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The Last of the Wine [Dec. 16th, 2017|07:50 pm]

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[Begins the evening of July 6, Yondaime Year 5, immediately after the end of Lost in the Dark and Trapped in Wonderland]

The tanuki refused to let Ryouma up. They crouched on his shoulders and weighed down his thighs, claws biting into his arms, tangling in his hair. He couldn't see; he could barely breathe. The wild, foxy musk of tanuki burned in his sinuses.

They were going through the packs.

One of them had opened Kakashi's trap-keyed scrolls with no more reaction than a cough at the released smoke. They bickered in low voices over the contents, shaking out pouches of shuriken, sniffing suspiciously at rat bars. "Poison," one decided. "Here, Daichi, you try—"

Daichi snapped. The first tanuki squealed. "Settle down," the biggest tanuki rumbled. "What have you found?"

The furry tide shifted. )
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Blood in the Shadows [Sep. 4th, 2017|04:07 pm]

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[Begins July 4, Yondaime Year 5, immediately after the end of Fire in the Mountains]

They left Hiraizumi before the festival ended. Kurenai spun a little bit of her magic with the innkeeper, allying any suspicion. (“We’ll be gone before dawn, to make good time on the road. Don’t trouble yourself with breakfast on our account.”) The kindly innkeeper had filled her hands with wrapped onigiri for the journey.

Ka-chan led them to the cut-short trail, but it was Kakashi, pinch-eyed and frustrated in the moonlight, who showed them the lack of footprints, or disturbed foliage, or any other trail sign.

Except for the scent Raidou couldn’t detect, and the collective cold prickle on their skin, there was nothing to say anything had been here. The forest was alive with night-song: the chirping insects and whooping snow-monkeys were downright raucous. Hayama, infested with scorpion-dog demons, had been deadly silent.

Genma crouched and swept his chakra out like a scythe. Kurenai, more delicately, did the same. Ryouma bent his dark head over the exact point the scent-trail ended, having Kakashi repeat a blow-by-blow account of what he’d sensed and when he’d sensed it.

Emphatically not a chakra-sensor, Raidou hung back and kept an eye on the surroundings, guarding his people while they sank through the world’s skin.

No one turned up anything new.

The next step was to run an organized grid-search around the village. Twice, Genma, Kurenai, and Kakashi swore they felt something, and Ryouma rousted what turned out to be a very surprised — and very annoyed — badger, but there were no more scent-trails.

More disturbingly, when they returned to the original spot, Kakashi reported the scent was gone. )
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Fire in the Mountains [Aug. 28th, 2017|09:57 pm]

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[Begins June 28, Yondaime year 5, three days after Hard Came the Rain]

Kurenai found Yamashiro Aoba in the Fire Country division office breakroom, stirring the third sugar packet into his paper cup of coffee and looking like microwaved death. She cleared her throat. "Have you been home in the last forty-eight hours?"

He startled, saw her, and slumped against cabinets. "Don't tell me you're here with a mission."

"Not for you." She tapped the heavy file folder tucked in her arm. "We've got a briefing scheduled for an ANBU team, but no one's seen them at HQ or the barracks. Shiranui's file says he lives with you."

A little light crept back into Aoba's eyes. "As long as I'm not going with them." He discarded the stir stick and took a long swig of coffee. "Genma finally found a new place. He's probably there working on his plumbing."

"That may be the first time you've used that word without intending a euphemism," Kurenai observed. "Do you know where the new place is?"

Aoba's eyes narrowed. "Are you doing the briefing?"

"Since Riei's busy." Shirotani seemed to have fixed on Kurenai as the ANBU Team Six expert, and Tomo and Hide were glad to dodge the duty again. Kurenai hadn't protested. She didn't exactly mind being the ANBU Team Six expert, especially if it got her out of the office early on a glorious summer evening. )
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Light Me Up [Apr. 8th, 2017|07:02 pm]

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[Takes place June 24, Yondaime Year 5, seven days after The Sharpest Lives]

On Ryouma's third day back in Konoha, the Water Country Intel division finally let him go.

They'd released him at intervals before, to shower and sleep, or to cram down a hasty meal in Intel HQ's cafeteria, which had better food but much more dour company than ANBU's. Everyone seemed short on sleep and on temper, and as soon as he finished a six-hour stint answering one analyst's questions, another with a grey uniform and a clipboard took her place.

