Aug 102007

Title: Corybantic Dance (Chapter 4)
Co-author: Supermadichan
Characters: Gekkou Hayate, Shiranui Genma, Namiashi Raidou, Hagane Kotetsu, Kamizuki Izumo, Mitarashi Anko, Yamashiro Aoba
Rating: T
Warnings: Pure crack, implications of violence, expletives
Notes: We saw many High School Alternate Universes. They were all poorly written. We decided to change that. Eventual GenHaya and KoIzu. Ywain is horrified at the wordcount of this chapter.

Disclaimer: Naruto is not our toy, although sometimes we wish it was. Almost everyone you meet here belongs to Masashi Kishimoto, we just borrow them, occasionally. Hayate's parents, Gekkou Ken'ichirou and Gekkou Shizuka, belong to Sweetbriar, and Genma's mother, Shiranui Riza, is all Penbrydd's fault.

Author's Note: Another long-ass chapter for your enjoyment! Genma sticks his foot in it! Kotetsu is accused of not being nice! (gasp!) Aoba nearly gets his nose broken for obvious reasons! …Izumo is thoroughly unimpressed with all of them, as usual…

The authors would also like to announce that IC Q&A sessions are still going on! Want to know what our characters think about something? Ask them at the Wryly Fantarding Q&A panel for Corybantic Dance located at wrylyfantarding. livejournal. com / 5948. html

Warnings: Violence, expletives, eventual yaoi (KoIzu, KoIzuRai (more funny than sexy), GenHaya).

Chapter Four

Genma couldn't sleep. Midnight passed, then two, then three. The room felt warm, despite the open window and the chill October air coming through it. He felt sick, he decided, and it felt like some internal sickness, rather than a contagious one. His chest hurt, his stomach rolled, and his mind wouldn't stop buzzing. He rolled out of bed, taking the sheet with him, and folding it in half, he tied it around his body, over his shoulder, before stepping out the window onto the fire escape. It wouldn't do, as much as he might have wished he could do it, to stand above the city, naked.

For several long minutes, he leaned on the wrought iron railing, picking off pieces of rust-weighted paint, and listening to them strike the ground, below. The fingers of the other hand began to tap a rhythm against the railing. Joy Division's 'Dead Souls' was an interesting complement to the day he'd had, and he complimented his subconscious on the choice as he stared at the street below. One hand drummed and the other picked ever more frantically at the rusting metal railing, until, finally, he completely lost his rhythm, leaned over the rail, and threw up, barely missing the trash cans below. Something was not right. Something was horrendously wrong, in fact, and Genma sorely wished that he was permitted to know what it was, but at the same time, if just the hints were this bad, perhaps he was best just ignoring it until it was necessary for him to know it. He sucked sourly at his teeth and spit over the rail, trying to clear the taste of bile from his mouth before he ascended to the roof. At least it wasn't hot out here.

Standing on the black tar roof, Genma could still feel traces of the day's heat seeping up through his feet — an oddly comforting feeling, considering that he hated the heat, most days. Real love, he decided as he spilled himself across the tar, backward, probably felt like lying on the roof — a feeling of warmth that permeated the body in a not unpleasant fashion. A slight softening of the ground; a faint smell of something that would be dangerous in excess. He stared up at the moon where it hung from the midheaven, slowly tracing its wending path across the sky, serpentine over the long months, if only one arc per night. Even, and perhaps especially, alone, he could not keep his mind from trying to make a concerted whole of all things, some beautiful pattern that contained all knowledge, even if it held things he would never live long enough to know.

Genma tried to ignore the pain in his chest — there was no physical cause, so it probably wasn't important — but the ache continued, a sense of his ribcage collapsing and the wind whistling through the ruins. None of it mattered in the end, he supposed, because the end was the end, and nothing came after it, but in the moment, some things couldn't help but matter. In a way, he was almost jealous that Hayate lived in a house, while he and his mother shared this tiny apartment. That didn't make any sense, of course, because he wasn't jealous of Raidou's house, which was much bigger and nicer. But maybe it does, his mind insisted, Raidou comes from somewhere else. He lives in an environment where money is normal, where everyone lives in a house. Maybe it's just foreign enough that it doesn't strike you like someone from three blocks away does. He had to admit that was possible. Probable even. But, under that thin layer of jealousy, he was still curious and somewhat awestruck. How did a person wind up so entirely separated from the rest of humanity? From the world and all things in it? How did a person so disinclined to see and appreciate beauty not just commit suicide, staring into all the sickness and the degradation? What made life worth living?

