Ginta knew that voice, that chakra, that person darkening his doorway. He turned to look anyway, toast halfway to mouth. Yes, it was Ryouma, looking thoroughly unwashed and unshaven, bruised all to hell, bandaged, weary to the bones, and just a little hangdog. Ginta put the toast back on the plate, closed his magazine, and gave Ryouma a second, more penetrating look.
The bandages were fresh and hospital-issue, including the one in the crook of Ryouma's arm where someone had probably recently run in an IV of something or other. His clothes were dirty ANBU blacks, minus the armour, which he was carrying. His right cheek had a distinctive line-shaped bruise that could only have come from the edge of an ANBU mask, and there was a mottling of additional bruises along jaw and shoulder. A lot of bruises. The tiny purplish freckles around each bloodshot eye, though, were the real giveaway. You didn't bleed under the skin like that unless there was something wrong with your ability to clot, and Ginta was sure he know what it was. If Ryouma had swamp fever or leukemia, he'd be in even worse shape, and definitely not standing there looking like a mission had just got the worst of him.
Ginta's nostrils flared; his mouth flattened into an unhappy line. "Are you my new roommate? That'd be ironic. And didn't you learn anything from seeing Kakashi nearly dead from a soldier pill overdose?" He took a steadying breath and blew it out through pursed lips. "You'd better come in and sit down before you fall down. Do the nurses know you're here? Why aren't you in pajamas?"
The rest of his questions he'd save, mostly because they weren't well-formed yet. Foremost amongst them was something that was coalescing into what the hell is your problem, Ryouma? Are you trying to kill yourself? but he wasn't quite there yet.
Two questions Ryouma could've dealt, with, maybe; without the painkillers and the soldier-pill high clogging his exhausted thoughts, he could've handled all four. As it was, the command was easiest to follow. He dumped his armload of ruined armor on the floor and sank in the chair beside Ginta's bed. It was barely cushioned, and the arm-rests were at an awkward height. He might never move again.
"Just visiting," he said at last, leaning his head back. He'd spent days staring up at the ceiling of rooms like this, trying to count the number of holes in the ceiling tiles. He couldn't remember that number now. "I've upgraded to outpatient treatment. Next time I'll be healing myself on the field."
Ginta didn't laugh.
Ryouma sighed. "I just about burned myself out, this mission. My teammate gave me a chakra transfusion. If I hadn't kept taking the pills, I'd've crashed halfway home." And Katsuko had...made it clear that she wasn't planning on stopping for a second night. Stupid, sure. But he knew his limits; he hadn't pushed past. He forced a grin. "I learned plenty from Kakashi."
That wasn't funny, either.
"Ryouma..." Ginta let the name hang in the air, as scorching a chastisement as any his grandmother had ever leveled at him with just his name. The weight of unspoken accusations gathered in the air around them, settling so heavily that Ryouma's shoulder's slumped. Or perhaps that was merely fatigue. The thought that Ryouma didn't understand Ginta's displeasure was the lever that pried Ginta's words out.
"If you were so tapped out, then you should have rested. What kind of teammate would give you a chakra transfusion, for fuck's sake, and then not make sure you rested if you were staggering? And I know you got the same damn lecture on chakra pill safety that I did when I was a rookie. You're still new to ANBU, so it ought to be still fresh. Not that you wouldn't have already had a whole damn class when you got certified to carry them in the first place. I know Hiroyuki used to ream you out for overuse back when you were up in Lightning with Team Badass. I was there, remember?"
He had to stop for breath, and to see if his words were having any effect on Ryouma. Ryouma just looked embattled and a little sheepish.
Leaving aside all the ways in which Ryouma having learned plenty from Kakashi was still a sore subject for Ginta, there was the glaringly obvious lesson Ryouma hadn't learned. Ginta's left hand balled into a fist, crushing a wad of blanket and pulling the bedding askew. It snagged on his cast, which sent a twinge through his leg and just increased his irritation. After everything that had just happened, Ryouma had just walked out on Kakashi and nearly gotten himself killed doing the same stupid thing Kakashi had done?
