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Stranger in a Strange Land [Asuma, Ryouma][Jan. 5th, 2012|11:26 pm]

[[Takes place the evening of October 21st and the morning of October 22nd, immediately after Resting Easy and Wise Men Keep Secrets, and the day before Ryouma’s meeting with Katsuko in Nothing to Fear.]]

The rumours of Ryouma’s return went through the village like wildfire. Asuma caught the gossip on the second evening, when he went to hand in a muddy but completed mission brief at the chuunin-desk, and found the pretty redhead in tears.

“Bad news, darlin’?”

She beamed at him, so he figured no.

It took him half an hour to get a coherent story out of her, but by the end of it he was grinning too.

“Crafty son of a bitch,” he said. “I thought for sure he was dead. Hey, is there any news on Akimichi Hitai?”

Reiko’s smile faded.

“Well, one out of two still ain’t bad,” Asuma said, a little sorry he’d brought it up. “I’m gonna have to take him around a cake, or something. You know where he’s staying?”

She wiped her eyes, blowing her nose lustily into the handkerchief he’d managed to find for her. Somehow, she managed to make that pretty, too. Kunoichi talent, he figured.

“I think...” she hesitated, and he arched his eyebrows. “It seemed like he was going home with Hatake Kakashi.”

Asuma blinked.

“Well now,” he said. “There’s a piece of news.”

And a piece of awkwardness, if Ginta found out. Which he likely already had.

“Last I heard, Hatake was the reason Tousaki blew out of town,” he said, leaning his elbows thoughtfully on the desk. “Some kind of argument, and then some damn unlucky timing on Tousaki’s part, to go and get himself all fake-dead.”

Mission suicide, one set of rumours had claimed. Missing-nin, someone else had said.

None of them had ever said that to Sharingan no Kakashi’s face, though. Especially not after Ginta.

“I think they made up,” Reiko said, with a slight softening to her eyes that suggested Hatake and Tousaki had done something fluffy in front of her.

Asuma grinned at her. “Fickle,” he accused. “Is that all it takes to get your approval? Because I’ll go find a guy and kiss him right now. Two guys, even.”

She snorted. “So long as it isn’t Hatake-san and Ryouma-kun. I think Hatake-san would take your head off.”

“Little protective, is he?” Asuma said, amused. “Well, can’t really blame him.”

Reiko pointed a finger at him. “If you say anything nasty to Ryouma-kun—”

He held his hands up. “Nothing! Only nice things! On my honour.”

“What honour?”

“Fair point.” He waggled his eyebrows. “Okay, on your honour.”

Reiko’s smile curved like a scimitar, suddenly every inch a Konoha kunoichi. “What honour?”

Asuma laughed. “Point again. Okay, on our dishonour. Does that work, pretty lady?”

“I’m still married,” she said, as she did every time he talked to her. “Happily married.”

“I live in hope,” Asuma assured her. “Have you got Hatake’s address around? I went once, but it was a couple months back and I think the door slamming on my face might’ve concussed me.”

She went searching through files. “Are you really going to take Ryouma-kun a cake?”

“Don’t see why not,” Asuma said. “Homecoming deserves baked goods. You said he was in Suna, right? Poor bastard’ll have been up to his eyeballs in curry or gruel or whatever the hell they feed prisoners. Bugs, probably. Six months of crispy-fried locusts.”

Reiko made a faintly appalled sound. “They do eat insects in Suna.”

Well, any ninja would eat creepy-crawlies if they had to. Suna was just one of the few places that did it voluntarily.

Strange folk in Suna.

“Exactly,” Asuma said. “You watch, I’ll take him a cake and he’ll weep on my manly shoulders. It’ll be a beautiful moment.”

Reiko looked slightly doubtful. “I’m going to send them a basket,” she said decisively. “I got my grandmother one for the winter holiday last year, and she loved it. I could get one with coffee, for Ryouma-kun. And pastries. And... I don’t know what Hatake-san likes.”

“Eating small children, I think,” Asuma said. “Raw.”

She leaned across the desk and whacked him on the arm. “I said be nice.”

“To Tousaki! Hatake’s free game.”

He ducked a thrown pen.

“Hatake-san waited with me for five hours,” Reiko said sharply, reaching for a stapler. “And—” She coloured. “And he didn’t say anything when I fell asleep on him. And he made sure Ryouma would come back to visit me. So don’t you dare say anything to him, either.”

“You could send him condoms,” Asuma suggested brightly. “I bet he’d get some use out of—”

The stapler narrowly missed rendering him a one-eared ninja. He laughed, blew her a kiss, and made his escape.

“Don’t go tonight!” she yelled after him. “It’s late.”

And Tousaki had spent all day at T&I by the sound of it, so he’d be in no fit state for food or company. Asuma saluted as he went out the door, hand over heart. It was dark outside, long past the early autumn sunset and well into moonrise, cold enough that his breath plumed on the air. He jammed his hands into his pockets and headed for the Ayano bakery on Hillcrest. Chocolate-coffee cake seemed like a good bet.

Afterwards, working on a flash of inspiration, he dropped into the shinobi supply store and put in an order for a piece of lethal prettiness to pick up the next morning.

Maybe he’d swing by the Inuzuka compound, too. Tsume had been out of ANBU for months now, and mostly too busy and distracted to see him, what with booting whatshisface out of the Alpha-dog spot and taking over the whole damn clan. The Inuzuka were still rebuilding after the explosion, but he’d bet a year’s wage she’d want to see him tonight.

Whistling cheerfully, he went to spread the news.
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