Aug 202007
Title: Corybantic Dance (Chapter 6)
Co-author: Haya
Characters: Gekkou Hayate, Shiranui Genma, Namiashi Raidou, Hagane Kotetsu, Kamizuki Izumo, Mitarashi Anko, Yamashiro Aoba
Rating: This chapter? R.
Warnings: Pure crack, implications of violence, expletives
Notes: The entire cast and crew would like it very much if Genma would stop throwing up for a little longer than it takes to chew someone else's ass off.

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 Haya Madison, and Genma's mother, Shiranui Riza, is all Penbrydd's fault.

Author's Note: Penbrydd sincerely wishes that Genma would quit throwing up – the constant puke spatters against the inside of his skull are making it hard to eat anything.

The Wryly Fantarding Q&A panel for Corybantic Dance is still located at wrylyfantarding. livejournal. com / 5948. html

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

Chapter Six
"Hey, Genma!" Aoba called, heading out of the booth with Izumo and Kotetsu close behind him. It was close to six o'clock in the evening, and Yamanaka had finally called rehearsal for the night. "Genma, where are you, man? We're gonna go get dinner now! Hey, you two know where the frosh is?" he asked, turning his head to look at the two behind him.

"Yeah, he's in the green room, on props, remember?" Izumo nodded. "We'll go get him and meet you in the parking lot. Come on, Ko." Kotetsu nodded and followed.

Genma leapt down from the stage and walked over to Aoba. "Gabba gabba hey." At some point during the rehearsal Genma had tied his hair back in a purple satin scarf, and he had acquired a grease smear on his cheek from some unknown source — probably either bumping into a makeup tech or attempting to move one of the spotlights. "Dinner? Great. I'm in." He looked just a bit shaky. Aoba frowned a bit and reached forward to put a hand on his shoulder.

"You okay, man? Are you planning on puking again anytime soon? If so, it'd probably be a good idea if you did that before you got in my car."

"Not gonna barf. I don't think there's anything left to come up. I think that's the problem." Genma smiled weakly. "I started throwing up on Friday night," he admitted. Aoba's eyes widened behind his sunglasses.

"Jesus, man! I think you need to see a doctor or something. This is really not good. Maybe you should skip dinner and have Rai pick you up and take you straight home…"

"I'm gonna fucking die if I don't eat something. Otherwise, not that important. As long as I keep putting in food, something's gotta stick eventually." Genma double-checked, to make sure he was still actually vertical. "I might call Rai to come with us, though. Just in case I do get sick, you know? I'm just a little dizzy. That's all."

Aoba nodded and put his arm around Genma's shoulders. "I'll give Rai a call before we go. I think I got a quarter for the pay phones. Come on, I'll help you to the car. Just don't pass out on me, and try not to barf on the kid later." He was joking, of course, and then almost immediately realised how tasteless it was. "Uh. Sorry," he muttered, shaking his head.

"Too dizzy to worry about your mouth. Thanks." Genma wrapped an arm around Aoba's waist to help his increasingly questionable balance. He'd had maybe ten hours of sleep in the last… week or so and the food just kept coming back up. It was probably long past time for him to have just collapsed from exhaustion, but he just kept moving — clumsily, at times, but still awake and in motion.

"Man, at least promise me you'll start sleeping again now that the frosh is in tech," Aoba said, shaking his head as he all but dragged Genma out of the school and into the parking lot, having made the call to Raidou. "You're stage manager, and you get all loopy after no sleep and food. Hallucinations, remember? Can't very well manage if you're hallucinating." He started fishing for his keys in advance, trying to remember exactly where he'd put them. "We like our Genma whole, and we'd like him back soon, please."

Genma was just too fucking tired for this shit. He shook a bit — vibrated, really — and tears streaked down his face, washing away some of Kotetsu's work. He wiped his hand down his face, taking the tears and most of the makeup with it, and his face settled back into placidity. "I could manage in my sleep, Aoba. We both know this." Vaguely noticing the smeared makeup on his hand, Genma rubbed at his face with the scarf in his hair, clearing the rest of it off.

Aoba sighed a little, patting Genma's shoulder awkwardly. "Yeah, I know, but you're missing the point." He shook his head and finally located his keys as they reached his car. "Here, you sit in the front. The frosh can sit bitch in the back, because I don't think we're bringing anyone but him and the Caffeine Twins, unless they show up with someone else. In that case he'll probably have to sit jump, because I think he's the smallest one out of…most of us, really."

"Fuck jump. He'll sit in my lap. There is no jump in your car, man." Genma collapsed into the front seat. "And thanks. Really."

Aoba waved off the thanks, giving Genma a clearly skeptical look as he slid into the driver's side. "Do you think he'd seriously sit in your lap, Genma? I mean, no offense, but he looked antsy all day today."