He knew that Raidou was right. He knew there probably wasn't anything he could do. He knew that Hayate was right. He knew damn well that he tried too hard. But somehow, despite all that, he knew he was going to try, anyway. It might not matter in the end, but right now, he really just had to make the crippling chest pains stop. As Genma curled into a ball on the roof, desperately trying to pretend that everything was fine, he knew he wasn't going to get any sleep.

The next afternoon, Genma stumbled blearily into the theatre, half-empty third can of Red Bull of the day hanging loosely from one hand as he tripped over Kotetsu, who knelt on the floor with Aoba, looking over the lighting schematic.

"Hey, fucker, watch where the hell —" Kotetsu looked up, and the anger faded from his face to be replaced by something resembling concern. "Genma? You okay? You look like hammered shit, man."

Genma rubbed his forehead, as if trying to wipe away the haze of exhaustion. "Sorry, Ko. I feel like hammered shit. I haven't slept since the last time you saw me." He guzzled the rest of the Red Bull, and launched the can into the nearest trash bin, perfectly, arcing it straight into the centre of the bin. It didn't matter how tired he was, his aim was unerring. "Oh, um, I needed to talk to Izumo about something. You seen him yet, tonight?"

"Yeah, he's fighting with Yamanaka about the sound quality of the thunder roll. He wants to go digital, and Yamanaka wants to keep using the same reel to reel thunder cut the school's been using since the sixties." Kotetsu shrugged. "I'm sure he'll be back and cursing in a few minutes. You should sit down and wait for him. I don't want you falling on me."

Genma crossed his legs as he sat, graceful as always. "I don't weigh that much. Besides, it's not a dexterity problem, that was totally just a perception botch. I'm just hallucinating."

Aoba's eyebrows arched over his sunglasses as he tilted his head slightly, looking at Genma. "Hallucinating? Like what, man? Like…weird colors and all that stuff?"

"Just seeing shit that's not there. Not seeing shit that is there. Stupid shit." Genma rested his elbows on his knees and his face in his hands. "It's been a long couple of days," he muttered, disconsolately. This was hardly the first time he'd been hallucinatorily tired at school.

Kotetsu looked at Aoba and shrugged. "I think he just forgets to sleep sometimes. It's better not to ask — although I bet I know what he's seeing in the corner of his eye…" A wretchedly obscene smile slid across Kotetsu's face as he glanced back at Genma. "Are you dreaming of sticking your dick in that wheezy little frosh, again?"

"Not funny right now, Ko. Really not funny. You're lucky I'm too tired to beat the respect back into you." Genma was still muttering exhaustedly, his voice barely clearing a whisper. Aoba just frowned in mild puzzlement.

"What wheezy little frosh?" he asked, despite Genma's obvious aversion to the topic. Aoba seemed to have an uncanny knack for saying the wrong thing at the wrong time, and usually wildly inappropriately. He was a decent guy and never meant any harm – his mouth just never seemed to cooperate with his brain.

"Some geeky little friend of Izumo's from the chess club." Kotetsu inched away from Genma as he spoke, expecting to be at least slapped. "I forget his name."

"Hayate. His name's Hayate." Genma's voice was clear, this time — quiet, but clean.

"I didn't know you were into freshmen, Genma," Aoba remarked, absent-mindedly fiddling with the pencil in his hand in what looked like an absurd feat of dexterity. "Thought they were all too little and annoying for you. With their stupid little giant backpacks and all…you know, you'd think they'd know how to use a locker. I never got that."

"Aoba, have you ever seen a locker from the inside? I have. That's why frosh don't use them. It's too easy to get stuffed into one if it's already open." Genma yawned, forgetting to be offended, and too tired to care. "And I'm not into frosh. They're too young. But, you know, sometimes you find an exception that just begs to be made…"

Kotetsu opened his mouth but closed it without a word. If someone was doomed to get clocked, at least it wouldn't be him. The running candidate, of course, was Aoba.

"So what, you're like, turning paedo for this one kid now or something?"

Genma's hand shot out, the only part of the otherwise stone-still body to move. He seized Aoba's nose, tightly, and cranked it hard to the left, really leaning into it. "What did you just say to me?"

Kotetsu sat perfectly still, and just got paler and paler. If Genma had reached the point of actually doing damage, instead of just threatening it, the world had become a much more interesting place — and not in a good way.

