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Light Me Up [Apr. 8th, 2017|07:02 pm]

tousaki_ryouma
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[Takes place June 24, Yondaime Year 5, seven days after The Sharpest Lives]

On Ryouma's third day back in Konoha, the Water Country Intel division finally let him go.

They'd released him at intervals before, to shower and sleep, or to cram down a hasty meal in Intel HQ's cafeteria, which had better food but much more dour company than ANBU's. Everyone seemed short on sleep and on temper, and as soon as he finished a six-hour stint answering one analyst's questions, another with a grey uniform and a clipboard took her place.

He saw Kurenai a few times, across the cafeteria. Satomi slipped into his cramped little briefing room once to hand the debriefing officer a stack of folders three inches tall. The rest of Teams Six and Thirteen were conducting their own debriefings somewhere, or more likely ensconced in their offices or hospital rooms creating those mountains of paperwork, but he never saw them.

There were disadvantages after all, he decided, to only being able to give his mission reports by dictation.

Eventually, though, someone decided that his seventh account of the Water Country landscape and the Kirigakure sewer system filled the holes in the first six. They released him into a clear summer evening, the sun sinking towards the Monument, the dusty streets golden in its light.

He stood outside the doorway, watching people hurrying home: a trio of genin fresh off their first mission-debriefing, with their sensei lounging behind; a pair of tired analysts, deciding on a restaurant; a tall young man in T&I's long black coat. No one he recognized.

The inside of his skin itched. )
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The Sharpest Lives [Mar. 11th, 2017|07:05 pm]

hatake_kakashi
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[June 17, Yondaime Year 5, following Soldiers Don’t Mourn]

Kakashi didn’t sleep.

He lay in the creaking dark, one hand loosely curled over Ryouma's ankle, and thought of murder. The lantern burned low. The tiny compartment smelled like salted fish and burned-out stress. Exhaustion scratched at him, hot behind his eyes. He couldn't relax enough to let it take him.

The storm had passed, taking its lightning with it, but his skin still itched.

Genma and Raidou had rolled apart in the night. They lay back-to-back now, Raidou stretched out in a long sprawl, Genma curled in on himself. Tear tracks cut through the grime on Genma’s face; black bruises circled Raidou’s throat. They both looked like they needed a week of sleep.

Ryouma had pulled away, too. About an hour into sleep, he’d shifted onto his stomach, yanked the blankets over his head, and buried his face in his arms. He’d done that on previous missions, too — hidden.

The three of them didn’t look comfortable, but they fit around each other. Captain, lieutenant, protege. Soldiers bunkered down. Watching them, a sharp, dark ache spilled through Kakashi’s chest, rising up like an urge to bite. They were his team. He barely fit on their outskirts, but they were his. And they hurt.

Dawn glimmered on the horizon, and Kakashi couldn’t stand it anymore. He got up and slipped out.

The deck was populated by a skeleton crew. A woman at the helm. A man perched in the rigging. A few others scattered around, engaged in morning tasks. The youngest crewmember, a gangly, freckled girl, was sweeping the scarred deck-boards. Someone else had begun cooking; the air smelled like burned coffee and fried meat. Kakashi skirted them all and went to the guest cabins. Kimiko’s door was closed, but more than one chakra-signature glowed gently with sleep inside. Satomi’s scent lingered on the doorframe; fulfilling her promise to be there when Kimiko woke. Kakashi gave them a wide berth.

Kuroda’s door was also closed. )
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Soldiers Don't Mourn [Feb. 26th, 2017|12:09 pm]

shiranui_genma
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[June 16, Yondaime Year 5, following Red Seas at Dawn]

Team Six picked their way down the densely vegetated slope, halting at the treeline on Raidou’s signal. At the surf’s edge, a knot of figures clustered around the husk-like bowls of a pair of ship’s boats. One or two cigarette tips flared in the darkness. Genma threaded a slip of chakra out, then nodded. “They’re civilians. Feels like the same crew who got us out here, but it’s harder to identify individuals with such low chakra reserves.”

Kakashi lifted his head and inhaled audibly. “They smell the same,” he pronounced. “More stressed than last time.”

The tone in Raidou’s voice shaded from skepticism to alarm. “You can smell stress?”

“From here?” demanded Ryouma.

“It’s a very distinctive smell,” Kakashi said with a shrug.

Of course it was. )
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Red Sky at Night [Dec. 31st, 2016|06:41 pm]

namiashi_raidou
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[Afternoon of June 14, Yondaime Year 5, following Soldiers Take Warning]

The rest of the morning passed uneventfully, except for Kasumi kicking Usagi in her sleep, and Kuroda scaring them all — by looking dead — until Genma pointed out that the Vice-commander was known for sleeping with his eyes open.

As planned, they struck out for the surface just before midday. Raidou kept an eye on Genma, who kept an eye on Kuroda. Sleep had done them both good: there was color in Genma’s face again, and Kuroda moved with reasonable ease despite his sling.

As before, Fukuda took point. This time flanked by Kakashi and Satomi, with Kurenai close behind to buffer the three razor personalities as needed. It didn’t escape Raidou that Team Thirteen’s commanding officers were sticking a lot closer to their rookies. Or that Ryouma was shadowing Genma’s footsteps and carefully giving Kakashi space.

Raidou trusted that time and distraction would settle them all back down.

The first breath of outside air was sticky, humid, and smelled like wet dirt. )
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Soldiers Take Warning [Nov. 29th, 2016|06:05 pm]

shiranui_genma
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[Takes place June 12–14, Yondaime Year 5, two days following Red Sky at Morning]

The morning—if you could call breaking camp at 0300 morning—had been a hectic rush of getting two ANBU teams, two Intel agents, a one-armed prisoner, and an unsatisfiable and ill-tempered commander moving in time to make port by their departure window. The ship awaiting them had looked like any of a dozen others in the dark: a long, looming hulk riding high in the water, with a pair of masts jutting up into the dark sky like two lightning-struck pines. Viney ropes had draped from mast spars, but the dragon-wing sails had still been furled.

Now, though, the sails were open and straining with the brisk breeze blowing from the west. The water was mercifully calm, an artifact of an unexpectedly late start to the June rains, according to their captain. Despite their speed, the junk cut through the sparkling waves almost without a ripple.

Genma lounged back in a coil of rope near the ship’s prow, shielding his eyes as he squinted up at his counterpart lieutenant from Team Thirteen. Sakamoto Ginta had his knees hooked through the rungs of a rope ladder and was contentedly hanging upside down, with his blond hair, for once, obeying gravity.

“He’s not much for conversation, is he?” Ginta asked, pointing a bare toe at Kakashi, who was perched above them both on the topmost spar on the forward sail.

“He grows on you,” Genma said. )
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