"Did you see how bad Kakashi looked when we got back? Do you think you can make up for whatever stupid ass shit you did to him when you buggered off on your mission by coming back in as bad a shape as he was, for the same damn reasons?"
Now Ryouma looked puzzled. And still weary.
"Tapped out chakra and not resting! Soldier pill overdose! Bleeding disorder! Don't play stupid, you damned ox." Ginta could hear himself getting shrill; could tell his ire was fueled by a lot more than just concern over a friend's stupidity. He shoved himself back against pillows with a decisive snap of his shoulders and glared. "You'd better have a damn good explanation. Was your teammate, the one who gave you a chakra transfusion, dying too?"
"No." Ryouma looked away. Looked back. Ginta was flushed, furious, sitting bolt upright against a fortress-wall of pillows, with the blankets tangled around his cast-encased leg and his breakfast lying forgotten on its tray. What had gone wrong? He was supposed to laugh, shake his head, maybe throw a piece of toast at Ryouma's head. Ryouma'd pulled stupid stuff like this before, and he'd always pulled it off. Hell, Ginta'd been there that time Ryouma downed six soldier pills in an hour and used his Naizou Tokasu three times in twenty minutes. He'd been bleeding from the nose afterwards, and Ginta had given him a tissue while quiet Hiroyuki yelled.
That was two years ago. Maybe that was the difference.
He scrubbed a hand through his hair, hit the tender bruise where the side of his head had smashed into a stone wall, and winced. "No, I-- My teammate's okay. Mostly. We... hit a rough spot. I tapped out before we got out, so she gave me the transfusion an' then we ran." With some kissing in the middle, there. His lips twitched sideways despite himself. "Her chakra started wearin' off before mine came back. You know how transfusions are--chakra never really works right when it's not your own. Drains away too fast, even when you're not pulling on it. So I had to keep going on the pills. And we did sleep that night." He hesitated. "A few hours, at least. Last night we were close enough to Konoha it would've been a waste to stop."
It sounded like a pretty thin excuse, here in the sunlit hospital room under the blue heat of Ginta's glare, but it was all he had. Ryouma set his jaw. "I got back, any rate. I'm fine. And Kakashi's got nothing to do with it."
If Ginta had been a little less angry, he might have noticed the smirk that had creased the corner of Ryouma's mouth, might have wondered about the reasoning behind those 'few hours' of sleep. But even if he had, that last assertion of Ryouma's would have shattered his half-formed suppositions.
"You bastard," he breathed, going quiet where he'd been loud. "Kakashi has everything to do with it." The accusation tumbled out raw and unexamined. "He was in a fucking coma for a week, and you were there. I know you were there. We were both there, and I'm still here." He ran an exasperated hand through his hair, then slapped it down and threw the covers off. His right leg was heavy with off-white plaster, from toes to thigh. His left thigh was bandaged, with bruise-like greening discoloration spreading out beneath the pristine white to show where flesh ahd been eaten by infection and restored by chakra.
"Do you think this is some kind of joke? Kakashi barely woke up from that, from doing to himself what it looks a hell of a lot like you're trying to do to yourself. And he at least had a reason for it. If this is some sick -- I don't know -- competitive thing..."
Now Ryouma was looking at him like he was a madman. Ginta couldn't say that was an assessment too far off the mark.
"How in the hell can you even try to justify it for anything less? It would have been a waste to stop? And rest? And make sure you don't end up in a body bag with your damn name chiseled into the monument? For fuck's sake, Ryouma. Kakashi's got a bad enough complex about killing his teammates without you going off and getting yourself killed doing what he did because you and he had a fight. Or whatever the fuck happened."
