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After the Rhythm and Booze[May. 21st, 2017|05:20 pm]

[Takes place June 25, Yondaime Year 5, the morning after Light Me Up]

Genma woke naked in Aoba’s empty bed when his alarm chimed at 0630. Untangling his bare legs from the bedsheets and staggering to the bathroom took a few hazy moments. He squinted at his reflection in the mirror over the sink: tangled hair, red-rimmed, heavy-lidded eyes, a dusty smattering of beard stubble, and a vaguely amused expression greeted him. “You’re still a little drunk,” he told Genma-in-the-mirror. “Better do something about that.”

A fiercely hot shower was the first order of business. Strong coffee, and a little bit of chakra to goose his liver into metabolizing the lingering alcohol faster, came next. Then an egg over hot rice. Aoba, bless him a thousand times, had made rice and left it hot in the cooker before he’d headed off for his mission the night before. He’d left a note for Genma, too.

Hope the orgy night out with your team was fun. You have three days to clean up the evidence before I get home. It was signed with a self-portrait doodle of Aoba blowing a kiss.

It was going to be nice to have his own place again, but he was going to miss living with Aoba.

Getting rid of “the evidence” was a matter of washing the dishes, picking up the trail of clothes he’d left from the front door through to Aoba’s bedroom, and tossing the sheets over the bed. He yawned and sighed. There could have been more evidence. Kurenai’s red dress could have lain in a heap next to his discarded shirt. Raidou’s hip-skimming jeans could have been on the sofa next to his own peeled-off pair. There could have been three sets of underwear strewn like trail signs leading to Aoba’s bed.

Or at least two. Raidou had (wisely, frustratingly but wisely) backed out before he and Genma had done something they might regret. But Kurenai hadn’t said no. In fact, all signs had pointed to an enthusiastic yes just a few hours ago.

Genma tugged on training clothes, and yanked his hair back into a damp ponytail. Sobriety started to gain an edge over the lingering buzz. Sweet gods, had he actually come that close to kissing Raidou? Had Raidou actually come that close to kissing him?

Yes, his memory whispered. That had been a mutual impulse. Kurenai’s hot hands and supple waist between them. Raidou’s parted lips and intense, wanting, gaze.

He buckled on weapons and utility belts, and tied his hitai-ate over his hair, banishing the vision. He was Team Six’s lieutenant, Raidou’s right-hand-man. And Raidou was his captain — a man Genma had spent the last eleven weeks scrupulously avoiding thinking of as attractive and desirable.

He could keep thinking that way.

He stopped in the bathroom one more time to liberate a handful of paper-wrapped hangover powders — one for himself, and one for each of his teammates.

0655. He had five minutes to get to the training field. He should have set his alarm for earlier. Or taken a shorter shower. Or not gotten lost in wishing he’d gone through with that potentially regrettable opportunity. He grabbed his water bottle, jammed his feet into his boots, and translocated in three jumps: to the base of the monument; to the roof of ANBU’s main building at the top of the cliff; and finally to training field three.

Unsurprisingly, the rookies weren't there yet. Or… no, Ryouma was there, sitting cross legged and slumped, head-down, in some tall grass at the base of a rough-barked tree. Sick? Asleep? It was hard to tell.

Raidou, of course, was there, hands on hips, surveying the field like a commander planning troop movements. From a distance, he looked as fresh as he did on any other training day. Genma ambled over to his team and greeted Raidou with a wave and a quiet, “Hi.”

Please don’t let this be awkward.

Raidou tipped him a smile. His eyes were a little tired-looking, but there was no hint of anything out of the ordinary in the way he greeted Genma.

Genma let go of his remaining tension and smiled back. Raidou was carrying on as if nothing had happened; Genma would, too.

“Since last night was his idea,” Raidou said, gesturing with an elbow at Ryouma, “I’m deciding whether to let him suffer or throw him on your mercy.”

Genma studied Ryouma, who hadn’t shown any sign of awareness that Genma had arrived. “I was still a little buzzed this morning. Is he, too?”

“Good question,” Raidou said. He raised his voice. “Tousaki, you sober?”

Ryouma lifted his chin from his chest with obvious effort, as if his skull had doubled in weight, and let it loll back against the tree. His eyes stayed shut, but after two or three eyebrow twitches, he managed to crack them open to a narrow slit. Black irises were lost in shadow. A hoarse, hollow shadow of Ryouma’s voice answered, “K’suko warned me. Shoulda listened.”

