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Interlude [Sep. 20th, 2013|11:25 pm]
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[Takes place during When the Reckoning Arrives, while Raidou goes to look for Kakashi and Genma]

“Hey,” Katsuko said, after Raidou vanished up the mountain.

Ryouma was a warm presence at her side. The oilcloth tent wrapped around them rustled as he shifted. “Mm?”

Katsuko wiped rain out of her eyes and tugged their pseudo-blanket over her feet. Her toes felt like little, individual blocks of ice. “It’d probably really suck if the demon-queen had a demon-king, wouldn’t it?”

Ryouma considered this for a moment. “Yeah,” he decided. “We’d be dead. Good thing she was a single mom.”

Even Katsuko’s bones ached. Her collarbone flared up again, a high note of pain amidst the low-grade roar of all her other hurts. She gave up digging in her medkit for a moment and leaned her head against Ryouma’s arm, wadding up the oilcloth to serve as a makeshift barrier between them. He still smelled like all the corpses in the world, but the rain washed some of the stink away.

“I’m glad you’re not dead,” she said.

He made a soft, amused noise that ended in a ragged cough. “Me, too. I mean, I’m glad I’m not dead, and you’re not dead. When you fell…” He coughed again, a little forced. “Anyway. You’re pretty tough, aren’t you? I bet you bounced.”

Katsuko didn’t want to think about the fall. She didn’t want to think about anything except the rain, and also how nice it felt to use Ryouma’s arm as a pillow once her nose stopped working. “I fought the ground, and the ground only mostly won,” she agreed. “I’m tough as nails. Also, the next time you wrestle with a giant monster’s internal organs, tell me so I can take pictures. That was awesome.”

“Yeah?” he asked, surprised and pleased. “Felt pretty stupid, at the time.”

“Oh, it was,” Katsuko said, ignoring the insistent twinge of her collarbone. “It was so dumb I had a heart attack. I thought you got squashed like a bug by a bug. But it was also really, really cool.”

“And cool makes up for stupid, right?” He coughed again, and spat, and tipped his head back to take a long pull from Raidou’s canteen. “Promise me you’ll be my character witness when the Quartermaster tries to have me drawn and quartered for losing my mask.”

“I’ll tell him you left it in a demon’s small intestine,” Katsuko said, blinking rapidly to keep her eyes from sliding shut. “C’mon, help me get a sling on and I’ll help you with bandages.”

It took some maneuvering and a lot of cursing, but they managed to treat the worst of their wounds. Ryouma tied the ends of the sling around her neck and then wrapped the tent around them again, hunching a little bit from the cold.

“Y’know,” Katsuko said, huddling against him. “After this, we should take Kakashi and go out for drinks. Celebrate a little.”

Ryouma laughed, a little raw. “You better ask him. He turned me down once already.”

“We’ll both ask,” Katsuko decided. “We totally took down a demon today. That makes us the hottest people this side of the planet, after we shower. And we deserve to look at something pretty after this damn mission.”

He crooked his neck, a little stiffly, to look down at her. “D’you—?” He reconsidered. “Well, taichou didn’t say anything against looking.”

“Don’t I know it,” Katsuko said, smugly. She winked at him. “It’s okay. Your butt will always hold first place in my heart.”

Ryouma stared at her for a minute. Then he cracked a very slow, delighted grin. “Well. At least somebody on this team is appreciating it.”

“I’ve been appreciating it,” Katsuko said, pretending to be miffed. She sneezed, wincing when it jarred her collarbone, and peered in the direction of the mine. “How long has it been since taichou went up there?”

“I’m barely tracking this conversation,” Ryouma complained. “You expect me to track time?” He shifted just enough to follow Katsuko’s gaze up the mountain. Quietly, he said, “Don’t see him. Your clones are still with him, right?”

“Yeah. One of them would dispel itself if something went wrong.” Unease slithered up her spine, making her fingers twitch.

Ryouma squinted, glaring at the demon-queen’s rotted remains. “Damn thing’s in the way. Was the hole to the left, or above—?”

Lightning flared in the mountains. Katsuko started, hand automatically going for her sword before she stopped herself. She knew that signature.

“That was a Chidori,” she said. “Or a Raikiri. Whatever. Looks like taichou found Kakashi.” And with Kakashi, hopefully, was the lieutenant. She couldn’t feel any demonic chakra signatures close by, but the queen had collapsed a large part of the mountain with her backflip. Kakashi had probably had to punch his way out.

Ryouma breathed a huge sigh of relief, turning his head away to cough. “Knew he would. Or Kakashi’d find him. One of ‘em. What’s Kakashi lighting up?” He tried to crane around Katsuko to see, jostling her shoulder and accidentally pulling the tent loose from around their shoulders. The sudden movement made him sway dizzily. Katsuko grabbed him, letting out a strangled noise as her shoulder jarred.

