The hospital had been darkened, and the rooms with it. The staff firmly believed that invalids needed their rest.
Genma rocked his head on his pillow, watching lights from the fireworks outside splash through his window and across the wall. The sound of the crowd was muffled by distance, drifting through the window that had been opened to let in the night breeze.
The crowd noise rose suddenly, and red and blue sparkled onto his wall, only to fade moments later.
He shifted carefully, afraid of the pain that would burn through his side again. Somewhere in the building nurses and doctors were toasting the new year with coffee and tea. He could hear the laughter, cresting and breaking like the colors on his wall.
Red, green, pink, blue. A shower of white.
He supposed spending New Year's like this was not much different than how he normally spent it; tucked safely in his apartment, watching the festivities from the window. Either way, he spent New Year's alone.
Fireworks popped and crackled, and the crowd cheered.
He sighed, then winced at the movement and put a hand over the heavy bandaging on his torso. He didn't remember much of the trip back, which was probably a good thing. He knew that Raidou had wrapped the injury as tightly as he could, then thrown Genma over his shoulders and carried him home.
Genma had told Raidou that he didn't appreciate the scarring that was going to occur and asked why Raidou hadn't gotten him back faster. Raidou requested that the next time Genma was run through, would he please try to do it closer to the village? Genma promised to try, Raidou apologized for the scarring, and that was everything back to normal.
Light flashed across the wall, filling the room for just a moment with white and yellow and purple. Music played, only the faintest of melodies and the bass reaching him.
Genma wondered how many of the villagers had turned out. He could imagine the stars above, winking down at the celebration, the moon hanging thick and pregnant on her bed of black velvet sky.
The town would be decorated, people throwing bright ribbons and lengths of cloth over windows and doors. There would be paper dragons and a procession with gaily costumed entertainers, both civilian and ninja.
Blue washed through the room, followed quickly by green.
A breeze shuffled through Genma's window, bringing the scent of candy and the sweat of the crowd, chasing back antiseptic for just a moment. Then it was gone.
He picked at his blanket and debated asking for a sleeping pill. Moving hurt, and he couldn't see anything from where he was.
Being alone in the hospital was entirely different than being alone at home, with a bottle of sake and the sight of the village below.
Something popped and crackled, and his room lit up. Blue, pink, red.
Somewhere in the building, he heard a woman's cheerful laugh.
Genma turned his head--carefully, it was amazing what tied into his torn stomach muscles--and tried to look out the window.
He could see the leaves of a tree, and nothing else.
The door opened. He felt it, the change in the air patterns, the entry of a strong, familiar chakra. He turned, surprised. "Raidou?"
The ninja smiled and lifted a finger to his lips, hushing Genma. Carefully, he closed the door behind him and headed into the room. Pink, red, yellow flashed, splashing over Raidou's face and vanishing again quickly. "Thought I'd come check on you."
Genma stared, flabbergasted. They'd been partners for long enough to visit each other when injured and sick, but they didn't spend holidays together.
Raidou grabbed a chair and pulled it closer, still smiling.
Color flared purple, green, white.
"What are you doing here?" Genma whispered, mindful of the nurses and the fact that visiting hours were long over.
"What, you wanted to spend New Year's alone?" Raidou said, eyes sparkling. "I brought goodies."
Genma snorted at the infantile word, but watched avidly as Raidou reached into the bag he'd been carrying. The man pulled out two bento boxes, setting them on the tiny stand beside the bed before reaching back into the duffel.
"I brought a Shougi board, and Go, too." He smiled and rifled through the contents. "And my mother packed cards. I swear she's a bad influence on me . . ."
Turquoise, yellow, a flicker of white.
Genma looked at Raidou, confused. "How long are you planning on staying?" he asked.
Raidou glanced up in surprise. Red splashed over his face. "Until midnight, or the nurses find out I'm here . . . have you seen that one with the arms bigger than mine? Jeez--"
"Raidou," Genma interrupted, "don't you have a family?"
Something popped. The crowd cheered.
"'Course. They're at the festival."
"Why aren't you with them?" Genma asked, rapidly getting exasperated.
"They're fine on their own," Raidou laughed. "I figured you needed the company more than they did." He pulled out the cards and the Shougi board, eyebrows raised. "Food? Or games?"
Genma stared for a moment, then smiled softly. It had been a long time since he'd spent New Year's with someone. "Cards."
Raidou pulled out the cards and, grinning, reached back in for a bottle of sake.
Genma eyed it. "The nurses are going to kill you."
"Don't get drunk," Raidou answered airily, and sat a cup on the stand next to the bento boxes. "Can you reach that?" he asked, eyes back to his bag.
