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[May. 22nd, 2014|05:42 am]

"Bet it has. We ran back into the storm, coming here." Ryouma dropped the tin of matcha back on its shelf. He followed Raidou up the long earth-walled passageway and around a bend where the electric lights gave out. It was only a short climb to the top of the tunnel, though, and the faint glow from beyond the bend cast just enough light in the darkness that Raidou could find the door and heave it open.

The new day was beginning to break, leaden grey and chill, despite yesterday's heat. Moisture beaded the leaves of the tall grass and scrub covering the hillside. They faced east, but the young sun still lurked behind clouds. Its diffused light gave the damp air a heavy, unearthly quality, like the pearly mist lurking in the hollows at the foot of the hill.

Ryouma squatted down on his heels again, peasant-style. "Mornings are better in Konoha."

Raidou drew a deep, chest-expanding breath, one hand bracing his left side. Cracked ribs? He let the breath out slowly, his face tilted up to the sky. His voice sounded warmer, calmer somehow. "This isn't too bad."

Ryouma looked away. He ripped up a handful of wet grass and drew the cold blades between his fingers. "I bet you like bathing under waterfalls and wrestling bears in the wilderness, too."

That earned him a chuckle. Raidou squatted down, too, and elbowed Ryouma companionably in the ribs. "Don't you?"

"I like three cups of coffee and a sharp razor in the morning." Ryouma scraped the grass-blades along his jaw, where a light stubble was just beginning to rasp. Raidou had the makings of a healthier scruff shadowing the strong planes of his cheeks and chin. Direct sunlight might catch the reddish tones, but in this watery grey dawn his stubble and hair were only a murky brown.

There was a rising bruise on his temple, well-faded as if it had already met Genma's healing hands. Smaller cuts and scrapes hadn't been worth the same treatment. He still smelled of smoke and sweat and antiseptic, and—

And Ryouma wasn't meant to be looking at him. Not out here, alone in the cold, foggy dawn. Not when they had nothing to talk about but themselves. He dropped his head again, and ripped savagely at the grass.

Raidou shifted. For a moment Ryouma thought he was getting up, but instead he dropped down to sit cross-legged, heedless of the wet grass beneath. He tossed an arm around Ryouma's shoulders and pulled him off-balance, against his side.

"Taichou," Ryouma said, desperately.

"I'm tired," Raidou said. His arm didn't loosen from Ryouma's shoulders. His side was furnace-warm. "It's been a shitty night. When we get home, we'll look at boundaries again. For now, Ryouma, if you want a hug, take the damned hug."

Somewhere in the world there were scattered shards of self-control. Ryouma gathered them with gritted teeth, and didn't move.

But it was uncomfortably awkward to lean, still squatting, against Raidou's side; their shoulders didn't fit together, and Ryouma's ankles hurt. After a moment he let himself slither down to sit beside Raidou. The grass immediately soaked the seat of his trousers through, but if he slouched a little his shoulder fit better under Raidou's. He could feel Raidou's warmth the whole length of his side, where they pressed together.

He thought of falling asleep in Raidou's arms, that one night they'd spent together. For the first time in a month he didn't immediately shove the thought away, or crush it down with distractions. He let its memory warm him, and then he thought, deliberately, of the cold in his bed when he woke, the dawn light revealing an empty apartment, only the rice cooker left on, no dishes in the sink.

This way was better. Watching the dawn together, and knowing that for eleven months, at least, neither of them would leave.
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