Genma had been avoiding Tsume for days now. He pushed his way into the men's showers with a glance up the hall to her door, glad he didn't see her. After his night in jail with Raidou, knowing he had her to thank for it, he wasn't sure he trusted himself around her. Raidou had told him some that night, a little more in the days that followed, about how the Inuzuka woman had been close to a break herself. She'd practically begged Raidou to spar with her in a way that would push her right into her worst fears, Raidou had said. And left those worst fears unspecified, but Genma could guess at what they were. At least some of them.
Mix that with her issues about being Alpha, and severed from her familiar--Genma couldn't forget that horribly diminished feeling she'd had, that day they'd talked in his lab--and it wasn't hard to understand why she would have done what she did.
It didn't make it forgivable, though.
When Genma had set hands glowing with healing chakra against Raidou's bitten cheek, and felt the tremble in tense muscles at his touch, when he saw Raidou's fingers probing his jaw as if he expected the skin to tear away...
It made it really, really hard to forgive Tsume. Even if logic and Raidou both told him she deserved compassion and understanding.
So he'd avoided her, because he liked her. Respected her. She was one of only a tiny handful of people he'd ever talked to about his own scars, after all. And she'd shown him a lot of consideration. Told him a few things he didn't want to hear, but even he knew how much he'd needed to hear them.
Yelling at her about Raidou wasn't going to change what she'd done.
But he couldn't let it go, either. You go for the weak point, she'd told him. You establish who's Alpha and you prove you're strongest. And she'd gone for Raidou's weakest, most vulnerable point, while he was trying to do her a favor she'd begged him for.
It was on his mind while he washed his hair, and shaved his face. On his mind while he dressed in fresh jounin blues, and bundled his sweaty workout gear into the basket holding his toiletries. On his mind when he walked out, clean and damp, and heard Cheater! shouted from down the hall.
From Tsume's room. In not-quite Kuromaru's distinctive voice.
He was avoiding her, he told himself, and he wasn't going to go start something now. Even so his feet carried him left, towards her apartment, not right towards his own.
Her door was ajar, and she and Kuromaru in his human form were sprawled over what looked like a game of fifty-two pickup, giggling and shoving each other. For a moment Genma just watched them. Kuromaru was back, and Tsume was happy, that much was obvious. Her chakra felt better, even from here. Maybe the reconnection had begin?
"I thought you guys couldn't cheat each other, because you'd smell it," he said. "But then I hear you taught Raidou that trick he played me with his knee in my nuts. Guess that's cheating, too."
Nuts. Now there was an idea. Tsume jabbed her elbow back as Kuromaru squirmed his way up her body. He grunted, though she only got him in the shoulder. "Get off, beast!" she growled. He rolled, she rolled, and they both looked up to see Genma standing in the always-open doorway, looking clean and smelling like shampoo.
Tsume had to pause for a moment to try and drag Genma's words back from the brink of forgetting, then figure out what they meant.
Kuromaru just leaped right in with speech, adjusting his hitai-ate back down. "Too many lies going around, see? Can't tell which is new." He grinned broadly. "You wanna play?"
It was obvious he didn't, but Kuromaru was selectively observant.
Tsume smiled slowly, folding her legs into a lotus and not bothering to get off the floor. "Genma, if you hadn't seen the knee-to-nuts trick yet, I doubt your status as a chuunin, much less a special jounin."
"Oh, yeah. Me, too," Kuromaru agreed, scooping the cards up haphazardly.
Tsume eyed the man in the door from under a fringe of hair, her eyes narrowed slightly. His muscles were tense, his amber eyes sharp. She'd cleared things with Raidou--at least as much as she was going to--but apparently his partner still wasn't happy. He must really value those nuts.
"I know the trick," Genma replied. "Just not the custom of using it on your friends." He leaned against the door, studying the pair of Inuzuka, trying to remind himself he wasn't here to pick a fight. Unless he was. But Tsume, though she looked better than the last time he'd seen her, still had an unnatural pallor throwing her tattoos and the healing scabs on her face into sharp relief. And Kuromaro... It was hard to see him in human form, looking so much like Tsume's male twin, and so desperately injured. He wore a hitai-ate over his left eye, like Kakashi did. Over a vacant socket that Genma had just caught a glimpse of before Kuromaru had tugged the bandana down. The flesh the forehead protector didn't hide was blistered, red and scabbed; as bad looking as a fresh burn. As melted-looking or more than Raidou's scars. A section of his scalp was missing, along with his right ear.