He saw Kurenai a few times, across the cafeteria. Satomi slipped into his cramped little briefing room once to hand the debriefing officer a stack of folders three inches tall. The rest of Teams Six and Thirteen were conducting their own debriefings somewhere, or more likely ensconced in their offices or hospital rooms creating those mountains of paperwork, but he never saw them.

There were disadvantages after all, he decided, to only being able to give his mission reports by dictation.

Eventually, though, someone decided that his seventh account of the Water Country landscape and the Kirigakure sewer system filled the holes in the first six. They released him into a clear summer evening, the sun sinking towards the Monument, the dusty streets golden in its light.

He stood outside the doorway, watching people hurrying home: a trio of genin fresh off their first mission-debriefing, with their sensei lounging behind; a pair of tired analysts, deciding on a restaurant; a tall young man in T&I's long black coat. No one he recognized.

The inside of his skin itched. )
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Soldiers Don't Mourn [Feb. 26th, 2017|12:09 pm]

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[June 16, Yondaime Year 5, following Red Seas at Dawn]

Team Six picked their way down the densely vegetated slope, halting at the treeline on Raidou’s signal. At the surf’s edge, a knot of figures clustered around the husk-like bowls of a pair of ship’s boats. One or two cigarette tips flared in the darkness. Genma threaded a slip of chakra out, then nodded. “They’re civilians. Feels like the same crew who got us out here, but it’s harder to identify individuals with such low chakra reserves.”

Kakashi lifted his head and inhaled audibly. “They smell the same,” he pronounced. “More stressed than last time.”

The tone in Raidou’s voice shaded from skepticism to alarm. “You can smell stress?”

“From here?” demanded Ryouma.

“It’s a very distinctive smell,” Kakashi said with a shrug.

Of course it was. )
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Red Seas at Dawn [Feb. 7th, 2017|09:27 pm]

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[June 15, Yondaime Year 5, following Soldiers Take Flight]

A knife-chill breeze whistled off the sea as Raidou helped Kimiko down from her harness. She stumbled a little in the dry sand, stiff-legged, but veered away from Genma's supportive hand. Genma stood still for a moment, and then dropped it.

Ryouma's help wouldn't be welcome there, either. He followed Genma to the water's edge. "More swimming?"

Genma's gaze sought the distance. "You can't see our landing point because of the fog, but it's about as far as we swam to get on this island." He pointed to a thick bank of golden haze, and yawned.

The contagion spread; Ryouma's own jaw cracked. Soldier-pill energy still hummed in his veins, quickening his heartbeat like the fourth cup of coffee, but it was a poor substitute for sleep. He crouched on his heels to splash his wrists in the uprush of a broken wave. Cold water, gritty with sand, swirled over his skin.

He looked up at Genma. "How're you doing, lieutenant?"

For a moment he wasn't sure Genma would answer. )
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Soldiers Take Flight [Jan. 15th, 2017|03:56 pm]

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[Early morning hours of June 15, Yondaime Year 5, following Red Sky at Night]

Before the sound of the first explosion had died, a second shook the air, raining dust down on them from the tenement’s swaying beams. The baby’s sudden cries were muffled against Kakashi’s chest. Kimiko jerked against the straps of her sling.

“Go!” Raidou hissed.

“With me,” Genma told Fukuda. “Tousaki, you take our six.”

They emerged from the door to the wail of sirens, but a surprisingly empty street. Lights shone behind previously dark windows, but their doors were still firmly shut. A civilian populace in fear for their lives, Genma guessed.

They ran east, sticking to the darkest corners and crevices, emerging into a dank court of even more ramshackle tenements than the one where they’d found Kimiko. Sirens continued to wail, and searchlights flared to life, playing over the faces of the steep ring of mountains surrounding Kirigakure. Clouds of dust and smoke rose where the blasts had shattered whole sections of stone and set trees ablaze.

Genma gestured to the others to stay hidden )
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Red Sky at Night [Dec. 31st, 2016|06:41 pm]

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[Afternoon of June 14, Yondaime Year 5, following Soldiers Take Warning]

The rest of the morning passed uneventfully, except for Kasumi kicking Usagi in her sleep, and Kuroda scaring them all — by looking dead — until Genma pointed out that the Vice-commander was known for sleeping with his eyes open.

As planned, they struck out for the surface just before midday. Raidou kept an eye on Genma, who kept an eye on Kuroda. Sleep had done them both good: there was color in Genma’s face again, and Kuroda moved with reasonable ease despite his sling.

