Aug 162007
 

Title: Corybantic Dance (Chapter 5)
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: 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 Sweetbriar, 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 Five

Hayate was glad that, for once, his father wasn’t home when he leaned his bike against the faded brick wall of his house. He figured his dad was still at work, but he found no note about when he’d be returning. Not knowing how long it’d be until his dad was home to cook, Hayate dropped his backpack on the kitchen floor and opened his literature textbook on the table. He rummaged around in the nearly bare fridge for a moment — maybe his dad was out doing grocery shopping — and produced a half-empty jar of peanut butter, missing its cap with a spoon stuck in it. A very cold spoon, he learned as he tried to jerk it out with his bare hand. Rubbing his palm on his pants leg, he pulled it out more carefully and set the jar next to his textbook, carefully licking the spoon as he read.

An hour or two and several spoonfuls of peanut butter later, Hayate heard the front door open and shut. He looked up as his father entered the kitchen carrying several grocery bags. "Hi, Dad," he said thickly around a mouthful of peanut butter. He swallowed and sucked at the roof of his mouth, and his father frowned.

"Please put the peanut butter away, Hayate, I’m going to make dinner soon." He dumped the grocery bags on the table with a tired sigh, shaking his head. "How was your day today? Anything happen?"

"Not really." Hayate cleaned the spoon of all traces of peanut butter before sticking it back in the jar. His chair scraped against the linoleum floor loudly in the otherwise silent kitchen as he got up to put the peanut butter away.

"Really? Absolutely nothing of interest happened today? Didn’t you have chess club today?" All Mr. Gekkou got was a noncommittal shrug from his son as the refrigerator door closed, and he gave another sigh, this one notably wearier. "Come on, Hayate. At least tell me about your day. Every time I ask I always get one and two word answers."

Hayate looked vaguely apologetic as he sat back down, sniffling. "Um…well, today I got asked to join another club," he offered slowly. His father looked somewhat relieved.

"See? That’s something." Leaving the groceries for later, he sat down opposite his son on the table and pushed the bags to the side so there was nothing between them. "What club was it?"

"Tech. For theatre."

"And?" His father raised an eyebrow. "Are you going to join?"

"I don’t know yet." Hayate fiddled idly with the drawstring on his sweatshirt. "Maybe. They said I could think about it for a little while."

"Well, I know I’m just your father, and my opinion doesn’t count for anything," Mr. Gekkou started off wryly, "but I personally think you should take them up on the offer. I had a few friends in theatre tech back in college. You learn some interesting things doing that. And," he added, his tone somewhat more careful now, "I think that joining another club would do you some good."

"Yeah…yeah, I know." Hayate shifted a little uncomfortably in his chair. "I said I’m thinking about it."

"I know, I heard you." His father patted Hayate’s arm and got to his feet again. "Just thought I’d offer my two cents. Now let’s you and me tackle these groceries, hm?"

The pen that Genma was chewing on was no longer even recognisably a pen. Instead, it was a gnawed and twisted strip of plastic with which it might still be possible to write. It was also the sole and only sign of the truly ridiculous amount of strain that Genma was under. He’d sent Izumo to go ask Hayate to take one of the props slots, but he really didn’t think the kid would do it. He stopped trying to tie the pen into a knot with his tongue as the backstage door opened, and the Caffeine Twins entered. Kotetsu was trying to grope Izumo as they walked, and kept getting his hands slapped away. Izumo shoved Kotetsu in Genma’s direction and then stormed off across the stage with what appeared to be murderous intent. Genma was suddenly extremely pleased that he hadn’t had the misfortune of pissing that boy off.

"The kid says maybe. Best we could do." Kotetsu shrugged, almost sympathetically. "You really have to sleep, Genma. You look like shit. Why is this so fucking important to you?"

"I don’t know. I almost wish I did." Genma shook his head and then cursed as a trickle of blue ink ran down his chin. He caught it with his hand, and spit the pen into the nearest trash bin. "Oh, gross. I swear they make ink taste bad on purpose." He tried to mop the ink off his face with his hands, but that just left him with ink-stained hands. "Ko, go open the bathroom door for me. I don’t want to get ink on the handle. It’ll end up on somebody’s costume."