Kuromaru was smiling open-mouthed, in a way that revealed the dog within the man's form. Tsume was watching him with a more guarded expression. Wary and on edge. She knows I'm pissed, Genma thought. Raidou must have told her. And she can smell it on me. They both can.
His hands on his basket clenched, making wicker squeak. Not here to fight, he told himself again, and used every trick in his training to make himself relax, make his body language friendly, his face placid.
"I heard you were out of the hospital. Glad you're back," he told Kuromaru. "Tsume was worried about you."
Kuromaru's grin broadened. "I know. She always worries about me." He shuffled the cards into some semblance of order, head swiveling to see if he missed any.
Tsume's smile remained chilly. "I'm pretty sure that, in a spar, crotch-shots are totally acceptable." She felt Kuromaru glance at her and then Genma. Then he sighed heavily and peered up.
"He could wear a cup, if you're worried about someone getting his balls." Kuromaru hesitated, eye sliding toward the wall they shared with Ginta's apartment. "Actually, around here that's not a bad idea..." He leaned close to Tsume and whispered, "You wouldn't believe what that guy told me." Warily, he crossed his legs.
It was hard to keep trading half suspicous looks with Genma when Kuromaru was making bizarre statements. Tsume glanced at him. "What?"
The stage whisper filled the room. "He wants balls!"
"...I'm pretty sure you misunderstood something." That, or Ginta had odder habits than anyone Tsume had ever met.
Shaking his head firmly, Kuromaru set the cards aside. "Nope. I didn't misunderstand. He really does want balls. I told him he couldn't have mine."
There was no correct response to that. Tsume linked her arms around her knees, debating the wisdom of standing. Haruichi had told them, just two days before, not to do any Inuzuka jutsu but that genin jutsu were all right. Changing Kuromaru human was arguably a genin jutsu, though she was wondering at the wisdom of trying it, now. It had taken twenty minutes, and left her feeling worn and exhausted--and queasy--after carefully threading that much chakra through a precious few linked pathways. And now Genma was attempting to look friendly and smelling ugly, standing in her doorway. And it wasn't because she'd taken a nutshot at his buddy.
"Raidou and I sorted everything out. Do I really have to sort it all out with you, too?"
"First he put furniture in our apartment. Then he offered me waffles but was upset when I ate them. Then he wanted my balls. He's a weird man," Kuromaru mumbled, deft hands shuffling cards.
It was Genma's turn to be confused, between Kuromaru's strange assertions about Ginta--they had to be talking about Ginta, since both of them kept looking towards his apartment--and Tsume's direct challenge.
"I'm pretty sure Ginta isn't into dogs," he told Kuromaru. "But if you stay in human form he might give you a second look. He's not gonna go after your privates without your permission though, so you can relax."
His gaze was back on Tsume before he'd finished speaking. Flat and angry. He wasn't looking for a fight, but if she was going to give him one anyway, he wasn't backing down.
"Yes. You have to sort it out with me too." He could feel a muscle twitching in his forearm, sending sparks shooting through the hand balled into a tight fist at his side. The knuckles were still brown-purple and ugly, from where he'd hit that cop.
"You bit his face. You went after his scar, and don't tell me he asked you to, because I know he didn't. And don't tell me it's what he needed, because it the fuck wasn't." All the friendliness was gone from Genma's posture. His voice dropped low and menacing as his outrage increased.
Tsume remained sitting, one hand loosely gripping her other wrist. To remain sitting kept things from escalating. More importantly, it kept Genma from seeing just how weak she currently was. Her gaze stayed level on his face, though the hackles she didn't have prickled as Kuromaru went still, a predator even in his human skin. His head turned slowly, single eye tracking both people.
