Nov 222007

Title: Corybantic Dance (ch 12)
Co-authors: Haya
Gekkou Hayate, Shiranui Genma, Gekkou Ken'ichirou
Expletives, violence.
Notes: Genma gets his face broken on purpose. Hayate is less than sympathetic.

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.

Authors' Notes: Penbrydd would like to point out that both he and Genma find the injuries in this chapter rather entertaining.

The Wryly Fantarding Q&A panel for Corybantic Dance is still located at html

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

Chapter 12

Genma stood outside Hayate's door, rubbing at his swollen and scabbed lip, trying to find the strength of will to knock. He wasn't pretty, anymore, and he hoped that would help. It's hard to be inadvertently threatening when you look like you've met the wrong end of a few bricks. He hadn't, of course, but he had met the same fist repeatedly, as well as several other body parts. He had been sitting down very carefully, all day, praying that he wouldn't start to bleed again. Whatever else may have happened, he felt much better about himself, now. Taking a last deep breath, he knocked at the door, and turned his face away.

There was a long pause followed by some muffled yelling from within the house. The seconds dragged on as Genma waited, relief coming as he heard a set of footsteps heading for the door. The front door opened, hinges creaking, but instead of the skinny little frosh Genma had come to see, there was a taller, dark-haired man in the doorway — Hayate's father. Genma had met him at least once before when Raidou had driven the both of them home and Genma had insisted on walking Hayate to the door. The kid had thought that a little bit weird at the time, but Genma was immensely glad that this was not his first meeting with the kid's dad.

The man blinked at Genma once before recognition flickered over his face. It was easy to see that Hayate had gotten his blank stoicism from his father. "Hello. You're one of Hayate's friends, right? Ah…Genma, right?"

"Yes, sir. I know it's probably a little hard to tell right now. Is Hayate home?" Genma met the man's eyes, locking down everything other than the empty zen calm.

"Yes, he's home — what happened to you there?" Hayate's father frowned in concern, peering at Genma's face. "Do you need some ice for that, Genma?"

"It's fine. I really had it coming. It's last night's damage, anyway. The ice isn't going to do much, now, but thank you." Genma smiled a little bit, the less swelled side of his face responding far better than the blackened side. Whoever had hit him had obviously been left handed.

Hayate's father studied him with a critical but genuinely concerned eye for another moment or two, but finally dropped the subject, much to Genma's relief. "Hayate's home, but he's been out of sorts since yesterday." He seemed to know what had happened, at least a little bit, but didn't allude to it. "You're more than welcome to come in and talk to him, but I can't make any promises about his mood. I'm sorry."

"Thank you. I'm here to apologise, anyway. I'm sorry to have let him go home like that. I'm sorry to have pissed him off like that." Genma looked up as he passed the man in the doorway, sadness in the eye that wasn't swollen shut. "My mistake, sir. I'll try to make it better."

Hayate's father didn't comment on whatever Genma had done, and it was hard to tell if he knew or not. "His door's closed, but don't knock. Just go right in. If he complains about it, just tell him I sent you." He kept his voice quiet, and put his hand briefly on Genma's shoulder before turning to close the door.

"Thank you very much, sir." Genma walked up the hall and took a deep breath before opening the door at the far end. He kept his face turned to the side, and his hair hid the damage on the less-bruised side.

"Hayate? I came to apologise, but before you see me, you need to know it wasn't Anko who did this. Your dad said I should just come in, but that seemed a little rude, and…ah, here I am." He stepped into the room and closed the door behind him, turning his face into the light so he could look at Hayate. The kid was sitting on his bed with the covers drawn up to his waist, looking like he'd just woken from a nap. His guarded, almost offended-looking expression was overlaid with sleepiness, and something that might have been curious concern flickered over his face as he reached up to rub his eye.

"Okay," he said dully, and even if it seemed like he was curious about who had done that to Genma, he didn't voice it. He crossed his legs under the blankets, watching Genma with that creepily unblinking gaze. Face framed by coarse dark hair, his eyes almost looked sunken in his pale face. The dark rings under his eyes were coloured with an overtone of bruised purple that was hard to catch except in certain light. He looked thinner than ever, his small frame dwarfed by the oversized t-shirt that he wore — probably borrowed from his father.