"So, let him sit on Izumo. They know each other." Genma shrugged lazily, and his eyes rolled like marbles in mineral oil. He shook his head hard to clear it.

Kotetsu showed up first, shouting to announce their presence to the world just as Aoba finished his brief phone call to Raidou. "I get to sit behind Genma, so I can kick him in the head if he says something fucking retarded!"

"Please don't kick Genma in the head," Aoba said plaintively as Izumo, Hayate, and Kotetsu piled into the backseat of his Pinto. "I don't need him passing out in my car. You can kick him later."

"Aww. Spoilsport." Kotetsu stuck his tongue out, and Genma caught his eye in the rearview mirror.

"Don't stick your tongue out unless you intend to make use of it, Ko." Genma smirked at the loudmouthed sophomore.

Kotetsu's jaw dropped, and he completely ignored what had come out of Genma's mouth. "Your face, dammit! After all my work!"

"Long day. Shit happened." Genma shrugged. Hayate leaned forward slightly to see what the fuss was about.

"Um…what happened? You look really sick or something…"

Izumo just pulled the kid back. "Don't lean forward while Aoba's driving. Especially when Aoba's driving. Come on, man, let's go. I'm starving."

"Nothing wrong with me, kid. I haven't slept a whole lot since about… uh…Thursday? I think I stopped sleeping on Thursday. I just end up staring at the ceiling all fucking night. And throwing up. I keep fucking throwing up. It's not important. I'm not going to die from it." Genma smiled, tiredly. "I'm still standing."

"Holy fucking shit, Genma. That's insane. I know you didn't sleep Thursday night, but I figured you were at least sleeping after that — especially when the puking started!" Kotetsu looked absolutely horrified. "Am I going to have to drug you?"

"I told you, it's not important." Genma flipped his hand dismissively, but Hayate looked positively nauseated and maybe even a little guilty. Thursday — that had been the day he'd gone to dinner with Genma. And Genma hadn't slept since then. That was absurd. Maybe Genma was just lying or something.

"Genma, stop being such a drama queen," Izumo said, just a little snappishly, and glanced at Hayate. "You okay, kiddo?"

Hayate just nodded uncomfortably, and Kotetsu's head snapped around as he heard Izumo get sharp. Eyes wide, he stared at his friend. Genma looked like shit and probably felt like it, too, and Izumo was giving him a hard time?

"Not being dramatic. Just being honest. And tired." Genma's eyes started to roll again, looking just a bit loose in their sockets. "Tired and hungry. I'll eat. I'll be fine. Can't not eat and not sleep. Can only do one or the other."

"Yeah, that's what we told you last week, and you kept saying you were fine." Izumo shook his head, sitting back with a sigh. "Hey, lighten up, Hayate, he's fine. He just needs to spend a day or two tied down to his bed so he doesn't keep coming to school when he's not feeling well."

"Oh. Um. Right." Hayate still looked uncomfortable, sitting in a car full of near-strangers to eat dinner with them. Maybe he should just politely ask Aoba to take him home instead. Tech hadn't exactly been pleasant, either, despite Izumo's promises to the contrary. Maybe that was why they needed new props people. Because Anko drove them all out the door.

"Was fine last week, dammit." Genma managed to look slightly lecherous as he caught Izumo's eye in the rearview. "And I'm sure I'd stay in bed if I had something pretty and not-boring to keep me company. Don't suspect that would help much with the sleeping, though, unless I could get that pretty and interesting thing to fuck me unconscious." He wasn't considering his choice of adjectives — they were fairly standard choices when he talked about what he was looking for.

"I can promise you interesting, but I can't promise you pretty. Or fucking. Yeah, sorry, Genma. I couldn't do fucking. But I could beat you with the Webster's Unabridged until I knock you unconscious!" Kotetsu was trying to get the conversation turned back to somewhere near amusing.

"Or you could just kick him in the head like you'd previously promised," Izumo chimed in, trying to push the conversation away from things involving sex with Genma, as that had clearly made Hayate nervous. He resolved for the second time in the past week to ask Genma more about the supposed dinner with the frosh, because he had a hard time believing that any male over the age of thirteen could be that uncomfortable on the subject of sex.

"Oh, no doubt I could kick him in the head. But he was looking for interesting. I figure the Webster's is fairly interesting. It's got a lot of good words in it." Kotetsu grinned irrepressibly. "Or maybe I need something heavier and more interesting. I think the library's got Heavy Metal back-issues in five-year volumes. That would be sexy, interesting, and heavy enough to knock even a thick-headed bastard like Genma unconscious."

Aoba snorted, and Izumo snickered, and Hayate covered his mouth made a quiet, dry sound that almost sounded like it could have been a muffled sort-of-laugh.