"I assume you got that from Raidou. Did he also tell you it was an accident?" she asked softly. "Or that we'd been practicing fighting dirty?" Which, she didn't point out, had been his idea. "Or perhaps you've never hit someone where you didn't mean to in a spar. Maybe no one has ever dodged the way you weren't expecting." It wasn't quite what had happened. He hadn't dodged; she just hadn't known where she'd been biting.
She could tell him she'd been out of it. Panicking and seeing nothing. That Raidou had expected that, too. She didn't. She remained sitting. "I guess you don't ever have accidents."
"This isn't about me," Genma snarled back. "But with Raidou, you can be damn sure I never have accidents."
Was that even true? If he were really lost in a flashback, would he go for Raidou's face, not even knowing who he was? Because that's what Raidou said had happened. Tsume had been out of her mind with panic, not fighting her sparring partner, but some enemy she refused to name from a past she couldn't get away from.
Raidou had slipped up once, in a panic, on the edge of a ragged break. Genma had pushed, maybe too hard, and Raidou had grabbed for his hand and twisted, threatening Shiranui, don't make me break your fucking thumb before he'd caught himself, and remembered where he was. Who he was.
As far as he knew it, he'd never done that to Raidou, but he could have. He could, maybe, if he were pushed far enough, hurt badly enough. He shut his eyes and took a steadying breath. He wasn't here to pick a fight. He liked Tsume. Could understand her. Respected her.
"I don't... I don't let myself get in a situation with him where I'll forget," he said quietly. "I don't put myself in a situation where I'll lose it. I won't do that to Raidou." But wasn't that exactly the idea he'd had talking to Tsume that time? That maybe he should spar with Raidou and ask him to go for his hands? Maybe that wasn't such a good idea after all.
The muscle in her jaw jumped. If he hadn't done it, then he had no right to judge her on it. "I slipped up with a sparring partner so I could learn how not to snap teeth in the field. Raidou knew exactly what I was doing." Not that he knew why she was panicking, but he'd still known what she was trying to accomplish. "Better to deal with it in the gym than to get us both killed."
She glanced at his hands, the fingers he'd purposely relaxed on his laundry basket, then back at his eyes. "If you've never put yourself in a situation where you'll forget, how are either of you going to know how you'll react when it's important?"
"I don't know," Genma said quietly. Her look at his hands drew his own gaze downward. "I don't know, dammit." It was an insoluble problem. He sighed heavily and dragged his hand through his damp hair. "I thought I'd ask him to go for my hands in a spar, after that time I talked to you last. Try to do exactly that, root out the weakness. But after what happened with him and you... I just don't know."
He wondered how much Tsume actually knew about what had happened after Raidou left--the drinking, the bar fight, their night in jail. "Rai said he knew you were unstable. Knew he was putting himself in a dangerous spot. But he still came damn close to a bad break, even knowing that. If you could do that to him, then I know I could. I could probably do it way, way worse."
They could hurt each other, maybe beyond repair. Maybe that was Tsume's point.
She sat for a moment, wondering when they'd gone from growling at each other to... whatever this was. This was talking. About feelings. Tsume hesitated, then shrugged. "Better each other than an enemy ninja. They wouldn't try to put him back together again." Planting a hand on the floor, she pushed up to her feet, hiding a wince. It took a conscious effort to settle her pathways down again, to muffle her energy so it didn't blaze through what limited lines it had. Her head throbbed.
"So, we're good now? I've had a chat with both of you, and everything's better?" She hoped so. She was feeling like someone had beaten her with a nunchaku, and she still had to reverse the jutsu on Kuromaru.
Genma blinked at Tsume, then down at his hand, scarred and sinewy, on the basket handle. Putting Raidou back together again--that was what he did. And that was what Raidou did for him, when he was the one falling apart. That was why he'd taken a knee to the groin, and punched out a cop; why he'd spent a night in jail with his scarred hand cradling Raidou's scarred face.
"Yeah. We're good." He nodded. She was standing, but she looked exhausted. He hadn't wanted to pick a fight with her, but it sure as hell felt like they'd just gone several rounds.
"You should sit back down, before you fall," he said. "And Kuromaru needs those wounds bandaged. He's just asking for infection, and it has to hurt, exposed to the air like that. You want me to do it? I can go grab up my medkit real quick."