"Your concern has been duly noted, but it is misplaced. I'm better for it." It was impossible to tell if Genma was commenting on the mildly concerned look, or the lack of a question about his health. "Just let me tell this story, and then you can ask me whatever you want, or throw me out, or whatever it is you want. I need to try to explain myself so you'll understand the spirit in which this apology is offered."

Hayate just leaned into the corner against which his bed was positioned, picking up his rumpled pillow and hugging it loosely to his chest. "I wouldn't throw you out," he said. "That would be rude."

The ultra-fag switched on for a split second, as Genma tried to lighten the mood a bit. "Oh, honey, that ain't rude. I know rude a —" As he flipped his hand, and brought his knees together, one knee decided that it had put up with more than enough shit in the last twenty-two hours and refused to support his weight anymore. Genma sat down on the floor rather hard, sinking his teeth into his shoulder as a small noise of surprised pain escaped him. He sat very still for a long moment. "Sorry. Bad knee. Don't, you know, mention it to anyone else, all right?" He pulled one leg out in front of himself and jiggled the kneecap experimentally. "But, ah, I came to tell a story. I should start with the part where I say that you're my friend, and as such, you get almost the respect I'd give Raidou and maybe a bit more than Aoba, if only because he's so frequently irritating. I care what happens to you, and I don't want to see you get stuck in the middle of something that's got nothing to do with you." Genma nodded, reassuring himself that he was doing the right thing. "Anko's got nothing personal about you, one way or the other. She has, however, got something personal about me. I wasn't kidding about the trying to cut it off thing. She can't imagine that she won't get what she wants, and what she wants is me. I'm not even worth the trouble, but I've got this thing against sticking my dick in crazy people. Especially the kind who look like they're going to get clingy and demanding." He shifted uncomfortably. "Anyway, I guess she decided that if she can't have me, she'll just take everything away from me. It works poorly, most times, but she keeps trying. I guess she caught me watching you — you know, because I worry," he added quickly. "You're a friend. She decided that if I had an interest, she'd beat me to it. It shouldn't be like that. I don't want you getting that kind of attention because of some fucked up thing that's probably my fault, in the end. I'm sorry this happened at all — any of it. If you just want me to stay away from you…" He closed his eyes and braced himself. "I'll do it."

Hayate was silent for a good while, tugging at a loose thread on his pillowcase, but he didn't take his eyes off of Genma. They seemed to almost be boring holes in the senior, right through his skull and into the wall, in a merciless kind of way. The only sound was of the kid's slightly wheezy breathing, in and out — he didn't even cough.

"If you didn't do anything at all," he said, "then it would have been fine."

"I'm sorry. I was afraid for you. I was fucking terrified of what she might do to you in some sick attempt at getting back at me. I was so afraid she was going to hurt you. I know you can take care of yourself, but I couldn't help myself. I was so goddamn scared." Genma shook his head and looked up pleadingly. "Look at my face. Really look at it. Now consider what it would take to scare me, okay?"

Hayate would have liked to say that he was already looking, but he wasn't, not in every sense of the word. He studied Genma's bruised and swollen face with an unchanging expression, eyes looking almost thoughtful behind all the tiredness. "Why?" he asked plainly.

Genma blinked. "Why? Why what? Why should you consider it? I have no answer for that. Why did I go get my face broken? I don't want to talk about it. Why do I care? Because I like you. You're pretty damned cool. Why was I scared? Because she once came after my dick with a sharp object. It's enough to put a healthy fear in any man. Any of those what you were asking?"

"You only know me a little. You can't really —" Hayate broke off, looking down at the pillow in his hands and the tiny thread wound around his fingers. "If you knew she was so crazy, then why did you put me with her?"

"Point the first." Genma held up one finger. "I know you better than Kotetsu does, and he was ready to beat the life out of her for what she did to you. Sort of house rules where we are that you at least mention that you're going to do some shit like that before you do it. She crossed a pretty firmly engraved line, and you're one of us, now. If we didn't look out for you, we'd be shitty friends." He raised another finger. "Point the second: We had space in props. That's where we needed people. And I — I really didn't expect her to go after you. She's crazy and occasionally nasty, but she'd only ever come after me, like that. I think I'm wearing the proof of how common that sort of thing is. Nobody thought twice about her going after me. I'm just a target, but you… She steals my pens. She steals my shirts. She's lied about me to try to steal my friends, but this is the first time it's ever gotten physical. I don't know what she thinks is going on between us, but… I really don't think she'll do it again, if that's worth anything. I think Kotetsu's got her scared enough to stop trying."

