Snow Cones and Holding Hands
by Nezuko, Prince of Rats
This is a work of derivative fiction based on the manga "Naruto" by Kishimoto Masashi. The characters and the world in which they live are the property of Kishimoto-sensei.
Sitting on a park bench, tired, bruised, grime-spattered, and definitely not wanting any company, thank you very much, Gekkou Hayate blinked in surprise, then raised narrowed, glaring eyes to the face above his. The thing that made him look up was the gloved hand holding out a paper cone topped with a ball of flavored shaved ice. The hand connected to a uniformed and equally grime-spattered arm, that to a shoulder and that, continuing up, to the face. Genma's face.
Shiranui Genma was his senior. The commander of the mission they'd just completed. And a weird guy. He wore his hitai-ate bandanna-style – that was normal. But he turned it around backward, so the protective metal plate cradled the back of his skull and the knotted ends of the scarf flopped down over his forehead like a mammy's rag. He always looked half asleep, but never seemed to miss a single thing that was going on. And he perpetually chewed on a senbon – a metal weapon of death – as if it were nothing more than a used dango skewer; as if his teeth were made for chomping on a steel spike.
The other thing about Genma was that he oozed a sort of raw sexuality, and he was rumored to be willing to sleep with anything that moved. Well, anything human, anyway. Hayate was not immune to the animal appeal of the man, although it mostly made him uncomfortable. He wasn't... like that... after all.
Despite his quirks, Genma was a good leader and a skilled ninja, Hayate had to admit. He knew and readily used an astonishing number and variety of ninjutsu, and could read a trail better than just about anyone Hayate had ever met. He knew poisons inside out, and was immune to several, a state he'd worked himself up to over the course of many years and more hospital visits than he could count. He was thoughtful of his men, pushing them to the brink of their abilities, but never beyond, and he pushed himself even harder. And he was, despite his weirdness, remarkably perceptive when it came to understanding the minds of comrades and enemies alike. So working with the man was fine. But socializing with him? No. Not Hayate's idea of a good time.
Hayate glared and coughed, and Genma shook the snow cone a little. He plopped down on the bench next to the dark-haired and tired-looking young swordsman.
"It's not poisoned, Hayate-kun. See?" Genma slurped up a mouthful of the orangish ice to prove his point. "And it's mango. I know you like mango."
"So what? You can suck down shit that would kill anyone else in thirty seconds flat," Hayate grumbled.
"Yeah, but I'm not gonna off my own comrade. That would be stupid. I may be eccentric, but I'm not stupid." Genma grinned. "I just thought you might like something soothing, after eating all that dust back there."
Hayate coughed, and coughed again, then glared at Genma some more, before finally accepting the proffered refreshment. He was surprised to see bloody fingerprints on the paper cone when he took it from the other man.
"You're hurt?" asked Hayate.
"Oh... Yeah..." Genma glanced away. "Sorry."
"What do you mean sorry? That's a dumb thing to say," Hayate muttered.
"For getting it on your cup," Genma said simply.
"Is it bad?" He looked a little more closely at Genma this time, searching for the source of the blood, but not finding it immediately.
"No. Eat up." Genma smiled again, and his eyes held an odd light that Hayate couldn't quite place. Before he could study it further, Genma stood back up. "I'm gonna get one for me, too."
Hayate watched the taller man walk towards the shaved-ice vendor's cart. There was no trace of a limp, although Genma was a skilled enough jounin that it would probably take a pretty damn good clobber before he'd let it show in his gait, Hayate decided. He took a bite of the icy treat the man had given him, finding it was indeed soothing on his parched and dusty throat. That was Genma for you, he thought. A man of actions, not words, he seemed to have some sixth sense that let him know what the ninja he worked with needed at the moment, and usually made some subtle, almost imperceptible effort to supply it, be it back up in a fight, a translation of an encrypted scroll, a kick in the rear, or a mango-flavored snow cone.
