unwrap 'em both and hand me the one that isn't nasty."


"Was an example," Raidou said, with dignity. He took the bars, peered at them in the dim light, gave up on the attempt to read the labels, and ripped the foil open with his teeth. Peanut butter smote him with an avenging reek. Wrinkling his nose, he passed the bar over his shoulder. "That one's yours."

His own was one of the oatmeal-honey ones, and could have given a month of plain rice a run for blandness. Bland, Raidou figured, was good. At least it wasn't one of the old natto ones.

He gnawed on a corner that could've passed, with a bit more rubber flavor, for one of his sandal soles. "We push hard tomorrow, we should make it back to that inn over the border for tomorrow night. You need a bath."


"It's my hygiene that's making you want to get back to that inn, is it?" Genma asked with an obvious smirk in his voice. He bit off a corner of his rat bar and held it in his mouth to soften it a little.

"You sure it isn't that cute serving girl at the bar? The one with the braids and the enormous jugs?" He laughed and tried to chew the bar, which still had a consistency to pull teeth. "She was totally digging you. Practically falling out of her top every time she brought you a refill."


Raidou was silent for a moment, though it was debatable whether that was because he was thinking or because he'd got his teeth stuck in the rat bar and was trying to separate his jaws without cracking a molar. He shrugged at last, an awkward movement when he was lying on his side, and deliberately did not let himself finger his scar.

"You're imagining things. Figure everyone else's got taste as weird as you. That girl--" had been in danger of exposure, and he'd appreciated it, but who wouldn't? --"just needed a bigger shirt."


Genma sighed. This again. When was Raidou going to consider getting over his hang ups about that stupid scar and just get on with it? "Rai..." he said, and paused. "Don't take this wrong, but if you're that stupid about girls I really am gonna start thinking you're gay and just repressing it." That was sure to get a reaction, he knew. But honestly, how many times was he gonna have to say it before Raidou got it that the only one who thought his face was gruesome was himself?

"All you had to do was smile, and she'd have been in your bed."


"Moment I decide I'm gay, you'll be the first to know." Raidou pounded his rat bar against the concrete floor. Better to break it than his teeth. "Till then, keep your pants on. She was behaving like that with you, too--why didn't you take her?"

He knew his own reasons well enough, and whatever Genma said, it wasn't because he hadn't been attracted to her. He was on a mission, for one thing, and they'd taken only one room in the inn, and...

Well, his smiles weren't too good anymore.


"Because she wanted you." Genma said simply. "I wasn't gonna poach. Wouldn't have been fair. Besides, we were on a mission." He shifted a little uncomfortably and curled closer to Raidou.

"But on the way back, you see if she's still there. I'll hang back, so you can know for sure it's you she's flirting with, alright?"

Of course there was also the fact that Genma wasn't exactly eager to flirt when he had a gash on his ass. In addition to not really wanting the sort of sympathy that would be likely to bring from some cute little civilian chick, it would undoubtedly be a major hindrance to his performance.


The advantage to having your mouth full of rat bar was that just about the only sound you could make was a noncommittal one. Raidou told himself he wasn't avoiding the issue, exactly, he was just...

Hell, it'd only been nine months since the mission that'd lost him half his face, that'd left rippled scars writhing over cheek and chest and shoulder, that still sometimes woke him with silent sweating nightmares. He'd slept with exactly one girl since then--Suzume, who'd been his bedroll buddy way back in the war and his genin teammate before that, and who'd never cared what he looked like anyway. And no matter how hard Genma tried to make him forget it, it was only four months ago that his grandmother had broken down sobbing at the sight of his face, while the girl his grandmother had hoped he'd marry could do nothing but stare in horrified fascination...

That was probably what Genma'd mistaken for lust in the serving girl's eyes.

He had to swallow at last, and then answer. "Go ahead. Watching you try not to flirt is half the fun, anyway." And then, because Genma was ridiculously easy to sidetrack once you knew how he worked... "Bet you couldn't do it."


"Bull," Genma retorted through a half-chewed mouthful. "All I have to do is not talk to 'em and not make eye contact. How do you think I manage on missions where I have to be inconspicuous?" He could pull it off. Had pulled it off many times. It was all a matter of not wanting to be noticed. It just took a little effort. Which for the sake of this argument he was more than wiling to make.

"You gotta be willing to catch the love when it comes your way, though, Rai-chan, or it'll be a waste of my efforts." He took another small bite, felt his stomach threaten to revolt, and wrapped most of the rat bar back up in its foil.

"Really all I gotta do is act like you do these days."


"Your efforts?" Raidou glanced over his shoulder. He still couldn't see much more than a slice of Genma's brow and cheek, from this angle. "You make it sound like you're bribing 'em in the back while I'm sulking out in front." Which, come to think of it, didn't sound improbable...


"Raidou. Please. For god's sake have a little faith in me and a little faith in yourself." Genma wrapped an arm around Raidou's shoulder and pulled a bit roughly. "You want to think you're hideous, I can't stop you, but it's getting old. And I'm not the kind of guy that would lie to his best friend."

Genma shifted and hissed when it hurt. Maybe it was just the circumstances making him irritable, he told himself. But he was frustrated with Raidou's sulking, which was exactly what he did no matter how much he said he wasn't. Especially when Genma knew he'd give his own right arm for Raidou to be his lover.


Sulking was pretty much what Raidou was doing now, too. He crunched another bite of rat bar and stared stubbornly into the shadows; when Genma pulled at him, he didn't resist, but let his shoulder rotate back with the other man's grip. Some things Genma just didn't understand, couldn't understand, not when he was as whole and handsome and supremely confident as he'd ever been. And Raidou couldn't even say that he wanted Genma to understand, because that'd mean putting Genma through the hell he'd gone through--and that was something he'd willingly die to prevent.

So he just shrugged the shoulder Genma was still holding, and said, "Don't think you'd lie, but maybe we're not looking at the same truths."

Genma took a breath, as if about to protest, and Raidou plunged quickly on. "I'll let her hit on me if it'll make you happy, though. Hell, I'll even hit back. What more d'you want?"


"That'll do," Genma said. If Raidou would even just open up to the possibility that he was attractive, if he'd play along with a little flirting, at least there was a chance he'd get it through his thick skull that he was still plenty hot.

Genma blinked and his arm relaxed a bit. The drugs Raidou had given him were kicking in with a vengeance now, and replacing the stabbing pain in his rear with a sort of muzzy, thick-tongued weariness. His eyes drifted shut for a few seconds, then he fought it and shook his head a little.

"Dizzy," he said. "Glad I didn't eat too much." He held on to Raidou now as much for balance and steadiness as for warmth.


"Go to sleep, then, idiot," Raidou said, but there was more affection than reproach in his voice. He swallowed the last bite of his own rat bar, shoved the empty wrapper into his pocket, and wriggled to get himself a little more comfortable on the unyielding concrete. His feet were already cold, but Genma was warm at his back, and the arm over his shoulder was doing as much good as the thermal blanket for conserving warmth. He shut his own eyes.

"Shouldn't need to set a watch. We've trapped well enough. I'll get up in a couple hours and scout around."


Genma made a sleepy noise of agreement and rotated a few millimeters towards Raidou to accommodate his companion's new position. He didn't even really feel the hardness of the concrete anymore. They were safe, for now. Raidou was warm. Genma's wound had stopped hurting nearly so much. And the velvet seduction of a narcotic-enhanced slumber was pulling him rapidly under.

Genma tilted his head to nestle his cheek against the back of Raidou's shoulder, and within moments his breaths whispered into the light, shallow rhythm of sleep.




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