Hayate just sort of shrugged, picking at the pillowcase some more. "I don't like fighting," he muttered. He didn't like the violence. He hated the conflict — he always had. His first instinct at a sign of conflict was to run away and get far away from it. He thought he'd been doing a pretty good job until Genma showed up.

"You can think of us as your defence against it. Ko and I get hit so you don't have to. Raidou does it for me, you know. Big motherfucker like that takes quite a beating before he goes down. He's not going to be real happy when he sees this mess…" Genma picked at a scab on his lip, licking away the blood that drizzled from it. "Best I can do is offer to make sure you don't see it when it has to happen. I'm not just talking about Anko, here. I'm talking about those assholes on the day we met. I'm talking about anything that thinks you're just some little scrap to be kicked around. They're going to get me, instead, if I can help it. Sure you can take care of yourself, but there's no virtue in getting destroyed when someone else can make sure that you walk away in one piece. I'm sorry. I'm really sorry, but I do care. I don't want people to do bad things to you."

Hayate was down to examining his fingernails now, picking out the dirt and grime that had accumulated underneath them. They needed cutting, he thought, just as his father had been telling him for the past week. "They don't," he said quietly. "I run away, so they don't. They can't get me if I hide here." Genma didn't understand, he realized. Genma didn't understand that it wasn't just the fighting that hit him that he didn't like. He didn't like any fighting on his account. Especially on his account. It was just as bad, maybe worse, if Kotetsu or Genma got hurt instead of him. He just didn't like the conflict.

"You can't hide here forev —" Genma cut himself off, and tried to stand up. He failed, hitting the ground again with a sharp grunt of pain. "You know what? Never mind. I can see that I'm just as useless to you as I am to everyone else. And worse than that, you don't even want me for anything." He failed twice more with much the same results. "I know enough to leave when I'm not wanted. I just need to get up first." His voice was strained.

For the first time during their conversation, the calm on Hayate's face was disturbed, touched with mild panic. "I didn't — you're…" There were too many words trying to get out, and his mouth was too small, and they all got jammed in his mouth, tripping and tumbling and mixing up. His hands fell away from the pillowcase and he swallowed dryly. "But you're my friend," he said, voice too small. It wasn't the first thing he'd wanted to say at all, but it was the only thing he could get out.

Genma stopped struggling to stand. "Yes. That's right. In my world, that's what drives me to fight for you. To defend you from anything I can. To protect you while you go after your dreams. I don't even know what your dreams are, but I'll face down anything that tries to stop you from getting to them. I pay for my own existence in what I can do to help other people. It makes me worthwhile. It's all I have to offer."

"But I don't want you to fight. I hate that. I can just run away, so no one has to fight or get hurt. I don't need that from you. I don't want that from you. I just…" Hayate was back to picking at the pillowcase, a fidgety nervous habit. "I just like it when you talk to me, sometimes. When you and Kotetsu and Izumo and Aoba pay attention to me sometimes. Too much of it is weird, but it makes me feel like I'm really there. That's all."

"I can't promise you that I won't fight for you. It's a little too ingrained. It's too much of what I am to just turn it off. I can promise you that I'll talk to you, though. I'll tell you silly stories and anything that I know that you want to. Be careful with that last — it's a dangerous thing. Don't ask if you're not sure you want to know, because I'll probably tell you." Genma shifted uncomfortably, again, taking a moment to rub at his knee. "If it's not too much to ask, would you come down here so I can give you a hug? I'd get up, but I'll probably need help with that, anyway…"

Hayate seemed to squeeze his pillow for a moment before dropping it, and he hiccuped audibly, sliding off the bed. He half-walked, half-crawled over to Genma, sniffling as he drew close enough for a hug. Genma reached out and dragged the kid the last few inches toward him, wrapping his arms around the thin body. "Are you crying?"

