“Whoa, hey!” Raidou yelped, jerking his head to the side. “Get the hair, not the glue.”
“That’s what I’m doing,” Katsuko said patiently, following him with the sponge. Lukewarm water washed down the back of his neck, soaking into the towel. “Ruining the glue would make you bleed all over my stuff.”
“Can’t have that,” Raidou muttered.
“Priorities,” she said, radiating the serenity of someone with a quasi-willing victim under their hands. The blood had set in his hair, drying to a disgusting gummy crust. She went at it like a woman determined to lightly scalp him.
Raidou shut his eyes. As headaches went, the hot dry pounding in his temples wasn’t exactly world-ending, but it was starting to grind on his nerves. He could ask for painkillers — Katsuko undoubtedly had a medkit full of them. He had a rattling bottle in his training kit, even, but they were for private use, not public, or for when the rookies threw out a joint. He’d put too much work into cultivating the image of a juggernaut lieutenant to let it lapse for a minor dent.
The sponge scoured a tacky streak of blood from his forehead, and Katsuko’s free hand settled on the back of his neck, making him open his eyes. He winced when her fingers dug in.
“What are you—”
She found a tense knot, pressed her thumb against it hard, and released it all at once. His muscles unlocked, shivering. She found another one, working her way down from the base of his skull to the top of his back. It was about as relaxing as being gently mauled with tiny hammers, but the headache lessened.
“Are you trying to cripple me?” he demanded, by way of saying thank you.
“I wouldn't have to try," Katsuko said cheerfully. “Since you still have feeling below the neck, shut up and take it like a ninja.”
“As your future captain, I want you to know that you’re going to be on my shitlist for the rest of eternity,” he told her, leaning back against her hand. “Toilet brushes will be ranked higher than you. Ouch, goddammit, get that one again.”
“You're sending me very mixed messages, here.” She hit the same spot again, sparking an arc of nerve pain that faded to a tingle. “I'd ask if your mom ever taught you manners, but you can't blame the parent for the failings of the child.”
“S’that what your parents told you?”
Katsuko’s hands paused for a brief, telling moment, then resumed. “Yours didn’t?”
“Mine are both teachers,” Raidou said. “We did a lot of emotional processing, less blame. One’s a civilian,” he added, to explain.
“Huh. My dad's a jounin,” Katsuko offered, with the slightest edge to her voice that made him think there was a lot of history there. “My mom... is not a shinobi. I've got a little brother, too. He complains almost as much as you do.”
“Do you torture him, too?”
“He's a civilian,” she said. “His head isn't as hard as yours. I have to be nice.”
“You torture him,” Raidou translated.
“Your lack of faith wounds me.” She gave him one last vision-destroying massage, which popped his neck bones like broken nut shells, and let the sponge fall back into the basin. A quick flip dropped the towel edge over his head. “As if I’d do that to someone who looks up to me as a role model.”
“You torture him a lot,” Raidou said, towelling his head carefully dry. The white terry-cloth came away brownish-red, but the glue was still a rough ridge when he touched it, and there was no fresh blood. He actually felt marginally cleaner.
Katsuko left to toss the bloody water down the shared bathroom drain while he peeled himself back upright, surveying the uncluttered terrain of her room. Most rookies liked to live light, but even by spartan standards Katsuko was pretty lacking in creature comforts. Even Raidou had a rug.
“So,” he said, when she returned. “Where do you want to start?”