Series Title: A Darker Shade of Grey, or 5 To Midnight And All Is Not Well
Story Title: Those Who Pay Witness
Rating: R (for swearing, violence, questionable implications)
Word Count: ~4,100
Warnings (including spoilers): The rating is there for a reason, but there are literally no spoilers, as this is a complete A/U.
Synopsis: Yakuza dealings with the cops rarely end well. Kidoumaru discovers this first-hand, and wishes he hadn't.
Kidoumaru almost hadn’t believed it when his informant told him just who most of the Bear Clan’s bribery money had been paid to recently, but he wasn’t so stupid as to disregard it out of hand. The Bear Clan, a gang of common criminals who weren’t yakuza and hadn’t ever shown the least sign of wanting to be, had been a thorn in the golden snake’s side for ages, but in the last few months things had gotten really bad. However, the Bear Clan hadn’t managed to move from annoyance to threat until two weeks ago when one of the golden snake’s top hit men found himself on the wrong end of a Bear Clan shotgun when no Bear Clan should have known the yakuza was there. It was only at that point Orochimaru-sama had finally put Kidoumaru in charge of investigating the Clan’s goings-on personally.
Kidoumaru knew his intelligence network was good, but even so until now nothing definitive had turned up. Just how any golden snake that beat the crap out of a Bear Clan going where they weren’t wanted had recently made a habit of turning up dead in a ditch somewhere, or just caught in deals that shouldn’t gone sour. Or just the gang having intel that there was no way in hell they should know. The worst part was, the Bear Clan never seemed to have any direct connections to what happened, but Kidoumaru knew as well as Orochimaru-sama did that while once was coincidence, it could only happen so many times before you’d have to have the same I.Q. as a stalk of celery to write it off.
Still, he wasn’t in the golden snake kumicho’s inner circle for his dashing good looks (that was what pretty much everyone else was for, if you ignored Jiroubou; most people did), and when his guys found something, it wasn’t anywhere near small change. Kidoumaru didn’t bother to restrain his grin as he pulled out his laptop and began hacking into the police headquarters database. His own kobun had been turning up dry for too long, and something this big was definitely a mark in the win category. After it was all over, there was even a small chance he’d pick up the tab for the victory celebration. Wasn’t like they didn’t deserve it.
And this really was rich. He’d thought there was an off chance of the Bear Clan’s cash was going to a crooked cop, but never in a thousand years would it have occurred to him that they’d gotten to an Uchiha. This was going to be sweet.
It turned out not to be so much sweet as tedious, or at least that was how it was beginning to seem as Kidoumaru crossed and uncrossed his arms for what was probably the twentieth time, wishing yet again that he’d worn something with pockets he could stick his hands into instead of a semi-formal kimono with sandals. He didn’t bother with the traditional clothing in the golden snake’s territory, but without it elsewhere he got sick really fast of random people walking up to him and asking in excruciatingly slow (and loud) Japanese if he was lost and needed help finding the nearest international hotel. The kimono helped stave off some people’s assumptions about his nativity, i.e. thinking right off the bat that he was some stupid foreign tourist (even if it had resulted in one or two uncomfortable assumptions of a different sort; you’d think people would get that prostitutes not only usually didn’t do the corner thing during the day, but that his kimono was about ten times more expensive than any person of that profession except the highest-ranked geisha could afford, and God knew one of them wouldn’t be street-walking.
Not that the issue had come up recently, what with the new restrictions and all, but that was a whole other kettle of fish entirely. Kidoumaru could only be thankful that he wasn’t expected to deal with the political shit).
Kidoumaru had still gotten one or two odd stares, but that could very well be because he’d been standing on the same street corner for the past twenty minutes and not from the fact that he had inherited very little in the way of looks from his Japanese mother and a great deal in the appearance department from his African father. Either way, the curious (and occasionally hostile; damn the Japanese were all such fucking xenophobes) sideways glances were beginning to grate, and though he’d intended to get here before the cop did, he hadn’t thought to take into account that this particular police officer would be so damn slow in his rounds.
This wasn’t his usual way of doing things. He had minions for a reason. But things with the Bear Clan were bad, and even in the yakuza there was bureaucracy that took forever to wade through. Might as well start at the top, or at least as close as anyone got (a.k.a. himself), and get this all over with.