"I think this is your clue to stop chewing on pens, Genma. That’s really fucking nasty." Kotetsu sniffed and led the way across backstage to hold the door.

"Not the first time. Probably not the last, either." Genma spit into the sink and then washed his face and hands. "It’s an old habit. I feel funny without something in my mouth."

"Suck a bit too much cock growing up? Maybe I should be glad you didn’t take an interest in me, after seeing what you did to that pen…" Kotetsu raised an eyebrow.

"Oh, fuck off, Ko." Genma dried his face with paper towels.

"I know no ‘off’ to fuck. And besides, I think Izumo might get jealous." Kotetsu could not stop teasing.

"Oh, are you finally fucking, then? I wondered how long it would take." Shrugging, Genma checked his teeth in the mirror, to make sure they weren’t still blue.

"My business. Not yours," Kotetsu snarled.

Genma smiled, meeting Kotetsu’s eyes in the mirror. "Point and game to me."

"Bastard."

By Wednesday, Genma looked worse than he had on Friday. His skin had gone sallow and his eyes were dark and sunken. Still, he looked perfectly calm and controlled, except for today’s gnawed and twisted pen. He’d remembered to take the ink out of this one before he put it in his mouth. He’d taken to tearing into the techs, always in a perfectly reasonable tone of voice, and even Kotetsu had started to step back when he walked past. He could hear the whispers — ‘Stage manager’s got PMS’ and ‘Who pissed in his Cheerios?’ — but he couldn’t care. His chest hurt. He could feel the wind across the tips of his collapsed ribs, even with a sweatshirt on. Of course, this was because there was no wind, and his chest was fine — but he’d still taken to wearing a flannel shirt over the last few days. He was sweating like mad, but still freezing.

Wednesday afternoon, he cornered Izumo. "You were right. I’ve caught some strange and foreign disease. Didn’t even have to fuck for it."

Izumo rolled his eyes, moving to shove Genma away. "You’re not sick, dumbass, and if you are, it’s only because you haven’t fucking slept in a week. You need to chill out before you incapacitate yourself."

"I’m not going to die from it. I’m probably not even sick." That might have been a lie. Genma hadn’t been keeping much food down, either. "I just have this pain in my chest, and I can’t sleep. It’s nothing serious. I’ve seen serious, and this is not it."

"You’re sick from stress," Izumo informed him. "Go home and jerk off or something." He turned his head as he heard someone yelling for him, a fleeting look of irritation crossing his face.

"Hey, Izumo, Kotetsu?" It was Aoba. Of course. "Someone’s here at the door for you guys!"

Izumo shook his head and sighed, turning away from Genma to head for the door. Genma’s face lit up — a truly unpleasant image, in his current condition. He grabbed Aoba by the shoulders. "How bad, man? How bad do I look, and does it look repairable?"

Aoba tried to delicately pry Genma’s fingers away from himself. He failed in that respect and resorted to just shoving him back. "Um…"

Izumo gave Genma a warning look. "Genma, go backstage. You’re a horrific wreck, and frankly, you’re a little bit terrifying. To us. If you jump out at him, you’re going to scare him shitless. I don’t know if he even knows you’re here. So just…go backstage and…I don’t know. Do something useful."

Kotetsu stared back at Genma for a moment as he followed Izumo to the door. If this was that wheezy kid, maybe Genma would stop looking sick and snapping at people. It was not easy to have a mentor who was too busy returning his lunch to offer good advice. Aoba just shook his head and dragged Genma backstage, leaving the two of them to deal with the kid at the door.

Izumo would not admit to anyone, not even Kotetsu, how relieved he was to see that it was Hayate. The kid looked a little antsy and uneasy, shifting his weight from foot to foot, like he might bolt any second now, but he was there. Izumo gave him the most reassuring and friendly smile he could manage under the circumstances and pulled the door open all the way. "Hey, kiddo. Glad to see you made it."