Hayate leaned back on the bench and closed his eyes, listening to the sounds of civilian life proceeding happily in the small park, slurping at the innocent sweet, and trying not to think about the mission they had just come from. The sun was warm, and the peaceful air, and sweet, sugary ice were calming, after the hectic chase and battle. He had eaten nearly all of it before he felt Genma's approach, and opened his eyes to watch as the long-haired shinobi sat next to him again.
"Vendor-san over there was a little pissed about the fact I paid with bloody money," Genma said, to Hayate's surprise. The younger jounin looked at him questioningly, but Genma just laughed and took a bite from his snow cone.
"Yeah? What happened? Get hit in the hip or something and get it on your wallet?"
"No. My hand."
Hand? Wait, Hayate thought, Genma's hand is hurt? That can't be good. Everyone who'd ever worked with him knew Genma had some strange phobia about his hands, and would flinch if anything so much as brushed against his knuckles, although so long as he initiated the contact, he seemed fine. They also knew to never bring the subject up with the strange jounin. That he'd change from his laid-back, easy-going self into a pissed-off, paranoid, and dangerous adversary over that topic.
"Is your hand alright, Genma-senpai?" Hayate asked hesitantly.
"Well... no. Not really," Genma answered, looking levelly at Hayate. "Hold this a sec." He gave his snow cone to Hayate, then slowly, carefully started to tug the glove from his left hand. He winced and cursed as he pulled the leather free from his palm, and a surprisingly large amount of blood spattered onto the ground at his feet, dripping down his fingers.
"Oh shit," Hayate breathed, staring at the gruesome sight.
"Yeah," the older jounin grunted in reply. Genma's thumb was nearly severed, it seemed. He cradled his left hand in his right, carefully laying it down across his thighs, then reached out to take his cup of ice back from Hayate.
"I thought you said it wasn't bad," said Hayate, already reaching for the med kit in his tool pouch.
"Yeah. I lied a little," Genma answered. "I didn't think it was this nasty though."
Hayate knelt between Genma's knees and looked more closely. There was a lot of blood, but he was pretty sure he could see the white glint of bone deep within the wound. "I'm gonna have to touch your hand, Genma-senpai," he said, not yet raising his own hands toward his comrade's.
"I know," Genma snapped. Then he looked down. "Sorry, sorry. I know you have to touch it," he said more quietly.
"Okay, here goes." Hayate reached out and took Genma's injured hand into his own. He felt the bigger man tense, but he made no sound other than a slight hiss of breath between his teeth. Hayate very lightly touched the tip of Genma's thumb, and Genma swore again.
"You maybe wanna take something, before I try to clean this up?" Hayate asked.
"Already did," Genma replied. "It just hasn't kicked in yet. But I don't think we should wait any longer, cause I'm starting to get a little dizzy."
"Sure." Dizzy, Hayate thought, again not good. Dizzy from pain? Dizzy from blood loss? He glanced up at Genma's face, and saw that it looked a little paler than normal, that his lips were pressed in a tense line. "Eat your ice, Genma-senpai, it's good," he said, trying to distract him from the pain of having his injury treated.
"Genma," Genma said, raising the snow cone to his mouth with what Hayate could now see was a shaking right hand.
"Just Genma, not senpai," Genma answered. "If I'm gonna let you touch my hands, we can be on a first name basis."
"Uh yeah, okay. Genma." Hayate turned back to his task. "I'm gonna- I need to wash some of this blood off, to see what's going on." He carefully laid Genma's hand back across his knees, then pulled a small flask from his pocket. "Here," Hayate said, holding the bottle up towards Genma, "take a swig, then I'm gonna use the rest of it to wash and disinfect with."
Genma nodded, handing his half-eaten snow cone to his comrade and taking the flask. He took a large swallow, then exhaled sharply and handed the bottle back to Hayate. "Shame to waste it on this," he said, gesturing at his bleeding hand.
"Nah, it's the cheap stuff," Hayate lied, and having tasted it, Genma knew the lie for what it was.