"Ah — shit, man!" Aoba grabbed Genma by the wrist and pried his fingers away from his poor nose, shaking his head. He leaned back, still holding Genma back at arm's length. "Okay, shit, sorry! I didn't mean for it to come out like — come on, man!" He gave Genma a somewhat helpless look that came through despite the dark shades.

Genma wiped the snot off his fingers — real or illusionary, he wasn't certain — onto Aoba's knee, and returned his hand to its previous position, supporting his face. "Next time I hear some shit like that out of your mouth, I'll break your nose instead of just bending it a bit." He yawned. "Christ. Yamanaka must be gnawing his ass off or something. It doesn't take this long to get turned down."

"You know Izumo. He's not going to take the first five or six 'no's." Kotetsu laughed, just a little tensely, and looked inquisitively at Aoba. You gonna be okay? Aoba waved him off, rubbing his nose with an injured look on his face.

"I swear to fucking God, if we get fucking laughs on that, I'm gonna fucking rend him a new asshole with my goddamned foot…" The heated string of curses didn't die down any as Izumo trudged toward the group and threw himself down onto the floor next to Kotetsu, chewing furiously on his thumbnail. He was usually cool and collected, but their director had clearly thrown him out of sorts. Inoichi Yamanaka was usually a fairly laid back guy, but there were times when he was infuriatingly stubborn, and it just so unfortunately happened that those times were when Izumo vehemently disagreed with him. He continued muttering irritated obscenities under his breath without greeting anyone, looking up at Genma. "Jesus Christ, what the fuck happened to you?" he said bluntly, with none of his usual tact.

Kotetsu petted Izumo's face as though he were trying to smooth away the annoyance. "Don't bite your nails, hon. You know you'll chew them bloody and take it out on me until they grow back."

Looking up, Genma smiled weakly at Izumo. "Sleep is for the weak, man. I've already had mine, this week. It's nothing serious — I just haven't been feeling quite right, today. Hey, I was going to ask you a favour, but you know, if you're in a shit mood, I can just fuck off."

Izumo pulled his fingers away from his mouth, wiped them on his pants, and pressed them into his forehead. He shut his eyes and drew in a long, hissing breath through his teeth. He inhaled and exhaled a few more times before he looked up, looking less murderously irate and more just vaguely irritated. "What is it?"

"Well, you know we need more props people right? I was, ah…you know, can we have this conversation not in front of the loudmouth and the obscenity dispenser?" Genma looked like the usual calm expression on his face might be slowly migrating in the direction of embarrassment. Kotetsu and Aoba managed to look somewhat offended, but Izumo didn't pay any mind.

"Yeah, sure." He got to his feet, using Kotetsu's shoulder to push him up.

Genma became vertical again in a magnificently improbable liquid movement. "Thanks." He walked over to the corner by the stairs to the nearer loft, trying to avoid dragging his left foot. The exhaustion made it that much harder to stave off the effects of the one crippling injury he'd had — even if it was a year and a half old. He leaned against the wall before attempting to address Izumo, again. "Ah, right. So, props. Props needs people. There's someone you know that I want on the crew. Make it happen for me? Convince him that he wants to come out and play with us?" He didn't think he'd need to actually specify who he was talking about. As far as he knew, there was only one person they both knew who wasn't already working crew, besides Raidou.

Izumo took a moment to register just who it was, and then promptly raised an eyebrow in scepticism. "Genma, he barely talks to me, and I'm usually the one he's paired up with for practice games. Kicks my ass just about every time, too. Besides, why the hell would you want him in — oh, you're kidding me." He gave Genma a look. "Listen, we need props people, but we need props people who will actually do shit, not sit around to get fucked by you in the green room. He's the most antisocial little club-going creature I've ever met. When he's not getting fucked by you, he's going to sit around and do nothing. People don't like him. I mean, I don't have a problem with him, but most people tend to…oh, come on, Genma."

