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19 April 2013 @ 12:43 am
The Sound of Reassurance  
Title: The Sound of Reassurance
Characters: Nishikido Ryo/Maruyama Ryuhei
Rating: R
Warnings: Strong language, adult themes
Summary: The push and pull of every day life in a war torn country will eventually wear them all down. This is how they cope.
A/N: This is a companion piece for a WIP fic. It is set in a post-apocalyptic world where Kanjani8 are a military combat unit fighting under the Association to take back control of the country for the people.

Ryo was no stranger to the curves and planes of Maru's body; he probably knew it better than he knew his own. Whenever the other man trooped apologetically to him, gingerly lifting a sleeve or rolled trouser leg with a just-suppressed wince, Ryo learnt more about him.

Maru had always been a little reckless; the first out of the gate and the last defeating opponents that were not his own. It was this Thing, this need to protect people, saving people, just like Ryo's Thing was patching them up afterwards and picking up the pieces, holding them together.

It was an odd relationship. Ryo was too good at his job that he kept sending Maru back onto the front line to get shot or stabbed or sliced open. It seemed almost sadistic. Back in the old days, some of the younger recruits loathed seeing Ryo because he always sent them back to fight, sent them back to face death in the eye.

"What is it now?" Ryo muttered, not bothering to hide the annoyance in his voice from having been woken up at four in the morning.

"Sorry, just that Hina said--"

"Yeah, I know," Ryo snapped irritably. "That wasn't the question."

Moving the candle to his other hand, Maru carefully drew up the leg of his slacks. "It doesn't look too bad."

Ryo grunted, eying the filthy gash and clumps of semi-congealed blood in the dim, flickering light. "You'll live."

Nonetheless, he climbed out of bed and waved vaguely for Maru to sit down on the campbed. From next to the bed he dragged towards him a medical toolbox and flipped it open. The equipment inside was rudimentary and basic. It had been a while since their last resources top-up and so all that was left were a few crepe bandages, two packets of painkillers, a half-empty bottle of antiseptic and a battered tin with surgical tools.

"Subaru gone to bed?" Ryo asked quietly as he filled a small metal bowl with fresh water and moistened a clean rag.

"Yeah," Maru nodded. He grimaced when Ryo began to clean the wound but didn't make any other mention of it. "Out like a light. Yasu's coming with me tomorrow."

Shooting Maru a sharp look, Ryo's mouth set into a hard line as his hands continued to methodically wipe away the drying blood.

"You don't think he can do it?"

"I don't think you should do eight in a row of night surveillance duty."

"I'm pretty tough, you know."

"Stop grinning like an idiot. You know that's not what I meant."

Ryo removed the old blood and dirt, leaving just the angry pink of opened flesh. He splashed out some antiseptic on another rag and dabbed it around the wound. A little fresh blood trickled out.

Falling silent, Maru watched as Ryo packed a combine against the wound and bandaged his leg up firmly.

"No more night surveillance," said Ryo, pushing Maru off his bed.

"That's not up to you to decide."

The following morning, when Hina assigned their tasks for the day, Maru was unsurprised when Yasu and Ryo were given night surveillance.

"We can't run the risk of you busting open that wound," Hina replied simply. "Ryo told me that he didn't put stitches in."

* * *

Maru found Ryo lounging on the open windowsill out the back of the ramshackle building next door, one leg dangling and the other propped up against his body. Ryo was sucking languidly on a cigarette and seemed to completely swallow all the smoke with every inhale; it was the only way to prevent detection. He made no mention of noticing Maru, even when Maru had hopped over the low fence and uprighted a fallen bench, and sat himself down near Ryo.

After several false starts, Maru finally cleared his throat. "I hope you're not--"

"Shut up, Maru."

"--blaming yourself for what happened--"

Ryo took in a particularly deep drag, his eyes blinking rapidly. "Just shut the fuck up."

"--because it wasn't at all your fault."

The cigarette dropped from Ryo's fingers onto the ground next to Maru's scuffed, worn combat boots as Ryo's hand curled into a fist. His knuckles blanched bone white.

Maru bent over and picked up the dusty cigarette, took a short drag to make sure it was still lit and left it lolling between his lips as he regarded Ryo silently.

Then he placed his hand over Ryo's. It was hot and trembling slightly, but mostly just worn with callouses and old scars from the past fifteen years of civil unrest. Maru knew them all because he had them too.

They stayed that way for a few still moments until Ryo's hand slowly unfurled, showing the angry red crescents from where his fingernails had etched into his palm. Maru pulled the cigarette out of his mouth and slipped it back between Ryo's fingers.

"That other time wasn't your fault either," said Maru in a low voice.