"This wasn't the hell about Kakashi!" Ryouma snapped, slamming his fist down on the padded armrest hard enough to hurt. "I'm not some--some girl, fallin' head over heels for some guy and making her life revolve around him. I took a mission, okay? I'd spent a week in here going crazy and we--an' I needed some fresh air. It was a tough mission and we made a damn good job of it, even when it nearly went south. And--"
And Katsuko had been fun, and funny, and she'd saved his life and he'd saved hers. And Kakashi had said no strings.
"I owe Kakashi--everything," he said haltingly, feeling his way between the words. "More'n you know. More'n anyone. But I'm not-- He's Hatake Kakashi, and I grew up on the streets. There's things he expects I don't even understand. When we fought--"
This wasn't making sense. None of it did, which was why he'd run in the first place. Fighting was easier than thinking, and a hell of a lot easier than facing men who meant something and trying to make them see. He lunged out of his chair, took two short sharp paces across the room, and wheeled again.
"My teammate on this mission. I'd known her before; her team used to stop by the temple base to resupply, back when that bastard Uchiha was captain. She'd--grown up. And she liked me, she thought I-- But the next morning was awkward. You know how? And that night would've been worse, and neither of us needed our heads messed up anymore, so we came straight back. And that's the truth, Ginta. I didn't do it 'cause I was trying to impress Kakashi. I wasn't even tryin' to impress the girl. I just wanted to get home."
Ginta let his face fall carefully flat. Things Kakashi expected? What did Kakashi expect, except that everyone he cared about would die, and he'd die, too, giving his life for a village that had taken everything else of value from him already? Kakashi's mother, who Ginta knew almost as well as her own son had -- a pretty woman in a faded photograph in Ginta's grandmother's album. Kakashi's father, forced to take his own life and leave his young son to face a world where demons were far too real and honor far too immaterial. Kakashi's childhood -- in what world did it make sense to give a child of six a chuunin's authority and responsibility? Kakashi's sensei, his first team, and a list of comrades too long to count...
Of course it was the same for Ginta. The same for Ryouma. The same for the anonymous girl-grown-to-womanhood Ryouma had taken a mission with, and slept with, and woken up awkwardly with.
But Ryouma had been the one, for reasons Ginta didn't understand and hated to contemplate, who had meant something to Kakashi, when nothing else had.
Just like Kakashi had gotten under Ginta's skin. Gotten past Ginta's masks.
"You know," he said darkly, "it's really quite ironic, you going off to screw someone else right at the point you've got Kakashi pretty much flayed open. I remember I cornered him and told him he'd better not be fucking playing you, but it looks like you were the one playing him."
The bitterness in Ginta's voice bit like acid. Ryouma flinched, caught himself, and stiffened his spine.
"I wasn't playin' anyone," he said. "I didn't--"
Didn't what? Think? He'd been trying not to think; that'd been the whole point. He'd messed up so badly that Kakashi'd probably been glad when he left and took that shadow of treachery with him. He owed Kakashi his life, Konoha his loyalty; what did sexual fidelity matter, beside those mountainous debts?
Why had he expected Ginta to understand?
He rubbed a hand over his face, wincing again at the discovery of new bruises, and sighed. "Kakashi probably isn't going to care about anything I do short of getting my ass into some anti-interrogation classes. So why the hell do you?"
It was an excellent question, and one Ginta had no answer to. Why did he care? Because he'd wanted Kakashi, lost Kakashi to Ryouma, and now Ryouma was walking away? If anything he should be glad about that. But that afternoon spent curled up next to Kakashi, wrung out of everything but the truth between them, had closed more doors than it opened.
Though it had opened one big one: a door marked "Friend" that Kakashi didn't open to anyone. That Ginta, if he was honest, didn't open all that often either.
But here was Ryouma, broken himself, practically radiating his pain into the sterile hospital room, and he was one of the few Ginta had called "friend" before. Ginta sighed deeply, plucked at the bedding, and turned to look out the window. A sharp wind had picked up; it bowed budding branches and tore aging petals from the the cherry trees that had bloomed the earliest.