Hayate pointedly pressed his forehead into Genma's shoulder. "No," came the muffled, thick-voiced reply, sounding indignant and mildly offended.

"Good. I'd have been sad about that, I think." Genma buried his face in Hayate's hair. "I'm sorry I upset you. I can't promise you it won't happen again, but I'll do what I can for you without sacrificing my own rather minimal sense of worth. I really do enjoy your company, and I'd miss you if you decided never to see me again. That and I'm kind of hooked on the hugs. You smell good. You smell like you, and that's different from the way Rai smells, or Izumo."

Hayate hiccuped again and pulled back, giving Genma one of his patent weirded out looks. "You're so weird," he said, rubbing one eye with the back of his hand.

"Yeah, I am that. And you're —" delicious. "You smell good. I'm serious. Pfft. Whatever. You don't believe me. I see how you are…" Genma smiled with the side of his face that worked properly and poked Hayate in the shoulder. "You want me to go away, or d'you want me to sit here and run my mouth for your amusement, for a bit? I ask because you look a bit tired."

"I always look tired. I thought your leg wasn't working."

"Just because I can't stand up by myself doesn't mean I can't stay up once I get there. It's that sitting-standing transition that gives me trouble. I get less support while my knee's bent. I'll be going up the stairs backward and on my ass, tonight." Genma shrugged. "Vagaries of fate. Was that an invitation to stay put?"

Hayate shrugged. "You can go home if you want. Or you can stay. I don't mind either way." He started to pull away from Genma, wrists cracking audibly as he did so.

Genma shook his head at the popping sounds. "Some pair we make, eh? We sound like a bowl of Rice Krispies." He stretched one leg, popping his hip with a dull thump. "I'd, ah, like to stay here and amuse you as long as you'll allow it. You need only pick a topic, and I shall ramble at length." He looked a bit dismayed as Hayate backed up.

Hayate sat back on the worn wooden floor and stretched out his legs, wincing as he heard his knees and ankles crack as well. He grabbed his pillow from the low-sitting bed and tucked it under his head, lying on his side on the floor in front of the bed. "I dunno…" He yawned briefly, but didn't look terribly sleepy besides. "What do you want to do?" It felt weird, to be sure, to have his friend — his friend — sitting in his room, doing nothing but killing time. But at the same time, he found himself enjoying it.

Genma stretched up, rolling his shoulders to pop his back almost all the way down. He found it amusing to match the kid crack for pop. "I dunno. If you were Rai, I'd either be rubbing your back or making boob jokes, by now. If we weren't friends, I'd be on my knees getting my face painted. I suspect there are things you'd like to hear about, so why don't you ask questions, and I'll make myself be honest about the answers? It'll be like truth or dare."

"I dunno. I know there are things I don't want to hear about." Hayate looked at Genma cautiously. "Maybe there's things you want to tell me instead."

"I can tell you the story about my knee. That one's still stupid as hell. Or, I suppose I can tell you about the man who mistook his wang for a sausage — another classic accident… I could start at — no, you really don't want to know that, I think… The — no, not that one either. How about the time that Rai made a serious impression on some folks, and totally saved my ass when we were freshmen?" Genma was counting off possibilities on his fingers.

Hayate pushed the pillow out from underneath him, closer to Genma, and rolled onto his stomach. He rested his arms on the pillow, placing his chin on top of them, and looked at Genma. "Is that one happy? I don't want to hear about anything unhappy today."

"It was happy for me, that's for sure. It's a little scary at the start, but it's a story of daring heroics that only contains a single punch! Most of my happy stories are stuff I'm pretty sure you don't really want to hear. They tend to involve either fucking or questionably legal activities." Genma grinned and stretched out sideways, propping his head on his hand.

Hayate made a face and shook his head. "I want to hear the one about your freshman year, then." He sat up, holding his pillow out. "Do you want my pillow?" he offered, just a bit hesitantly. He was normally fairly iffy about other people touching his things to the point where he had used to disallow people from even entering his room when he'd been younger. He was better now, but it was still pushing outside his comfort zone.

