Summary: We are one body, and this one body is ours.
Type: One shot.
Disclaimer: You all know the jazz.
Suggested Listening: Willful Suspension of Disbelief, Modest Mouse.
Notes: A challenge fic! Because EVERYONE needs Clover!challenge fic to brighten up the morning. (Stop laughing. You totally know it's true.) The challenge was for March 3rd (and I missed the deadline! Again! Bugger), and the phrase, "Your heaving chest." Seeing as I neither wanted nor needed to write porn, as I'm guessing pretty much everyone else in the community did that for me, I decided to think of chests heaving in a different context and went from there. Ultimately this was written in...maybe five hours. You will by smote by the short-fic gods if you hold this against me.
(Not really. But still.)
These Moments of Which We Are Conscious
They are one body.
The statement isn't true, really--not in a visual sense, or a permanent one. But it's not untrue, either.
Ran has moments, overpowering moments, wherein he feels Gingetsu's own movements with an amazing clarity; actually feels him running down some miserable ash-grey street in the rain while he works, as though he is the one running, or feels the measured flow of his hand as he signs something mysterious and not-for-Ran's-eyes. There is something incredibly intimate about it all.
They're difficult moments to explain. Most of all they're unexpected, and occur more and more frequently the more time passes. Ran has his suspicions; that they are manifestations, that they are spiritual, that they are the sheddings of some greater power released when either one of them uses their respective gifts, a power which takes hold of them unconsciously and for a short while unites them. But he doesn't really know.
Sometimes he thinks--and this is probably the truest of his theories--that they are simply the moments where he is most in sync with his partner, where for one instant Gingetsu opens his subconscious enough for Ran to slip inside, like an afterthought.
It wouldn't be hard for Ran to know what Gingetsu did every second of the day if he wanted, simply because he has always been and will always be more powerful than the two-leaf, but he doesn't want to know like that. He doesn't just want to be a spectator in Gingetsu's life, but an involved part.
That's what makes these moments so special, so meaningful; they are moments of true connectivity, moments he has not forced into existence, and they remove (if only temporarily) every barrier still separating them.
It is because of these moments that Ran knows, instantly, when Gingetsu is shot.
It's a Friday, early evening, overcast as always, with light orange and silver rims showing around the edges of the black cumuli scudding monolithically across the horizon. Ran took note of this five minutes ago through the living room window, and had since gone to prepare a pot of tea. It had been his plan to read, to relax, to have a small and lazy evening waiting for Gingetsu to come home, and to look up just as he walked in to smile at him, simply because he could.
He's got the teapot in his hands, moving it from the cabinet to the counter, when he is struck by an immense, tearing pain, and blindly drops it. Though it shatters with an awful crash below him on the tiles, Ran is at first unaware, breathless and horrified as he leans over to press his face against the cold countertop. For a moment all he can comprehend is how clammy he is, how he is sweating and sick and reeling with surprise, how he is terrified, and very much helpless.
It takes him several eternal seconds, though he knows instantly whose pain this really is, to sort out all the information, and--most importantly--to determine the severity of the wound. To realize it's not fatal, just...in his shoulder, it seems, and lower in his leg.
Ran steps on a piece of the teapot as he leaves the kitchen and barely feels it, looks down in a detached sort of curiosity only when his right heel begins stinging to see a trail of bloody half-footprints left in his wake across the checkered floor. Which is startling, but not important. It's only a cut, and Gingetsu hurts, so much more than he could ever possibly hurt from a simple porcelain wound. The most important thing is to get to a window, where it will be easier to cast his mind out, to search for the root of the pain. His heel can wait.
He settles after a second's hesitation on the windows beside the front door, mostly because they're closest to him, but also partially because they will place him nearest any traffic the house might recieve in the next hour. It's only after he's set himself carefully against the right one, pressed flush up to the chilled glass in the path of the shifting light, that he allows his frustration to dominate the now-fading pain.
He's frustrated for so many reasons--because he's certain he could have prevented this if he'd been paying attention, because this is one of those nightmare things he never wanted to have to sit through, painfully and articulately aware of how he can't leave the house to help in any way. Worse still, he can't even summon Gingetsu to himself in good conscience, because he is as incapable of healing as he is of leaving to find him. Put simply, he's trapped. All he can do is watch.
So he watches. After a moment his hearing has extended far enough to pick up voices reverberating to telephone poles and electrical wires near the scene of the event, and upon listening to a portion of these strangers' conversations he can finally breathe again; can pick out from what they're saying that Gingetsu is not hurt badly, that he is being treated even as Ran listens. Then he finds the familiar electrical whisper of Gingetsu's glasses, which would not be nearly as active as they are if he was really hurt, and the relief is total.