"One: You are not to repeat this, but I took him to dinner last night, and he's got beautiful eyes. Seriously. Take a look. Two: If you convince him to do props, it wouldn't be possible to stop him from doing props, even if he actually wanted to suck my cock. He's a rather determined little thing. And three: Here, he will learn what it's like to be respected as a fucking person." Genma stared into the corner of the wall and swallowed. "I had dinner with him. I think he's actually worth something. And I will inflict the necessary politesse on anyone who can't find it in themselves." He looked pleadingly at Izumo, the first show of weakness he'd made in anything like public, in many long months. "I don't know what it is — no, I do, but I don't know how to explain it in a way that makes any sense, and I'm too tired to make sense anyway, right this minute. There's just something wrong, you know? And as much as I hope no one ever follows me up my path, I know that there are worse places to end up than where I did. I'd settle for a smile, but I'll take whatever I can scrounge for myself — don't get me wrong. I'm not making any sense at all, am I?"

"Not anymore, no." Izumo rubbed his forehead, sighing. "You're one weird shit, you know that, Genma? I mean, okay. Yeah, the kid's weird and a little bit of a mystery — trust me, everyone in the chess club's agreed on that — and I guess, if you squint, he's kinda cute, in his own…weird little way. I have no idea why the hell it's such a big deal to you, but…" He pressed his palms into his eyes briefly.

"Listen, Genma, I know you're a senior tech and stage manager, but if he gets in here and ends up doing shit, it's going to be your ass on the fire, not mine."

"You'll do it then? You'll try to convince him?" Genma's face lit up, and in that moment he looked even more tired — the bright smile sat awkwardly against his exhausted features. "Never mind me, I can take care of my own ass — been doing it for years. If Yamanaka takes it upon himself to object to my choice of techs, I'll tell him exactly what he can do with his objections, in vivid detail." He really had stopped making sense, and was now finishing sentences that weren't the ones he'd started. He leaned forward and hugged Izumo, tightly. "Thanks. I really owe you. A lot." He let go of the slightly stunned sophomore and held onto the wall as the room spun for a long and treacherous moment.

"Yeah, yeah. I'll hold you to that one." Izumo reached over and patted him on the shoulder briefly. "Just don't let Aoba anywhere near that kid. You need to go sleep now."

"Sleep is for the weak," Genma insisted, smacking the back of his head on the wall a couple times to wake himself up. It was like watching a machine come back from standby as the adrenaline washed through his body. His eyes cleared and his left foot straightened. "I've already ditched once this week. Yamanaka will have my ass on a plate if I do it again." He clapped Izumo on the shoulder and walked off toward the costume closet — a slightly inappropriate name for what might more aptly be called the costume chamber — to check on the costume and makeup crew. Izumo just shook his head, watching him go, and decided he'd ask about the whole dinner thing later. He walked back over to Kotetsu and dropped down next to him.

"You busy Monday afternoon, Ko?"

"Not unless I'm busy with you." The obscene grin returned with a wicked vengeance as Kotetsu leaned close to Izumo's ear to make some suggestions about what they could do with Monday afternoon. Izumo cleared his throat and pushed Kotetsu back before he could start to vehemently agree with his best friend. He needed to stick to the plan, so Genma didn't melt into a puddle of pathetic goo on the stage.

"Keep your schedule clear, because you're coming to chess club with me."

"Whaaa?" Kotetsu's face twisted into comically horrified dismay. "Chess club? With you? But why? Can't I just come after and lick you up — I mean, pick you up?"

"Nope, you're coming with me so you can help me convince the frosh that he needs to join tech."

"What? If I don't get laid in the green room, why should I help him get laid in the green room!? And why are you helping? I thought you disapproved of this whole thing! I'm not seeing the logic! I'm not seeing the payoff!" The comic horror was firmly affixed, at this point, as Kotetsu squawked his disapproval. Izumo rolled his eyes and slapped his hand over Kotetsu's mouth, shaking his head.

"Just shut up and help me, okay? I don't feel like repeating Genma. Hell, I don't think I can. Point is, he thinks the frosh could make a good tech besides the fact."

Kotetsu licked Izumo's hand to get him to let go, which he did with a disgruntled look. "If it were anyone other than Genma, I'd call bullshit. I'm still considering calling bullshit." Kotetsu sulked for a bit. "How about if I do, you let me —" he leaned in and whispered to Izumo. For once, Izumo couldn't help but let a slightly lecherous grin creep onto his face, and Aoba groaned and tugged at his hair.

"Aw, come on, guys, if you're gonna whisper can you do it so that I can't hear you? I don't want to hear about what you guys do on the football field, okay? Eugh."

"It's your own damn fault for listening to something that's obviously not meant for you to hear," Kotetsu snapped. "And if you don't want to hear about what happens on the football field then you sure as hell don't want to know what we were doing in flat storage, last week." He smiled threateningly as though he might explain in vivid detail. Aoba looked at him, horrified.