“That sounds like a ‘no’,” Genma told Raidou. He raised his voice, too. “Katsuko warned you about what? Not to drink too much? That doesn’t sound like her.”

“That T’chou was like this.” His eyes closed again, and his shoulders slumped. “An’ now you are, too.” He sounded utterly betrayed.

Genma glanced at Raidou. “Well? I have hangover powders — one for you, too, if you want it — should I give him one, or have you decided against mercy?”

Raidou gave Ryouma a long, considering look, then shrugged. “Good practice to train under rough conditions. Up and at ‘em, Tousaki. If you actually die, the lieutenant can patch you up.”

Somehow, that answer didn’t surprise Genma. Raidou was a compassionate man, even a kind one, when the situation called for it. But he was also a hardass of a commander.

“You know I can’t actually resurrect the dead, right?” Genma asked.

Raidou grinned. “Good practice for you, too.”

Genma snorted.

“Where the hell is Hatake?” Raidou asked, squinting towards HQ.

Ryouma collapsed onto his side. “He's not a masochist,” he said. After a moment, he flopped over onto his stomach, stretched, and began the weariest, most pathetic set of pushups Genma had ever seen.

It was actually kind of impressive how much emotion — betrayal, despair, accusation, misery — Ryouma could pack into so simple an activity.

“I’m pretty sure we have enough evidence to prove he is,” Genma said. “Taichou makes him suffer when he’s late. Don’t see why today would be any different.” He dropped into a squat and started stretching his hamstrings. The chakra he’d set to work on speeding sobriety had done its job; he was definitely sober. And starting to regret his life choices just a little.

He glanced up at Raidou. “How are you, actually? Are you one of those people who just doesn’t get hangovers?”

“Not without drinking a lot more, first.” Raidou said, amused. “And I have fifteen kilos on you, at least.”

Genma considered it. They’d started dancing almost the minute they arrived, but they’d both had several of those lethal blue shots of Kurenai’s, followed by Kakashi’s gift drinks. Genma’s lighter frame undoubtedly accounted for his being more tipsy than Raidou when they’d arrived at the izakaya. But while Raidou had switched to water and beer, Genma had delightedly helped consume Ginta’s very expensive, very good sake. And then there were Kakashi’s flaming lemon boats, and Kurenai’s shouchuu at the end…

“You have a point,” Genma said. His head and shoulders were starting to throb, and his stomach churned on his breakfast rice like it was considering rebellion. He aborted his stretch and pulled one of the medicine packets out of his pocket. “Lucky bastard. I’m taking some medicine before I end up looking like Tousaki does.” He tipped the grainy powder into his mouth and swished it down with a sip of water. It made his tongue go numb for a moment, but the fire in his gut died almost as soon as he’d finished swallowing.

“Thank the gods for the brilliant people in Grass Country who came up with this stuff,” Genma said with a relieved sigh. He resumed his stretches, focusing on his shoulders. “Whoever invented it ought to get a pass straight to the Pure Land when they die.”

From a point about half a meter behind Genma, Kakashi said, “Morning, Lieutenant.” Genma spun so fast he almost overbalanced himself, lashing out with a reflexive kick that whished harmlessly past Kakashi’s head when Kakashi dodged.

Kakashi was about Genma’s size, and if anything, lighter. He’d definitely had more alcohol than Genma, yet there he was, looking as fresh as an April morning.

The hangover remedy hadn’t had quite enough time to work yet. Genma swallowed hard, took a careful breath through the nose, and growled, “You’re late, Hatake.”

Kakashi smiled brightly, eye curving into a slim crescent. “You don’t look well, Lieutenant.”

“Your compassion is astounding,” Genma told him. Nausea ebbed, and he resumed stretching. “Unless Taichou has something better for you to do, you can do push ups with Tousaki.” Who wasn’t doing push ups anymore, it turned out. He was watching his teammates with a baffled look on his face.

“Laps. Both of you,” Raidou said. There wasn’t even a trace of good humor in his voice. “Start slow and build up. I want you sprinting in ten minutes. You can stop when Tousaki’s no longer green.”

Kakashi tapped out a non-standard salute, fingertips to temple, and loped off obediently.

Ryouma was on his feet with outrage-fueled speed. “I wasn’t late!”
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