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Fall From Grace. [Asuma & Natsumi][Jun. 3rd, 2009|04:23 am]

[[Immediately follows Shield of Faith.]]

Natsumi's laughter lasted for the first few miles, sparking back up when Asuma managed to hit on the right combination of flirting and teasing and good old dirty jokes. It was a good sound, musical and clear--a decent, distracting thing to focus on every time he had to lean over to pick a scroll up, and his side burned.

He tried to ignore that.

At the final count, they'd found five of his scrolls--all weapons, jutsu, or sealed bits of precious he didn't want to lose--and his very battered but still intact map. He folded the map into a spare pocket, stowed the scrolls into his waistband (which was not comfortable, but at least left his hands free), and called himself satisfied. He'd lost his armour, his med-kit, his cigarettes, and his pack, but he had most of the things that mattered.

And a still-breathing teammate that topped everything.

Natsumi's gear was in slightly better shape. She had her belt and hip-pouches, most of her scrolls and trinkets, her armour and shirt (though no bra, which was something Asuma almost appreciated, what with all the delightfully bouncy running), and that canteen, which they managed to refill at the first stream they stumbled across, after slaking twin thirsts.

Then they kept moving.

The forest was deeply shadowed; even the bright moonlight only penetrated so far through the thick leaves. And neither one of them had chakra to spare for making lights. They jogged side by side when they could, falling gracelessly over roots and leaves and inconvenient tree stumps, talking whenever they had the breath to spare. Asuma kept up most of the conversation--Natsumi was just quieter by nature--but he still learned a few interesting things about his companion. Like how she used to earn pocket money playing darts at her favourite bar, and her fondness for hot springs, which went beyond a pipe dream in the cold night air; her love for proper literature, like history and biographies and poetry. But, when pressed, she admitted to a guilty passion for trashy romance novels.

Little things. But little things went a long way when you had bigger plans in mind.

Somewhere around the four mile mark, with at least double that to go before they reached the monastery Asuma thought he remembered, he finally lapsed into silence. His side had burned before, now it seared. Sweat trickled down his skin, smearing pink trails through dried blood. Sachiko's head was a solid weight hauling down on his shoulder; the kunai wound in his thigh snarled with every step. He should have been feeling chilled--almost hypothermic, if Natsumi's shivering was any clue--but heat dogged his steps, clouding through his skull, making it harder to think.

When his bones started to ache, he knew he was in trouble.

But there was nothing they could do about it, beyond moving. And even if Asuma had no real hero plans, he still didn't intend to fill Natsumi's head with worries she couldn't fix. So he kept his mouth shut, breathed steadily, and ignored the way the world started to melt at the edges.

Which worked great, for about half a mile.
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