As before, Fukuda took point. This time flanked by Kakashi and Satomi, with Kurenai close behind to buffer the three razor personalities as needed. It didn’t escape Raidou that Team Thirteen’s commanding officers were sticking a lot closer to their rookies. Or that Ryouma was shadowing Genma’s footsteps and carefully giving Kakashi space.

Raidou trusted that time and distraction would settle them all back down.

The first breath of outside air was sticky, humid, and smelled like wet dirt. )
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Soldiers Take Warning [Nov. 29th, 2016|06:05 pm]

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[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. )
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Red Sky at Morning [Nov. 16th, 2016|05:34 pm]

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[Takes place the morning of June 10, Yondaime Year 5, three weeks following Laws of Gravity and just over a month after Salt the Earth]
WARNING FOR ANIMAL DEATH in the first two tags]

Training field three looked, and smelled, like a battlefield. Genma nudged Ryouma with his shoulder, nodding at the blood-spattered grass. “So far it’s messier than your jutsu, but at least it reeks less.”

“I’m pretty sure I can do explosive rot if you want it, Lieutenant,” Ryouma offered mildly.

“I know. That’s why we started with sardines when you and I worked on wound sealing.”

Kakashi, dripping in blood from head to toe, took a few steps out of the blast radius while a pair of chuunin brought a fresh victim to the field and secured its lead to a stout iron post. The pig, staked well upwind of the carnage, didn’t seem to be bothered by the gory remains of its predecessor. It looked around with mild interest as one of the chuunin put a bucket of feed in front of it, then began contentedly munching away.

Otani Yaeko, an observer from the Jutsu Records Office, tapped her clipboard. “How close was that attempt to Iebara’s jutsu?”

“It looks a lot like what was left of Iebara after Hatake was finished with him,” Genma said, “but nothing like the stuff Iebara himself did.”

Otani nodded and jotted down a note before she called, “Hatake-san, are you ready to try it again?”

Kakashi flicked an acknowledging salute, then turned to focus intently on the pig with both eyes. At the distance from which they were observing it was impossible to make out the pinwheels in Kakashi’s transplanted Sharingan, but they were doubtless spinning fast. He nodded at one of the chuunin; black steel flashed in her hand. )
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Laws of Gravity [Aug. 1st, 2016|06:48 pm]

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[Takes place the afternoon of May 20, Yondaime Year 5, following Worth the Pain and The End Is Where We Begin]

The ward was quiet after Ryouma fell asleep.

Unobserved, Kakashi took the shameless opportunity to study him. On missions, Ryouma always made a point of turning his back on the team and shrugging his blankets up, hiding his face. That probably had something to do with his grandfather, Kakashi thought darkly.

Right now the sheets only came up to Ryouma’s chest. The low, v-shaped neckline of his hospital gown was pulled askew, showing a slice of collarbone. If Kakashi leaned close enough, he’d be able to see Ryouma’s carotid pulse beating.

Since he was supposed to be guarding, not identifying target points, he stayed where he was and looked at Ryouma’s face. It was strange to see it unanimated. Without humor or tension lending their edges, Ryouma looked both younger than he was, and older than he should have. Faint lines had already started to etch the corners of his eyes, and there were shadows that ran deeper than just a few nights’ missed sleep. A couple more years and he’d probably have some silver hair of his own.

Kakashi tilted his head and tried to picture Ryouma ten years younger. The sharp jawline would have been shallower, the cheekbones less defined, the straight-bladed edge of his nose might not have had that broken dip in the bridge. He was a handsome man now; he would have been a beautiful child. And smart enough to create his own jutsu a few years later. Exactly the kind of boy who’d make his family proud.

Except the only family Ryouma had ever mentioned was a mother who’d died, and the grandfather who’d taken him afterwards, now also dead.

He had me for three years.

Where had the father been? Where had Konoha been? Young shinobi were a precious resource. Who’d let Ryouma vanish halfway through a war with a drunken, bone-breaking bastard?

And after everything, Ryouma had limped back to Konoha and signed up to protect it. Probably for the same reason he wore an extra dogtag around his throat, separate on its own chain: it was the closest he could get to home.

Kakashi could see the edge of that tag now, tucked beneath Ryouma’s gown. He’d glimpsed the name on it — Tousaki Miyako — before and assumed it was a mother, sister, or wife. Ryouma was only twenty, but that was still old enough to be a widower. Now, though, he had a better idea.