Kidoumaru watched idly as the police motorcycle came down the street towards him, mentally compared the face behind the visor with the face in the police database’s profile, and came up with a match. The motorcycle rolled to a stop at the red light, so Kidoumaru took a step off the curb and tapped the cop on the shoulder. “Hey.”
The cop started, predictably, and turned to glare at him through the visor. Not very friendly for a police officer, Kidoumaru couldn’t help but think. If he’d actually been out for the guy’s help it might have been off-putting. “What?”
“Uchiha Tekka, right? I need to talk with you.”
The cop’s eyes narrowed at the sound of his name, though he made an attempt to cover his unease. “So talk.”
Kidoumaru resisted the urge to roll his eyes. What kind of idiot was this guy to want to have a conversation in the middle of the fucking street? “Not here. Meet me in front of the Isamu Deli, down the street. Trust me when I say you don’t want this to happen with too many other people around.” The light moved to green, so Kidoumaru turned around, stepped back onto the sidewalk and started making his way towards the deli. Still walking along, he pulled his cell phone out of where he had stashed it under his obi at the small of his back and dialed the number of the lower-ranked yakuza (one of Tayuya’s, but then, it wasn’t like he had anyone who was good for anything like this) he had borrowed to act as lookout for this job.
Tayuya’s kobun picked up after one ring. “Yes? You have him, Kidoumaru-san?”
“Maybe. Time to go on standby.”
“You sure you don’t want me on a roof?”
Kidoumaru smirked. “Positive. If he sees you, he’ll freak. Stay in the deli, but come running if you hear gunshots or me yelling.”
“Understood.” Arashi didn’t sound happy, but he didn’t have to be.
Kidoumaru hung up and continued walking. If the cop was smart, he’d show up. If he wasn’t, it wouldn’t be as convenient, but Kidoumaru could work with it either way.
The Uchiha actually arrived before Kidoumaru (perhaps not all that surprising, seeing as Kidoumaru had been on foot), his motorcycle parked in the deli lot and his helmet under one arm. He looked angry, but by the way his face was set Kidoumaru was pretty sure that was just his default expression. “So?”
Kidoumaru smiled, slowly. “So what?”
“So tell me what the hell you want so I can get back to my patrol.”
Kidoumaru sighed and started examining his fingernails. He’d gotten out of the habit of biting them sometime during college, and then had fallen right back into it after graduate school halfway through the first tax season he'd had to deal with. It was probably kind of disgusting, but he was too busy these days to care. “Well, I still don’t think it’s a good idea to talk about your… let us say, dealings, with the Bear Clan in public, but if you are in that much of a hurry…”
From the way Tekka’s eyes widened, he wasn’t in as much in a hurry as all that. “How did you…”
Kidoumaru gestured towards the alley next to the deli. He’d chosen this part of the Uchiha’s route deliberately for this deli, as not only was the place not very popular, but also the few customers it had didn’t show up past two p.m. or so. It also provided a convenient place for Arashi to hang out. The two of them were unlikely to be disturbed now, with evening just beginning to dawn.
The alley was empty, as expected, and Kidoumaru didn’t venture very far in before stopping and turning to look at the Uchiha.
The cop didn’t waste any time before getting to the point, which was also expected. Even if this particular member of the family didn’t possess the nearly godlike purity of intent most of the Uchiha supposedly had, at least he was as blunt as the rest of them. There was a reason that no Uchiha had ever successfully made it in politics despite the family’s popularity in the city. “Who are you?”
Kidoumaru shrugged and put his hands behind his head, letting his kimono sleeve slide down to reveal the snake tattoo curled around his forearm, stopping just at the elbow. The gold ink that colored in the scales and eyes had faded slightly over time, but was still easily visible against his dark skin. “Oh, no one important. Just a concerned citizen. For instance, I find it very concerning when one of my city’s finest, an Uchiha, no less,” he emphasized the surname with relish and got the satisfaction of seeing the man flinch; Kidoumaru didn’t loath the police as some of his comrades did, but that didn’t make baiting this one any less entertaining, “Takes bribes from a group of thugs like the Bear Clan. Makes it hard to sleep at night, you know?”