It was a peace offering. He hoped she'd take it.
Tsume glared at him from under her eyebrows. "I'm not gonna fall down," she muttered, thumbs dragging at the corners of her pockets, shoulders arcing up.
"It doesn't hurt that much." Kuromaru reached up with one hand to poke at his wounds. He hit one, flinched, and muttered, "Ouch."
Tsume snorted. "I suppose, if you think he needs them."
"They'll just fall off."
Tsume looked at him with exasperation. "You don't have fur. They'll stick."
Kuromaru poked himself again, recoiled, and stared at his offending hand. "I guess it hurts a little."
She rolled her eyes. "You get your medkit, I'll get some water." Because if she walked to the kitchen, she had an excuse not to sit down. As if she needed to rest.
Plus, she could lean against the sink.
When Genma got back to Tsume's apartment, he found her leaning against her kitchen sink, laughing so hard she was sloshing the water in her glass up the sides and onto her hand. Kuromaru was sitting splay-legged with a disordered pile of playing cards between his thighs, prodding at his injured face with both hands, and evidently trying to watch himself do so by lolling his eye up towards his forehead. If he'd had two eyes, he'd have been cross-eyed.
Genma came all the way into the room this time, set his med kit down on the kitchen counter, and gave both Inuzuka an amused snort. "Am I gonna have to get one of those big cone-shaped collar things for you, to keep you from fucking with your wounds while they heal?" he asked.
He looked around the sparsely furnished apartment: there was an unmade bed with a rumpled blue duvet. A blue-ticked pillow in a white case was crushed between mattress and wall, and another just like it flopped on the floor next to Kuromaru and his stash of cards. A cluster of odd-looking, brightly-painted frames decorated the wall by the window; two held the sort of generic photographs framers used to sell their wares, two held childish drawings in bright crayon, and one showed a pair of grinning Inuzuka children. Tsume's children, no doubt. Other than that the room was nearly empty. There was a chair with a few stray items on it, an open closet with more clothing on its floor than its hangers, and a pile of ANBU armor and weaponry in the corner.
"You want to sit on the bed while I fix you up?"
Kuromaru looked up, consternation written all over his face. "I don't need a cone thing." He clambered to his feet, gave them both a highly suspicious look, and carefully scooped up the cards before settling himself on the bed, messy deck cradled in his arms.
"You want a drink, Genma? I can offer..." Tsume considered opening her fridge, knew she'd only find a half-eaten burger from the cafeteria earlier, and didn't. "Water."
"Or chicken. But that's mine." He shifted his arms to catch a sliding card, nimble fingers grabbing it before it fell. Carefully, he tucked it in with the others. "I don't really need healing, you know. Waki said it'll get better. And the Hyuuga is putting our chakra together, again. It just has stitches, right now. Or we'd be healing much faster." He gave Genma a narrow look. "So don't get any funny ideas."
"Water's great," Genma answered. "I don't usually drink chicken." He cast a careful eye over Tsume before going to attend to Kuromaru. She looked a little steadier on her feet, less like she needed a chair shoved under her before she fell. Still pale, but her eyes were lively. It was safe leaving her to fill a glass while he treated her familiar.
"I'm not gonna try to heal you any, so don't worry. If Haruichi and Waki-sensei are working on you, you don't need me screwing around with it. Either one of them would probably skin me alive if I fucked something up. I'm just gonna do what a field medic does best: first aid. Little salve, little gauze." He sat on the bed next to Kuromaru and opened up his kit, laying out rolls of bandage and a jar of antiseptic ointment.
"You're gonna have to take off the hitai-ate. You okay with that?"
He looked torn for a long moment between taking it off and putting down his cards. He pinned Genma with a look. "Don't steal them," he growled, spilling the deck out onto the bed. Worn cards cascaded into the folds and creases of bedding.
Kuromaru reached up with one hand, fingers wrapping around cloth, and yanked. "Ow," he said, as blood trickled free from where scabs had stuck to material. He wiped it off with the back of his wrist, flinched, frowned, and did it again. "Now you can't have your water, though." He stared at the streak of red across his wrist as if it were personally offensive. Then he wiped at his head again. More scabs broke. Kuromaru started to wipe at that, caught his empty eyesocket instead, and howled.