Genma saluted Kotetsu with one raised finger. "Pigfucker."

Kotetsu slapped the back of Genma's head. "Don't call Izumo a pig!"

"Oh, fuck you, Kotetsu, Genma — both of you!"

Two hands shot up in unison. "Yes, please," Kotetsu and Genma chorused. Izumo scowled and reached around Hayate to hit Kotetsu on the shoulder.

"How do I know you don't fuck pigs on the side?"

Kotetsu looked moderately offended. "If I wouldn't dirty my dick on Genma, I sure as hell wouldn't dirty it on anything less than Genma!" He grabbed Izumo's fist and kissed the knuckles. For all the touching they did, it was the closest thing to a public display of actual affection, as opposed to the interchange of lust and irritation, that had ever happened between the two. Genma's collapse had really set something off in Kotetsu, and more than anything, he just wanted to take Izumo out into the middle of a field and kiss him senseless, all night.

Izumo tried to wipe the dumb smile off his face as he pulled his hand away and sat back down against the seat. Hayate just looked back and forth between them, looking helplessly bewildered.

Kotetsu studied his best friend's face, coming to the conclusion that Izumo truly was beautiful and that he was the luckiest man in the world to have Izumo all to himself. And wasn't he owed a night out on the football field, in the near future? He settled down on Hayate's other side with an equally dumb and slightly more dazed smile. Glancing swiftly around to ensure that no one but Izumo was looking at him, Kotetsu knocked off two quick sentences in sign language. They were two of the only three sentences he knew. I love you. I want you. The third, of course, was I want cookies. Izumo just grinned back.

Genma groaned and rubbed his eye, irritatedly. "Coffee. Must drink coffee to survive dinner."

"Yeah, yeah," Aoba said dismissively. "We're just about here. Can you wait till I park, at least? Then you can pounce the waitresses for all the coffee you want. Just don't go rolling out of my car. Are the doors locked? I hope the doors are locked —" He broke off suddenly as someone cut him off on his way to the parking lot and cursed. "Ahh, shit. Okay, ladies and gentlemen — uh, just gentlemen, never mind — everyone, hold your drinks."

Without further ado (or to give time for Hayate to voice his immediate concern at the announcement), Aoba's Pinto swung wildly to the left and then back to the right in an outrageous U-turn around the driver who had just cut them off. Hayate's face paled and he grabbed onto the nearest thing he could — Kotetsu — as the car swung around wildly. The Pinto skidded noisily over the pavement and came to an abrupt halt – parked uncannily accurately in a parking space just in front of the diner.

"Holyjesusmarymotheroffuckingfuckgoddammit, Aoba!" The string of words spilled out of Genma as the adrenaline rushed into his veins. There was no longer any need for coffee. Kotetsu had one hand on the oh-shit handle and the other on Hayate's chest, in an effort to keep them both in place, and his fingers finally relaxed several seconds after the car stopped. Aoba just sat there with a slightly dumb and triumphant grin on his face before turning the ignition off and undoing his seatbelt. "All right, we're here now."

Hayate barely remembered to let go of Kotetsu, looking like he might just have an asthma attack.

"Christ!" Genma kicked the door, popping the lock, and threw the car door open. He pulled himself out of the car rather gracefully for someone who'd been hovering between dreams and reality, mere minutes previously, two hands on the front oh-shit handle for balance. Kotetsu followed, as soon as he could breathe again and could pry Hayate's fingers out of his forearm. Hayate stumbled out after him, dark eyes frighteningly wide, and he wheezed a few times, trying to reclaim the breath that had been swiftly whisked away from him. Izumo looked the most composed after Aoba, though not by terribly much, and he shut the door, shuddering.

"Jesus Christ, man…"

"Hey, Genma wanted to get there sooner." Aoba shrugged, stretching his legs out. Izumo shook his head and glanced over at Hayate.

"Don't pin this shit on me! I just said I wanted a cup of coffee! I said nothing about when!" Genma stuffed his hands in his pockets, so no one would see them shaking, but the rest of his body was vibrating, too. The adrenaline had hit hard. "Hey, you okay there, kiddo?"

Hayate nodded dumbly, though he looked as though he was resisting the urge to cling to Kotetsu again. Instead he just wrapped his arms around himself, rubbing his arms.

Kotetsu, thoroughly unafraid of looking like a dork, pulled Izumo to him in a tight hug. "Scared the shit out of me, man." He reached out and rested a hand on Hayate's shoulder. The kid looked mildly surprised at the gesture, flinching instinctively, but didn't pull away.

"Oh, hey." Genma sounded mildly surprised and pointed to the car next to them. "Looks like Rai beat us here. You're lucky you didn't hit Annie coming in like that. He'd have been pissed. Bet that means he got us a table already." He started toward the door.