The Uchiha’s gaze hadn’t lingered on the tattoo, but it was obvious he knew what it meant. “You think anyone cares about a half-breed yakuza’s opinion of the police?”
Kidoumaru wasn’t sure whether to be amused or insulted at the slur. In the end, he decided on amused. At least the man had recognized that Kidoumaru had some Japanese blood, something most people never even considered. “Well, no. But I’m sure they’d start to care when a bunch of documents—sent anonymously and detailing a bunch of illegal transactions between you and a gang of murderous criminals—end up on the doorstep of one or two of the more honest city council members and every single newspaper in the city.”
Tekka paled. Kidoumaru saw this and grinned. “I’m sure they’d care a hell of a lot. Probably even care enough to not only take a closer look at the police in general but get your ass in particular thrown off the force and straight into prison. What do you think the jail time is for something like this? Five years? Ten? More? Doesn’t really matter, though. The inmates would probably be delighted to be rooming with a former cop. You’re not all that pretty, but if you’re lucky, you’ll be someone’s fuck-toy before the month is out. If you’re not…” Kidoumaru started examining his ragged nails again. He really should kick the habit. It was so unprofessional. “Well, you can always hope they knock you unconscious before they finish you off with a knife between your ribs. I hear bleeding out isn’t a pleasant way to die.”
Kidoumaru had to at least give the Uchiha credit for his composure. Didn’t look liable to faint or start gagging or throw himself at Kidoumaru’s feet or anything, just a little shaky. “What do you want from me?”
Kidoumaru grinned. Now they were getting somewhere. “Not much. Just the same information you’re giving the Bear Clan, plus telling your buddies to stop beating on golden snake yakuza whenever they get the chance. Also, if you ever get any information about the golden snake’s dealings, you’re to not tell the Clan.” He leaned forward then, and put an extra edge into his grin. “If I ever hear about the Clan getting the drop on one of our people at some deal they had no business knowing about ever again, you can kiss your career goodbye. Clear?”
Tekka nodded, still slightly pale.
And that was that. Not so hard, really, Kidoumaru couldn’t help but think as he turned away. They wouldn’t have any more trouble from-
He didn’t even see the attack coming. Didn’t even feel the blow until he had hit the cement, and the blood started trickling down his cheek to form a small puddle on the ground. Didn’t see what the bastard had hit him with either until the Uchiha nudged him onto his back with the toe of his shoe, and he caught sight of the metal pipe in the cop’s hand. Dazedly Kidoumaru wondered when Tekka had time to grab it. If it had been lying on the ground and Kidoumaru just hadn’t noticed if, or if the Uchiha had picked it up before making his way to the rendezvous.
It was only distantly that he noticed the man was talking. “Thought you were pretty clever, didn’t you, golden snake? Not nearly as smart as you think.” He punctuated the last word with a stomp right below Kidoumaru’s rib cage, driving the air out of Kidoumaru’s lungs all at once, then followed it with a blow to his ribs. Kidoumaru heard something crack. “You yakuza, you think you’re the only ones capable of killing in cold blood, so sure you have the market on ruthlessness. Sorry to tell you this,” and it was then that Tekka grinned, his smile holding a manic edge that Kidoumaru had to work to maintain on a good day, “But I didn’t get to where I am by being nice.”
Kidoumaru was too busy trying to breathe to come up with a decent retort, much less get out a scream loud enough for someone in the deli to hear. Fuck. Maybe he should have listened to Tayuya’s goon after all.
The kick Tekka landed on the side of Kidoumaru’s head coincided exactly where the pipe had hit, and for several long seconds everything went dark. When light again entered Kidoumaru’s vision, he wished it hadn’t. He couldn’t… he… he’d never carried a weapon before, thought having one on him was just asking for trouble, and though Kidoumaru knew it would hardly do him any good now, he sort of wanted one, nonetheless. He felt like the Uchiha had kicked his brains out onto the cement, felt like his skull had split open. Felt like he was dying. Fuck, who knew, he probably was.