"That was you?!"

"Kotetsu, stop teasing him." Izumo dug his elbow into Kotetsu's ribs sharply, giving him a look. "Come on, let's finish looking over this schematic before I decide that it's a good idea to try and go back and argue with Yamanaka again. He doesn't get on my nerves that often, but Jesus, when he does…"

"I'm sure I can give you a better idea than that." Kotetsu couldn't resist one more crack and a thoroughly lascivious eyeing before returning to the issue at hand. "Anyway, we've got two spotlights, and three spots that need precision lighting. The ellipticals are too hard to control, so I'm going to move for a masked Fresnel for the middle one. We can afford a bit of bleed there. Just make sure you only use it for that one scene. I don't want a fire. After that scene, move the left spot over." He continued to ramble, pointing at the script and the diagram, alternately. The three of them sat there for the rest of tech, working out their own technical end of the show. When it was finally over, they shuffled out and piled into Aoba's car, and as they passed Genma on their way out of the school parking lot, Izumo stuck his head out of the window and yelled at him to get some sleep.

The following Monday, Izumo dragged a whinging, sulking Kotetsu to the English classroom where the chess club usually met. Only the teacher advisor, Shikaku Nara, and a few other students were already there, and Izumo swore he heard Kotetsu make some barely audible complaint about being early. Izumo elbowed him in the ribs and slowly made his way over to Hayate – the kid was almost always there early, and right now he was sitting at a desk by himself, staring down at the week's strategy puzzle in thought.

As Kotetsu glanced around the room at the rest of the people who had shown up, so far, he was suddenly struck by how very pleased he was that he'd remembered to bring his walkman and that mix tape one of the raccoon-faced girls had given him — given them, actually. He kept expecting to come up for air one night, and find one of those girls hovering with a camera. He didn't even like girls, and wholly failed to understand their fascination with him, although he could see exactly what they liked about Izumo — he could see it vividly, and unlike them, sometimes he got to taste it, too. A slightly lecherous smile crept across his face as he followed Izumo across the room to where the wheezy frosh sat all by himself. It was almost like Izumo could hear the grin, and he cleared his throat at Kotetsu as he sat down in front of Hayate. Kotetsu refused to look guilty, settling on smug, instead. He was rather obviously Genma's protegΓ©.

Hayate heard them approaching, but didn't bother to look up. Izumo's weird-haired friend was with him today, as he could see out of the corner of his eye. He tried to keep himself absorbed in the strategy puzzle, but he finally looked up a moment after Izumo sat down in front of him. He blinked at Izumo owlishly for a moment. "Hi," he offered, voice coming out dry and reedy. Izumo managed a relaxed, friendly smile, nodding.

"Hey, kiddo. What's up? That this week's strategy puzzle?" He leaned forward slightly to peer at the paper in front of Hayate. "Have you managed to solve it yet?"

"Not yet. Almost." Hayate sniffled, pulling a crumpled tissue out of his pocket to blow his nose on. He looked like he'd just rolled out of bed, and he sounded a little sicklier than usual.

"Christ, kid, you look sicker than Genma did last Friday. You okay?" Tactless, yes, but tact was never Kotetsu's strong suit. Izumo reached over and discreetly kicked him in the shin.

Hayate frowned, looking all at once vaguely offended and mildly alarmed in that way that only he could seem to manage, and coughed wetly into his hand. "I just have a cold." He didn't ask about Genma, Izumo noted, though he'd clearly taken note of it.

"Well, rest up so you can get well." Izumo nodded, drumming his fingertips on the desktop. "Have you just been really busy or something lately?"

Hayate shook his head. "No…um. Not really. I don't…do a whole lot." Izumo hadn't ever been unkind to him, really, but he'd never been this talkative. "I just get sick easily, is all."

Kotetsu was completely distracted from the conversation at hand as he tried to rub Izumo's light grey boot print off his very black pants. He muttered something under his breath as he rubbed the sleeve of his shirt against his shin, having failed to remove the mark with his hand, alone. Wobbling dangerously, he decided it was better to crouch, at least until he could get his pants cleaned off. Izumo jabbed him in the shoulder with his fingers, a sharp reminder that Kotetsu should be paying attention to what was going on. You're supposed to be helping me out here, man.