Hayate offered what was probably supposed to be a nervous smile, but really just made him look slightly terrified. He coughed, shuffling slowly through the door. "Um. Hi. Uhm, it’s not…uh, it’s not too late for me to join still, is it?"

"Fuck no, it ain’t. Come on in. I’ll go fetch the stage manager. Don’t let him spook you — I think he’s just caught something, recently. He’s not usually this bitchy." Kotetsu held up his hands and backed up a few steps. "Izumo, you good to show him around while I take care of this?"

"Yeah, sure." Izumo nodded, putting a hand on Hayate’s shoulder. "Come on, Hayate. I’ll take you up to the catwalks. You ever been on a theatre catwalk before? No? Awesome." He nodded to Kotetsu, who was quickly heading for the stage.

Backstage, Genma had glared irritatedly at Aoba for a few moments before bolting for the john. "Out of my waaaay! Throwing up now!" He slammed through the bathroom door and dropped to his knees in front of a toilet seconds before what was left of his lunch made its second appearance of the day. He thought he’d already put it all back, but apparently, that was not the case.

Aoba sighed, holding a hand against his face as he leaned against the doorway of the bathroom. "You know, maybe you should go home. Or not meet the kid. Or both. I think you’ll just scare him away or something."

"Mouthwash." Genma shook his head and clutched at his chest, panting. "I’m fine. Nothing wrong here. Mouthwash." He dragged himself to his feet and flushed the toilet as Kotetsu stopped just shy of the door.

"It’s him." He took another look at Genma. "Oh, hell no. Did you just puke again?"

Genma nodded, and Kotetsu pushed past Aoba. "Mouthwash and …" Kotetsu searched his brain for the things he’d need. "Translucent…" He looked at Genma, carefully, "510. Also a sponge and some concealer. Go hit up one of the girls. We’ve got a couple of minutes — Izumo’s got the kid up on the cats."

Aoba grunted as he fished the mouthwash out of his bag. Much to the sheer bafflement of everyone else, he always seemed to have a full set of toiletries and hair products tucked away in his bag. "Hey, wouldn’t it be a better idea not to let him near the frosh? In case he pukes again or something?"

"He’s not contagious, and this isn’t just going to go away. Besides, I think he’s empty." Kotetsu handed the mouthwash to Genma, who proceeded to make thorough use of it. "You ever seen lovesick, Aoba? ‘Cause I haven’t, but I think this might be it."

"Fuck you. A lot. With no lube." Genma’s sense of humour seemed to be returning, if only slightly. "Concealer. Good call." He nodded and then started to wash his face and hands. At the very least, he should be clean.

"Lovesick? Yeah, I’m not seeing that." Aoba squinted at Genma. "I’m seeing more the stress, and maybe too much bottled up lust. He wants to dick a frosh and he hasn’t had the chance yet. And now that the frosh is in tech, he’s all…excited. I guess you could say. Shit, I don’t know."

Kotetsu body checked Genma as the stage manager lunged. "Aoba, seriously. Concealer. Translucent 510. We’re running out of time." He grabbed Genma and leaned into him — under other circumstances, it might not have worked, but Genma was just too tired and underfed to put up much of a fight. "Down, Genma. Pull your shit together. We got you your Christmas present, and we even got him early. Now calm the fuck down before you scare him off. We’ll clean up your face a bit, and then I’ll take you out to see him, all right?"

Genma sagged a bit as the fight went out of him. "Right. Nice. Respectable. Presentable." He shook his head. "I don’t know how that fucktard keeps pushing every goddamn button I have."

Aoba shot him an irritated look, stuffing the mouthwash back into his bag. "Hey, I lent you my mouthwash and I’m getting you your makeup. Quit shoving me around like I’m the frosh." He turned and headed off for the green room, looking considerably ruffled.