The room sparkled and glittered white.
Genma eyed it. "I think so," he said finally. Still, the nightstand seemed an awfully long way away, and stretching was painful.
"All right," Raidou said, shuffling the deck. "What would you like to play?"
A little over an hour later, they'd finished playing cards. Genma was exhausted, riddled with pain just from using his arms. Everything was tied into his stomach. Raidou had been helpful, lifting the cards they were putting down so Genma could see them--he couldn't sit up without agony. The fireworks continued, painting Raidou first orange and then white, blue and purple and red.
Genma sat back and watched the man return the cards to their little box.
"You haven't touched your sake," Raidou said quietly.
Genma glanced at it. He didn't want to admit that it hurt to reach that far. It seemed a rather unmanly thing to admit to.
Raidou didn't need to be told, though. He stood, reaching out and plucking the cup off the nightstand. He held it out, smiling.
Pink, blue, jade.
Genma took it, sipping carefully before handing it setting it back in Raidou's waiting hand. Raidou smiled at him and put the cup away.
"Will it hurt if I sit?" Raidou asked, eyeing the bed.
Genma hesitated. "I don't know."
"Tell me." Raidou lowered himself carefully. The bed dipped, and Genma braced himself for pain. It hurt a little, but when Raidou was settled and everything stopped moving, it was all right.
Purple danced through the room.
Raidou leaned back against the headboard, stretched out beside Genma. "The patterns are pretty," he said, gesturing to the splashes of light against the wall.
"Yeah," Genma agreed. The weight next to him felt solid, warm. It was strange; he hadn't been close to anyone in a long time. "Why are you here?"
Raidou laughed. "I thought we'd been through all this?"
Genma started to shrug, then stopped when his stomach pulled. "I mean . . . why did you care? You should be off with your family, doing family-things."
Raidou tapped his fingers in his lap. "I just thought you might like the company."
Genma sighed. "Yes." He thought he should say thank you, but couldn't bring himself to do it. He leaned a little more against Raidou and hoped the man didn't move. Holding himself so perfectly still was starting to wear him out.
"You okay?" Raidou asked softly.
Fireworks popped and crackled outside. Light flickered over them, turning the sheets yellow.
"Tired," Genma said.
"You want me to go?"
His heart jumped unhappily at the thought of being left alone again. "No," he said, trying not to sound too needy. "If you want to, you can go of course, but I don't need you to . . ."
Raidou smiled. "All right. I'll stay." He pulled away, looking down at the covers. "How is that? I mean, the wound looked pretty bad--"
"Of course it was bad!" Genma yelped. "I was gutted!" He clutched the bandage, wincing as his muscles spasmed. His entire body trembled, pain ripping through him.
"Breathe," he heard Raidou murmur. "Deep breath. It's all right."
He followed the voice, taking steady, shallow breaths in an attempt to keep from moving his torso too much. When the pain faded, he realized Raidou had a hand on his chest, pressing and lifting gently with every inhalation. "Thanks," he said quietly.
"No problem," Raidou answered. "You all right?"
"Better," Genma said.
Raidou nodded. "I was going to ask if I could see how it was healing," he said, smiling ruefully. "Didn't mean to make it worse."
Orange, red, yellow. They rushed through the window, nearly running over each other before crashing silently against the plain white wall.
Genma pulled down the blankets and lifted his shirt.
He felt Raidou pick at the medical tape, peel it back away from his skin, and knew the man was peering at his stitches.
"That's ugly," Raidou said.
Genma smiled. "Yeah, thanks." He knew they'd had to put shunts in, and it was going to leave a wicked scar. The doctors told him he was lucky, that the likelihood of system poisoning from his intestines spilling through his blood had been high.
Raidou put the bandage back, smoothing the tape over Genma's skin again. His fingers were warm, callused. Genma tried not to think about that. He let his shirt drop and settled the blankets around his hips.
Pink, green, a flash of white that lit the room in unsteady pulses.
"You have a girlfriend? She might not appreciate that scar," Raidou said, smiling.
Genma rolled his eyes. "Well, good thing I don't have one."
"That's good," Raidou murmured.
Genma looked at him, eyebrows raised.
"I mean, if you had a girlfriend and she'd left you alone tonight, I'd have to hate her."
Genma smiled and looked away. It felt nice, though he wasn't certain why. "No, no girlfriend," he repeated.
He shook his head again.
"Friends?" Raidou was beginning to sound a bit horrified.
"A few of those," Genma said, smiling to reassure the other ninja.
Blue, red, yellow speckled with pink. The crowd cheered.
Raidou settled back, muscles relaxing. "How long have you been alone?"