Very gently, Kakashi slipped a finger under the chain and tugged until the old, scarred tag came into sight. )
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The End Is Where We Begin [Jul. 12th, 2016|06:57 pm]

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[Takes place the morning of May 20, Yondaime Year 5, an hour or so after When the Last Roll Is Called and parallel to Worth the Pain]

Talking with Katsuko took half an hour, but the aftermath involved the head of ANBU herself, followed by paperwork and a meeting with Kuroda. And that took until nearly 1500.

As soon as he was alone in Team Six’s office, Genma took a sealed equipment scroll from his locker and keyed in the simple chakra sequence to release it. A tightly rolled t-shirt and faded pair of jeans appeared in a puff of orangish smoke, and dropped to his desk. The socks and underwear furled inside weren’t really necessary, but spare civvies were spare civvies, and he was eager to be out of his funeral uniform.

After he’d changed, Genma locked the new paperwork away and took out the folder with his copy of Team Six’s personnel files. He’d just opened Raidou’s profile to look for a home address when there was a polite knock on the office door. )
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Worth the Pain [Jul. 8th, 2016|07:54 pm]

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[Takes place the morning of May 20, Yondaime Year 5, an hour or so after When the Last Roll Is Called]

For the first fifty kilometers of the run to Shirakawa, Kakashi and Ryouma didn't talk.

It wasn't exactly a race, like the first few times they'd competed on mission marches. They knew each other's paces by now: Kakashi's eye-blurring turn of speed, Ryouma's staying power. Kakashi set a pace at the very edge of Ryouma's limits, and didn't push it. Ryouma focused on the burn in his lungs, the dull ache in his knee, the perfection of his body moving exactly as he meant it to, and refused to let himself think: This might be the last time I run.

Three kilometers outside Shirakawa, with the thickly wooded hills giving way to gentle meadows and farmers' hamlets, and the town's smoke smudging the horizon, Kakashi said, "Niimi-sensei does good work."

Kakashi was looking at the dusty snake of a road curving up southwest from Tanazaku to Shirakawa, not at Ryouma. He said, "I asked Rin."

"I wasn't thinking about it," Ryouma lied.

Kakashi let the silence wash back. Perhaps, for once, he didn't feel the need to point out that Ryouma wasn't fooling anyone. )
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Soldier On [May. 27th, 2016|08:52 pm]

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[Takes place May 17, two days after Hold the Line, three days before the funeral in When the Last Roll is Called]

Kurenai received her orders at family dinner, which was not unusual. Her grandmother, the esteemed matriarch of the Yuuhi clan, had dismissed the youngest grandchildren to play quietly in the garden; one of her aunts was serving tea, while a teenage cousin handed around plates of sweets. Kurenai shared her plate with her little sisters, Akane and Kaede, and hoped the clan council wouldn't take long. Her feet were beginning to fall asleep.

An elderly uncle droned through household accounts. An aunt presented her petition for increasing the amount deducted from the pay of active duty Yuuhi ninja for clan maintenance, and was shouted down by three cousins, all chuunin. Kurenai's grandmother sipped her tea and frowned down the long hall, and the quarreling cousins quieted.

"The new tatami mats for the family shrine can wait," Yuuhi Benihime decided. Her voice was a mild, age-roughened alto; Kurenai had never known her to raise it. She never had to. "The roof repairs are more pressing. See to it, Masaru. Kurenai-chan, do you have a mission this week?"

Kurenai started. "No, grandmother. My current assignment at HQ will last for another three or four months before I rotate into the field again."

Benihime nodded briskly. "Then speak to your team leader for me. I require your presence at 0900 for—oh, two or three hours, every day for the next two weeks."

Fifteen-year-old Akane made a soft little Oooh sound under her breath. "Think it's marriage meetings?"

Kurenai pinched her. "Is this a family matter?" she asked, over Akane's indignant squeak. "We're shorthanded at the moment, in the wake of what happened in the capital—I don't know if I can be spared—"

"I've taken this case on special request from Shibata Tomohiro," Benihime said. "I'm sure he won't object to my requisitioning an assistant. And you happen to be my only grandchild with S-level security clearance." She sipped her tea with satisfaction. "I'll see you at my work room tomorrow morning. Now, Kaede-chan, what's this I hear about your aunt Madoka spotting you with an Uchiha boy?"