"Oh, come on, man, give me some credit," Aoba said, as if offended, and followed Genma to the door. The three underclassmen started for the door as well after a moment, still looking considerably shaken. "I'm a better driver than that. I don't hit other cars."

"There's a first time for everything," Genma called back, holding the door, "And this would have been an exceptionally shitty first."

Kotetsu, at least, seemed to be recovering quickly. He was back to trying to grope Izumo as they walked toward the restaurant, and every time a hand got too close, it was slapped away. Izumo never missed. Kotetsu never stopped trying.

Hayate was too busy trying to get his breathing back to normal to really be able to pay attention to what was going on behind him. He shuffled inside after Genma and Aoba, coughing wheezily. "Why's Raidou here?" he asked in between coughs. He'd seen the mark his bike had left on the side of Raidou's car. He knew it wasn't his fault, but what if Raidou decided he really was mad about it after all?

"Just in case I die, kid. He wouldn't miss it for the world." Genma patted Hayate's shoulder and glanced around the restaurant. Raidou, thankfully, was hard to miss. "Back right. It looks like he scored us the round table." Genma bounded up the three steps between the hostess stand and the floor, careening between tables, and mysteriously not colliding with any people or things on his swift journey to the back. He slid into the booth singing 'End of the World', and collapsed backward onto Raidou's lap, laughing up at his friend.

"Genma? What the fuck happened to you? You look like shit and Aoba thinks you're going to die. Yet, somehow, you come bouncing in here like a sugar-powered jackhammer, and pounce me of all possible people." Raidou poked Genma in the nose.

"Adrenaline powered. Aoba almost hit Annie, coming in. Very, very adrenaline powered." Genma pulled himself vertical as Aoba slid in on Raidou's side, looking offended.

"I did not almost hit Annie."

Genma largely ignored him, turning his attention to the steaming mug on the table instead. "Is that coffee? That's coffee, isn't it." He grabbed Raidou's cup without waiting for a response and emptied it down his own throat. And then he coughed and gagged. "Ew. Gross. That's coffee-flavoured sugar."

"Then don't drink my coffee, bastard." Raidou laughed as Genma wheezed and choked, trying to wipe his tongue off on a napkin. Kotetsu and Izumo were next in, piling up next to Genma. Hayate stood at the edge of the table awkwardly for a moment before he decided that he didn't want to be sitting next to the two people trying to grope each other and slid in next to Aoba. He folded his legs on top of the seat, sitting with his hands in his lap.

"Did you actually try to drink Rai's coffee? Are you stupid?" Kotetsu looked more concerned for Genma's sanity than he had all day.

"See, I told you, he's going to die," Aoba said, almost smugly, and pulled a menu out. "So what are we all looking at today? Besides a hospital for Genma."

"Something massive. Mushroom Swiss burger, I think. Yeah, that sounds like food." Genma's stomach issued a loud complaint.

"Duly noted," Raidou and Kotetsu chorused. The two looked at each other surprisedly, for a moment, and then high fived over Genma's head.

"I dunno," Raidou grumbled at Aoba, flipping through the menu. "I'm here how many nights a week? You'd think I'd know what's on the menu without looking."

Kotetsu tossed his menu into the middle of the table. "I think I'm with Genma, tonight. Real food sounds important, especially if I get the evening I want to have." He slipped his hand into Izumo's lap and dragged a thumbnail up the seam that traced along his friend's inner thigh. Izumo promptly smacked his hand away, never lifting his eyes off the menu.

"You're not going to get anything at all if you don't cut that out."

Kotetsu pulled his hand back and clutched it to his chest, gazing sadly at Izumo. In fact, one might go so far as to say he was making sad puppy eyes. "But…but…but…"

Genma smacked Kotetsu solidly in the back of the head. "Shut up, Ko, you sound like a motorboat."

After a brief but extremely annoyed glare at Genma, Kotetsu returned his attentions to Izumo. "But I thought we were going to…" and the rest of the sentence became a quiet mumble in Izumo's ear. A thoroughly lecherous grin touched the corner of Kotetsu's mouth that could be seen.

Raidou watched the Caffeine Twins with thinly disguised amusement. "Hey, Genma, are they fucking, yet?"

"I dunno; I think so. I never did get an answer to that." Genma grinned loosely at Raidou as the exhaustion began trying to make a reappearance. Hayate looked like he was getting uncomfortable again. It wasn't so much the mention of sex so much as it was the mention of sex between two specific people who were sitting at the table.