"I don't know," he said at last. He looked at the empty chair, then at Ryouma, still pacing like a caged bear. "I don't fucking know. Sit down, Ryouma." He took a breath and tugged the blankets up again, covering his injured legs and too-vulnerable body.
"Maybe because I don't want to see your name on that monument, either. Maybe because I didn't make it to Tsuyako's funeral. Maybe because I'm selfish and I wish things were different. Maybe because I wish I could get out of here and go find someone else to fuck, and take a mission and come crawling back from it, and do it again and again until I forget anything else. Like Kakashi. Like you."
Ryouma was still standing, but he'd stopped pacing. He was at least listening. "Just sit down. Sit down and we'll... I don't know. We'll figure something out. You just gotta... You gotta figure it out, Ryouma. Or I am gonna be standing there in black, with Kakashi next to me, while they retire your mask."
"Maybe." Ryouma's fingers brushed over his bandaged shoulder and fell away. "I never figured on getting old. Don't plan on dyin' any time soon, either. You might notice I'm still on my feet."
Although that chair was looking awfully good. Ryouma hung back just long enough to make his point, and then dropped down with a loose-limbed casualness that set his bruises screaming under the dulling blanket of drugs. He tried not to let it show.
"I don't have a death wish, if that's what you're talking about. Had to fight too hard to ever give up that easy. In fact you and Kakashi spent about as much time in the hospital as I have, these last few months, so--so don't put me in the ground just yet, will you?"
"A death wish doesn't always look like suicide," Ginta said quietly. He watched Ryouma shift, go still, shift again. Hurting, probably. Probably bruised in a lot more places than Ginta could see. "And this..." He gestured at the bed, his leg, the room, with a jerky hand, full of impatience and frustration. "My mission went off the rails. And I bet you're gonna tell me yours did, too, and that every mission you've taken where you got hurt, it wasn't your fault. And you know what? I'll believe you. Since I've been in ANBU, I've never seen a B-rank that the regular mission grading system wouldn't have called an A; never seen an A-rank that didn't look impossible; never taken a mission where the stakes were anything less than extreme."
He glanced out the window again, at sunlight that lanced through clouds as the wind whipped them along. "You saw all those missions I ran up near you, when you were stationed up north. Half of them at least were solos. Solo missions, if you get hurt, there's a good chance you won't be coming back. And I volunteered for those. Still get assigned mostly solos. If a guy is gonna mission suicide, he's gonna do it on a solo, so psych is careful about guys like me and Kakashi who take a lot of solos."
It wasn't where he wanted to go. He wasn't sure where he wanted to go, really. And he wondered if he'd just contradicted himself. Psych was usually careful about the eye they kept on ANBU agents with a penchant for working alone, but if there was ever an agent at risk for a mission suicide, it had to be Kakashi. The thought set Ginta's half-eaten breakfast curdling in his stomach.
But this, right now, this was about Ryouma, not Kakashi. About Ryouma with his hideous bruises that were undoubtedly far worse than they needed to be. With his bloodshot eyes and petechiae-freckled cheeks, and that exhausted-manic look in his eyes.
"I'm not saying I think you're gonna off yourself with any conscious intention," Ginta said. "And I'm not saying you're a mission suicide type. No one gets into ANBU hunters who isn't a little bit of an adrenaline junkie. If you're not spending time with the medics after at least some of your missions, you're probably playing it too safe. But you're taking stupid chances, Ryouma. And you're pushing it too far with the chakra pills. I hope someone busts your balls about it--I've got half a mind to talk to Arakaki about it myself. If seeing what OD-ing on them did to Kakashi wasn't enough to make you pay attention, then I've gotta conclude either you've got an addiction or you've got the kind of death wish it's not so easy to recognize."
