Raidou was a little too old to get warm in the chest just because Genma had said friends, but he did all the same.
They’d fixed a house. As a team. No one had fallen or bitten someone else or burst into flames. Ryouma had learned. Kakashi had listened. Genma, looking out over a village washed shining-clean, was smiling.
Sagara had taken their side.
It would have been a perfect moment, if they’d all been here.
Pakkun stretched, scratched one floppy ear, and, almost as if he’d heard the thought, asked, “So, is your exploding girl on a solo or something? I wanted to meet her.”
Kakashi’s chakra, relaxedly half-open, snapped closed. Ryouma’s restless hands went still.
“She was re-assigned,” Raidou said, and wondered why Pakkun didn’t already know that. Didn’t Kakashi talk to his summons?
“She left,” Kakashi said, with an acid bite.
Pakkun blinked at his summoner, opened his mouth, closed it. Kin’s ears lowered.
Genma said quietly, “She didn’t have a choice. And it’s a good assignment for her.”
“She had a choice,” Kakashi said. “She chose to go.”
He’d burned the letter Katsuko had given him. Raidou wondered, not for the first time, what it had said.
“For her brother,” Raidou said. “For all her family, but especially her brother. Would you have asked her to stay?”
Kakashi scowled. “He was an adult, and a civilian—”
“He was losing his sight,” Raidou said. “He was an artist; that’s his livelihood. He asked Katsuko to go, for his sake, to fix her relationship with their family. Even if you put that aside, it is a good career move, it was at the Hokage’s request, and it gets her away from Kuroda.”
Kakashi’s voice was colorless. “She didn’t say.”
Ryouma asked quietly, “Has she written to you?”
“No. I’ve sent a letter, but I don’t expect a response,” Raidou said. “She’ll have her hands full with her jounin squad and her parents, and whatever Iwa’s getting up with.” He smiled, felt it pull a little sideways. “Besides, it’s Katsuko — staying in touch is not her best skill.”
Genma said, “It’s probably a sign things are going well, since we haven’t heard anything about squads getting sent to Iwa. But I could ask around. Aoba’s in Intel, and Ginta tends to know a lot of things he has no business knowing.”
Raidou’s complete lack of surprise about the things Ginta knew could have been measured in acres.
Ryouma had fallen silent again, one hand curled over his healed knee, the other resting on Pakkun’s narrow back. His eyes were doubtful.
“What’re you thinking, Tousaki?” Raidou asked.
Ryouma flinched, just a little, at being directly addressed. He hitched one shoulder, not quite looking at anyone. “Just that if she wanted us to know, she’d find a way to tell us. It’s been more than a month, and she knows where we are.” He ran his palm down Pakkun’s spine. “She’s been gone longer than she was here.”
Meaning: perhaps she’d already moved on.
Pakkun blew out a long breath and propped his head on Ryouma’s thigh. “It’s not the time, kid,” he said, gruffly kind. “It’s what you do with it. War ended five years ago; we’re still feeling it.”
Wordlessly, Genma reached out and touched Ryouma’s shoulder. Ryouma sighed and, for a moment, leaned into the lieutenant — finally accepting comfort instead of shrugging it off. He said, “We killed monsters and people and beat each other up a lot. But she left before she got to hug the lieutenant.”