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Teeth in the Dark[Sep. 18th, 2013|10:14 pm]

[Takes place Yondaime Year 5, April 28, the day after Into the Breach]

Katsuko slept long and deep, and didn’t dream. Her bunshin woke her before dawn, silent sentries in gleaming armor. They faded back to guard the perimeter as Katsuko struggled out of her bedroll.

Genma was already awake and in uniform, poring over the maps by the light of a glowstick. His mask hung at his belt. He glanced at her and nodded, freshly shaven and much more alert than anyone had any right to be at four in the morning. Katsuko gave him a dead-eyed look and a tired attempt at a salute.

Raidou was up and moving, running through kata because both he and the lieutenant were morning people. It was like a disease.

Ryouma, reassuringly, was still asleep, sprawled across his blankets like an ad for skintight tanktops. Katsuko magnanimously decided to leave him be. People who didn’t willingly wake up before the roosters had to stick together.

Kakashi was a blanket-covered lump on the ground. As she watched, he shifted to pull the covers up higher over his head. Conscious, and apparently hating every moment of it. Maybe he and Ryouma could form a club with her, if he and Ryouma didn’t strangle each other first.

“I hate everything,” Katsuko croaked, by way of greeting.

“Exercise will help!” said Raidou, because his soul was one of the things he’d signed away before joining ANBU.

“I’ll help your face,” Katsuko muttered. “Into a tree.”

The extremely offensive level of cheer in Raidou’s voice increased. “That’d count. Five minutes, then I’m turfing everyone out of bed.”

“There’s no light,” Kakashi said. He sounded like Katsuko felt: mutinous, with a side of promised future stabbing.

Genma, because his sense of timing was precise and malicious, chose that moment to enter the conversation. "Since when do ninja need light in order to function? The first kanji in ANBU is ‘darkness’."

Katsuko shuffled over to Ryouma’s sleeping form and crouched down by his head. “Get up,” she said, and poked him in the shoulder. “I need you to help me hide the lieutenant’s body.”

Ryouma twitched and burrowed his head against his arm. His dark lashes fluttered against his cheekbones for an instant before he opened his eyes and looked up at her, blinking. “What—? Wha’ happened to him?”

Katsuko shoved aside admiring his face for later, when there wasn’t something more pressing at hand. “The lieutenant’s fine,” she informed Ryouma. “But he won’t be soon. Because I’m going to to knife him. He’s a morning person.”

“And now he knows your nefarious plans,” Genma said, without looking over from his maps. “He’s also a poisons expert. Want breakfast?”

Before Katsuko could reply to that, Kakashi lifted his head enough to show a sliver of one glaring eye in the shadow of his blankets. “There are three minutes left and you are talking through them.”

“Buttercup!” Katsuko said, brightening. Kakashi’s irritation never failed to put a shine on everything. Even mornings. “Glad you could join us.”

“I need coffee before I deal with any of you,” Ryouma said, with the conviction of a drowning man grasping for the only plank he saw. He scrambled out of his blankets, catching himself on one hand as he got up.

Katsuko debated the merits of standing up and decided that it was better to remain where she was. The world was much more tolerable this close to the ground. Maybe it had something to do with gravity and the inexorable force it exerted on anything with mass, dragging it down. The fact that even magnets could resist gravity was inconsequential; this was where she was meant to be.

An indeterminate amount of time later, familiar footsteps startled her out of her light doze. She blinked and looked up at Raidou, who’d come over with a cup of steaming hot coffee. He put it down on the ground in front her, just out of arm’s reach. “Rise and shine, Ueno. You might get to murder something today.”

So close, yet so far. Katsuko stared at the coffee. Then she stared up at Raidou. “What have I ever done to you?”

"You want that list alphabetically or chronologically?"

Katsuko conceded the point with ill grace and struggled back to consciousness to retrieve her coffee. Then, because she was an adult with adult responsibilities, she stood up and went to wake the last member of her team.

The only visible part of Kakashi was his ruffled grey hair. The rest of him was curled up warm and comfortable under the covers, sleeping while Katsuko suffered in the cold morning air.

“So,” she said, coming to a stop next to his bedroll.

Kakashi didn’t move, but his voice issued out very low and very threatening from the depths of his blankets. “Consider your next move carefully, Ueno.”

Katsuko took a sip of her coffee. “‘Careful’ is my middle name, tulip. You might wanna get up before Namiashi-taichou comes over and starts talking about sleep schedules and punctuality, though. He’s got slides.”

Kakashi reached one hand out from his blankets, laid it deliberately down on the dewy grass next to Katsuko’s bare feet, and electrocuted her. A spark of pain traveled up her spine and locked her muscles for a brief instant; the hairs on her legs and arms tingled. Katsuko hissed in outrage and jumped back. She didn’t let go of her coffee cup, though.

“You giant bag of donkey dicks,” Katsuko said. “Now our hair is going to look the same.”

Kakashi rose in a tide of blankets and wrath and bed hair, leveling a look at Katsuko like he was only barely resisting the urge to beat her to death with her own skeleton. A dark bruise he hadn’t had the day before was barely visible over his mask. He stalked past her, blankets wrapped around his shoulders, and headed in the direction of the stream.

Katsuko stared after Kakashi, took a moment to process the image of him sweeping past like royalty in a blanket-cape, and waited until he was out of earshot to laugh so hard she nearly hurt her jaw.
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