Ryouma rested his elbows on his thighs and stared down at his hands, callused and scarred and still a little dirty. He'd banged his thumb somewhere along the way, and there was a dark bruise clotting under the nail. He hadn't hit it hard enough to remember; without the soldier pills screwing up his system, there probably wouldn't even be a mark.
He wasn't an addict. Addict meant you couldn't handle it, meant you did whatever you had to for the next drink, the next jolt. Addict meant you were someone else when the drug had you in its grip--someone dangerous. Someone who didn't care that every dose brought death a little closer, because when you were on top of the world nothing else mattered...
"Shit." He clenched his hands and shoved his fists against his eye-sockets. "It runs in the blood, doesn't it? My granddad drank for twenty years, til they finally threw him out of the shinobi corps. He didn't care. Just kept drinking til it killed him. And I swore I'd never be like him, never even touch the stuff. So I gulp coffee'n energy drinks til I can get at soldier pills, an' when I've got a mission I never come back with the case full."
But he needed it, didn't he? Not just the adrenaline, the energy high; he could get that just from the fight. Soldier pills were often the only thing to tip the balance between life and death, between a burnt-out chakra system and that last jutsu that could save everything. He'd built up enough of a tolerance that he could handle more than most men, could run longer and fight harder and get the job done. And he never used them in Konoha--well, not off missions. The pill he'd sneaked on his way into the hospital this morning didn't count; that'd just been to stave off the crash. Coffee would probably have worked just as well. Caffeine was a pale substitute for that brilliant jolt of chakra and energy, but it was usually enough.
Excuses. It's in the blood. He was an addict; she was a whore. And I screw up everything I touch.
His breath hitched.
"If I'm gonna keep doing this, I can't stop."
"Keep doing what?" Ginta turned onto his hip towards Ryouma. "Running missions? Being in ANBU?"
Ryouma had his head bowed and resting on tightly clenched fists, with his elbows braced on his knees. He shrugged, nodded against his hands, shrugged again. Drew another ragged breath. Missions. Life. Everything, his gesture seemed to say.
The leaden certainty that he'd been right when he really wished he'd been wrong sank into Ginta's stomach. He couldn't offer Ryouma any comfort, or tell him it wasn't as bad as all that. It was as bad as all that, and maybe worse.
"Ryouma..." This time the name held no accusation. Ginta found himself focusing on the edge of bandage that showed beneath the shoulder of Ryouma's shirt. The pattern of the bruise beyond the bandage's reach. It was blue in the center, livid red at the edges, with a pale gap between the colors -- a sure sign the bleeding under Ryouma's skin extended past the injury.
A sure sign of too many soldier pills in too few days.
"You have to," he said at last. "You have to. I don't know how, but you have to stop. If it means you can't take missions for a while, that's still better than bleeding to death. Better than stroking out when what should have been a little knock on the head turns into a major brain bleed."
That'd already almost happened, once before. His hair still hadn't grown out from how short the nurses had clipped it when they stitched up his lacerated scalp at the end of January, back when a head-wound and another soldier pill overdose had combined to bleed him out. The scars curving over his cheek and forehead were still visible in certain lights, despite chakra-healing. Ryouma rubbed his thumb over his bruised cheekbone and remembered nearly bleeding to death on the floor of the men's showers.
Kakashi had saved him that time, and Genma and Raidou. Three veterans pulling together to rescue a stupid rookie who'd tried too hard, pushed himself too far, taken too many risks to prove himself one of them. Worthy of them.
Two and a half months later, and he was doing it again.
But he had made it back this time, without Katsuko's help--without anyone's. He'd done the smart thing and gone straight to the hospital. In another hour he'd be safe in his own bed, free to sleep it off without fear. At least, when he made mistakes, he didn't do them the same way twice.
Well--that particular mistake, at least.
"I'll try," he said wearily, dropping his hands. He looked up at Ginta and forced a narrow smile. "Maybe I really should ask for border duty again. Six months of nothin' should be enough to sweat it out, right?"
