|The Truth of the Matter [Ryouma, Kakashi, Katsuko]||[Jan. 30th, 2012|11:20 pm]|
[[Takes place the morning of November 3rd, a few hours after Same Ghost Every Night.]]|
There was a wolf in his dream.
He’d been trout-tickling at his favorite spot on an anonymous little creekbank in Lightning Country, except the trout grew legs and teeth and fought back, and his grandfather and Shiki and a grey-haired man with yellow teeth sat on the other side of the bank, drinking yellow-label rotgut shouchuu, and calling advice to the fish. Ryouma was too busy scraping fish-men off his arm to drive them off, but advice turned to taunts, and the teeth grew longer and sharper and sank into his flesh, and the clear water of the creek began to run red—
The wolf came wading upstream, chest-deep in blood, and the men on the other bank went silent. The wolf lowered its head and bit one of the fish-men off Ryouma’s arm. The fish-man stretched like a leech and then snapped with a tiny scream, and the wolf crunched it and swallowed.
The other fish-men dropped away with tiny plops, like real fish jumping. Ryouma took a deep, unsteady breath. “You shouldn’t have eaten that,” he said. “Fish bones can be dangerous.”
“I know,” the wolf said. It scrabbled heavily up the bank and lay down close beside him, radiating heat. “It’s okay,” it said. “Everything’s okay.” It swiped its tongue over Ryouma’s bloody fingers, then pinned his wrist with an enormous paw and began to work its way steadily up his lacerated arm. Its tongue was rough as sandpaper, and tickled in the raw wounds.
“You can’t eat me,” Ryouma said.
“Idiot,” the wolf said, slightly muffled. “I don’t eat people I rescue.” It paused and lifted its head just enough to fix Ryouma with one severe dark eye. “Go to sleep.”
“I am asleep,” Ryouma said. “Granddad’s dead. I saw him buried.”
“I could dig him up and eat him,” the wolf offered.
Ryouma shuddered. “Worse than fish bones.”
“Then be quiet.” The wolf went back to licking. New flesh was beginning to grow back under its tongue, pink, then brown. Ryouma wiggled his fingers. The wolf made an exasperated noise and slapped its paw down over his hand. “Hold still,” it said. “I have to finish with you before the rabbit sees.”
The rabbit would run into the fire to save him, if it saw. Ryouma held still.
“All right,” the wolf decided at last, with one last cursory swipe at his knuckles. “That’s enough.” It yawned, long tongue curling red between its very white teeth, and then settled down with its muzzle resting on Ryouma’s shoulder and its tail curling heavily over his legs. “Go back to sleep,” it said, and Ryouma woke up.
He was scrunched against the wall in Kakashi’s bed, with a cloth-shrouded nose pressed against the hollow of his throat and a wild brush of silver hair tickling his chin. Kakashi slept like the dead, his chest barely lifting against Ryouma’s as he breathed. He’d ended up beneath the sheets, somehow; Ryouma was still on top, with a blanket slipping down to his hips and his shirt rucked halfway up to his ribs. Kakashi’s hand curled, warm and possessive, over his scar-cut stomach.
On the other side of the bed, huddled in a loose-limbed ball and clutching Kakashi’s right hand like a lifeline, Katsuko was frowning in her sleep.
She was also wearing the blue Shuriken Force tee-shirt Ryouma had left on the floor by the laundry the day before yesterday, inside out and backwards. It swamped her, like a child in her older brother’s clothes.
Ryouma propped himself up on an elbow and considered the prospect of a former one-night-stand in his bed, wearing his shirt, and holding his boyfriend’s hand.
“I think,” he said at last, hoarse in the early morning quiet, “the talking wolf made more sense.”