Izumo cleared his throat at Kotetsu, leaning away, and drummed his fingertips on the tabletop. "I said cut it out, Kotetsu. We're in public." There was, however, an underlying implication that he could do anything he wanted when they were in private. "Yeah, I'm just going to get some grilled cheese…what do you want, kiddo? It's on me and Kotetsu, so get whatever you want."

"Um…" Hayate looked down at the menu thoughtfully. "I think I'm okay with a milkshake…"

Aoba raised an eyebrow at him. "Just a milkshake? Jeez, kid, you're already a twig."

"Shut up, Aoba. He doesn't eat much." Genma looked painfully twitchy, again, as if anyone making even vaguely dangerous implications about Hayate was going to make him lose his lunch, again. Raidou draped an arm around Genma's shoulders, almost imperceptibly pinning one arm and leaving the other open to being grabbed. From here, he could stop Genma from going across the table at Aoba.

A waitress approached the table. "Do you guys know what you want, yet?" She looked to the ends of the arc, first. Izumo went ahead and ordered his grilled cheese, kicking Kotetsu under the table as he tried to molest Izumo's leg with his foot. Kotetsu hissed and choked out his order, giving Izumo a wounded look, which Izumo mostly ignored except for a light pat on his arm.

Genma totally forgot what he was having, but remembered that Kotetsu had agreed with him. "What he just said," was the final answer. Raidou attempted to order without bursting into hysterical laughter at the idiots to his left, and finally managed to order nachos and another cup of coffee, because "that bastard drank mine". Aoba ordered some monstrous club sandwich and coughed suspiciously into his hand when Hayate ordered a vanilla milkshake. The waitress nodded, taking everything down quickly, and left for the kitchen to fill their orders. Hayate sank back against the seat, turning his eyes up to look at the ceiling disinterestedly until Aoba poked him. He jerked slightly in response, blinking owlishly at Aoba.

"What was that for?"

"You looked dead. Just checking."

Genma finally tried to go across the table. "Aoba, goddammit, leave him the fuck alone!" Genma was fast, but Raidou was already holding him down. He succeeded in nothing more damaging than hip-checking Kotetsu onto Izumo.

Kotetsu, of course, immediately tried both to make light of the situation and take advantage of it. He kissed Izumo's nose. "Funny running into you, here."

Raidou wrestled Genma back into his spot in the booth, and hooked a leg across his lap. "Goddammit, Genma, stay put. You know he's like this. He's been like this for the last…what, six or seven years? It's just Aoba being stupid. Calm the fuck down." He turned a moderately distressed gaze on Aoba. "And you know better. You've actually been near him all this time. Did it not occur to you — No. It never does." Finally, Raidou addressed Hayate. "I'm sorry. He's tired and pretty fucking sick. He's usually a lot more composed than this."

"Okay, hey, you know what? That? Was not something to get mad at me about." Aoba looked a little irritated and offended. "I was just poking the kid to see if he was, you know, still with us! He was all spaced out. It's not like I hit him or anything, okay?"

Hayate fiddled with the fork in front of him, shrugging. "Um, it's okay, really. It didn't bother me. Um…Aoba didn't do anything wrong." He looked up at Genma, brow knitted slightly. He wanted to ask why Genma was so sick, but he wasn't sure he wanted to hear the real answer, either.

"Wait until he's not fucked up, all right?" Raidou knew Aoba wasn't actually as stupid as he acted, sometimes. "I'll take him home and make him sleep." He continued to hold Genma against his shoulder. "Jesus fucking Christ. All this and you didn't think to call me?"

"I'm sorry, kid. Just jumpy." It was a shitty apology, and some part of Genma's mind prodded him that it was also a lie. Jumpy wasn't even a quarter of it. "Rai, I'm exhausted. I can't think more than five minutes into the future, when I even make it that far."

Raidou looked grim. "Stupid bastard."

Having not been shoved off, yet, Kotetsu took a moment to drizzle a few more obscene turns of phrase into Izumo's ear, before he settled himself back into the space Genma wasn't occupying. Izumo rolled his eyes, shoving him lightly. "You're walking on thin ice, Ko," he warned, swatting at him. Hayate, on the other hand, wasn't paying a bit of attention to those two, looking at Genma in what seemed to be some sort of guilty concern.

"What's wrong with him?" he asked Raidou, quietly.

"I don't know yet, kid. He's really upset about something. The more upset he gets, the less he sleeps, and the less he sleeps, the less rational he becomes. I really don't know what set him off. I haven't talked to him in days. Saturday, he was still sane enough to tell me he was just a little tired, the lying bastard." Raidou shifted his grip, holding Genma almost protectively. "Of course, he never recognises what's going on until it's over. Needs someone to beat it into his thick head." He cocked his head at Aoba. "If I didn't say it before, thanks for calling me. I'd hate to see you trying to hack this, yourself."

