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“you’ve heard me do it a million times, gau.” raikou whispered. “you’ve got this.”

“stop talking.” gau murmured as he paced back and forth, repeating raikou’s infamous wakachi speech to himself in his head. 

raikou sighed and adjusted his scarf. “i can do it if you’re too nervous.” 

gau looked pointedly at him. “no way. and i said stop talking.” he stopped pacing to take a breath, then turned his attention back to raikou. “drink some tea.” 

raikou rolled his eyes, but obeyed the order. he sipped from one of gau’s teacups and winced as he swallowed. 

if he was being honest with himself, while losing his voice was probably the least of his problems, it was the problem that frustrated him the most. so much of wakachi work depended on him being able to communicate with gau. they needed to be on the same page if they had a chance at succeeding in their field. success meant trust from hattori, and trust from hattori meant everything

“i hate that we have to go out when you’re feeling like this.” gau fretted. “you’re sure you can’t ask the boss to reschedule?” 

raikou shook his head. “i won’t make excuses for myself, especially not now when we’ve made it this far.” he held his teacup with both hands, savoring the warmth of the porcelain. gau frowned and walked over to where raikou was sitting. gently, he touched the palm of his hand to raikou’s forehead.

“do you feel warm?” gau asked, the pitch of his voice rising the way it did when he was anxious. 

“not at all.” raikou exhaled. “stop worrying, gau, i’m fine.” he set his teacup down and crossed his arms over his chest. outside, the sun was setting, sending orange-tinted light spilling from the windows. 

gau took his hand back. “stop talking.” his tone was firm, but raikou heard the undertones of concern in it.

raikou nodded and let his head tilt back slightly so it rested against the wall. he closed his eyes, trying to stave off a brewing headache by sheer force of will alone. the stubborn brightness of the setting sun certainly wasn’t doing his head any favors. asking gau for a painkiller would have been easier, but now, talking also seemed like a lot of work. the only appealing option was to fall asleep until they needed to go out and find a traitor, but raikou wasn’t in the habit of falling asleep before at least midnight. 

“raikou.” gau whispered, touching his shoulder. “wake up. it’s time.” 

raikou blinked in surprise. looking out the window, he saw the sun had disappeared, leaving a dark, cloudy night in its wake. he opened his mouth, but a withering look from gau made him close it again. 

please don’t talk.” gau stepped back and shrugged his coat on. he carefully handed shirogamon over to raikou. “how do you feel?”

raikou tried to smile, but judging by the look on gau’s face, it probably looked more like a grimace. 

“we’ll make it quick. yukimi’s driving us.” 

raikou raised his eyebrows. 

“i asked him about ten thousand times and he finally agreed.” gau smiled. “but he made it clear that he was doing it for you, not for me.” 

they walked in silence down to the elevator and rode it to the basement level. yukimi was waiting for them, leaning up against his car and jotting something down in a notebook. 

“it’s about time.” he growled, but upon making eye contact with raikou, he softened. “damn, look at you.” yukimi looked him up and down with something a shade darker than pity. before raikou could enter the car, he rolled up his sleeve and touched the inside of his wrist to raikou’s forehead. 

raikou tried to dodge it, but yukimi stopped him by gripping his shoulder. unable to say anything, raikou opted to roll his eyes in lieu of a defiant comment. he felt like screaming.

“not too bad.” yukimi sighed and loosened his grip on raikou’s shoulder. “you shouldn’t be out for too long, though. and don’t try anything fancy, just get in and out, you hear?”

raikou nodded, trying valiantly to make a face that accurately communicated the phrase “shut up, yukimi” with equal parts annoyance and begrudging affection. 

“i’m serious, raikou. no showing off.” yukimi narrowed his eyes. “save the flashy shit for when you can talk.” then his glare fell upon gau. “get him back in one piece. then we’ll have kazuho take a look at him.”

“yes, sir.”

“alright.” yukimi moved so that raikou could get in the front seat. “you’re goin’ downtown, yeah?” gau rattled off the address, and yukimi pulled out of the parking lot and into the street. 

raikou sighed and tightened his scarf. yukimi glanced at him and scoffed. clearly he was amused. 

“you’ve got a goddamn accessory for everything.” yukimi snickered, trying in vain to suppress his schadenfreude. “fucking ridiculous.”

unable to do anything else, raikou glared at him. he was thinking quite a few choice words, but after reminding himself that yukimi was doing him a favor, he let his sullen thoughts fade away. he would get yukimi back later. raikou contented himself with silently scheming for the rest of the car ride. 

“this is it.” gau said from the backseat, and raikou snapped back to reality. yukimi parked the car and stared into raikou’s eyes.

“look at me. keep it simple.” he growled. “and come right back.”

raikou nodded and signed “yes,” which was more or less the extent of his japanese sign language knowledge. he knew yukimi knew more than he did. he had been trying to find ways to talk with the kira technique kid who was holed up in his apartment all the time. 

yukimi chuckled, a rare moment of genuine amusement without a trace of sadism. “go, kid.”

raikou stepped out of the car to join gau on the sidewalk. he kept a cautious hand on shirogamon as they walked through a back alley.

finally, after about ten minutes, raikou heard faint footsteps around the corner, the trained kind that could only belong to an iga ninja. 

he felt gau tense up next to him, and touched his shoulder to put him at ease. gau looked at him expectantly. 

the wordless tilt of raikou’s chin said “well, go on.”

gau nodded and stepped out from around the corner. raikou casually followed, knowing that his presence was a lot more threatening than gau’s, and it was better to be fashionably late than directly on gau’s heels.

the traitor, a tall, grizzled man, eventually said the words raikou and gau knew to be inevitable: “who the hell are you?”

to raikou’s surprise, gau smiled. 

