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Down to the Bone [Mar. 24th, 2016|07:09 pm]

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[Begins the morning of May 18, Yondaime Year 5, two days after A Loser's Just a Learner on His Way to Better Things and one day after What You Don't Know (Will Kill You)]

Ryouma woke in the last hour before dawn, with the waxing moon painting a thin pale stripe over the foot of the bed and Ayane shuddering in a nightmare's grip beside him. His hand slipped on her bare shoulder when he tried to wake her. She was slick with sweat, and her breath came ragged as if she'd been fighting or running.

He could guess the dream that'd caught her. He shifted his grip to her elbow and shook her harder. "Ayane. Wake up."

She twitched, gasped, and lashed out with a blow that would have collapsed his windpipe if he hadn't shoved her elbow down. She wrenched away. Ryouma grabbed the kunai under his pillow before Ayane's flailing hand found it, and rolled off the bed.

He hit the threadbare rug with a hard thump. Something metallic dug cruelly into his hip—hopefully the belt-buckle on the jeans he'd discarded a few hours ago, and not one of the numerous knives Ayane kept tucked into her clothing. He struggled to his feet and found her sitting up with her back to the wall, sheets kicked free from her legs.

She said hoarsely, "Didn't anyone ever tell you not to wake a nightmare?"

"More dangerous than waking a ninja?" Ryouma dropped his kunai in the corner, where no one was likely to step on it. "You okay?"

Ayane shook her head. )
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Pour Me Something Stronger [Nov. 9th, 2014|07:37 pm]

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[Takes place the evening of May 12, Yondaime Year 5, immediately following When Your World Starts Crashing Down]

Ryouma left Kakashi's room with a steady stride and hands clenched so hard they hurt. One foot after another, following Katsuko's straight back down the hall. At the nurses' station, Genma's pretty attendant threw them a smile. Ryouma's cheek muscles felt rusty in return.

He overtook Katsuko in the lobby, by the elevator bank. A distressed older man leaned on the receptionist's desk nearby, while a young mother kept a harried eye on three small children clambering over the sofa. Katsuko leaned on the button for the elevator and didn't look at any of them.

When the elevator came down from an upper floor, it was half-full already, too. A woman in a wheelchair, accompanied by a grandmotherly nurse; a man coughing into a paper mask; and, pressed against the back wall, two shinobi Ryouma recognized. Fukui Ayane, pale and shadow-eyed, with her long black hair pulled up in her customary high horsetail. And beside her, Shibata Hakone, lounging lean and moody against the back rail with his shaggy hair falling over his brow. He was saying something to her, as the man with the paper mask got off. She shook her head, looked over the wheelchair-bound woman, and saw Ryouma.

Something cracked behind her dark eyes. "Your team, too?"

Ayane's captain wasn't suspended, but he might be crippled. The rest of her team was dead.

Ryouma swallowed down the knot in his throat and shook his head. )
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