He doesn't know quite how long he stands there by the door, breathing deeply in an effort to quell the storm which has picked up in his normally ordered mind, tossing his thoughts this way and that. He's trying to figure out what exactly to do next, how to handle this. He's fully expecting them to take Gingetsu away for the rest of the night, to care for him properly in some military facility.
So it's very surprising when, only a few minutes later, he senses Gingetsu beginning to draw closer instead. Still, he hasn't moved from the door when the knock eventually comes.
It's Kazuhiko (which shouldn't really be surprising at all, now that he thinks of it), Gingetsu's arm thrown across his shoulders as he in turn throws his own weight to one side to support the taller lieutenant. Gingetsu's right shoulder and thigh have been thickly bandaged.
Kazuhiko grins, mostly cheek and just a little edge. "I think this's yours," he says, stepping inside without being invited. Gingetsu's head is tilted forward, his eyes closed behind the glasses, neck and cheeks pale and sweating finely.
Ran's throat goes dry looking at him. "Shouldn't you have taken him to a hospital?" he asks, even as he shuts the door after the black-haired man.
Kazuhiko doesn't pause to answer him, moving steadily toward the living room instead and raising his voice to be heard. "They're all full," he replies calmly, "and anyway, it's not bad. The first bullet only clipped his shoulder, and the one in his leg I got out myself--and hell, I'm not even magic like you."
"I'm not magic," Ran whispers, following after him. Gingetsu's feet are dragging across the floor, through the bloody footprints that neither of the military men have yet noticed, his boots making an awful scudding noise as they go.
"Sure you are," the older man snickers. It takes Ran a breathless moment to remember that he doesn't know yet about the Clover program, and so can't be referring to powers Ran hasn't shown him. "I mean, not hocus pocus, but that special Gingetsu sense you've got? I don't know, maybe I'm just simple, but that seems like magic to me. I've never met anyone else who just knows when someone's coming home without being told."
The voice is Gingetsu's, faint, yet still firm. He hasn't opened his eyes, but just hearing him talk is enough to send Ran's pulse racing crazily with a fear he is only just beginning to absorb. The three-leaf realizes that he's shaking.
Kazuhiko pauses in the living room door, looking down into his immobilized superior's face curiously. "What?"
"Leave him alone."
The shorter man snickers again, but graciously does not press, continuing on into the living room and carefully levering his friend down onto one of the severe couches instead. The sun is half gone now, their two tall forms backlit with a smutty, desaturated red light. Ran watches them from the door, uncertain of what exactly to do here--should he insist on a hospital, or on redressing the wounds? What's most important?
"Alright," Kazuhiko says simply, ignoring Ran as he leans, hands on his hips, slightly over the other man. "Need anything else, or can I call the doctor now?"
"Go ahead," Gingetsu murmurs. There's a shallowness to the words which makes no sense to Ran until he sees how quickly the lieutenant's chest is falling up and down, heaving with quick, silent breaths.
It's a new shock, one that finally propels him into the room and to Gingetsu's side, moving unconsciously around Kazuhiko. The older man backs away smirking, monocle flashing in the faint light as he makes room. "I'll just get dialing, then," he murmurs, and leaves for the kitchen.
Ran only registers his departure in a peripheral sense, going to his knees beside the couch so he can cross his hands over Gingetsu's good shoulder, near his heart. "Gingetsu, what can I do?" he asks gently, feeling the fabric of the man's jacket rise and fall beneath his fingers as he breathes.
"You can tell me why you're bleeding," Gingetsu murmurs low in his chest, just as a startled, "Shit!" floats in from the kitchen. Ran can only assume that Kazuhiko's found the teapot, and the footprints.
Sure enough, he has, and comes sweeping back into the room barely twenty seconds later with a first-aid kit clutched in his right fist and a dark expression on his face.
Ran tries to defend his cause, but soon enough finds himself tucked unceremoniously into the small corner of space left on the couch at Gingetsu's feet, trying his best not to twitch as a stinging antiseptic is dabbed into the cut across his heel. In hindsight he supposes it's the least he deserves, but he can't help feeling that Gingetsu, though still in a great deal of pain, is shaking his head at him, exasperated. It's enough to make him blush.
Finally Kazuhiko finishes scowling and shaking his head and dressing them down for their various displays of idiocy (as he tactlessly puts it), taping a thick wad of gauze around Ran's foot in a final protective measure and eyeing him hotly over his toes, as though daring him to protest the treatment. Ran knows better than to try. He lowers his head demurely and picks at the hem of his shirt instead, wondering when it will be safe for him to leave the couch. He needs to scrub the floor before the blood dries fully.