"Alright, just get it over with. Pour it on," Genma said. He grabbed his left forearm in his right hand, to steady it.
Hayate stuffed the pointed cup of Genma's snow cone in between the slats of the bench. With his right hand he held Genma's injured thumb away from his palm while he poured the grain alcohol over the wound.
Genma's a stoic's stoic, Hayate thought. The alcohol flooding over his slashed palm had to be excruciating, but the only sound Genma made was a slightly stuttered groan. His legs shook, in fact his whole body trembled slightly, and Hayate could hear him taking long, deep breaths through clenched teeth, but he said nothing and held his hand steady under the flowing liquid.
"OK, I'm done," Hayate said, pulling the flask away.
Genma didn't answer, just hissed in and out a few more times, and when Hayate looked up, he could see that the other man's face was greyish and beaded in sweat.
"Are you sure you want me to continue, Genma-senp- Genma?"
"Just get it over with," Genma groaned. His head was tossed back, and his eyes squeezed tightly shut.
"Alright." Hayate took a steadying breath and bent back over his task. With the blood and dirt washed away, he could see the wound more clearly, a long, deep slash diagonally through Genma's palm, across the base of his thumb and into the web between thumb and fingers. It was ugly, and undoubtedly painful, but it didn't look like the tendon was severed. "Can you feel your thumb? Can you move it at all?" he asked.
In answer the tip of Genma's thumb twitched, causing blood to well up in the wound.
"Okay, that's good," Hayate said. "I think if I put it back together a little and bandage it, they should be able to fix it up back at home."
"Great," Genma grunted. "Just do it then."
Hayate carefully pushed the gaping flesh closed, applying a basic first-aid jutsu to hold the wound together. Then he wrapped Genma's hand in layers of gauze, and again with an elastic bandage, to keep some pressure on the wound, slow the bleeding, and keep it together until a medic could really repair the injury.
When he finished, Hayate sat back, and Genma at last opened his eyes and looked at him. "You done?" he asked.
"Yeah, that's all I can do. But I think that will hold it," Hayate answered.
"Good." Genma leaned forward, putting his uninjured hand on Hayate's shoulder. "I'm gonna puke now," he said, in a surprisingly calm, controlled voice. He stood, stepped a few feet away, crouched at the base of a tree, and did so.
Hayate hesitated only a second before going to Genma's aid, putting a hand under his left arm to hold him up, since he obviously couldn't put weight on his injury, and pulling his longish brown hair back from his face. When he stopped retching, Genma leaned against Hayate's legs, panting for a moment. Then he spit, wiped his mouth with his right sleeve, spit again, and shakily hauled himself to his feet.
"Sorry," Genma said, swaying and holding on to the shorter man's shoulder.
"No problem. Wanna sit down?" Hayate tugged Genma into motion, steering him back towards the bench.
"We getting looks?" Genma asked, shuffling along with Hayate.
"Nah. I popped up a shield illusion before I even started trying to fix your hand."
"Oh. Good." Genma fairly collapsed onto the bench. Before Hayate could express any concern, Genma said, "Go get another snow cone. Lemon. And get some of her plain ice. I'll put it on my hand."
"Alright." Hayate somewhat reluctantly left Genma on the bench. He supposed if the man were going to pass out, he was at least already sitting. And with the wound bandaged, the bleeding was much lessened. He came back after not too long to find Genma curled over his knees.
"Yeah." Genma raised a pallid face. "Just a little dizzy."
"Sure. I brought your ice. Why don't you lie down a minute?" Hayate suggested.
"No. You sit with me."
"Okay." Hayate sat at one end of the bench. He looked at Genma, who was still curled forward. "Now lie down." He tugged at his comrade's shoulders, pulling Genma over so that he wobbled, then fell, landing with his head on Hayate's thigh.
"Uh... Hayate-kun..." Genma started.
"Hayate. If I can call you Genma, you can call me Hayate. Eat your ice." Hayate pushed and pulled at Genma until he had him lying more or less on his back, with his head pillowed on his leg, and handed Genma the lemon snow cone. Then he reached for the plastic bag of shaved ice he'd bought, and held it to Genma's injured hand.