Tekka was talking again, sounding more and more smug as it became obvious Kidoumaru wasn’t capable of putting up anything resembling a fight. “I guess I should be worrying about some of your minions coming after me, but it’s pretty clear that you’re the top dog on this job. I think I have less to worry about if I kill you now than if I let you live.” He put his shoe on Kidoumaru’s throat as he spoke, the leather stained now with blood at the tip, making Kidoumaru gag and raise one hand ineffectually to try and pull the cop off, and it was then that Tekka pulled out his gun and pointed it at Kidoumaru’s head. “See you, yak-”
Then he stopped. Lowered his gun, though his foot remained on Kidoumaru’s neck. He was looking at something, and though Kidoumaru’s vision was darkening again, he tried to crane his head anyway to see.
There. Standing in the mouth of the alleyway, short dark hair, eyes wide. Male, just a little younger than Kidoumaru. Kidoumaru squinted as his field of vision narrowed. Who…
The short-haired stranger apparently got over his paralysis at that moment, turned around, and ran. Tekka cursed and holstered his gun. “Damn it. Damn it.”
If he could have thought straight, or moved, or been able to breathe, Kidoumaru might have smirked then, but as he couldn’t do any of the above, he just lay there and felt the blood trickle from the wound on his head out onto the ground. Tekka wasn’t even paying attention to him now, really, actually started down the alley after the short-haired guy before apparently remembering he’d been in the process of beating the crap out of somebody. Kidoumaru couldn’t really see anything but colored blurs by then, and the last thought he got in before the Uchiha got in his last (life-ending, probably) kick to Kidoumaru’s temple was something embarrassingly along the lines of oh fuck. Then he didn’t think of anything for a while.
The first thing Kidoumaru heard was voices, one he recognized right off the bat (though what Orochimaru-sama was doing at his funeral was beyond him; the golden snake kumicho had more important things to deal with) and the second he thought he might have known, once. The first thing he felt was the continual, skull-breaking pounding of his head. The first thing he realized was that dead people didn’t feel pain, so he had to be alive. Huh. What were the chances of that happening?
The world tilted rather sickeningly when Kidoumaru tried to open his eyes, but he gamely persisted in his efforts and was eventually rewarded by a fuzzy yellow blob surrounded by blinding white. Which might have been an angel if he was dead, but he wasn’t, so was probably something else.
His attempt at saying, “Where am I?” Came out rather more resembling a dry wheeze than anything like words. Still, it got Orochimaru-sama (who was probably the black/green blob to the yellow blob’s left) and the other person’s attention.
“He’s awake.” That was Orochimaru-sama. Kidoumaru didn’t know whether to be worried or not that his kumicho sounded surprised.
“Of course he is,” said the fuzzy yellow blob who Kidoumaru maybe knew. “I didn’t work to stabilize him for six hours to have him remain a vegetable.”
“Of course not.” Now Orochimaru-sama sounded amused. “I knew you would be trustworthy in this instance. I’ll leave him in your hands then.”
“Smart of you,” said the yellow blob, who was slowly coalescing in Kidoumaru’s vision to a blonde-haired, brown-eyed woman who Kidoumaru was pretty damn sure he recognized from… somewhere. “He’s in no condition for you to question him.”
Orochimaru-sama left, then, leaving Kidoumaru and the woman alone. The woman was looking at him. Kidoumaru returned her gaze, his head still throbbing, and narrowed his eyes in a futile effort to get his vision to return more quickly. Where did he… wait a second.
After a moment, the woman sighed, and pulled up a chair to sit beside him. “How are you feeling, Kidoumaru-kun?”
Kidoumaru knew her. Or had known her, pretty well at that. Hell, she’d even picked him up from school once or twice during the worst of the yakuza infighting when he was thirteen, and he’d certainly done enough homework sitting in her practice’s waiting room when he was even younger than that. Only thing was, she was supposed to have died over ten years ago. “Tsunade-san?” His voice still came out in a rasp, but at least it was recognizable this time.
Tsunade nodded and grinned, the expression coming out a little more self-satisfied than Kidoumaru thought the situation warranted. “Yeah, it’s me.”
“But…” This didn’t make any sense. Tsunade-san… there had been a body. A body burnt beyond recognition, true, but still a body. “Who the hell was the corpse?”
Tsunade raised a mocking eyebrow in the exact way she always had in what seemed a lifetime ago when she wanted to make someone feel stupid. It hadn’t lost any of its potency over time. “I’m a doctor, Kidoumaru-kun. Remember that? One of the benefits is that I always have some cadavers on hand.”
