“We’ll figure it out,” he said at last, pulling up all the certainty he had left. He reached out and tapped two fingers to the back of Ryouma’s burned hand. “Starting with this, since you’ve broken a record by getting injured inside a safehouse.”
Ryouma blinked and looked down. “It’s just blisters. Those chakra limiters bite.”
“That’s sort of why they’re there,” Raidou said, dry. “And since the lieutenant isn’t here to nag, it’s my duty to do it in his place. And then I’m going to make you cook something, because I haven’t eaten and you ditched your curry, and the clones can’t be trusted.”
“I was going to have a rat bar,” Ryouma said vaguely, as if he was still struggling to catch up with the topic change. He closed and opened his hand, staring down at it, then gathered long legs beneath himself and scrambled up. “I can make you something.”
“Something hot,” Raidou said, hoisting himself up more slowly. Every muscle and joint twanged complaint. Honestly, it was flattering that Ryouma thought he was capable of sex. Or another strike against Ryouma’s current footing in reality. “And edible, for preference. And wash your hands first, my god.”
“I was going to,” Ryouma said stiffly. He returned to the basin and crouched down, picking up the little yellow bar of soap with a judgemental grimace. The pump creaked and water splashed. When Ryouma spoke again, his voice was almost lost under the sound. “You’re not going to kick me off the team, are you?”
Raidou looked blindly at the ceiling.
He was going to add the person who’d kicked all the cracks in Ryouma to his list, where it could share space with the person who’d ripped Katsuko’s coils into bloody pieces, and one or two other names. And when he found them, no power in the world was going to make him stop hitting.
He wouldn’t even feel guilty afterwards. It’d be a good day.
“No, I’m not going to kick you off the team,” he said. “I asked, you told me, and I’m glad you did. If I started punting people for thinking about sex, Katsuko wouldn’t last eight seconds.” He stepped forward, standing a half-pace to the left of Ryouma’s hunched back, and tried to find the right words. Then he gave up and said the honest ones. “You're a member of my team, Ryouma. That means something. All the good bits, all the ugly sides, whatever's in your head—that's just part of it. And unless you break one of the real laws, the only way you're getting out is if someone takes you.”
He crouched down, and after a second's debate, settled his hand on the back of Ryouma’s neck.
“And they'll have to drag hard, because I'll be hanging onto your feet.”
Ryouma shivered, a fine running tremor, and his head dropped low. He let out an unsteady breath and sounded more than a little wrecked when he said, “You’re making it really hard not to have a crush on you, taichou.”
You're making this no-fraternization thing really hard, Ryouma had complained once, at that very first team meeting. He’d been talking about Raidou’s solution to his paperwork problem and followed it up with a crack about trading love-declarations for coffee, which Raidou had written off as a joke. And they’d talked later, admittedly briefly. But Ryouma’d sounded like it meant it when he said, We’re good. I really don’t do relationships, anyway.
Which, Raidou reflected, wasn’t the same as saying, I don’t feel anything.
He’d felt Ryouma looking at him during training and on wall duty, a quick flick of dark eyes. But Ryouma looked at everyone, and most of the time it wasn’t a precursor to getting in their pants. Ryouma watched people, carefully, warily, like he was waiting to see what they thought of him. And then he smiled like he didn’t care.
Not for the first time, Raidou thought, I wish I’d never walked into that bar.
It had been easy, and it had been fun, and the only thoughts he’d really had afterwards had been—well, hot and happy. He’d even gone back to The Green Pig once or twice, with half an eye out for tall-dark-and-ninja. Ryouma had never been there and Raidou had wondered, a little regretfully, if his morning-after mission really had killed him.
And now they were here.
Maybe the priests had a point when they told you to abstain.