"No," said Ginta. And then had to examine why he'd said it. "It's a bad idea. You get yourself isolated up there and... And there's no one to keep you together if you get in any kind of trouble. I remember how you were with Team Badass. You liked your soldier pills then, too. I remember being amazed you could take as many as you did and not end up with your spleen in pieces. The difference between then and now is... Is..."
He broke off, staring over Ryouma's head, looking past stiff dark locks that needed shampoo, a scruffy, bruised face that badly needed a razor. Then turned his gaze down at his own blanket covered lap, staring at the terrain of hills and valleys the cotton made. Hills and valleys bare of trees, covered in snow. It was like Lightning Country in winter. He'd run there, to get away from Tomoya, to get away from his own head. What was it he'd said to Ryouma about taking missions to forget? It had almost worked, really.
"The difference between then and now is, back then, I didn't know enough to call you on it. I was too wrapped up in my own shit to really notice what you were doing. You were just the commander of that outpost, my contact. Not an ANBU, barely a friend, because all I did was lie to you. You didn't even know my name or my face. And then we had that mission last summer where everything went to hell, and by then we kind of were friends, even if you still called me Seishi. But it went to hell and I don't even remember getting home. Next time you showed up in my life, you were in the same black and white uniform as me. And then you stole the first guy I'd been seriously interested in since I broke up with the guy I joined ANBU to get away from."
He sighed heavily, and turned his head away when he caught Ryouma's eyes studying him. "And look what a fucking mess that's been. You can't just run away from your problems and pretend they'll go away. I know. I've tried."
"They used to," Ryouma said, broodingly. "Run away far enough, stay away long enough, and they'll forget you when you get back. Or get over you, at least." He chewed the edge of his mutilated thumbnail.
"It used to work fine. Come back for a few weeks' leave, fall for a new girl, head back for the border the minute she starts talking about a future." It was the first time he'd ever voiced it aloud; he grimaced at the sound of it. "Son of a bitch." It was as much of a label as a curse. "Soon as I get what I want, I realize I can't deal with it. So I run, instead of trying. You're right. Kakashi should've picked you, instead."
"Kakashi should... I don't know." Ginta still didn't look Ryouma's way, It was easier to have this conversation with his gaze fixed on a dark tag of cloud scudding across the pale sky. Would more join it and bring rain in the evening? Did the wind portend a late freeze? "He should do whatever the hell he wants. And if I was a better man I'd be so far over this I'd be telling you you need to man up and go talk to him. Straighten out whatever it is made you abandon him like that. But I'm not."
How had this turned from a discussion of Ryouma's problem with soldier pills to his problem with commitments? With Kakashi? Were they one and the same thing?
"You should know that about me," he said, in a voice so dry he could feel the words like cinders on his teeth. "I still care about him. Even though I'm not his choice. And I have no idea if you want him, or just want to prove something to yourself. But he's my friend, and you're my friend. If you can even say I have friends." He laughed, bitter and just as dusty a sound as his speech. "Don't fuck this up, Ryouma. Don't fuck up your life, and don't fuck up his."
Ryouma closed his eyes. "I think I already have."
Silence. The wind was rising outside, soughing through the boughs of the trees. Across the hall a pair of nurses laughed as they left another patient's room. Ryouma shifted again, swallowed, and finally looked up.
"I told him--something he didn't want to hear. How I'm not the guy he thought I was. And he was...exactly who I should've known he'd be. I was wrong, I screwed up, but--" He cut himself off, clenching his hand sharply around his bruised thumb.
"So," he said at last, in a voice so level it almost trembled, "I ran. I killed men. I kissed a girl on the battlefield, and I slept with her that night. Because she was pretty, and she laughed at me, and she said she liked me. Wanted me. And she was just about as not-Kakashi as it's possible to be. Except when she wasn't."
And that was a spectacularly good reason for sleeping with a girl who was practically a stranger. Ryouma shoved himself out of the chair again, strode around the bed to the window, and pressed his overheated forehead against the cool glass.
