Entitled: Aptitude of Mercy
Fandom: DOGS
Length: 2,000 words
Disclaimer: I don't own DOGS and etc.
Notes: This is Cella N's fault. And mine too, I guess. This fic's real name is Free Health Care and the Pros of Communism.
Summary: Naoto plays Badou's nursemaid. Badou wonders if dying would be less painful. — NaotoBadou

"Alright," Haine announced, "We're here."

Badou, who had given up on his legs for the past few blocks, drooled some red on the doormat. The doormat. Which meant—

"Hey," Badou said in his Private Detective Voice, "This is not a hospital."

Naoto opened the door. She looked at the pair of them for all of two seconds before shutting it again.

"Hey, lady," Haine said, hit the frame with the soft part of his hand, "Open the fucking door."

There was the sound of Naoto Not Opening The Door.

"Bitch." Badou gurgled. Haine shifted his weight, gripping Badou's arm more firmly.

"I agree."

"I meant you."

The lock scraped backwards. Haine tried to muscle inside and drew up short, grimacing and the knife at his throat. Naoto glared at him, glanced fast at Badou, and shook her head curtly, "He needs to go to the hospital."

"Don't have the money," Haine dropped Badou's arm, letting it slide around the back of his head and off his shoulder, and Badou crumpled, clutching at his stomach and wheezing. Naoto inhaled sharply.

"He's bleeding on the carpet."

"Tough. Fix him."

"I don't know how, Haine," she snapped at him, "Not any better than you, anyways."

"Sure you do," Haine grinned nastily, "You're a girl, aren't you? Use your healing instincts."

"You moron," Badou muttered, and Haine didn't back off even when Naoto hit him.

Badou woke up and spent a few seconds thinking about leaping to his feet and shooting anything that moved. But that would have required effort.

"Naoto," Badou moaned. The room responded with emptiness. Badou shifted, the crick in his spine almost more painful than whatever the hell was itching his abdomen. He didn't really want to check. "Naoto," Badou whined again, more loudly.

Naoto did not materialize. Badou cursed. When he ran out of curses he switched to German, though all the hacking hurt his lungs, and Spanish, and even after all of that, Naoto was still not spoon-feeding him soup.

Which, he felt, was not wholly unexpected but kind of a rip-off anyways.

He would have made her soup.


He was a better bet than Haine, anyways.

There was a rustle of plastic, and then the front door opened, and Naoto came in weighed down with groceries. She looked over at Badou and frowned.

"Jeez, finally. Make some soup, alright?" Badou swore, and got shakily to his feet. She'd tied the bandages well, at least.

Naoto began unpacking grimly, "You seem capable of making your own."

Badou glared at her. Naoto, who was gnawing at the edge of a cardboard box, stared back stonily. Her little, human teeth scrabbled. Haine could have gotten it in less than a second.

"If you're better, you should leave."

"I'm dying, thanks," Badou snapped, and then coughed dramatically. Naoto started picking at the area she'd mangled with blunt fingernails.

"We're all dying," she intoned, voice heavy. Badou rolled his eyes.

"Okay, I got it, thanks. Your home life is terrible, and as a result of some deep childhood scars, the prospect of making some Minestrone is like being shot in the knee."

Naoto looked at him wordlessly. Then she jerked her chin a little. "You should sit down."

"Giving commands as a method of reinstating control? Oh, Naoto. You poor, broken flower."

"You're going to collapse," Naoto scowled, and stomped into her kitchenette. Badou scoffed, and then fell over.

He woke up to look at her knees.

"Hey, shave much?"

"They weren't selling any soup," Naoto said. The tip of her nose was faintly pink, and bits of snow clung to her hair. Her ears poked out, red and cold. His shoulder ached from being pressed into the floor.

"I feel like shit."

Naoto blinked. The cold had made her eyes unnaturally glassy.

"You know, you could sing me to sleep, or something."

Naoto snorted, and ducked out of her scarf. She rose silently, gripped him by one bony elbow and leveled him more-or-less upright, then dumped him back onto the couch.

"Gently!" Badou wailed, which just made it hurt even more. Naoto ignored him, and shoved a bag of cheap Chinese food into his lap.

"Here," she said, and then to clarify, "For you."

Badou investigated. "Chow Mein? Are you serious? This shit is for girls."

Naoto grimaced. Badou snapped the chopsticks unevenly, and started shoveling the whole container down as quickly as he possibly could. When he was finished, Naoto took the bag and started to retreat, but stopped. She fidgeted. "Is there...?"

"Yeah," Badou said immediately, "If you could get me some porn, that'd be cool."

Badou woke up shaking. The clock said two, when it should have said FOUR DAYS.

"Naoto!" he yelled, fingering his empty pockets, "Hey—hey Naoto, wake up!"

Naoto came rolling out or her room with deadly grace and a steak knife. She went over the room like she was frisking it, almost vibrating tension, then stood stiffly, setting the knife somewhere under her night shirt, against her skin.

"Naoto," Badou shivered, "Would you stop acting like a psycho and get me a cigarette?"

Naoto glanced away from him for only a second, to check the clock. It made him nervous, the way she stared like that. "They'll be closed."