"I don't need it. My knee's fucked up, not my elbow. Lay back down and quit worrying about me." After a moment of hesitation, the kid complied. Genma was just a bit worried about himself, mostly because he was leaning directly on a bruise, but he wasn't about to mention that. "Story about freshman year… Well, I'm standing in the john, doing those things one goes to the john to do, when these three jocks come up behind me. I don't quite recall what was said, but I know the phrases 'little girl', 'pretty princess', and 'fagwhore' were in there somewhere. Obviously, I had a face like a beauty queen, at the time — I've since grown a chin — and they weren't real creative. So one of them grabs me by the hair, and I'm pretty flipped out about the whole thing — pants around my knees, about to get my face beat in by some boring-assed jocks. And Rai just decides I've been gone too long…you know he was six foot, even then? He comes in and stares these fuckers down, and he's like, 'What are you fuckwits doing with my pet freshman?'" Genma laughed. "He's a frosh, too, of course, but at that size, who's gonna know? Anyway, it takes the guy holding onto me just a second too long to respond, and Rai hauls off and busts him in the face. Bounces the guy off the floor, and the other two just grab the first guy and drag him out the door, all apologising and shit. So, there I am, sitting on the floor in a puddle of my own piss, half-wearing pants, and Rai says to me, 'Man, I just can't leave you alone! You're like candy — everybody wants a piece.'" Genma blushed just a bit, remembering his own absolute horror at the time. "It was great. I don't think I went to the john by myself for the rest of the semester."

Hayate looked and sounded like he was laughing quietly, though it was hard to tell — his voice was a little muffled by the pillow, and his face was half-covered by his arms. "You're really lucky, I think. To have Raidou."

"I am the luckiest man alive, besides perhaps Kotetsu. He's fucking his best friend. I'm just jealous." Genma laughed a bit. "Of course, Izumo's a little scary in his own right, sometimes. I don't envy Ko the endless procession of slaps he gets." There was a long pause. "You know, I'd tell another story, but I think all of them involve dick to a greater or lesser degree… the last one included, on the lesser end, of course."

"Oh." Hayate shrugged. "But those aren't always good, right? Those stories. Because you talked about Anko, and — well that's one of those stories, too, so, um…I don't know." He shrugged again, rolling onto his back and propping his feet up on the edge of his bed.

"I can tell you about Anko. It's not real pleasant, but it definitely contains great peril to my junk, if you find that sort of thing amusing, which I tend to — after the fact, of course. When I can look back and congratulate myself on not having been castrated." The laugh was a bit nervous, this time. Genma tried to smile lazily at Hayate, but it didn't come across well with his face the way it was. "I'll tell you anything you want to know. All you have to do is ask."

Hayate made a face, shaking his head. "I don't think I want to hear all about that right now." He reached to touch his toes, stretching his legs up over himself. "I don't think I like Anko very much anyway. She's okay sometimes. But she's not my friend."

"I'm not exactly a fan, myself, but I really think she's quite through giving you shit. Ko and I had a talk with her, today, and for all that she'll bullshit me, I don't think she'll even try it with him. He's made the point that you're a person, not one of my shirts, and that she'd goddamn well better start treating you like one, and not like some extension of me." Genma reached out and patted Hayate's arm. Hayate just sort of shrugged.

"It's not really a big deal anyway." He absently fingered a hole over the stomach of his t-shirt, turning his eyes up onto the ceiling.

"It's a fucking huge deal. You're crew, now. We'd have a shit time putting this show on without you. I want you comfortable, first because I like you, and second so that you can keep doing good work. You notice the other two props fags have been coming to you, instead of to her? You don't scare the shit out of them, even if you are a little unsettling. Frankie thinks you're a demigod and Ches is convinced you're some kind of re-incarnation of Jesus or something." With a faint smile, Genma took Hayate's hand in his own. "You're good at what you do, and the crew really likes you. Don't let Bitchzilla fuck that up for you."

"…Oh." Hayate turned to look at Genma for a moment before he went back to staring at the ceiling, and his expression was faintly guilty.

"Hey, hey, what's wrong? What did I say?" Genma squeezed the kid's hand, gently. Hayate tugged it out of his grip to cover his mouth as he coughed.

"I'm not going back," he mumbled into his hand.

