Melting ice cubes sloshed sulkily against enamel. Ryouma glanced back over his shoulder and saw Pakkun peering dolefully over the edge of the sink. Apparently the temptation of beer wasn't enough to venture out, though, because Pakkun rolled over after a moment, all four paws sticking up in the air, and began to sing.
He had a strong bass, and no sense of tune. Ryouma was pretty sure those hadn't been the original lyrics, either.
"Hope he didn't pick up his singing skills from you," Ryouma told Kakashi, reaching for the next board.
"Now you'll never know," Kakashi said, but he flicked a glance back, and shaped a fast handful of seals. Chakra lanced out. The water in the sink rose, an ice-studded wave, and fell again. Pakkun's singing broke off in an indignant yelp.
"Falling behind," Raidou commented.
Challenge glittered in Kakashi's eye. Ryouma scrambled to catch up.
Genma's clone gave an unfair advantage, and Raidou knew what he was doing, but Kakashi was fast and Ryouma was determined. They fell into a rhythm, Ryouma placing the boards, Kakashi setting nails a precise thirty centimeters apart. The other side of the hole grew closer. Sweat slicked Ryouma's hands, left damp prints on the boards, dripped into his eyes. He met Kakashi's eye across the board and grinned at him.
Kakashi grinned back, sweat-damp mask crinkling, eye alight. His hair was damply spiked, clinging to his temples and the side of his head. His hands never faltered, setting the nail, driving it in with two quick blows, moving on.
Ryouma reached for the last board two seconds before Genma's clone, and slid it in to fill the gap. There was a half-centimeter space between boards, but maybe Genma wouldn't drop anything down it. And Raidou and Genma had actually covered substantially more ground, but Ryouma wasn't letting that stand in the way of triumph. He sat back on his heels and pumped his fist at the roof. "Rookies take the day!"
The clone looked pointedly at the new patch of floor, measured the stretch of raw boards on either side of Genma and Kakashi, and quirked a brow.
"Still finished first," Ryouma told it. "This time, that's good news."
The clone's other brow rose. "There was another time? Do tell."
Genma rocked back on his heels, wiped sweaty hair out of his eyes, and laughed. The clone popped like a soap bubble.
"Still want to hear?" Ryouma asked. Adrenaline fizzed in his veins: victory without the fight. He bounced up, testing the new boards, and they held.
"About how you're quick on the draw?" Pakkun asked lazily from the sink. "Kid, we know."
Well, Raidou certainly knew, but—
The lights came on. In the warehouse below, someone whooped.
Ryouma stood, blinking stupidly, eyes slitted against the sudden glare from unshaded overhead bulbs. Kakashi was looking at him, head tilted slightly, as if he were still waiting to hear. Ryouma pretended not to see.
The stairs creaked briskly — Genma would always have a warning for intruders — and a sturdy woman in rain-sprinkled coveralls poked her head in. "Shiranui-san? I worked out the problem with the fuses—"