"Fuck," Badou snarled, and leveled upright, "Fine, go back to bed."

Naoto didn't move as he hobbled to the door and toed into his boots. She didn't try to stop him when he opened the door and walked out, tripping over the unfamiliar door frame and stumbling down the stairs.

The nearest store was closed, iron bars glinting behind the sheet of glass. Badou knelt, and hefted a decently sized rock.

"Don't," Naoto said, and he just about had a heart attack. Even she, unwaveringly stoic as she was, looked disgruntled by the improper hour and the cold that accompanied it. Badou's grip slackened.

"Jesus Christ, Naoto, I swear to god, if you get in my way, I'll—"

"I'll get you some," Naoto said, without expression, "Come on."

She started moving, not quickly, but fast enough to lose him in his present state. Badou grit his teeth, then dumped the rock onto the ground. "We could call Haine," he said, in a burst of sudden inspiration, "He's got some of mine. Probably. Unless he felt like burning things."

"We're not calling him," Naoto said, cold enough for Badou to hear her anger and feel sorry for his partner. Then she ducked, turning down a spiral stair case, and each landing got a little bit darker. And then they hit bottom.

And it was down here, walking close to Naoto because he'd left his gun god-knows-where, that Badou felt naked. Naoto knocked, shifted her weight, a hand-full of money wadded in against her blade.

The door opened just a crack.

"Lowest dose," Naoto said, eyes as black as the person she was starring at, "Fifty."

The door shut. Badou tried to think of something to say. Naoto knelt and slid the money under the door. In just thirty seconds, the door clicked open, and a package toppled to Naoto's feet. She knelt to pick it up, passed it to Badou, and started back up the stairs.

Badou could taste the heroine even before he'd lit it up.

"How'd you know about that?"

Naoto didn't answer, and she didn't stop walking either. So he hurried after her, and made a note in his mind. Just one more page in the mystery named Naoto.

"Get him out of here," Naoto said, and Badou woke up. She had her back to him, skinny shoulders hunched forwards as she spoke into the phone. "He was never my problem, and I don't have the money to feed him."

"I don't want to leave," Badou said, loudly. Naoto turned to glare at him, and he grinned back dopily. His little monster was a better kick than nicotine, anyways.

"Shut up, Haine," Naoto said curtly. If she gripped the phone any harder, it was liable to break. Badou wondered over the delicacy of those killing hands.

"Don't hang up on me," Naoto said abruptly, as loud as he'd ever heard, "Haine—"

She stopped, and then grimaced, and closed the phone.

"Black is not your color," Badou offered. Naoto sighed.

"How many of those things did you smoke?"

"Six." Badou said blissfully. His clothes still smelled of it. He burrowed in, feeling safer than he had in a very long time. "Did you get me any porn?"

Naoto slammed the door behind her.

"Take off your shirt."

Badou leaned away from her. "Five dollars."

"Shut up," Naoto ordered, needle poised upon her lip. "I need to fix up your stitches. I was in a rush last time."

"It's fine." Badou scooted back, holding the pillow between them. "I understand your—and many other women's—attraction to me, Naoto, but—"

"If you don't let me fix it," Naoto interrupted, "It'll take longer to heal. It'll be messy."

Badou smiled crookedly, and flashed his hands palm-up, "What's one more?"

Naoto didn't say anything after that, just looked at him until he pulled out of his clothes and lay back. He stared at the ceiling and tried not to swallow while her fingers skimmed along his wound, stinging the new scabs. He wondered what she thought about all his scars.

Probably nothing.

"You know what's unfair?" he asked, "Haine gets the shit beaten out of him—gets killed every week, it seems—and it doesn't even leave a mark."

He hadn't expected her to reply, and she didn't. There was something almost comforting about that.

"How'd you survive that?" Naoto said, when she'd finished. He took his hand out of his mouth, now peppered with little greaves in the shape of his jaw. She pointed to the place just above his heart. Badou looked down.

"I didn't. Only one I've been to the hospital for. I died for two minutes and thirty eight seconds."

After a second, she gave him back his shirt.

Badou's head hit the wooden arm of the couch.

"Wake up," Naoto said, shaking his shoulder insistently. Badou floundered, one hand brushing against her chest before finding her shoulder. He pretended it hadn't.

"What the hell," he snapped, "Are we on fire?"

"Haine's got a job. He's coming to get you in the morning. I'm leaving."

Badou processed this. "Okay."

Naoto nodded. And then she pointed towards the window. He followed her line of sight.

"What the fuck is that?"

"They're stars." Naoto said, "You've never been out of the city, have you? You usually can't see them here."

Badou stared at the window, mouth dry. He got up, let his toes sink into the cold floor, and rested his hand against the window pane. It was so small, his hand nearly covered it.

"Cool," he said. He thought Naoto might have nodded. They stood together for a moment.

Naoto moved to the door, "Lock the door when you leave."

"Right, sure," he watched her button into her coat, scuffing into her boots, "Hey, Naoto. Thanks."

Naoto nodded, and he stared at the door a long while after she'd shut it, wondering how old she was.

He looked at the stars again.

And then Badou lay down, and didn't fall asleep.