|[May. 22nd, 2014|04:59 am]|
He'd left his soap in the shower. The clone was just coming out, shaking water out of its hair. It pulled back in surprise when he brushed past it. He grabbed the soap and went to the sink. The water here was icy, no visible cistern to warm, but the soap still lathered. He scraped at the beds of his nails, at the creases of his palms. The scabs where Tsuto Sakako's nails had torn the backs of his fingers broke open and began to ooze again. |
Katsuko's clone stepped up beside him, and touched his wrist.
He stopped. The thin bar of soap slid between his fingers and fell sideways, blocking the drain. The scent of blackberries and vanilla rose, cloyingly sweet.
"Sorry," he said. He turned off the tap, fished the soap out and left it on the side of the sink, wiped his stinging hands on his towel-clad thighs and turned to find his utility belt. He didn't look at the clone. "I know it's stupid. I just had to be sure."
Callused fingertips brushed the back of his shoulder. "It's okay."
It wasn't, but he appreciated the effort. "Thanks," he said. He crouched down, shivering a little in the cold, and pulled out the scroll containing clean clothes. His raw fingers left pink streaks on the paper. He tried to ignore that. "You did a good job with the water, by the way. Hot all the way through, but it never burned." He broke the seal on the scroll, waved away smoke, and pulled out clean trunks and his second set of ANBU blacks. "You should go into business, when you're ready to retire. Best bathhouses in Konoha. Wouldn't even need a hot spring."
"Only if you're the half-naked model for the bathhouse ads," the clone said, cheering up.
Ryouma smiled down at his neatly rolled clothes. "You don't think the tattoos'd scare all the old aunties off?"
"Tattoos are actually old aunties' greatest weakness," the clone said loftily. "You heartbreaker, you."
"Well, then we've both got our post-retirement careers planned out." Ryouma dropped the towel and pulled his trunks on. "You can hire the rest of the team to scrub the baths. Kakashi seems like he'd be a hard worker."
"We can assign everyone special uniforms," the clone said, rubbing its chin. "Yours will be a steam cloud and a smile."
"Hah," Ryouma said, and pulled on his actual uniform, ignoring his discarded kneebrace. The tight, stretchy black fabric tended to cling to damp skin, despite his rough toweling, but he managed to wrestle the trousers up to his hips and do up the buttons. The shirt was more daunting, involving some wriggling to unroll it past his ribs, but if the clone enjoyed the show, at least it didn't comment. Maybe Katsuko'd done her own absurd tight-clothes-dance, when there wasn't time to airdry.
"Thanks for your help," he said finally, tucking his shirt into his trousers. He crouched down again to seal up his old trunks and knee brace in the scroll. The scroll slotted into its waterproof pouch, and Ryouma straightened, slinging the soggy belt over his shoulder. "Was there food happening somewhere? We should bring it to 'em."
"Definitely food happening," the clone said. It pushed away from the sink, skirting the toilet, and patted his biceps as it drew even with him. "And you can help carry it all."
"It can't be heavier than Kakashi." He hitched his slippery belt up his shoulder again and followed the clone out into the hall.
The kitchen was the opposite direction from the bunkroom, easily identified by the rich, oily scent of rehydrated beef curry. They'd eaten that by the gallon during the war, when they could get it. Ryouma ducked into the tiny kitchen alcove to find another of Katsuko's clones crouched over a tiny campstove and a bubbling pot, while a third swore at a foil bag of instant rice.
The rice was crunchy, but not inedible. Ryouma found tin bowls, and the clones poured rice in and spooned curry on top. "Maybe the curry will soften it," one of the clones said hopefully.
The clone from the shower looked doubtful, but it let itself be laden down with a third bowl. The remaining bowl, out of a set of four, had an old hole burned through the bottom. They gathered around to stare at it in dismay.