It was code; the tactful way to ask when his parents had died. Living in a village with so many orphans, there was code for everything. It had happened a long time ago, though, and Genma could answer without wincing. "I was fourteen. We all were sent on separate missions, and I was the only one who came back."
Raidou picked at the blanket. "Sorry."
Genma started to shrug, thought better of it, and made a noncommittal noise. "You have a big family?"
Raidou nodded. "You can meet them sometime, if you like. They ask about you."
That was a little nonplussing; that people would know of him enough to inquire. He rubbed a hand through his hair and smiled slightly. "Huh."
Raidou looked over, grinning. "I only tell them about the good things."
Genma smiled back. "That's a relief."
"Besides, nothing's too bad for my family," the other man continued. "My sister used to rub gum in our hair when she was pissed at us. After that, you couldn't do anything that would anger my mother."
Genma smiled, watching Raidou. "Really?"
Raidou nodded cheerfully. "But then, I used to drool toothpaste on her head, so everything evened out in the end."
"Toothpaste?" Genma asked, disbelieving.
Blue, orange, a glitter of purple.
"She deserved it. She was the most annoying thing." Raidou shifted, wrapping one arm around Genma's shoulders to hold him in place before he turned.
Genma hadn't realized so much of his weight was resting on Raidou. His inclination was to pull away, but that would require tensing his stomach muscles. He stayed put.
Light flickered, throwing Raidou's face into relief.
"She used to punch me, and then say in the most bratty voice imaginable, 'Sorry.' I wasn't allowed to hit back because she was smaller, so I'd go tell my mom. And my mom would say, 'Did she apologize?' and I'd have to say yes, and my mother would just shrug. Be glad you were an only child."
Genma struggled not to laugh, breathing slowly through his mouth in an effort to keep his stomach muscles from trembling. "Suddenly, I am."
Raidou settled back down next to him, tucking Genma into his side.
Genma started to pull away, but Raidou's arm tightened around his shoulders. "Relax. You're injured. People are allowed to hold you up."
Genma said nothing, acutely aware of the body beside his, stretched out in the bed. Raidou radiated heat, as if the fire scars had retained some of their creator and internalized it. Strong muscle lay against his shoulders, corded and soft all at once. He tried to ignore it.
Pink flashed over the wall.
He could smell Raidou, the scent easing around him, blocking out antiseptic and sickness. For the first time in three days, he started to relax. Slowly, he let his head fall back against Raidou's shoulder. Outside, people laughed.
"Tell me more stories," Genma said quietly. From the corner of his eye, he saw Raidou smile, still looking straight ahead.
"Well," he said slowly, "there was the time my older brother tried to ride one of the Inuzuki dogs. I don't remember it, only heard about it later, but . . ."
Genma smiled and relaxed further, surrounded by heat and warmth, the soft burble of words. He wondered if Raidou was aware of how very accessible he was. It was a strange word, one that didn't apply to many ninja.
Raidou was willing to let people in, unafraid of getting hurt. It helped that he was very sexy, and he always smelled good. Even his sweat smelled good.
Green, purple, red.
Raidou's thumb moved over his skin, soft and soothing. The voice beside him rolled on, humming through his bones. He didn't know how much time passed. Light flickered over his eyelids, beckoning, teasing, whispering over his skin and gone again. People laughed outside, and inside he was kept safe and warm, the pain in his stomach fading away.
A roar went up from the crowd. Genma opened his eyes, aware suddenly that he'd nearly nodded off. Raidou was silent, holding him up, gazing out the window. Genma had slid farther down, his head cradled on Raidou's shoulder, body warm and pressed against the other man.
"What's going on?" he asked softly, unable to gather the energy to move.
Raidou turned to look at him, and smiled. Brown eyes were so close to his he could see flecks of green dancing in them. "It's midnight. Happy New Year."
Genma smiled softly, sleepily. "Happy New Year," he repeated back, feeling his lids closing again.
Pain killers, he supposed. They made him drowsy, and feeling warm and safe and this late at night . . .
He felt breath on his skin, and lips on his. Dry and slightly rough, barely touching his mouth at all. Genma's eyes opened even as he began to respond.
Raidou was kissing him. He stiffened in surprise.
Raidou's eyes hadn't been entirely closed. They opened wide and he pulled back, careful to make sure Genma was against the pillows before he withdrew entirely, but moving quickly.
"Sorry," Raidou said, his face rapidly turning red. "I--uh--I don't know what--uh--" He scrubbed his fingers through his hair, standing by the bed.
Genma kept staring at him, feeling heat curl through his body. Raidou had just kissed him.