Aoba sighed, shaking his head, and ran his hands through his hair. "You know, if I'd known it was this bad, I'd have called you days ago. Sneaky bastard's good at hiding it." He grimaced at Genma. Hayate toyed with his fork some more, not sure what to say, and looked up in relief as the waitress brought their drinks, putting his milkshake down in front of him. He grabbed it and leaned back with it, sucking it up through the straw.

"Can we get another straw? He needs one for his coffee." Raidou cocked a finger at Genma's face.

"What? Hey, fuck you, I'm not that tired!" Genma squirmed offendedly as the waitress dropped one on the table before walking off.

"I'm not worried about you. I'm worried about Aoba. I'm not letting go until I can be guaranteed you've got your hands full of food. Hot coffee is a viable weapon." Perfectly calm, Raidou explained as one might to a small child.

Kotetsu's eyes widened at Raidou's explanation. It hadn't sunk in to his head exactly how dangerous the stage manager was in this condition until Raidou explained coffee as a weapon. "Holy fucking shit," he muttered under his breath, sneaking one hand into Izumo's hand, under the table, in something that was finally not a sexual gesture, but one of pure fear and discomfort. Izumo frowned and patted his hand reassuringly, glancing back over at Genma. Aoba opened his mouth to say something, but for once he wisely chose not to and shut his mouth, looking down at his soda with a faintly annoyed look on his face. Hayate just watched Genma and Raidou unblinkingly with his dark eyes but said nothing, the straw never leaving his mouth as he sipped at the vanilla shake, knees drawn up near his chest with his feet propped on the seat.

The silence dragged on a long while, during which time, Raidou carefully claimed the straw and dropped it into Genma's coffee. "Drink up. You need to be awake just a couple hours longer."

Genma tried to glare at his best friend, but failed, the look on his face melting into regret and then bitter self-disgust. He gulped down his coffee as quickly as he could with a straw, and blinked in surprise, but repeated the process as Raidou put his own cup under the straw.

Kotetsu finally broke the silence. "How the fuck is he going to sleep with that much coffee in him? I'm just saying…"

Izumo smacked him lightly, but not seriously. "He'll burn out eventually. He's going to piss the caffeine all out, you know." He glanced at Hayate, raising an eyebrow. "Do you even need to breathe, kid? I haven't seen you take your mouth off that thing once since you got it."

Hayate moved his mouth off the straw, sniffling and coughing a bit. Oddly enough, only a small fraction of the shake was gone. "I was breathing," he said, swallowing. "I wasn't drinking the whole time. I just like having the straw in my mouth. So I can chew on it or something."

Genma's head swivelled, eyes flat, hurt, and toxic as they locked onto the kid. He looked like he was going to spit out something about how that was his line, goddammit, but he just stared at the table, instead. Kotetsu caught on, elbowing Genma. "Hey, man, isn't that your line? Didn't you tell me that right before you bit through that pen on Monday?"

"Genmaaaaa!" Raidou groaned. "Again? You need to chew on something other than pens."

"Fucking ink is nasty anyway. And yes, that does tend to be my line." Genma flicked the straw up into his mouth, rolling it from one corner of his mouth to the other.

"Oh. Um." Hayate looked back down at his shake. This felt so weird. "Uh…sorry?" he tried, because it looked like he had somehow offended Genma. How that was exactly possible, he wasn't sure — but then, he had never been very good with people, and Genma was exceptionally strange. He decided to just go back to his milkshake. The milkshake was safe.

"No. Not sorry. Don't be sorry. It's…heh. It's just you and me. Just something else to like about you." Genma shook his head. "Rai, can you possibly get the fuck off me? My chest hurts."

Raidou shook his head, but shifted positions. "That better?"

"No, not really. I'm starting to think it's not you." Genma looked mildly confused, and Raidou looked moderately concerned. Hayate didn't take his mouth off the straw, but his eyes flickered back up to Genma, watching him with some unreadable expression. Things fell silent again, and Izumo drummed his fingertips on the table awkwardly.

"Uh…so," Aoba started awkwardly. "Tech today. It was…uh. Interesting? Shit, I don't know. What the hell did you do today, anyway, Genma? I barely saw you after the beginning. Anything interesting happen?"

"Besides the part where I lost my lunch and then repeated the process four times? Yeah, I threatened Anko, smacked Frankie, and told costumes I'd eat their brains for dinner if they didn't stop fucking around and start doing something useful." Genma left out the part where he'd pretended to be inspecting the sandbags for the curtains so he could keep an eye on Hayate.

Kotetsu grinned. "I grabbed Izumo's ass and got punched in the thigh! Haha, kitten, you missed!" He smiled merrily at Aoba. "Oh, wait. You were there for that."

