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Soldiers Take Warning[Nov. 29th, 2016|06:05 pm]

[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.

“Like foot fungus?” Ginta snickered. “Rumor has it he’s at least as unpleasant, but a lot easier to get rid of.”

“He’s not actually that easy to get rid of. Especially if he’s tailing you.”

“He tailed you?”

Genma shrugged.

“No manners. Guess it’s not surprising, given what a shitty education he had.”

“Yeah, who’d want Namikaze Minato-sama for a sensei? I know I wouldn’t,” Genma said, playing along.

“That’s because you’d be so distracted by his beauty you’d never learn anything.”

“I think you mean you’d be distracted that way if he were your sensei. Get back down here,” Genma said, forestalling further discussion. “You’re giving me a crick in my neck.”

“Are you sure that isn’t just a ploy to get me to give you a backrub?” asked Ginta. He slipped his legs free from the ropes and flipped neatly over in a somersault to land on the deck next to Genma.

“With Kuroda watching?” Genma raised an eyebrow. “You might have your granddad’s protection, but he’d bust me straight out of my commission, dock me a month’s pay, and probably take it out on Namiashi-taichou anyway.”

The mention of Raidou’s name dialed Ginta’s flippance back and his curiosity up. “Namiashi finished out his special training and he’s back on full duty, isn’t he? Or is that why Yuuhi is here? I guess Kuroda, too…” He sucked his lips in against his teeth, then turned piercing blue eyes on Genma. His voice dropped to a hush. “He’s still on probation, isn’t he?”

Genma glanced up at Kakashi, who was probably eavesdropping, and lowered his own voice to match. “Kuroda’s still got a target painted on him. On our whole team, actually. He really had it in for Ueno before she got reassigned, and he’s an ass to Tousaki.”

“And to you,” Ginta said. “None of us liked him before, except for that pencil-dick Sato on Team Sixteen and a couple of others, but you didn’t used to have that jaw twitch every time he walked by.”

“Shit, I have a twitch?” Genma reached a hand up to smooth along his jaw almost by instinct.

“Nope,” Ginta said cheerfully. “But he is under your skin.”

“Dammit, Ginta.” Genma kicked at his companion’s foot with his own, but Ginta used it as leverage to spin into a seated position on a neighboring coil of rope.

“Look, if Usagi-taichou got turfed next week and we got Kuroda in her place, he’d make our lives a living hell, too.” Ginta blew a stray lock of hair out of his eyes. “No one in ANBU — except the aforementioned toadies — has anything but sympathy for you and your team.”

“What’s Usagi like?” Genma asked, trying to turn the tide of this conversation before it drifted into even more dangerous territory. Kuroda was ostensibly interrogating Fukuda in her cabin, but the bastard could be anywhere.

“Oh, you know her,” Ginta said. “I mean, she’s not much different now than she was last year, except she has more authority and leeway since she’s a captain. About as subtle as a fireball to the face. One that laughs at you after it burns your eyebrows off.”

“I haven’t spent much time around her,” Genma said. “But that much I knew already.”

“Ok, how about this?” Ginta asked. “She busted out two of Abe’s teeth for being a ‘sexist pig fart.’ Her words, not mine.”

“Your medic?” Genma asked. “Did he have it coming?”

“More than. I thought about stepping in, but I was having too much fun watching.”

“And now?”

“Now he brings her breakfast rolls every morning.”

“I hope he’s getting them at our bakery,” Genma joked.

“If he’s not, I’ll just tell Usagi how much better the rolls are from Shiranui Bakery while he’s listening. She likes you. She’ll totally play along.”

“She likes me?” Genma heard his voice crack on the shock. “She barely knows me.”

“She likes Namiashi, and she knows you stuck up for him and by him. Of course she likes you.” Ginta grinned.

Genma couldn’t help raising himself on his elbows to scan down towards the raised stern of the ship. Usagi-taichou’s opinion of him wasn’t really important, as long as she accepted him as a competent mission-mate, but still… It was nice to know.

Their captains and the two women from Intel were in some kind of conference around a small table — clad in their civilian clothing, they almost looked like a group of hanafuda players intent on their cards. Team Thirteen’s fifth member, the broad-shouldered Tsuda Eizo, was bare-chested and at work in the rigging with a couple of the sailors. Genma glanced away before Ginta could make some too-salient observation about his choice of scenery, and picked out Tousaki and the two rookies from Team Thirteen lounging in the shade of the big sail. Tousaki said something with a wide grin, got a laugh from Abe, and a cold shut-down from Yamada Kasumi.

Genma liberated a senbon from his sleeve — civilian dress still had plenty of places to conceal weapons — and chewed thoughtfully on one end. “I see your other rookie still wants to be in the running with Hatake for ‘Most Friendly’.”

“That’s our Yamada,” Ginta said. “Brings a smile to every lip when she enters a room.” His expression turned a little more sincere. “I don’t mind her. She’s a hard worker, she knows her stuff, and she’s got ambition. Usagi likes her, too. I think Yamada reminds our captain of herself as a rookie.”

“I guess that doesn’t surprise me, except for the whole friendliness thing.”

“Eh, opposites attract?” Ginta shrugged.

“That might explain Tousaki and Hatake,” Genma said.

“They get along?” Ginta tipped himself over backwards to stare up at Kakashi, who was still perched like a moody albatross in the uppermost rigging. Kakashi’s dyed brown hair, eye patch, and thick cotton allergy mask added to the picture of shabby distress.

“Something like that,” Genma agreed. “They show it for the most part by trying to kill each other in training and trying to outdo each other at noble self-sacrifice on missions. But they’re okay. Scary as hell in a fight. Tousaki’s the one who took Fukuda’s arm off.”

“I thought you did that,” Ginta said. “That’s what she told me.”

“Tousaki rotted it. I cut it off to save her life. If the rot had gotten to her chest—”

“Ugly,” Ginta said.

“Since when did you get cozy with our prisoner, anyway?” Genma rolled onto one hip, angling himself towards his companion.

Ginta waved an airy hand. “Oh, you know. When I had some time.”

Which didn’t answer anything. Was it in the bowels of T&I? On guard duty sometime in the last three weeks? Somewhere in the last thirty-six hours when Genma was occupied elsewhere and not paying attention? He debated pressing for more details, but Ginta stood up, newly alert.

“Captains are both waving at us.” He reached down to help Genma to his feet, surprisingly strong for his size. “Time to act like responsible officers.”

Genma’s questions would have to wait.
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