"You were--and I was--I should go find my family."
"Wait," Genma started to say. Raidou was already at the door, fleeing as if the Hokage himself was after the young ninja.
Red, yellow, orange.
Raidou was gone.
"Wait!" Genma hissed, launching himself out of the bed. His foot hit the ground before the pain swamped him, crashing over and through him like a tidal wave. He started to scream, bit most of it back, and collapsed.
The world flickered red and white, burning through his skin and behind his eyelids. He tried to remember how to breathe, gasped for air, felt new waves of agony wash over him when his ribs and stomach moved.
He was going to be sick. He was going to faint.
He breathed. Focused on that, on breathing, one breath in and the next one out. It took him a long time to realize he hadn't collapsed entirely. The floor was cold on his knees and the tops of his feet, but the rest of him was mostly upright.
"Breathe," Raidou whispered into his ear, arms wrapped around him, holding him up. "Just breathe. That's it. In. Out. In. Out."
A hand shifted to his back, pressing him more firmly against the other body.
"Follow me. Breathe in." Raidou took a deep breath then said, "And out," and exhaled.
Shaking, Genma followed the other man's chest, breathing in when Raidou did and out when he felt air against his cheek. Slowly, the pain started to recede. The world came back into focus a bit at a time, starting with the shoulder Genma was leaning against.
They were both kneeling on the floor, Genma clutching his stomach and practically in Raidou's lap.
"You okay?" Raidou asked quietly.
Genma nodded. His muscles were trembling. The room turned green before fading to blue.
"All right. I'm going to pick you up and put you back in bed. Okay?"
Genma nodded again, bracing himself for the pain he knew was coming.
Hand smoothed down his back, over his rump, and Raidou stood carefully, lifting the other man with him.
Genma flattened himself next to the strong body, felt his legs come off the floor, felt the muscles holding him tremble. Then the bed was there, under him, and Raidou was laying him down carefully on his back.
Genma reached up with one hand, capturing the man's neck before he could leave. "You kissed me," he said softly.
Pink, red, purple.
"Don't be," Genma said quickly. Then he felt his face heat, and knew he was probably blushing, too. "I mean . . . I think . . . it was good. But, ah, we should probably try it again. To be sure."
Slowly, Raidou sat on the bed. "Yeah?"
Raidou licked his lips. Genma echoed the motion, mostly unconsciously. Then the other man bent, warm and steady, and carefully brushed his mouth against Genma's.
Genma's breath shuddered out. His hand tightened with the motion as a twinge of pain slivered up from his stomach.
It wasn't a kiss to end all kisses. It was careful, slow, and pleasant, but nothing more.
Raidou smelled great.
Genma felt the other man pull back slightly, not far, and licked his lips. "I, uh . . . maybe we should try that again. To be sure."
Raidou smiled slightly. He bent, tickling Genma's mouth with his. Genma tightened his hand against the back of Raidou's neck and tugged.
Cautiously, Raidou settled more firmly against Genma. Genma opened his mouth, licking out, tasting rough skin. He was suddenly aware of how very thin the hospital gown was, and the way it had rucked up along one hip when Raidou had put him down. He was even more aware of it when Raidou's hand slid down his arm, stroking carefully.
Blue, green, purple.
Genma licked again, and the other man opened his mouth. Tongues slid, pressing and stroking. Genma pulled up, trying to get closer, and nearly screamed.
His stomach spasmed, pain radiating out through his entire body.
Red, green, white.
"All right, breathe, breathe, so sorry," Raidou whispered against his neck.
Slowly, the pain faded. Raidou was still resting against him, face pressed into his neck.
Genma patted him carefully. "Maybe now isn't the best time," he said at last.
Raidou laughed. "Yeah."
Genma kept stroking the man's short hair, all lust damped. "But . . . later?" he asked, the question soft.
Blue, pink, turquoise. The crowd cheered.
Raidou looked up slightly. "Yeah?"
Raidou sighed. "Good."
Green, blue, white. Little speckles of yellow.
Slowly, Raidou shifted again, settling alongside Genma on the bed. Warmth and strength wrapped around Genma, sinking into his bones. Raidou settled his arm around the younger man again, shifting him carefully closer, tucking him into the hollows Raidou's body made.
Genma didn't protest. He edged in, too tired and hurt and weary to worry about how it seemed. "Thanks for coming tonight," he sighed. His eyes fell closed. Color seeped in around the edges; yellow and blue. A flash of white.
He felt Raidou brush his nose over the top of Genma's head. "Anytime. Happy New Year."
Genma smiled. "You, too."
Color flickered, red and blue and green. The crowd cheered one last time, and the lights faded away.
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