“we are the wakachi.” he said coolly. 

they raised their right hands to show their identical bracelets at an angle that perfectly caught the light of the moon. the metal shone, sinister in the dim light of late evening. 

“treason control officers of the kairoshu. meanwhile…”

raikou stopped listening to the words he knew by heart and observed gau from the corner of his eye. he was standing tall and confident in a way that he had never stood before. the speech was comprised of words he had heard a million times before, but it was evident that the words didn’t control him. he controlled them

in the light of the moon, gau’s eyes glittered with a certain delight. he was taking pleasure in having power, raikou realized with pride. gau deserved this power, and until now, raikou hadn’t seen it from him. raikou took some more pride in hearing gau emphasize the same words and syllables as he did when he did the speech himself, mirroring his own cadence and tone, but making the speech uniquely his nonetheless. the change in his attitude was mesmerizing, and raikou almost missed his cue.

“...you are to be severely punished.” gau stepped back of his own accord, not needing raikou to remind him. 

raikou narrowed his eyes and ran towards the traitor, keeping his head low in case he had a weapon. sure enough, raikou heard the familiar click of a gun before thrusting shirogamon into the traitor’s chest. he removed his blade quickly (perhaps too quickly), looking back to see the man hit the ground. his gun clattered against the pavement and slid a few feet away. 

the traitor was suitably punished, having paid for his disloyalty with his life, and raikou raised shirogamon a final time. he hesitated, and yukimi’s words echoed in his head. 

don’t try anything fancy, just get in and out, you hear?

keep it simple.

raikou sighed and sheathed shirogamon, feeling exhaustion setting into his body. the adrenaline of the kill was quickly draining away. 

gau knelt and cut a lock of dark hair from the body. he sealed it in a plastic bag and pocketed it before approaching raikou. 

“your scarf.” he tilted his head, a worried expression on his face replacing the confident one he had worn a few minutes earlier. 

raikou looked down. blood had spattered onto it and dark red stains bloomed on the fabric. gau inspected it. 

“i can probably get those out.” he mused, looking up at raikou. he swiped at raikou’s cheek, attempting to remove some blood from his face. “you’re usually more careful. we should get you home.”

raikou dipped his head in agreement. gau stepped over the body and looked back to wait for raikou, who had walked around it. they made their way back to the main street side by side. after a minute, gau looked up at raikou. 

“did i do okay?” he asked. “with talking, i mean…”

i’m proud beyond belief, raikou wanted to say. you did amazingly, and i am so lucky to have you by my side, gau. 

but he couldn’t. 

gau looked at him with bated breath.

raikou stopped and did the only thing he could think to do.

he hugged gau. 

physical affection wasn’t usually his ideal avenue for expressing his feelings, but taking gau in his arms was easy, like he belonged there. 

gau had tensed up at the contact, but relaxed after the shock wore off. he hugged raikou back, his chin resting on raikou’s shoulder. 

raikou felt gau’s hands on his back. they were still a little shaky from doing the wakachi speech by himself. his adrenaline hadn’t worn off yet. 

slowly, gently, raikou reached up and cupped the back of gau’s head with his hand, bringing him even closer. he swallowed hard. “you did so well.” the words were barely audible, but the weight they held made up for the lack of volume. in that moment, hattori didn’t matter. the traitor didn’t matter. earning trust and advancing the ranks of the kairoshu didn’t matter. what mattered was how tight gau was holding him, like raikou would fade away if he wasn’t careful. communication didn’t have to be through words, raikou realized, suddenly hyper-aware of gau’s arms wrapped around him. through his touch, gau conveyed the honor, the gratefulness, and all the pride he felt not only to have done the wakachi speech correctly, but to have done it by raikou’s side. 

gau pulled away and raikou noticed with concern that his eyes were shining with tears. before he could apologize, gau smiled brightly and wiped away his tears. “you don’t know how much that means to me, raikou.” he said softly. “and please stop talking.”

raikou nodded. he tousled gau’s hair, hoping that the little gesture conveyed his pride the way gau’s touch had. by the look on gau’s face, he knew that it did. 

“are you done?” 

gau and raikou’s heads whipped toward the opening of the alley. yukimi stood there, leaning against the wall and pointedly checking his watch.

gau jumped back from raikou, his cheeks reddening. “sorry, yukimi.” he squeaked. 

“gayass.” yukimi muttered, just loud enough for raikou to register that he was addressing both of them. 

raikou looked up at yukimi, adjusting his scarf and daring yukimi to say something about it. to his confusion, yukimi’s eyes widened. 

“raikou…”

before raikou could do anything, gau spoke up. “it’s not his.” he assured yukimi. raikou looked down and saw the traitor’s blood stained on his scarf, vest, and sleeves.

yukimi sighed, the tension leaving his shoulders. “scared the hell out of me, kid. get in the car, i’m sure you’re tired.” as raikou walked to the car, yukimi’s eyes narrowed. “you’re usually more careful.”

“that’s what i said.” gau said, already sitting in the backseat.

“pipe down.” yukimi rolled his eyes. “get in, raikou.” 

raikou nodded and walked around the car to get in the passenger seat. he sank into the seat, only then realizing how tired he was. yukimi noticed. 

“just hang on ‘til we get to your place.” 

raikou’s eyelashes fluttered, his eyes threatening to close completely, but before they could do so, he felt gau’s hand on his shoulder. he didn’t have the energy to turn his head, but he could tell that gau was smiling. his touch conveyed affection beyond the likes of what could be said aloud. 

raikou’s pride for gau and his wakachi performance was still coursing through the air between the two of them, speaking volumes in its electric silence. they had created a form of communication that was all their own. raikou exhaled and let himself get lost in gau’s gentle touch.

there were no words needed.