Genma looked away. "Your will, kid. I'll miss you. We all will." He sounded hurt. "I'd rather have you with us, but I guess I'm just kind of selfish like that. Really makes my day, you know, having somebody competent and not Anko working props. Also really makes my day that I get to come piss around with you in the green room when she's not looking. You stick with it, I think you could replace her, next year. But, you know… Your will. Not mine."

Hayate sat up, knocking the pillow away, and looked at Genma. "I'm sorry," he said, narrow shoulders hanging down. "I just…I don't want to get hurt or anything. I don't like Anko. She's…you're still my friend, right?"

"I'm absolutely still your friend. And so is Kotetsu. I'm pretty sure you'd get the same answer from Izumo and Aoba, too, and those two props fags who refuse to believe you're a frosh. Everyone knows something happened, but we've managed to keep it pretty quiet exactly what. Pissed a lot of people off, and they're all looking out for you." He left out the point where it was his own screams that had gotten that reaction. The normally unflappable stage manager did not make noises like that. "Anko's pissed off most of the department. You might be new, but we like you. Nobody's going to let you get hurt. Anko's not stupid, either. I really doubt she'd try. She'll probably just come after me again, and that's going to happen whether you're there or not."

Hayate fell silent, looking at Genma with something of a helpless expression on his face. He got up, picking up his pillow, and threw it onto the bed. "I don't know." He sounded mildly frustrated, uncomfortable — upset that he couldn't quite decide.

Genma sighed. "Come back with me. If anybody starts with you again, go home and I'll never bring it up again." It was completely against his instincts to push like this, but Genma was a rather self-interested creature at times. "I know it's a lot to ask, but trust me. Trust me this once."

Hayate sat down on his bed heavily, flinging his hands down onto his lap. He looked at Genma uneasily for a moment before flopping onto his back. He narrowly avoided smacking the back of his head against the wall. "Do you play chess?"

"Occasionally. Rai beats my ass every goddamn time." Genma looked vaguely amused. "Why do you ask?"

Hayate pushed the pillow to the end of the bed with his feet, kneading it and curling his toes against it. "I'll go back to tech if you come to chess club just once."

"Done." As Genma gazed up into the kid's eyes, there was not even a hint of doubt in his voice or his face. The decision and the answer were almost instantaneous. Hayate turned his head to look at Genma, looking faintly surprised.

"Okay." He pinched his toes around the pillowcase idly, just fidgeting with his feet. "I'll go tomorrow."

Genma meant to leap up and hug the kid, but his knee was still not amused with the idea of allowing him to become vertical. After making it most of the way up, the knee failed yet again, and Genma's face met the edge of the bed. "Must stop trying to stand up. I should probably get the brace back on that before I do something stupid. Sorry if I bled on your sheets — I got a little excited. Leaping with glee is just not going to work right now." He giggled inanely for a moment.

"It's okay. The sheets are black anyway…" Hayate peered at Genma with a touch of alarmed concern. "Um…are you okay, Genma?"

"Fuck. Ow. Yeah. I'm fine." Genma was trying to untwist himself from where he'd fallen. "I don't suppose you'd like to help me up? I can stand if you help me get there. It's the getting up part that's killing me." He looked wry and somewhat irritated with himself as he held his hand out in supplication.

Hayate spared his pillow any further probing from his toes and sat up, swinging his legs over the edge of the bed. He took Genma's hands in his own, trying to help Genma to his feet. "You can sit on my bed," he offered with a little grunt as he pulled Genma's arms.

With a few grunts and curses, Genma managed to get himself settled on the edge of the bed. He reached over and hugged Hayate. "Little black angel of peeling my ass off the floor. Thanks, kid. You're good to me." Sitting on the bed, Genma found himself enveloped in Hayate's scent. It was rather distracting, but he managed to fight down his default urges to do stupid things.

"You were nice to me first," Hayate pointed out absently, reaching over Genma to get his pillow back. He leaned against the wall, hugging the pillow to his waist. "What's wrong with your leg, anyway? My knees are bad, but they don't do that. Do you need ice or something?"

"Nah, it'll be okay. Really." Genma pounded on the side of his knee, absently, groaning blissfully when it finally popped. "I, ah…it was a bike accident. Dirtbike racing. I sort of destroyed the middle of my leg, and now there's nothing holding my kneecap on. It migrates, occasionally." He was silent for a long stretch, looking at his leg. "My leg and Rai's face. I got out easy."

