| Keeping Secrets With The Koi [closed to Ginta]
||[Feb. 4th, 2009|01:35 am]
[ Takes place March 14, three days after Justify My Reasons ]
The storehouse walls were cold and dusty, obscured by the boxes and bundles the building contained. The ceiling, Ginta thought, was absurdly high. They could have put in a whole additional floor where chains and draperies hung from a ceiling lost in darkness. On the grounds of a minor daimyou's estate, it was far from being a simple place to keep household items not currently in use. Thick, fire-proof stone kept dust, darkness, and sound in; robbers, flames, and inquisitive trespassers out. There were hooks embedded in the grey walls at regular intervals, some at a perfect height for restraining a man. It must have been built with holding captives in mind--a relic from an earlier age when every daimyou had maintained his own private army, before the rise of the great ninja villages.
Ginta was more than happy to take advantage of it now. He smiled at the man bound wrists and ankles to the wall. One red eye and one grey crinkled in an answering grin.
"You miss me?" he asked, and moved in close, rising on his toes, pressing his armoured torso against Kakashi's.
"Where were you, Jackass?"
"Mission, Genius," Ginta said. He pulled Kakashi's mask down.
Kakashi might have said something like, "Cut it out," or "Cut me down." Ginta winked and showed him a knife, raised it to free Kakashi's hands, but didn't complete the action. He meshed his lips to Kakashi's in a possessive kiss. An eagerly returned kiss. Kakashi moaned and writhed against the wall, against Ginta...
Ginta's mouth filled with the iron-rust taste of blood.
He pulled back, confused, and was horrified to see Kakashi's lips had been savagely sliced away. His teeth were hideously exposed, jaws dripping scarlet. His moan turned to a scream.
Ginta stumbled back, staring at himself, at bone-white armour smeared with red. At the blood-stained kunai in his hand. He dropped it to the floor with a loud clang...
It took several long minutes for his heart to slow. For his eyes to adapt to the dark. For him to realize where he was. His throat felt raw, his eyes wet. His shoulders and diaphragm ached as if he'd been lifting too much weight, or holding a tense position in some tiny space for hours, waiting for a break in which to escape.
There was no escape.
His refrigerator compressor shuddered to life, bringing reality back into focus. He snapped on his bedside light, kicked sweat-soaked bedding to the floor, and stumbled to the bathroom to run cold water over his wrists and hands until he stopped hyperventilating.
The room was too hot, too confining. Ginta was in clothes and out his window, scaling down the side of the building, before his bed had completely cooled. He ran deep into the woods surrounding the training fields, heedless of the misty air or the moonlit dark. He ran until his lungs burned and his thighs and calves cramped, dodging around trees and stones. A hunting owl lost her meal as his frantic sprint sent field mice scampering for their burrows.
He ran without aim, crossing freshly plowed farmland and rice fields full of dried winter stalks. He ran under clouds of new cherry blossoms that trembled as he passed, sending pale, round petals tumbling to the ground. He ran until he found himself at a familiar high plaster wall, topped by ceramic tiles. Panting for breath, dripping with sweat, he scaled the wall and dropped lightly to the raked gravel path.
All Ginta's haste disappeared as he slipped through the shadowed yard, slinking along pebble-strewn pathways he knew with his eyes closed. There was the big stone lantern on the left, and the forest of grandfather's bonsai, still thriving five years after their keeper's name had been carved with so many others into the Heroes' Stone.
There was the koi pond.
He avoided the main house easily, brushing past golden globe flowers and red camellias that barely stirred in his wake. At the back of the garden, a red cedar bridge arched over the hourglass-shaped pond at its narrowest point. Ginta picked up a handful of fish pellets from a ceramic jar at one end, walked to the center, and leaned over the rail. At first all he could see was the reflection of the moon on the silvery surface, but soon there were shapes and shadows clustering under the water. He tossed some of the pellets.
"Here, Tanuki fish. Here, Golden fish. Here, Skeleton fish. Did you miss me?" More and more swarmed out from under the bridge. He greeted them all: Salt-and-Pepper fish, Lumpy fish, Lucky Coin fish... Only a few of them were really his--Skeleton, with its pattern of black scales against white, and Tanuki, a big blue koi with a bright red splotch on its nose. The rest were his grandfather's. But Grandfather was dead.
Fins arched to the surface, and big carp mouths gaped, taking in the floating pellets. He tossed another handful.
"I missed you. I had a mission, so I wasn't here. That's what I always tell you, huh? I had a couple of missions. The last one--it was with this chuunin. He totally has a crush on me. Either that or he's afraid of me for some other reason. I'd say it was the other reason, like what I did on the mission, but he was acting all blushy and tongue-tied before that ever happened. It was funny. I acted like I didn't notice, mostly because at first I didn't, but that's because I was thinking about other things. And then it was just funny, to keep acting like I didn't notice."