"Breathe, Genma. Not worth it. You know he’s always been like that." Kotetsu eyed Genma critically. "Give me the flannel. It clashes." Too tired to argue with the one person in the department he knew he could trust in an emergency, Genma stripped off the flannel shirt and handed it over. Kotetsu sighed and untucked the half of Genma’s shirt that was stuffed in his pants. "You’re really bad. I know it’s something about this kid that’s got you all fucked up, but nobody gets like this about dick. Especially not you. You could have almost anything that walks — some kid with a big dick might be a prize, but you’ve got more sense than this. What’s really going on, here, man?"

"I don’t fucking know. I feel like shit —"

"You look like shit, too. That’s not normal."

"It’s every fucking flu I didn’t catch, these last few years. I don’t fucking know." Genma waved his hand dismissively.

"I still say it’s the stress," Aoba said as he returned with the makeup. "Okay, listen, before you freak out on me, okay? I’m trying not to piss you off here." He sighed a little, letting Kotetsu take the makeup back.

Kotetsu nodded his thanks. "Ass on the counter, Genma. Give me something to work with."

Genma hopped up and backed up into the mirror. He was about as well lit as he was going to get. He glanced at Aoba. "Sorry, man. It’s the puking. Throwing up makes me bitchy."

Kotetsu climbed onto the counter, kneeling across Genma’s lap, and tilted the stage manager’s head back, so he could see what he was doing. He hissed in irritated disgust, but started working, anyway. Aoba just shook his head, rubbing his forehead.

"You said the kid like…what was it…he confuses you, right?" he started. "‘Cause you can’t figure him out? Man, I’ve known you since middle school. You can’t stand not being able to figure something out that interests you. I remember when you lost two weeks of sleep trying to put together that supposedly unsolvable jigsaw puzzle in seventh grade. This is like the same thing. You can’t put him together, and it’s driving you crazy."

"You’re probably right. I don’t know. There’s something there. I can hear it in the back of my head, but I can’t make out the words." Genma tried not to move as Kotetsu tried to clean up the huge black smears under his eyes.

"Yeah." Aoba nodded, reaching under his sunglasses to rub underneath his eyes. "Well, hey. I don’t know if you even want to hear my advice, but here it is anyway. That jigsaw puzzle in seventh grade — you spent two weeks awake trying to solve it before you finally just passed out. Someone told you to give it a little time, and you did — and then it came to you. Well, I mean, I know it’s tough right now, but maybe you should do the same thing here. Stop thinking so hard about it and just let it sit. The harder you try, the more it’s going to elude you, right? Maybe right now you should focus more on making sure the kid stays in tech."

Kotetsu rested one forearm across Genma’s throat as he used the other hand to blend the concealer. "Don’t fucking move. I felt that twitch. Don’t fucking move."

"That would, oddly enough, be why I’m not allowed to look like shit, right now. I just have to go make sure he’s real. Stupid? Yes. Vital? Also yes. I don’t make up the rules, I just follow them when I know what they are." Genma spoke through his teeth, trying to move nothing that was not absolutely necessary to the act of speaking. Kotetsu nodded and climbed off him.

"Get up and lean all the way over, face over the sink. I don’t want to get this shit on your shirt." Kotetsu gestured with his finger as he wiped off his hands and picked up the bottle of powder. "I fucking hope I’m right about the colour you’re supposed to be…"

Aoba largely ignored Kotetsu’s makeup commentary, leaning against the wall as he talked to Genma. "Yeah, well, I’m just saying. After it ends today, I think you should go home and get some sleep. We’re all gonna try and make the new kid feel welcome here. I mean, I know it was your idea to have him in tech and for your own reasons, but I think it’d be good to have more freshmen in tech. Always need new generations and all that stuff." He tapped his fingers against the wall behind him. "Maybe we’ll take him to dinner tonight when we all go. Hey, do you want to go too, Genma, or are you just gonna head home after?"

Genma couldn’t speak for a few moments; the cloud of powder around his face was a bit thick for breathing. Once Kotetsu let him stand again, and started doing the final cleanup with the sponge, he thought about food. "I’m fucking starving. Ravenous. Like extra-large pizza by myself hungry. So, yeah, I want to eat. I might even manage to be properly sociable once my stomach contains something other than bile and regret. However, I’m still not sure it won’t come back up. Lemme go have this conversation, and then I’ll give you a straight answer, whatsay?"