“Then why did you- how did Orochimaru-sama- why the fuck are you back now?”
Tsunade shrugged. “Orochimaru got a hold of my address about a year ago after that idiot Jiraiya gave it to him in exchange for a favor. I told your boss I wouldn’t help him with any yakuza matters, but you were a good kid, so when he called me up and told me how hurt you were, I decided to make an exception this once.”
“Well… it’s good to see you. Been eleven years now.” Even as he said it, Kidoumaru couldn’t quite believe it. Had he really not seen the surgeon since he was fifteen? Damn. That was an age ago.
Tsunade sighed, and suddenly Kidoumaru believed it. She definitely hadn’t had those wrinkles around her eyes the last time Kidoumaru had seen her. “I know it has. I just couldn’t remain in contact with any of you brats and hope to stay in hiding. The only way I could get out of the game clean was to cut all my ties.” Then she grimaced. “Not that it worked. According to Jiraiya, it didn’t take Orochimaru more than a few months to figure out I was still alive.”
It wasn’t really an apology. Tsunade-san didn’t apologize. Even as an explanation it kind of sucked, but judging by the conversation she and Orochimaru-sama had had, she was the only thing that had kept him from really dying, instead of just imagining he had. She had always been the best surgeon in the underground, and it looked like she had kept up the practice. Kidoumaru spared a brief moment to be irritated at the golden snake kumicho—he might have mentioned Tsunade’s continued existence to his inner circle, at least—before turning back to Tsunade. “I guess I should be thanking you.”
Tsunade smiled. This time, it almost looked genuine. “Don’t bother, kid. And please don’t tell me what happened to get you into this shape. I’ve been going on the last decade thinking Orochimaru was at least smart enough to put you to work somewhere out of the line of fire—you never could shoot a gun worth shit—and being proven wrong is kind of a bitch.”
Kidoumaru shook his head, and immediately wished he hadn’t. “It’s nothing like that, Tsunade-san. This time was sort of a weird exception. Most of the time I’m stuck in an office all day, playing accountant.”
Tsunade leaned forward onto her elbows. “He put you through college, then?”
Kidoumaru smiled, slightly. “Yeah. Business major. Didn’t do too horrible. Got my MBA afterwards. Been working for Orochimaru-sama ever since.” Kidoumaru watched Tsunade’s mouth thin at the mention of Orochimaru and hastily changed the subject. “So, what have you been doing since your supposed demise?”
Tsunade’s eyes shifted uncomfortably to the far wall, but at least the lines around her mouth smoothed out. “Well…”
It was then that the details of what had landed him in Tsunade-sama’s care started rushing back all at once, and Kidoumaru blanched, interrupting the doctor before she even really got started. “Oh shit… sorry, Tsunade-san, but if Orochimaru-sama is still around, could you ask him to come in here, please?”
Even before he finished talking, Tsunade was shaking her head. “Don’t bother, Kidoumaru-kun. Orochimaru didn’t tell me much, but I do know that the only witness to what happened is already dead.”
Kidoumaru blinked. “But… how long was I out?”
Tsunade gestured negligibly to the saline drip hanging above his head that Kidoumaru had somehow failed to notice until that point. “Three days.”
Kidoumaru felt the shot of adrenaline that was running through him hit an unexpected roadblock. “So that’s it.”
Tsunade shrugged, and pushed herself to her feet. “That you will have to ask Orochimaru when he returns.” She moved to go, but stopped in the doorway. There she turned around, and apparently on impulse she pulled out a pad of paper and scribbled something on it, ripping the piece free and placing it on the table by Kidoumaru’s bedside. “That’s my private line. If you need a doctor and Orochimaru can’t help you for whatever reason, call me immediately. Alright, Kidoumaru-kun?”
Kidoumaru grinned. “If I ever get shot doing something Orochimaru-sama wouldn’t approve of, you’ll be the first I ring up.”
Tsunade smiled back. And then she left.
Kidoumaru let his smile drop as soon as the door closed. The witness being dead was bad, and cop-killing was just asking for trouble, but as soon as he was up and about again, well… Uchiha Tekka was going to really, really regret he hadn’t finished what he started. Kidoumaru was going to make sure of that.