“Dunno,” she grunted. “The mountain, probably. Would you sit still?”

Ryouma obeyed, sagging against her as he panted and shivered. “Hope it’s not more of those buggers. I thought we killed ‘em all. Was gonna brag.”

“‘f there are, it’s likely only little ones,” Katsuko said. “The queen’s was the biggest signature. My bunshin can take care of those.”

“So we can brag after all.” Ryouma tried to put his head on her shoulder and realized halfway that his neck couldn’t bend down that far. He rested his forehead on the crown of her head instead and mumbled into her hair, “Can’t wait to see Kakashi’s face… Mask. Stupid mask.”

“His mask is dumb,” Katsuko agreed, and reached up with her good hand to pat Ryouma’s cheek. “Especially when he wears his ANBU mask over it. So, so dumb. I bet he has a tanline.”

Drowsiness suffused Ryouma’s voice like warm honey. “Not just a tanline. Tan triangle.”

Katsuko snorted in semi-hysterical laughter and patted Ryouma’s face a little harder. “C’mon, don’t fall asleep on me. My bunshin’ll try to cop a feel if they have to carry you home.”

“Just don’t let the captain know,” Ryouma said, clearly on his way out. “He gets preachy. Jealous’d be a better look on him.” His shoulders stiffened an instant before he shook himself awake, sitting bolt upright. “I didn’t say that.”

“Say what?” Katsuko asked mildly. “I didn’t hear anything.” She tugged the tent up to her chin and pulled her knees up to her chest. She was going to have a talk with Raidou when they got back to Konoha. “No falling asleep. Want to play I Spy?”

Ryouma gave her a blank look. “I Spy?” After a moment, it clicked. “Oh! Uh.” He cast his gaze around. “Something… red.”

“Is it me?” Katsuko guessed.

His eyes narrowed. “Okay. Something blue.”

“Blue? There’s nothing blue here,” she said. “Unless you count our toes. Or our fingers. Or our lips and noses.”

"Forty-two," he said, beaming. Then he blinked. "Wait, no, two lips each. Forty-four?"

“Man, I don’t know,” Katsuko said in abject despair. “I’m hungry.”

Ryouma leaned sideways, the bulky weight of his belt pouches digging into her hip. “Should have a rat bar or two left. You can have ‘em. I don’t want to eat anything ever again.”

“You and your rat bars were inside a giant bug’s spleen,” Katsuko said. “Thanks, but no thanks.”

A strangled snort escaped Ryouma, followed quickly by a shoulder-shaking cough. “Can’t say I blame you.” Wistfully, he added, “Think captain’d yell if we’re asleep when he gets back?”

“He’d kill us,” Katsuko said. “He’d say something about hypothermia or concussions, and then he’d kill us. Stay awake. I have to tell you about the awesome party we’re gonna have when we get back.”

“Mm?” Ryouma said encouragingly, and put his head down on hers again.

Katsuko sneezed and swiped the back of her hand across her nose. “First, we’re gonna dress up sexy. Well, you dress up sexy and I dress up sexier, because I’m always sexy. But wait— before that we’re gonna get takeout and eat it all. Then we’re gonna go to a club with good music and dance all night, and you’re gonna be my wingman.”

He murmured drowsily into her hair, “Like this plan. ‘m good at dressin’ up sexy. What’re you looking for?”

“They have to be not crazy,” Katsuko decided. “And they have to smell good. And have nice teeth.”

The tent rustled as he pulled back, squinting down at her skeptically. “Not that I have room to judge anyone on their smell, but how many ‘not crazies’ do you find in Konoha?”

“Hey,” Katsuko said placatingly. “You usually smell good. And being hot makes up for being crazy.” She rubbed her nose, then started when she felt the flare of familiar chakra signatures. She glanced up toward the mountain and grinned. “Taichou’s got the lieutenant and Kakashi. They’re coming back.”

Ryouma’s sigh seemed to empty all the remaining breath from his lungs. He slumped back. “Hope they enjoy the view.”

“They’d better,” Katsuko said, relief making her cheerful. “It’s hard work, being the conquering heroes. Think they’ll ask for our autographs?”

“Probably just make us do all the reports.” Ryouma straightened, letting out a thin noise of frustration as he peered up the mountain. “Can’t feel ‘em at all.”

“They’ll be here,” Katsuko said. “We’ll see ‘em soon. Any minute, now.”

They leaned against each other, letting the rain fill the silence, and waited for their team to emerge from the ruins of the mountain.
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2014-08-24 05:25 am (UTC)

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Paralleled by When The Reckoning Arrives and Take The Heartland, and continued in Suffering Fools. To leave comments or feedback on this thread, please visit The Guestbook.