Kotetsu stepped back and examined his work. "I think we’re go."

Aoba gave Genma a proper look and blinked. "Whoah. Okay, yeah, benefits of being on makeup duty for performances are definitely interesting ones." He reached over and patted Genma on the shoulder, an awkward apology. "I think they’re probably still on the cats. Kotetsu, you go on up with Genma. I’m gonna go talk to Yamanaka to let him know we’ve got a new kid on props."

"I’m on it. Catch you for dinner." Kotetsu dragged Genma out with him to the catwalks, leaving Aoba in the bathroom alone with the makeup and the mouthwash.

"Ko, I’m fucking nervous." Genma wasn’t sure he’d even be heard at that volume, but if there was an embarrassing admission to be made, Kotetsu could hear it through three feet of battleship steel.

"Don’t worry about it. Izumo’s up there with him. Izumo’s got all the tact — all of it. I’m pretty sure he got yours and mine, too, the lousy fuck." Kotetsu patted Genma reassuringly as they ascended into the loft.

"If he’s a lousy fuck, what are you still doing with him?" Genma joked. Sense of humour definitely coming back.

"Pigfucker." Kotetsu punched Genma in the back, forcing the stage manager through the door to the catwalks. "Izumo? I found him!"

Izumo turned away from Hayate and his explanation of whatever had been the topic of discussion, calling down from the opposite end of the catwalk. "Oh yeah? Great, come on over here! I was just telling him about what we do in the booth!"

Kotetsu grabbed the back of Genma’s shirt. "Breathe. And let me go first."

Genma nodded and swallowed, letting Kotetsu push past him and lead the way across the cats. He kept his head down, looking through the mesh floor at the stage below.

"So, ah, kid — what the fuck is your name, I keep forgetting? — I think you know our stage manager. Everyone does." Kotetsu leaned aside and pointed up at Genma who was managing suave fairly well, considering that he thought he might puke again.

"Hi." Genma waved. "Yeah, I know this one. How are you, kid?"

Hayate’s eyes widened slightly, and for a moment he looked like a deer caught in the headlights. Genma…stage manager? Izumo and Kotetsu had failed to mention that.

Oh, he was well and properly screwed.

"Um — hi," he said, decidedly awkwardly, but managed to catch the look off his own face and go back to looking as he usually did. Izumo raised an eyebrow at Kotetsu discreetly, a silent comment on the job he’d done on Genma’s face.

"So, I hear you’re our new props f—" Genma stopped himself. One did not say ‘props fag’ to the new kid. "— guy. Hope you’re just as stubborn as I think you are. You’ll probably need it. Actors are a flaky bunch of assholes, one and all, and they lose shit." Stretching lazily, Genma arranged himself attractively. Regardless of the strain, some things always worked properly — the sexy stretch among them. Kotetsu could feel it happen, and found himself exceptionally glad that he was not facing Genma. Yeah, he wanted to study that, to learn it, but now was not the time to get caught staring.

Izumo coughed pointedly at Genma, and Hayate just seemed to shift his weight from foot to foot. "Um," he said, clearly lacking a good deal of eloquence just then, and looked at Izumo. "What do I do now?"

"Now, you go back downstairs and help Anko not kill someone over a missing prop. The table’s all taped up, so you know where everything belongs when it’s not in use. If something’s missing, and it isn’t on the list for the scene being run, you go tell Anko, and she’ll tell you what to do about it." Genma stuffed his hands in his pockets and backed up a few steps. "Good to have you on. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go make sure nothing’s on fire."

Kotetsu raised both eyebrows at Izumo. Do I stay or do I go with him?