Kazuhiko, however, anticipates him, and after calling in a doctor takes care of all these things while the small, balding stranger with the black bag inspects his couch-ridden companions. Damn him.
Ran's cut is as small and paltry an injury as he first knew it was, while the shot wounds, despite Kazuhiko's prior treatment, require more care. It's true that Gingetsu's shoulder is only nicked, the skin opened in a bloody but relatively minor gash that the physician simply rewraps and tucks back into his sleeve and coat, but his leg is worse. The coating of liquid stitches he ends up applying to it is more than a little distressing.
All told, they get off lightly enough (and when did it become they, anyway? Ran feels a certain indignance at the very idea, when it's Gingetsu alone who needs this attention), and both Kazuhiko and the doctor leave at the same time, Kazuhiko with a threat to keep them immobile, the doctor with a recommendation that Gingetsu find his way to a clinic in the morning for a final evaluation.
Then they're alone, and silent. Ran looks at Gingetsu to find Gingetsu looking at him, and feels his chest tighten unpleasantly. He drops his eyes and applies himself to Gingetsu's boots instead, working deftly and silently on removing them. The least he can do is try to make the man feel more comfortable.
Once they're off he rises to his knees and starts on Gingetsu's jacket, hyper-aware of how the lieutenant's eyes silently follow his movements, until he has carefully peeled him out of the coat as well. It joins the boots on the floor with a stiff whisper. There's a tear in the sleeve from the bullet with dark, iron-smelling edges Ran does his best to ignore.
They look at one another for a long moment after that. Then Gingetsu holds out his good arm, and Ran, shaking again, takes the invitation, tucking himself up lengthwise against Gingetsu's good side very, very carefully, until at last he can feel the other's breathing deep in his chest, and tuck his face full against his shoulder.
"I'm sorry about the teapot," he says at last, quietly, into the silence.
"Stupid," Gingetsu mutters. Ran flinches. "Take care of yourself first."
Ran draws in a deep, slow breath, trying to calm himself down. "I couldn't help it. I was more worried about you."
"I'm an officer of the state. It would be a miracle if we were never injured. You know that."
The shaking gets worse.
Gingetsu sighs quietly, his good arm curling slightly around Ran's waist, pulling him closer. "What's really wrong?"
Ran swallows thickly, lowering his face against the white collar of Gingetsu's shirt. He's almost ashamed to speak, but--no, of course Gingetsu would notice and want to know. He deserves to know. It's just hard to explain, how it's not just the fact that Gingetsu got hurt, but that he could feel it, that he can still feel it if he lets his mind wander back with enough freedom.
"I just..." the three-leaf murmurs, trying to speak carefully; "just was...scared. It hurt so much, our body--"
--and it's frightening how that matches something A once said almost exactly. Except A had been talking about the three of them, how it hadn't been so bad killing B; how that had really been more like removing a gangrenous foot than murder. You could live without it, but trying to move on without your other half--well, that was no life at all.
Except now Ran is beginning to realize that what he had once thought--that his components were all long determined by biology, unchangeable--is wrong. Gingetsu is a true part of him now, and he had been chosen, not predestined. It's comforting to think that this kind of decision lies entirely with him.
"I'm sorry," Gingetsu says quietly.
Ran shakes his head quickly, face still lowered. "No, I am. If I'd been watching I could have--"
"We've talked about this," Gingetsu murmurs. He's never needed to raise his voice just to cut Ran off. "I don't want you watching everything I do to keep me safe."
"Because it's obsessive," Ran whispers.
Gingetsu makes a small, dismissive noise before correcting him: "Because it's a waste of time. No one is truly safe in life. You'll be happier once you accept that. If I can--"
He stops abruptly, as if he was about to say something unforgivable. Ran knows without having to ask what it was, the words filling the air around him quietly, until he can pick them out one by one and put them into sentences: if I can accept your death, please come to terms with mine. One of them will come before the other, and let's get used to it now.
Ran doesn't think he can speak. He closes his eyes instead, relaxing into the other man's body and imagining as he does that he is coming apart, atom by atom, to linger and mingle with the form beside his. It is strangely soothing to feel their bodies synchronize as he does, their heartbeats drawing nearer in time, their breathing patterns closer, until even their thoughts seem to mirror one another.
We are one body, and this one body is ours, and these are the moments of which we are conscious, each one a gift--and each also a prison.
But what a prison, when the flesh we feel is our own.
No end notes! (Wasn't I funny enough up there?)