He let go of Ryo's hand and stood up, dusting off his pants before making his way back to their temporary base, his gaze carefully averted.

* * *

Maru tripped over the loose rubble as they made their way back. The route chosen was well-hidden but slow and winding, treacherousy full of crumbled buildings and vast pools of fetid water that crept into their boots and soaked their socks and stunk the air around them every mile of the way home. Behind him, Hina grunted a little in surprise as Ohkura's body lurched precariously to the edge of the makeshift stretcher before rightening again.

From ahead, Ryo jerked his head around and shot him a frown.

"I'm fine," Maru muttered, abashed.

Ryo turned back to the front again, trotting a few paces to catch up with Subaru so that Maru's bulky backpack swung violently side to side while his own duffle bag of medical supplies dangled against his thigh. Only then did Maru grimace as the blisters in his hand rubbed against the roughly-hewn wooden frame of the stretcher, having burst and re-blistered throughout the day. They oozed clear fluid, making the stretcher slippery to hold and requiring Maru to grit his teeth together to tighten his grip again.

It was relentless as his body moaned from every muscle, the dull ache with each step he took.

To take his mind off the fiery pain, Maru watched as up ahead Ryo and Subaru craned their heads together to speak in low, halting, indistinguishable tones. By the time they came to their next rest stop, the pair had walked so far ahead of the rest of the pack as to be two silhouettes standing against the sunset. Just two skinny figures carrying far too many bags. Not once did they complain nor look as though they wanted to.

Maru kept on following them.

He would steadily follow the rest of the Kanjani combat unit anywhere.

* * *

Crisis over, the lull of repetition began once more in earnest. One month of rest and recovery back at headquarters before beginning another year-long stint in the wilderness of torn cities blown apart by enemy cannonfire. It was impossible to fall back into the tedium of practice drills and strategy meetings without the burning desire to scream at the commanders, who had softened around the belly and softened in the head having spent the last decade behind an office desk, to shut the fuck up and what did they know about gold-standard practices and well-executed formations and the cry of dying boy soldiers.

The withdrawal from adrenaline-filled days was almost unbearable.

Barely a week in and the others had already rejected the Association's basecamp activities of retro music night and comedy film screenings in favour of long winding walks around the perimeter, gazing beyond the barbed wire fencing and towards the country they had sworn to protect, sworn to win back for the people. It didn't matter how many reprimands they slapped upon him, nor the looks of quiet disapproval on the faces of the green recruits, Ryo's heart still leapt with every tremble from the earth as a bomb exploded in the distance and every wisp of ashen smoke that drifted lazily his way. He tasted blood in his mouth as he woke every morning and it wasn't never real.

The only things that took the edge off were the steady supply of valium pills and Maru's heat pressed flush against him as they writhed, gasping, together during the night.

* * *

"None of that meant anything," Ryo snapped gruffly, his eyes glowing in the candlelight as he peered up at Maru's face in the gloominess of the night. He rolled over on his campbed, irritably tugging the microfibre blanket back across his naked body and scooting away from Maru's questioning hand.

"Go back to sleep."

For a few seconds, Maru simply stared at the curve of Ryo's exposed shoulder and the way it flowed, quite neatly, to the nape of his sunburnt neck. Then he sat down on Ryo's bed, not caring that it groaned under the weight of the both of them, not caring that on the other side of the room Yoko stirred and mumbled something incoherently while Yasu hiccupped in his sleep.

"I can't sleep," whispered Maru hoarsely as he bent down close to Ryo's ear, a few strands of his hair brushing against Ryo's face.

Still facing the wall of their latest temporary base, Ryo reached behind until he found Maru's wrist and pulled him close, closer, until Maru blew out the candle and slipped under the microfibre blanket and wrapped his arms around Ryo's warm, waiting body as the sound of enemy helicopters whirred deafeningly above.
in our uniqueness, we are all the same: ryo boao chestmujun on April 20th, 2013 09:32 pm (UTC)

It's been a very long time since I read fic and even longer since I saw a summary from a writer I was unfamiliar with that compelled me to. I'm really glad I did.

This was gorgeous. I really felt engaged by the tone and the images described and those left undescribed. The dialogue was perfect in its minimalism. I'm really looking forward to the WIP you mentioned. Thank you for sharing this.
Toshie.Yomisole_invernale on April 22nd, 2013 07:01 am (UTC)
Wow! this was very well written. Just like the previous commenter, it's been a long time since I've read a fic. This is simply marvelous and engaging. I'm curious about the universe this is placed in and the overall plot to this story! Thanks for sharing! ! :)
bratnudel: yokomarubratnudel on April 22nd, 2013 09:41 am (UTC)
thanks for sharing this piece, i like the setting and the way it's described!
i'll look forward to the WIP :)a