Izumo shook his head as Genma left. Stay here. The kid looked slightly nervous. Izumo patted him on the shoulder. "Come on, we’ll introduce you to Anko, and stick around there for a bit. I take it you’ve met Genma before. He’s a pretty good guy, and he’s not a bad stage manager, either." He wondered to himself just why his mouth was going out of its way to put it in a good word for Genma. All so he could bang some sickly little frosh? This entire thing was way beyond him.

Hayate just nodded, looking a little relieved. "Thank you," he said, and the sentiment seemed sincere.

Genma wandered back down from the loft and caught Anko. "Hey, got you some more help. He’s up on the cats, getting the grand tour, but he’ll be down in a sec."

"That’s great, Genma. I don’t have enough hands for this." Anko leaned around Genma, hand on his shoulder as she shouted at another props tech. "Frankie, you fuckwit! Don’t just leave shit on the table! Put it where it fucking goes!" She stepped back and looked up at Genma. "Airheads. I hope this new one isn’t like the witless morons I have."

"He’s a good kid, Anko." Genma took a deep breath, weighing his interests against his intent. "Two things I want clear, now. You don’t yell at the new kid. You don’t hit on the new kid, either. Not yours."

"What is he, then, yours?" Anko was walking a very fine line. She liked to push Genma — liked to see how hard she could push before he pushed back. Usually, it took days, but the past few days it had taken only minutes.

"Yes." Genma rarely looked intimidating, but this was one of those very few times. He stared Anko down, and then turned and walked away as if nothing at all had transpired. He smacked Frankie up the back of the head as he passed, on principle. The sophomore let out a whining sound, but no actual complaint, and Anko clenched her jaw and made a bitter face at Genma’s retreating back.

"The fuck does he want with some kid, anyway?" she muttered, glaring at Frankie until he left the green room. "Yeah, go on, keep running," she called after him, a bit of a smirk to her voice, and shook her head as she went back to organizing the table.

"Whoah there, man." Izumo narrowly avoided being slammed into by the retreating sophomore, looking up at Anko. She seemed to be in a crazy, bitchy mood — but then she usually was. Why, exactly, had Genma assigned this little slip of a kid to work with Anko? "Yo, Anko."

"Fuck do you want, princess?" Anko’s mind was on cleaning up whatever the hell it was that Frankie had done to the table. "If you don’t have my new props fag, get the fuck out."

Izumo cleared his throat pointedly — he could just about feel Hayate getting more nervous. "As a matter of fact, Anko, I have the new props kid here. His name’s Hayate. We’re showing him around."

"Well, when you’re done wasting his time and mine, bring him back. Frankie’s gone and fucked everything up again. I need someone to just watch the damn table while I deal with those fucking worthless primadonnas," Anko snarled, dismissing them with a sweep of her arm. Hayate swallowed, suddenly feeling reluctant to set one foot inside the green room. Genma was weird and a little scary, yeah, but Anko was a nightmare with breasts and legs.

"Hey," Izumo said, a little more firmly now. "Listen, the kid’s new to tech. Think you could at least tone down the bitch factor on his first day?"

"Go back to the booth and cry it off, princess." Anko hadn’t looked up, the whole time they’d been in the room, her hands moving mechanically across the table, turning, straightening, rearranging — checking and double checking. "Maybe I’ll be nice the day I meet someone competent."

Kotetsu cocked his head at the door, looking sternly at Izumo. Take the kid and go. I’ll be a sec. Izumo grunted, looking fairly irritated, but he tapped Hayate on the shoulder and led him away, muttering something to him about showing him around backstage. As soon as Izumo and the kid had cleared the room, Kotetsu stepped up to Anko, standing directly behind her as she continued to move with absolute precision.

"Can I help you with something, or do you just like breathing down my neck?" Anko was not about to put up with shit from anyone, if she didn’t put up with it from Genma.

Kotetsu placed both hands on Anko’s hips, to keep her from turning around while he spoke. "Izumo is a kind and reasonable individual. Genma doesn’t hit girls. I am not constrained by either of these things." Without another word he turned and left with Anko shouting after him, still not moving from the props table.

"If you’re such a man, take a fucking shower!"