On Kurenai's other side, seventeen-year-old Kaede went crimson with mortification. Akane perked up gleefully. Kurenai sighed, and passed Kaede the mochi.  )
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A Loser's Just a Learner on His Way to Better Things [Feb. 26th, 2016|07:09 pm]

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[Takes place on May 16, Yondaime Year 5, immediately after All This And Heaven Too]

By the time the team had finished their ramen Kakashi was head-nodding, and Genma was gulping cold tea in a desperate attempt to get more caffeine into his body. He stretched and rubbed his eyes, then dug out his wallet. “Alright, I’ve got this,” he told them, eying the stack of bowls to estimate how much this was going to set him back. Ryouma had cleared his down to a few spoonfuls of broth; Genma’d made it partway through a second bowl before the ravenous hunger he always had after chakra healing had given way to fatigue; Kakashi might have finished a whole bowl if he’d been able to stay awake for it; and Katsuko was scraping the bottom of her third bowl and eying Genma’s and Kakashi’s unfinished portions.

“Ueno, you can finish mine. And then do you think you could get Hatake back to the Palace? I think he’s still staying there.”

Katsuko lunged across the counter to take Genma’s bowl like a tiger dragging off her prey. “I will carry his royalness home,” she said around a fresh mouthful of soup.

Kakashi blinked awake with the carefully hidden panic of a student caught sleeping in class. "What? I don't need an escort.” As he woke more completely, ruffled irritation crept into his tone. “I thought you wanted help with your thing.”

“I do,” Genma said. “We do, but—” He yawned only partly for effect. “But not today. Tomorrow will be better. I’m wiped out after that healing session.”

Ryouma turned to look at Genma, concern creasing between his brows. “You need to get back home?”

“I should probably grab a nap,” Genma agreed, counting out bills and coins to pay for their lunch. “But if you come with me to my dad’s place first, I’ve got a bunch of study materials I can give you. Anatomy charts and stuff.”

Kakashi eyed them narrowly, clearly dubious about Genma’s excuse.

Katsuko slurped a noisy mouthful of noodles and gave Kakashi a wounded look. “What, you don’t like my company?”

“Consider it the last stage of the bodyguarding mission,” Genma said, pushing to his feet with the help of his cane. “You can guard each other against kidnap and demons and whatever other dangers the road to the Palace may hold. I’ll take Tousaki with me on some civilian recon.” )
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Break it Down by the Numbers [Sep. 30th, 2015|06:24 pm]

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[Takes place in the afternoon on May 15, Yondaime Year 5, immediately after Hold the Line]

Thank all the gods, the wait for answers about Team Six was finally over. Mostly. As Genma crutched his way back from lunch with Raidou to the elevator at the base of the Hokage Monument, he formulated a plan: he’d finish up those performance evals, summon the team, explain the situation with Raidou and their incoming-but-unknown temporary substitute captain, and then he’d have his performance meetings with everyone. Ryouma last, since he’d have to read Ryouma’s to him.

That was probably going to be awkward.

And then he’d find Asuma and see how apartment hunting had gone, and they were going to have drinks. As many drinks as it took to unknot his shoulders. Which, given he was still on painkillers was probably going to be one, maybe one and a half... Daruma himself would have had his patience tried by the week Genma’d had.

That thought detoured Genma into a shop on the hill leading to the monument, where he bought a small paper-maché Daruma to take back to the office. He mentally added, ‘go to the temple and make a gratitude offering for Raidou’s good news’ to his list of things to do before he called the day done.

First thing, when he got to ANBU HQ, was arranging for messengers to each of his team members, calling them to a meeting at 1500. )
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Follow My Lead [Aug. 12th, 2015|07:45 pm]

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[Takes place the morning of May 15, Yondaime Year 5, a day following Bottle of Smoke and a few hours after Devil’s Got My Secrets]

Genma woke with the sun slanting across the foot of the bed, which in the north-facing bedroom meant he’d slept four hours later than usual. A glance at the clock proved it: nearly half past eight. Asuma had rolled away in his sleep, presenting broad, bare shoulders, rising and falling with the steady rhythm of deep sleep. Genma studied the scar he’d run his fingers over the night before. It was clean-edged and well-healed — the mark of a bladed cut that someone had tended to while it was still fresh. He wondered which of the Guardian Twelve had been proficient at healing jutsu. Was it one who’d died a traitor, or one who’d stayed loyal to his vows and his Daimyou?