Genma flinched – from the cold, or the touch, Hayate couldn't say – but he let him hold the injured hand and mold the ice-bag around it.
"I really think it will be okay," Hayate said, "once you get a proper med nin to look at it. I know field stuff, but..."
"It feels better already," said Genma, cutting him off.
"You took pain meds," Hayate retorted, "and washed em down with a swig of shucho. Of course it feels better."
"Hn." Genma nodded slightly. He lay with his eyes shut, resting against Hayate's leg, with his injured hand held across his chest, still gently cradled in Hayate's smaller hands. Several long quiet minutes passed, and Hayate was almost convinced that Genma had fallen asleep. The tickle in his chest returned, though, compelling him to cough, and he cursed silently when Genma's eyes snapped open at the sound and motion.
"How's your stomach? Still feel sick?" Hayate asked. "Your color's a little better."
"Ice is helping. Thanks," Genma answered. He took a small bite of the lemon-flavored snow. "What happened to the other one?"
"It's melting under the bench. You already ate most of it anyway."
"This one's melting, too." Genma said, slurping the yellowish syrup from the cup.
"Because you fell asleep. I was gonna take it before it dripped all over you, if you'd kept sleeping."
"Nice of you." Genma held the cone up towards Hayate. "Want some of it?"
"No," Hayate said. "You need the liquid, you're the one who was just spewing. And besides, my parents taught me to never eat yellow snow."
Genma pulled the cup back towards himself and regarded the saffron-colored slush. He glanced up at Hayate, whose face was as usual blank, jaded and ill looking, then laughed. "Good one, Hayate. Insinuate to the nauseated man that he's sucking on frozen dog piss."
After a second, Hayate laughed too. It was watching Genma go right back to nibbling at the snow cone that did it. "It can't be too unappetizing," he said, "or you wouldn't be eating it. Or do you like frozen dog piss?"
"Couldn't tell you. Never tried it." Genma shut his eyes again, still smiling. He rested like that for several minutes, head in Hayate's lap, hand in Hayate's hands, quietly taking the occasional bite of the melting ice.
"Genma?" Hayate asked, after a while. "About your hands..."
The taller jounin opened one eye and looked up at Hayate.
Hayate plunged ahead. "Did something happen that makes it so bad for you, you know, to have them touched or hurt?"
"Did something happen to you, that makes you cough all the time?" Genma countered quietly.
Hayate blinked. Genma could practically see the gears turning behind the darkly shadowed eyes. Then he smiled at Genma. "Yeah, let's not talk about it."
Genma nodded and smiled back.
"Do you want me to let go now? I could make a sling..." Hayate offered.
"No." Genma looked seriously at Hayate.
"No... sling?" the younger man was confused.
"No. Yes, I'll need a sling. But you don't have to let go," Genma said quietly, still looking up into his face.
It took Hayate a second to register what Genma had just said. That it was alright for him to touch his hands. To keep touching his hand. To hold his hand. That Genma, who never let anyone touch him that way, was asking Hayate to keep holding his hand.
Hayate swallowed, then nodded and smiled hesitantly. "Yeah. Alright. I can do that."
Genma returned the soft smile. He wadded up the now empty paper cone and tossed it away, then placed his right hand gently over one of Hayate's. "Thanks."
Hayate's heart was pounding in his ears. He looked down at the man in his lap. Holding hands. Holding hands with Shiranui Genma. With his head in his lap. The weird thing was that he wasn't freaked out by the idea, the way he'd thought he would be. He was excited, and flattered. And pleased.
Maybe socializing with Genma wouldn't be such a bad thing after all.
ooo ooo ooo
AN: I didn't mean for it to happen. I was just writing an innocent story about snow cones, and suddenly there was blood. I'm hopeless aren't I?
Anyway, Happy Winter 2005 to Kiki and Bite, Love Nezuko