"Wolf, Kuro," Tsume breathed from the kitchen, leaning over the tap and very definitely not looking.
"That hurt!" He threw down the hitai-ate and reached up as if to clamp a hand over the injury.
"Well, stop touching it!"
He froze, clawed fingers an inch from his flesh. "But it hurt!"
Crossing her arms over the lip of the sink, Tsume let her head fall into them. Genma's glass overflowed. "Yeah, well, you're missing an eye," she mumbled blandly.
Genma held his hands up in indecisive horror, wanting to grab Kuromaru's arms and restrain him, and fearing what would happen if he tried. "Put your hands down, Kuromaru. Just put... Don't rub that!" The eye socket was the cleanest part of the wound. Fresh pink skin was already filling in the gap, closing it down so that only a small dark hole remained. In a few weeks' time, even that would close. But the flesh around the eye was horrific. Brilliant vermilion and oozing blood, yellowish at the margins, pitted and gnarled where the body had tried to overcome gangrene with massive inflammation and too much growth.
Every time Kuromaru's hands scraped over the raw surface, blood and straw-colored fluid oozed to the surface. He howled; Genma cringed and steeled himself to tackle Kuromaru before he did serious damage to himself.
"Let me bandage it. Let me put some ointment on it, please?" It was hard to remember he was talking to a dog as much as a rational man. "Let me bandage it, so the air stops hitting it. You have raw nerve endings where the skin hasn't closed."
He wanted to cast a numbing jutsu, but wasn't sure he dared, given his limited understanding of Inuzuka chakra physiology. His ointment was analgesic, though; it would help, even if a jutsu was off limits. "Did they give you some pain pills or something? You want to take one before I start?"
"Yes," Kuromaru whined. "I mean, no. I mean--Tsume!"
She spoke from her hideaway in the kitchen, without looking up. "They gave him pills. The pills make him sleepy, so he doesn't like them. Canines deal better with pain than humans do."
"Also, they make me impotent," Kuromaru mumbled sadly, both hands held up but away from his face, as if he couldn't quite bring himself to put them down.
Tsume laughed. It carried a brittle edge. "Not impotent, Kuromaru. Just uninterested. I promise it won't last." She reached up with one hand, slapping the tap off.
"Just be very, very careful," Kuromaru directed to Genma, single eye moving as he watched his own hand come closer to his eyesocket. A noise from the medic stopped him. "I gotta scratch."
"No scratching!" Tsume yelled.
"I don't care!"
Kuromaru sulked. "At least it didn't tickle with my hitai-ate on. And it still hurts, too!"
"That's why you need it bandaged," Genma repeated. "The hitai-ate was acting like a bandage, protecting the wound from the air. A real bandage with some ointment on it will work a lot better." In point of fact, what were Kuromaru's doctors even thinking, letting him go around with just a hitai-ate for protection?
"Why did you take your bandages off? I can't believe Haruichi or Waki-sensei would let you run around with those wounds undressed."
He unscrewed the jar and held it up so Kuromaru could see it. "This is antiseptic. Numbing, too. Let me put it on, and it will make it stop itching, I promise."
He glanced Tsume's way, and saw her bracing herself on her arms over the sink, head down. Not looking at them. Could she feel physical pain from Kuromaru through those renewed chakra links? Or was it just that she couldn't bear the sight of the grisly wound? "You all right, Tsume? Can you get him one of his pills?"
Tsume straightened up, gaze on the cupboards above the sink. "Yeah. Sure."
"I don't want 'em," Kuromaru muttered, peering with interest at the antiseptic. He reached out and poked a finger into it, then peered at it as his skin went numb. "I don't like bandages. They pull on my fur or they start to come off and tickle worse."
"We could shave you," Tsume suggested, leaning back against the counter, facing them but not looking at them.