"…Oh. So that's what…" Hayate shifted uncomfortably. A terribly awkward silence followed. "I'm sorry." It didn't seem to be enough, and suddenly he thought he might understand what some people felt when they talked to him — when some people heard or figured out what was wrong with him.

"Yeah. I think you get it." Genma offered a grim smile. "It's just part of me, now. This is how I function. Nothing serious."

"It's not serious unless you're dying." Hayate echoed the words he'd once heard his mother say. He was fairly certain that she'd never meant it to apply to him, but he took the words to heart anyway. He liked to think that maybe it was some sort of distant comfort. "Um…do you want a drink or something?" he asked hesitantly, remembering the manners that had been drilled into him by his mother.

"Excellent philosophy. Every time you open your mouth I find something else to like about you." A rather smutty thought shot through Genma's mind as the words left his mouth, but he wisely kept it to himself. "Pass on the drink. I've imposed enough. Besides, I'm not thirsty." He seriously considered going home and finishing the bottle of Jamie and just passing out. The pain in his knee was starting to fade out, but it just brought the pain in his ass into sharper focus. He shifted slightly and paled where he wasn't bruised as he felt the warm, sticky trickle start again. The change in expression didn't quite escape Hayate's notice, and the kid frowned.

"What's wrong?" he asked bluntly.

"Bleeding again." Genma shifted uncomfortably. For as much as he hurt, the painful throb where the scabs had split felt good — dangerously good. He felt his body start to respond, but pulled the static in his head back up, blocking out as much as he could. Hayate watched him with some degree of alarm before getting to his feet. He couldn't just sit there and do nothing.

"I'm gonna go get my dad."

"Don't bother. Like you, I can take care of myself. Just give me a hand up, and I'll go." Genma held his hand out, expectantly.

Hayate gave him an uneasy, concerned stare, but helped Genma to his feet anyway. "I'm gonna ask my dad to drive you home anyway," he told Genma, and without waiting for an answer from the senior, he bounded from his room, presumably to talk to his father. He returned moments later, looking decidedly pleased with himself.

"Dad said he'd drive you home," he said to Genma, slipping his feet into his shoes. "We're going now. I'm coming, too."

Genma quietly hugged Hayate from behind. "Thanks, kid. Thanks for everything. Especially for not tossing me out on my ass before I could explain myself." Hayate smelled fascinatingly exotic, Genma decided. Hayate just nodded, rolling his shoulders noncommittally.

"You're my friend," he said, half-mumbling, and started to pull away. "I can't not listen."

"We've all got our ethical quirks…" Genma let go and looked inquisitively at Hayate, obviously waiting for a clue. He gestured for the kid to precede him out of the room. Hayate nodded and shuffled out of the room ahead of Genma, making sure not to go too fast. His father was already waiting at the front door a little bit down the hall, keys in hand.

Genma nodded to Hayate's dad. "Thank you, sir. It's only a few blocks, but my knee is a bit tricky, tonight." He looked up, hoping to impart some small part of what he wasn't going to say in front of Hayate. I think I fixed it. He looks better, now. He's not mad at me, anymore.

It was hard to tell whether or not Hayate's father got the message, but he nodded and put a hand on his son's head. "All ready to go? You going to be all right, Genma?"

"I'll be fine. I'm not going to die from it, however bad it might look. I've walked away from worse." Genma followed the two out of the house and climbed into the car — front seat, but only because Hayate's dad offered, and the kid was already climbing into the back seat complacently. Hayate didn't talk much and neither did his father, save for asking Genma his address, as they pulled out of the narrow driveway and headed down the cracked street.

A few minutes later, Hayate helped Genma out of the car in front of the apartment building. Genma was careful to put more of his weight on the oh-shit handle than on the kid as he struggled to his feet. "Thank you both. You've been very kind." He snuck in one more hug, pulling Hayate to him for just a moment. "Especially you." Letting go with a smile, he limped up the walk toward the building. "Take care of yourself, kid! Goodnight!" he called back as he unlocked the door and vanished into the building.

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