"If you care," he whispered, watching a few early cherry blossoms go whipping past. "If you're my friend. Tell me what the hell I'm supposed to do."
Ginta couldn't look out the window any more, without looking right at Ryouma. Without seeing hunched, defeated shoulders and a broad muscular back, bowed under the weight of a job and a life that Ryouma'd chosen, and the fallout from it that he'd never seen coming.
"I care," Ginta said simply. He pushed himself up in the bed, pulling his left knee to his chest. "I don't know what to tell you to do about Kakashi. You have to decide what you want. He has to decide what he wants. Maybe you were right, maybe you're not the man he thought you were. I sure as hell doubt it, actually. And maybe he's not the man you think he is. Maybe you're better off as friends than as lovers. Or maybe it doesn't make any difference if you sleep together or not. Hell, if you still like sleeping with chicks enough to do your mission partner, then that probably tells you something right there."
He swallowed, licked dry lips, and looked at the bruises blooming down Ryouma's arm.
"All I can tell you for sure is, you need to get some help, Ryouma. You have to talk to someone here. Arakaki maybe, or Psych. Hell, maybe Haruichi. I mean he's a bastard when you do something stupid to yourself, but if you go tell him you want his help stopping doing stupid shit to yourself..."
Somewhere in the hallway a door slammed. Someone pushed a squeaky-wheeled cart down the tiled corridor. Probably a nurse coming with medicine, or someone on their way to retrieve the patients' breakfast trays.
"I think," Ginta said quietly. "I think what you need to do is get it right with yourself what you want. And then you tell Kakashi you're sorry. And you get yourself some help." He paused, but spoke again before Ryouma could answer. "I'm your friend, so I'll be here. Even if you really piss me off."
"Sorry," Ryouma said. His mouth twitched despite himself. "If you really wanna make me believe you're pissed off, you should be yelling. Maybe throwing things. Punching me's a classic..."
He turned, leaning his good shoulder against the window, to meet Ginta's eyes. The smile slipped before he could recover it. "I was hoping you'd know an easier way. Guess I dug myself in, though. I'll figure it out."
He shoved away from the window, circled the foot of the bed again, and crouched painfully to pick up his scattered gear. When he straightened, he hesitated a moment before he turned for the door.
"Yeah," Ginta said softly. "Any time."
He felt almost like he'd taken a soldier pill himself, emotionally wrung out but wired tight physically. He picked up the cold piece of toast he'd been eating and winged it at Ryouma, who caught it with a lazy hand. "Don't forget to eat breakfast," Ginta told him. "And get some sleep. I still think you ought to be just faceplanting on that bed there." He pointed at the empty hospital bed next to the door.
"Come back soon as you've slept off the crash, and play cards with me or something. Actually I might be getting out of here soon. I really hope. They gave me some crutches yesterday. So if you don't come back, I'll hunt you down. You probably got some hazard pay recently I can win off you, right?"
Ryouma's eyeroll was an elegant, if exhausted reply. He turned to go.
"Wait," Ginta said. He leaned forward, looking intently at Ryouma. "Just... Remember what I said. About getting your own head right. About apologizing. If you go see Kakashi.... Keep it honest. He's... He's probably not the man you think he is. Not completely." Ginta felt the words die in his throat.
Ginta nodded back. Almost as if they had bowed to one another, some faraway part of himself observed.
"Get some damn rest," he said, shoving away thoughts and feelings he didn't understand for ones he did. "And don't do anything else stupid. At least for a week." That earned him a chuckle. An agreement. A goodbye.
When Ryouma had limped back into the hall, Ginta turned his head to look out the window once more. That lasted a good five minutes. Then he grabbed both bedrails and lifted himself off the mattress, channeling chakra into his hands, feeling shoulders protest and the heavy cast drag at the aching bones it protected. Push-ups, to work off the tension: one-two, one-two, one-two...