"Yes," Aoba sighed, a bit bitterly, "unfortunately, I was. You two are never going to get anything done once I leave, are you?"

"If I'm still working with Tweedledee here? Probably not." Izumo gave Kotetsu a bland look, though not unkindly.

"Hey, hey. I'm perfectly competent when I have something I'm supposed to be doing. I'm just going to do…other things…in between the busy parts." Kotetsu pouted. Izumo rolled his eyes, largely ignoring him.

"Also, for the record? I hate Anko." Izumo carried on. "She's a rotten bitch when she wants to be. I mean, I know she isn't sometimes, and sometimes she's just kind of crazy, but today? She was extra bitchy. Why hasn't anyone kicked her out yet?"

"We can't," Genma sighed. "She's Yamanaka's new pet. She'll be props mistress until the day she graduates."

"But why her?" Izumo sighed. "I guess she wasn't that bitchy last year, but…still. I mean, I still have my disagreements with Yamanaka, but he's not…that bad of a guy. Just makes some dumb decisions sometime."

"I don't like her either," Hayate said thickly around his straw. "It's not even all the yelling. She's crazy. I don't think she knows what 'dangerous' means."

"I'm sorry, kid. All we've got is props, or you'd be working somewhere sane. Preferably with me, so I could keep the rest of those asshole nutjobs off you." Genma sighed, again, sounding gothier than Kotetsu's fangirls. "Unfortunately, there is nothing directly under stage manager, so…"

Hayate just shrugged, chewing on his straw. "It's okay," he muttered. "I can look out for myself. I'll be fine. Really."

Kotetsu gritted his teeth loudly. "Aoba, five bucks says that disagreement we had in the bathroom? I'm right. Not stress."

Aoba gave Kotetsu a withering look. "Oh, come on, man. I'd like to at least pretend I was right."

"Hah! So, you admit it! I am right!" Kotetsu posed victoriously with his coffee.

"Why do I have no idea what's going on? I'm sure I was there for that…" Genma stared at Kotetsu in complete confusion.

"I wasn't there. I'm more clueless. I think I'm glad." Raidou continued to hold Genma, just in case. Hayate looked utterly helpless and bewildered, looking between everyone else at the table except perhaps Raidou.

"Umm…" He sipped at his shake some more, making a slight face. "Is Anko like that all the time?" he asked, trying to revert back to something he at least knew how to talk about. That way there wouldn't be as many awkward silences. He hoped.

Hayate was saved by the waitress again, as she brought the food. Raidou finally let go of Genma and dug in to his nachos. "You move wrong, and I'll break your leg. I don't want to break your leg, but I would also like to eat my nachos. So, why don't you just keep both hands on your burger for a bit, where I can see them."

Genma did as he was asked, more because he was overpoweringly hungry than for any other reason. He was halfway through the enormous burger by the time Kotetsu was three bites into his. Hungry was, perhaps, the understatement of the decade when it came to putting Genma and a desire to eat in the same sentence. Hayate just watched Genma eat with that almost creepy way he had, his mouth clamped tightly over the straw as he sucked the vanilla shake up through it.

"You're going to throw up again if you keep eating like that," he said, finally, still refusing to pull his mouth away from the straw. The words were muffled and almost — but not quite — indiscernible.

"Am not," Genma snarled around a bite of burger. "I always eat like this. You've seen me eat, before." More of the burger vanished into Genma's seemingly bottomless stomach.

Raidou nodded. "He's really not kidding. As long as I've known him, he's eaten like this, and while I'm pretty sure I know why; if he's not telling, neither am I."

Kotetsu looked lustily at Izumo. "I know if I were capable of eating faster, I'd be following suit. I've got some dessert I'd like to get to."

Izumo put his grilled cheese down and headbutted Kotetsu in the shoulder. "Could you be any more obvious? If you want to eat faster, then try putting food in your mouth, dumbass."

Looking quickly between Izumo and Genma, Kotetsu started stuffing his face, intent on leaving as soon as humanly possible. There was only one thing he wanted more than dinner, and he needed to actually eat to be sure he'd have the energy to do it. Genma finished his burger and started on the fries, which went even faster. Finally, he paused, and looked at Hayate. "Hey, kid? I was perfectly serious, the other night. All of it. Especially the parts about you."

Aoba looked at Genma bewilderedly, and Hayate just stared down at his shake uncomfortably. After a long moment, he put it back down on the table, half-empty, and slid out of the booth. "I'm going to the bathroom," he announced, though quietly, and shuffled off for the restroom. Izumo looked at Genma, raising an eyebrow.

"What the hell was that all about?"

"Nothing." Genma shook his head and went back to devouring his fries. "Rai? Kill me now, hm?"

"Nope. No luck." Raidou steadily munched nachos. "We're not dead, yet, and you don't get to start before me."