A chill-laden breeze stirred the willow branches, their new leaves skimming the water. A few clouds drifted past the moon, glowing silver at the edges. Ginta could feel himself relaxing. Cooling now, as sweat dried and his heart slowed.
"The thing I was thinking about, it was that guy, remember the guy? Kakashi. He's famous, you know. And a prick. Reclusive, misanthropic, nasty-tempered. He's not even that good looking, really. I don't know why I keep... I mean, it was just one night. He'd be a terrible partner, especially because he hates me, but that's beside the point. Anyway I thought he liked me. I mean there was a spark, and he was definitely into it the night of my birthday."
A fish surfaced, mouth wide; Ginta tossed in more pellets.
"But the next day he fucked Ryouma. Ryouma's not even gay. And then there was a mission, and all hell broke loose, and Ryouma nearly died and Kakashi rescued him. As far as I can tell Ryouma's completely in love with Kakashi at this point, and Kakashi... I have no idea. He hates me though. He'd probably have killed me if he hadn't been post-mission, because I was post-mission and we had this fight and... I'm leaving things out. I went to the hospital because I was post-mission, and Kakashi was there. I went to check on him, and he was in bed with Ryouma, holding him like a lover and I was.... I wasn't thinking my best. So I decided to just leave, but then Kakashi came out in the hall and I..."
The fish were obliging listeners. Never interrupting. Never condemning.
"I fucked it up bad. I fucked it up really bad. And now I can't stop thinking about him even when I'm asleep. Especially when I sleep. Kakashi, and missions, and Tomoya gets in there, too, and it's like... I can't hear myself think for all the noise in my head."
The breeze picked up again, scattering a few early cherry petals and loose pine needles across the water's surface. The fish darted under the shadow of the bridge, then edged back out. Ginta tossed them another handful of pellets.
"How do you get something like that out of your head? I mean, other than with that mind-wipe jutsu I read about, and that's something you use on someone whose mind you don't really care if it never comes back. You guys have it easy, really." He leaned over the railing of the bridge, letting both arms hang free, dropping the last of the fish food in from loose fingers.
The taste of blood still echoed in his mouth, a remnant of his nightmare, or maybe a product of the scent of approaching rain in the air. He sniffed deeply, trying to convince himself it was pond algae and damp moss, sakura blossoms and freshly-turned earth he was smelling. Tasting.
"I don't really... I didn't really enjoy that mission, you know. I mean, I did it well, and it was a decent mission. And the target got what was coming to him. But I'm not like Shida or those guys in T&I. I don't get off on making people suffer. I don't know why Kakashi had to show up, or why I even had that stupid dream. It's not like I was all traumatized by that mission. I'm not some psych case, and that guy deserved it. Chuunin on my mission probably thinks I'm a psych case, though. I think he got sick, seeing what I'd done to the target."
He watched his shadow rippling in the breeze. Watched the fish shadows darting and drifting. For a moment his eyes closed, but he jerked them open again with a shudder. "Don't let me fall asleep," he told the fish. "I really don't want to fall asleep"
There was a splash of water on water, and then another, as enormous raindrops began to fall. Concentric rings spread out, overlapping one another, until the entire pond surface was as intricately patterned as a brocaded fabric. Ginta stayed as he was, letting the rain soak into his hair and clothing, listening to the far-off rumble of thunder and the sibilant hiss of the downpour.
Footsteps crunched on the path behind him, and he whirled around.
"You'll catch your death, Ginta," his grandmother said. She wore a heavy dressing gown and geta, and shielded herself with a large umbrella. A small figure, with her long white hair put up in a bun, she still managed to convey a commanding presence.
"I made tea," she continued. "I couldn't sleep either. Come inside and I'll have Suki-chan get you a change of clothes."
"It's late. Don't wake Suki," Ginta said. He pushed himself away from the rail and walked towards his grandmother. Stiffly, unsure of himself. "I should... I just came to see the fish."
"I know," his grandmother said. "I know. Your grandfather used to do the same thing, when he couldn't sleep after a mission."
Ginta's back went ramrod straight. He stopped where he was.
"You don't have to tell me anything," she continued. "I never asked Gousuke about his missions; I'm not about to start asking you about yours. There are some things a woman doesn't need to know. Now come inside before you catch pneumonia. Again."
"That was barely three months ago, Ginta. Indulge your grandmother. Inside."
Ginta sighed. He joined his grandmother under her umbrella, and held his arm out for her. Warm clothes. Tea. Someone to drink it with who wouldn't ask any more questions than the koi had.
Maybe that was why his feet had brought him here.