When he spotted Izumo and Hayate, Kotetsu walked over to them. "Just had to have a few words. I’m better, now." Izumo raised an eyebrow, but said nothing.

Hayate did not look terribly reassured. "Do I have to work with her?" he asked plaintively. "Can’t you just teach me the stuff you do?"

"She gives you any shit, you come tell me." Kotetsu flexed his fingers and all of them popped from the second knuckle. "I can’t teach you because I’m still learning from Aoba. Booth only passes every third year. We were the lucky ones."

"Oh." Hayate looked dismayed, and he looked back over his shoulder at the door to the green room apprehensively. "Will she teach me what I need to know, or is she just going to yell at me?"

"She has to teach you before she can yell at you. Something about being Lawful Evil." Kotetsu laughed, and Izumo stifled a snicker despite the sour look on his face. "She’ll never rip your ass off about something she didn’t tell you about, first. I don’t promise she’ll only ask for things that are easy or even particularly probable, but she’ll tell you what she wants before you get your ass chewed for not doing it."

"Okay…" Hayate still looked considerably nervous. "Um. How long does this go for?"

"Can’t tell you exactly. Probably another hour or two, then we’ll go grab dinner." Izumo offered a grin. "In fact, it’ll be on us for you tonight. How’s that, kiddo? It’s usually me, Kotetsu, Aoba, and sometimes a couple of other people. Very rarely Anko, though, so don’t worry."

"Pfft. He means dinner’s on me." Kotetsu gave Izumo a pointed look and then laughed. "I don’t mind, though. Aoba thinks you should come with us — he’s a nice guy, but the stupidest shit comes out of his mouth. Don’t take him too seriously, and you’ll be fine."

Hayate nodded, and Izumo gave him a helpful little shove back toward the green room. "Okay, kiddo, we’ll bring you back to the green room. We have to go back to the booth with Aoba soon. Don’t worry, it’ll be fine."

Hayate just swallowed, bracing himself as he stepped into the green room with Izumo and Kotetsu. Anko still didn’t look up, hands never stopping over the table.

"What the shit do you guys want now?"

"Just bringing back your shiny new right hand." Kotetsu smiled politely, in a way that wasn’t polite at all, even though Anko couldn’t see him. "You just remember what I said, earlier."

"Yeah, sure. As long as you remember to fucking wash." Anko didn’t look up, but waved behind her. "Come here, new kid. What the fuck is your name, again?"

Hayate edged toward her, his feet dragging on the floor, and Izumo and Kotetsu backed out of the room slowly. "Um, Hayate. I’m Hayate." He came to stand beside her uncertainly, looking over the props table.

"Great. Well, Hayate, I hope you have a good memory, because you’ve just inherited the props table. Scene lists are at the top left. They’ll tell you what you need to know about what should be off the table at any time. If something goes missing, you tell me, and I go after the last one of those snivelling primadonnas to touch it." Anko turned her head, finally looking at Hayate, and just stopped to stare. What in the fuck is Genma doing with this skinny little piece of roadkill? "Oh, and for the record? If I catch you doing Genma instead of your job, I’ll break your hands."

Hayate opened his mouth to voice his assent, but nothing came out. Instead, his mouth just hung open as he stared at her in mild horror. "U-um — that’s not…no. Um, that’s not going to happen." In fact, he looked faintly terrified and fairly averse to the mere mention of it. What had prompted Anko to say something like that? Well, Genma had mentioned something about being the "district slut", or something, and it had probably happened before. Maybe that was just some sort of routine warning to new kids. That had to be it.

Anko smiled contemptuously. "Well, it’s nice to see that you’ve already got more sense than half the department." She smacked the last prop onto the table — a coffee mug — and handed the scene lists to Hayate. "Start memorizing. I have to go get the gloves back from that dimwitted bitch." She spun and exited the room like a low-hanging storm front.

Hayate just nodded wordlessly, taking the scene lists, and sat down against the wall with a quiet sigh. He started reading the scene lists to himself aloud in a quiet voice — it was the best way he knew how to memorize anything.

This was going to be a long first day.