"Then I'd look silly." He watched as Genma dabbed up ointment and reached forward. Kuromaru pulled back to get a better look, then leaned in again so the medic could reach. His canine thoughts shied around the pain as the salve was applied, ignoring with single-minded efficiency the scream in his nerves at Genma's touch. Kuromaru poked his finger back into the ointment, popping it promptly into his mouth. His nose wrinkled and he spat his finger out. "My tongue is tingling."
"That means it's working," Genma said. "And I can't believe you just tasted that." It wasn't a bad-smelling medicine, but it certainly held more notes of grass and mineral than anything like something you'd want in your mouth. "They make a similar one for mouth burns that has some flavoring in it. I had to use it when I was learning katon."
He worked as quickly as he could, smoothing a thin, greenish layer of balm over the unhealed skin with light, deft strokes. Edges first, easing his way towards the rawer centers of the wounds. The eye socket itself, and the swollen lump where Kuromaru's ear had once been, were the last places he touched.
"You did great. Lot of guys couldn't have sat still for that," he said when he'd finished. "I'll just put the gauze around it now, and we're done." That was as much for Tsume's benefit as Kuromaru's, to let her know it was almost safe to look again. "Is it starting to feel better yet?"
Kuromaru gave the question some thought, feeling the pain recede. As the throbbing faded, he wriggled his nose around, pulling on tender skin. It flared again, but nowhere near as bad. "Yes," he said at last. It was faint now, even if he felt muffled. He lifted a hand and touched clawed fingertips gently to the wrap, pulling away when Genma looked like he might reach out and stop it.
"Do I look better with gauze?" he asked curiously, then turned to look at Tsume. "Maybe we could put gauze on me when I'm a canine, too."
In the kitchen, Tsume offered him a smile and finally twitched her gaze to see them. "It won't stay on your head, pup. Wrong shape."
Kuromaru sighed. "At least I have fur." He looked at Genma solemnly. "Fur helps. And it's probably why I do better than lots of guys." He considered, then added, "And Tsume likes my fur more than my skin. Maybe I should put my hitai-ate back on."
"Gauze is nice," Tsume interrupted. "I don't think you need anything else."
He looked up at her, smiling hopefully. "Oh, good. Because this is a lot of gauze, and what if my hitai-ate didn't fit?" He lifted a hand again, feeling the shape of the bandaging, then regarded Genma solemnly. "I must look better. Tsume looks happier."
"You look better," Genma agreed. "It was making me wince to see that exposed wound, and that's just because I'm a field medic. No one wants to see their partner hurting." He glanced up at Tsume, wondering if he'd just spilled a secret she didn't want told. But it was obvious, painfuly obvious, even to Kuromaru, that Tsume was distressed. Although Kuromaru didn't seem too upset. In fact, for a patient as badly hurt as he was, he was about the most cheerful ninja Genma had ever encountered.
"So you were playing cards. That why you're in guy form instead of dog form? So you have hands?" He gathered up the medical supplies, re-rolling unused bandages, re-sealing the container of salve. It all went back into his kit easily--he'd have to restock before his next mission--and since he was going to restock anyway... "Here," he said, taking rolls of gauze and the jar of salve back out and setting them neatly on the bed. "You can use this when you're a dog shape, too, if it helps."
There was a pricking in Genma's consciousness, an awareness of a pissed-off little chakra, violet and intense. Way more chakra than a body that size ought to contain. Kuromaru's head snapped up, eyes riveted on the open door. Genma was already moving, putting himself in the path the dog-man might take before anything untoward could happen.
"Shinobu, wait!" he shouted. Too late, because a little black and white rat came darting in across Tsume's bare floor. It hopped up Genma's leg, climbing him with astonishing speed, coming to rest on his left shoulder.
"You owe me money!" Shinobu said indignantly. He settled down next to Genma's ear, and started to groom the lobe. "And I don't see why you can't run your own errands. Or stay in one place for five minutes. Workout, that's what you told me. Workout, then shower, then you'd be back in your apartment. I had to hunt all over the third floor for you!"
"Um..." Genma said. He put a hand up to his shoulder, taking hold of Shinobu's tail. "You guys remember Shinobu from our mission, right?" Damn, was Kuromaru salivating?
"We remember Shinobu," Tsume said sharply. "Right, Kuromaru?"