"Oh, really? That's too bad." Izumo leaned back in his chair, and Hayate's brow knit slightly.

"Um. I'm sorry, but…um…" Hayate seemed to have difficulty choosing the words he wanted to use. Izumo raised one eyebrow, waiting patiently.


"I'm not trying to be, um, rude or anything, but…is there something you want?" Hayate rubbed one finger along the surface of the weekly puzzle. "I mean, um. You're nice, and everything, but you never really talk to me, so…"

Izumo managed a small, quiet chuckle and shook his head. Damn, this kid's paranoid. "Does it bother you?" he asked, and Hayate was reminded sharply of Genma and the night they'd gone out for pizza.

"Um…well, I guess…not a lot. You're nice, even if he isn't." Hayate pointed to Kotetsu. "I just don't know, um, why."

"What!? Me? I don't even know you!" Kotetsu protested. "And he thinks I'm nice enough." As Kotetsu pointed smugly up at Izumo, the lechery began to show again. Izumo cleared his throat pointedly at Kotetsu. This is not the time.

"Kotetsu's not that bad, really," Izumo offered. "And hey, don't worry. We're not looking to get anything out of you, unlike some people in this school. You just seem to not do much except chess club, so I thought I'd tell you that tech has a few open spaces for props people, if you're interested. We're trying to recruit a few more people for this performance, that's all."

"Tech? Like in theatre?" Hayate glanced down at the strategy puzzle again. "Um, I've never done anything in theatre before."

"It's not hard. We're not asking you to act or anything, just carry some small stuff on and off stage. It's good fun, and the people are fucking amusing." Kotetsu thought about Aoba, for a moment. "Well, most of them. Some of them are just spastic."

"It's a pretty nice group of people, really. I know it sounds a little boring, but it's not that bad, and if you run out of stuff to do, I'm sure we could get you to help with some other things." Izumo gave him a light grin. "I think you might like tech. Me and Kotetsu are the booth boys – we do sound and lights. If you want, sometime, I bet I could show you how all that works."

Something like interest flickered over Hayate's face, and he coughed, turning his head to the side for a moment. "But why me?" he asked, blinking dully up at Izumo and Kotetsu. Izumo sucked in a brief breath and glanced at Kotetsu.

"Well, like I said, you seem to have some free time and we need people. And besides, you're a nice kid and I think you'd fit in with us. We'd like to have you in tech."

"I don't know you from a hole in the ground, but Izumo says you're good people, and that's good enough for me. You've got two legs, two hands, and enough wits to carry on a conversation, and really that's all one needs for props. All the rest is just extra." Kotetsu nodded and stood back up, draping himself over Izumo's shoulders, resting his chin on his friend's head. "Besides, I'm sure I'd rather work with you than one of those preppie dipshits."

Something that was almost a smile but not quite ran over Hayate's face, and he looked back down at the strategy puzzle, looking thoughtful. "When does it meet?"

"Five nights a week, four-ish until Yamanaka lets us go." Kotetsu gnawed idly at Izumo's head for a moment. "I say 'ish' because Izumo's late when he comes here, but he's got an excuse so Yamanaka lets it slide. I ain't so lucky." He muttered something that was muffled by Izumo's head, but definitely contained the words 'Yamanaka', 'cheap', and 'fuckhead'. Izumo rolled his eyes and attempted to shove Kotetsu off.

"It's pretty fun, you know, and we usually grab dinner afterwards at the diner or somewhere equally cheap. Usually in Aoba's car, as shitty as it is." Izumo attempted to straighten out his hair, making a face as his fingers dragged over Kotetsu's spit tangled in his hair. "Gross, man," he muttered, wiping his hand on his pants. "So what do you say, kiddo?"

"Um…" Hayate tipped his head to the side slightly in thought, sniffling. "Can I think about it?"

The correct answer to that was probably 'yes', but Kotetsu really preferred not to watch Genma sulking. "Yeah, I guess. Just don't think for too long — not really fair for us to leave the stage manager hanging like that. I guess Izumo told him we knew somebody who might do props, so he's kinda holding his breath to see if we actually turn somebody up. We're pretty short-handed." Kotetsu rubbed his nose where Izumo had clipped him, and then rested his hand on his friend's shoulder.

"Oh." Hayate nodded slowly. "Okay. Um. I'll think about it."

Izumo grinned. "Great." He leaned over and tapped on the paper in front of Hayate. "So, how about that puzzle, then?"

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