It shouldn’t matter. It didn’t matter. Far more important was the question of what sword Asuma had blocked. In the year and a quarter since Asuma had left to serve in Hikouto, how many threats to the Daimyou’s life had come and gone? What missions had Konoha taken on as a result of those threats?

In the morning light, Genma’s problems should have paled. They were minor compared to the nightmare Asuma had lived through. But the attack on the Fire Daimyou, the dissolution of the Guardian Twelve, Team Six’s mission against the Tsuto family, and Raidou’s uncertain future were inextricably linked. You could no more separate the eggs back out of a baked cake.

He sighed, ruffling the hair that had fallen into his eyes. )
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Comfort Trap [May. 24th, 2015|07:40 pm]

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[Takes place the afternoon of May 14, Yondaime Year 5, the day after Trouble Round My Door]

On Saturday afternoon, Ogata-san didn't come to pick Naruto up from preschool.

Dad came instead. Naruto knew it from the moment he squeezed past Shikamaru out the door and saw most of the moms and nannies bunched up in a cluster at the play-yard fence, like pigeons on a roofline with a cat at the other end. Only Dad wasn't going to eat them.

He was just standing at the gate, chatting to Shikamaru's mom and Kiba's uncle, and he wasn't even wearing his white Hokage coat. He had jounin blues and a flak vest, just like Kiba's uncle. Nobody was going to mistake him for Kiba's uncle, though. He didn't have the tattoos, or the big brindled dog looking over the fence and perking up her ears when she saw Kiba come shrieking.

Since Kiba was shrieking, and trying to scramble over the fence and launch himself at the dog, Naruto tried sneaking. Dad was right in front of the gate, but there was a loose board on the side yard that Shikamaru and Naruto had made looser and none of the sensei had found yet. Naruto went that way. He had to wriggle, and he scraped his hand and tore his shirt but only a little. Kiba was still yelling when Naruto stood up.

Dad had stepped aside from the fence, so the more nervous nannies could scrunch past and collect their children.  )
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One Of My Kind [Feb. 20th, 2015|10:19 pm]

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[Takes place May 13, Yondaime Year 5, a few hours after Trouble Round My Door]

It took real effort to sleep in when Katsuko had been trained her entire life to rise with the dawn. Because she was an elite shinobi who laughed in the face of impossible challenge, she pulled the pillow over her head and determinedly stayed unconscious for the entire morning. The sun was at its zenith when she finally dragged herself out of her apartment and up to HQ. Sleep still clung to the corners of her vision, making her trek to Team Six's office as wobbly and treacherous as a ship at sea.

Ryouma's chakra was a warm, welcome presence on the other side of the office door. Katsuko rubbed at her eyes and pushed the door open. The first thing she saw was Raidou’s empty desk. Her eyes immediately skittered away. Something sharp curled up underneath her ribcage.

Then the scent of mildew and dried blood hit her in the face. Katsuko made an inarticulate squawk of protest and clapped her hand over her nose and mouth. The door swung shut behind her with an offended bang. "Ryouma," she spluttered. "Why?"

Ryouma blinked and looked up from where he was seated on the floor. He looked recently showered and far too awake for Katsuko’s liking. The tight band t-shirt and jeans he was wearing, however, did incline her a little more towards forgiveness. Team Six's ruined uniforms were piled in front of him like souvenirs of slaughter. )
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Trouble Round My Door [Feb. 6th, 2015|10:24 pm]

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[Takes place the morning of May 13, Yondaime Year 5, two days after Sound the Bells and one day after When Your World Starts Crashing Down and Pour Me Something Stronger]

Team Lead Shirotani blew into the Fire Country division office like the cold north wind, strewing paperwork and assignments in his wake. "Pre-mission briefing in 20 minutes in room H70. Hiyashi, I want you on it. Yamanaka, do you have that report yet?"

"On your desk, Shirotani-kakarichou." Yamanaka Susuki never looked up from her typewriter, manicured fingers rattling across the keys.

"Well done." Shirotani paused briefly by his desk, to set his coffee down on top of a teetering stack of paperwork and pick up another file. "Who's got this morning free?"

Kurenai exchanged wary glances with Tomo and Hide, across the aisle. "Why do you ask?"

"I'll catch you out one of these days, Yuuhi," Shirotani sighed. He held the file up. 'I got word this morning that Hatake Kakashi's been cleared for debriefing. Volunteers? Victims?' )
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