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[Jul. 9th, 2017|09:30 pm]

Team Six walked back to their own office in a peculiar caul of silence. Ryouma contrite in the wake of his chastisement, Kakashi withdrawn into himself to tend the knife wound Sagara’s indirect reference to his father had opened, Raidou tense like a storm cloud looking for a place to ground its electric charge, and Genma holding a precarious grip on outward calm, trying to sort a dozen conflicting feelings into neat piles. The dogs were just as subdued. Kin trotted anxiously at Kakashi’s heel, tail low. Pakkun rode Genma’s shoulder with his head turned to keep an eye on his summoner.

Genma had been prepared for an official inquiry. There’d been no question that Kuroda would file charges. He’d been braced to be told he was suspended, like Raidou had been. He’d even made lists and labels for everything in his desk and all his medical gear, to make an easier transition for his replacement, if it came to that.

He hadn’t expected a blank dismissal of the whole affair from the Commander.

Or for Ryouma to charge into the fray with a hot-headed defense. An evidently unnecessary hot-headed defense.

And he definitely hadn’t expected Kakashi to step in and stand with Ryouma on the matter.

Of course the rookies had insisted on coming into his meeting with Sagara, so in retrospect, he should have seen it coming. He’d been too narrowly focused on his own concerns to notice, and by the time he had, it’d been far too late to stop it. Even though he should have.

A secret part of himself was glad he hadn’t interrupted Ryouma’s passionate defense. Glad he’d stood dumbstruck to hear Kakashi’s stolid pronouncement that Ryouma wasn’t wrong. And he didn’t know what to do with the warm, curling gratitude towards his rookies that came with that, either.

He waited until they were safely behind closed doors, in the familiar windowless cave of Team Six’s office, to even properly breathe. The carpet and the back of the door were still stained with the coffee he’d thrown after that first disastrous meeting with Kuroda. Katsuko’s desk was still in place, covered in her doodles, marking her absence. But it wasn’t the same office. It wasn’t the same team.

He lifted Pakkun down to the floor, leaned against the door, and studied his comrades: Ryouma with his impetuous temper and malignant self-doubt; Kakashi, aloof genius with a secret heart of glass; Raidou, competent and generous, and ready to do battle with the gods themselves if someone he cared about was at stake.

“Thank you,” Genma’s voice came out quieter and rougher than he’d meant it to. “That was—” No words presented themselves. “I just— Thank you.”

Ryouma dropped onto the couch with a dusty thump, and directed his gaze at the floor between his feet. Kin left Kakashi’s side to lay her head on Ryouma’s knee, brow furrowed and ears drooping. He dropped a hand onto her nape and carded his fingers through her fur. “Not like we helped,” he said. Bitterness washed his words. “You cleared yourself, lieutenant.”

“That’s— that’s not true, Tousaki.” Genma lowered himself to the couch, shoulder to shoulder with his teammate. “Ryouma. You made your reports, and Sagara read them. If you hadn’t been there to witness when Fukuda died — when I— When we lost her, Kuroda’s story would stand and I’d be court martialed, or worse.”

He reached for Kin, who obliged, pressing her whole body against both men’s knees in a reassuring bulwark.

“And even if it didn’t make any difference to the commander, it — what you said — Hatake, you agreeing with him — Taichou, you being there. It mattered to me.

Ryouma darted a look at Genma’s face, like he was checking for a sign, then turned his eyes back on Kin, and leaned against Genma’s shoulder. Tentatively at first, more firmly when Genma didn’t move away. “We meant it.”
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