"Shinobu. Mission." He relaxed slowly, though he didn't look away from the rodent sitting on Genma's shoulder. "Right." He licked his lips.
His head snapped around, pupils dilated. "What? Right! Teammate." He looked back at Shinobu. "Who happens to be a rat." He stared.
"Just think of him as a small teammate."
Tsume sighed and picked up Genma's glass of water. She tipped it, letting the overflow spill out into the sink, then carried it toward the futon. "Sending your summons to do your dirty work, Genma?"
Kuromaru frowned. "Aren't you in eros and poisons?" This time, when he looked at Shinobu, there was a whole new level of uncertainty.
"I am," Genma said. "Shinobu's got his own specialties. Mostly stealth and infiltration." He kept his hand on the nervous rodent, who had edged even closer to his neck and was evidently using his hair for cover.
"I wouldn't do eros," Shinobu said with a shiver. "But exactly how many targets do you think we'd get where a rat would be seductive? I mean, unless it was another rat..." He stared thoughtfully up for a moment, then scrubbed his paws over his face. "Actually, that could be good..."
"In your dreams," Genma told him. He didn't take his eyes off Kuromaru, not for more than a second. At least Tsume seemed to have a full awareness of the situation, and was keeping her familiar at bay. It was suddenly a lot easier to remember how much Kuromaru, no matter what he looked like, was a predator.
"He sent me to pay off a gambling debt," Shinobu told Tsume, swaggering a little. "But he didn't give me enough. I had to plead with the yakuza boss not to cut off his pinky."
"I sent you to pay the first installment on my damn fine for punching that cop! And I did so give you enough."
"Nope, you were fifty ryou short. But don't worry, I covered it for you. You can pay me back in coin or you can buy me some of that cheese from Lightning Country that I like."
Kuromaru nodded, gaze sharpening and unfocusing all at once. "Cheese, yeah. With a little bit of mayo, maybe..."
Tsume whacked him, sending his injured head cracking forward, and offered Genma the glass of water.
Kuromaru yanked his head up, eyes bright. "What was that for?"
She only stared at him.
He glanced at Shinobu. "...Oh. I can't help it. He looks so tasty..."
Rolling her eyes, she looked back at Genma. "As interesting as cop-punching sounds," that was definitely a story she needed to find out about, "and as much as I'd like to hear about this gambling debt, I don't think now's the time." She looked pointedly at Shinobu, then tipped her head toward her familiar.
Kuromaru was leaning around her so he could keep watching the little rat summons. His pupil took up almost all of his iris, his lips parted far enough to show the healthy pink inside his mouth--and the glimmer of human-sized fangs.
A ninja lived or died by reading the signs around him; Tsume's hint and Kuromaru's rather terrifying degree of lust for such a small snack were more than enough to get Genma moving, and fast. He snatched up his medkit and backed towards the door, while Shinobu bristled and clacked his teeth at the threat.
"Genma?" the rat hissed.
"Going," Genma agreed. "Hope he feels better soon," he told Tsume. "You can put that salve on every four to six hours, if he needs it. And if you want more, just show the empty container to the quatermaster. They keep it in stock."
He edged out the door. "See you around, Tsume. Kuromaru."
"You owe me twice now," Shinobu told him, when they'd gotten safely away from hungry canines. "Hazard pay."
"Yeah," Genma agreed. He stroked Shinobu's fur, smoothing the bristles away. "Sorry about that. I'll definitely get you some of that cheese."
Tsume picked up the discarded water glass and put it on the counter seperating the kitchen from everything else. Kuromaru continued to stare at the door. She considered him for a long moment, then steadily walked around the end of the bed.
The nausea from her earlier jutsu hadn't faded, and a headache was building. The Hyuuga had told her no Inuzuka jutsu, but it was a genin jutsu and it had been two whole days. Surely that was enough healing time.
When she crossed between Kuromaru and the door, he didn't even seem to notice. She checked that her balance was good, even if she felt weak, that she wasn't going to topple from strained pathways or puke from chakra stress... and then she lunged for the cards scattered across the futon.
Kuromaru whipped around after her, howling a single word. "Cheater!"