Kotetsu, being a good deal dumber than Aoba, sometimes, grabbed Genma by the shoulder. "Nothing, my ass. Talk."

"Not your business, now, and it may never be. Let's just leave it at 'I think he has beautiful eyes'." Genma was getting close to the end of the fries. "Look, quick, it's a one-eyed mountain yeti, riding a unicycle and wearing nothing but a subject change."

Izumo sighed, rubbing his forehead. "Okay, seriously, when did this become everyone's goddamn issue?" he said, completely ignoring Genma's attempt to change the subject. "Why are we all suddenly wrapped up in this? Hey, Genma, to be fair? No offense, man, but we did our part. We got the kid into tech. I think we're all going to have to take a giant step back now and try and get back to ourselves. If you want to keep obsessing over the frosh, that's your business, but…hey, he's a nice kid. But I don't think I can handle running around to keep him and you in check anymore. One day was enough."

"You did all I asked, and more. I don't understand when this became your problem, either. You could have stepped back hours ago. I'm not asking anything of you, you know." Genma sounded critically tired again, and otherwise completely unattached to the words exiting his mouth.

"I'm worried about you, asshole!" Kotetsu shoved Genma into Raidou.

Raidou continued eating nachos like nothing was happening. If it got serious, he'd say something. "So, Aoba. Nice weather we're having, don't you think?"

"I don't recall requesting your concern, Ko." Genma was just plain tired, and the words were perfectly true, and perfectly tactless. Izumo reached over and punched Genma solidly in the shoulder.

"Don't be a jackass, Genma. We're your friends." He pulled back, looking disgruntled. "That is exactly why we went out of our way to help you. But now he's in tech, and that means you go home, sleep, get better, and get into his pants or whatever so Kotetsu and I can finish up our bet, eh?" His tone had smoothly slid from terse to joking, and he reached over to pat the shoulder he'd just hit. "Cause, come on, man. You're Genma fucking Shiranui. Aren't you the most suave kid in school?"

"Not right this minute, I'm not. Right this minute, my name is mud, and I think I have an appointment with a coma." Genma rolled his head to the side, having lost the power to turn it properly. "Hey, Ko? Have I told you you're lucky? Because you are."

Kotetsu glared at Genma for a long moment and then leaned forward and hugged him. "I know exactly how lucky I am. And I know how lucky I'm not going to get if you don't quit trying to be a badass, and fucking go home."

Raidou hailed the waitress, and quietly asked for a box for the nachos. He'd be sleeping on Genma's floor tonight, and he figured it was more important to get Genma home than to finish eating.

"Izumo, please just fuck him, already. Please? I'm so tired of hearing about how much he wants you." Genma grinned over Kotetsu's shoulder. He wheezed a bit when the sophomore in his arms punched him in the back.

"Oh fuck you and go get yours already." Izumo wasn't entirely serious, though, as he nibbled at what was left of his grilled cheese. The waitress came by with the box for Raidou and the check just before Hayate returned from the bathroom, wiping his hands on his pants. He coughed as he slid into the booth, picking up his vanilla shake to sip at it a little more before they left.

Raidou boxed the nachos and picked up the check. "Dinner is on me. You are not permitted to argue at this time. You want to throw money at me later, fine, but that's later. Not now. Right now, you two get up." He pointed to Kotetsu and Izumo. "And, Ko, help Genma up. I think his knee's probably gone out again."

"Fuck you, my knee is fine. There is nothing wrong with my fucking knee." Genma snarled, grumpily. Izumo rolled his eyes as he slid out of the booth, and Kotetsu helped Genma up anyway despite the vehement protests. Hayate sucked one last fast sip out of the shake before getting up — a little too fast, because he pulled it away coughing and wiping his mouth and nose. Aoba raised an eyebrow, patting him on the back.

"You okay there, kid?"

Hayate nodded, getting to his feet, and blew his nose in a stray napkin left on the table. Genma hugged Izumo and Kotetsu, one in each arm. "Thanks. Really. For that thing I asked for." He limped over and hugged Hayate, too, as Raidou got up and started shaking hands. "And thank you for coming out again. A lot." He waved to Aoba, and then leaned on Raidou's arm, so they could leave. Hayate just sort of stared at Genma briefly and opened his mouth to say something, but then he closed it and just sniffled a little. They watched Raidou help Genma outside to Annie, and Izumo clapped Hayate lightly on the shoulder.

"Come on, kiddo. Aoba can give you a lift home." He gestured toward the door, and Aoba nodded with a half-grin.

"Yeah, don't worry about it. I usually give these two kids rides anyway." They started for the door, Hayate following behind, his sandals dragging on the floor. "We'll get you home all right, kid."

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