April 19, Yondaime Year 5
As soon as Raidou had dismissed them, Kakashi was gone. Off to plot a way around the ‘no team switching’ policy, Genma guessed. Ryouma and Katsuko took a moment longer, but the unholy alliance Raidou had predicted seemed to be forming already, as Katsuko promised Ryouma a tour of the cafeteria and introductions to the servers most easily charmed into doling out an extra portion or three, and who was likely to have ‘secret pie’ available for a winning smile.
When the door had shut, Raidou made a beeline for the couch, collapsing onto the creased and faded leather with a sigh. “That went well,” he said, in a tone that suggested he wasn’t sure he believed himself.
Genma shrugged and dropped onto the sofa at the opposite end from Raidou. Dry springs deep in the frame whined. “You were expecting something different?”
“Honestly?” Raidou glanced at Genma sidelong, then let his head loll back and draped an arm over his eyes. “I was kind of surprised they didn’t just laugh me out of the room.”
Genma raised an eyebrow. “Seriously?” he asked. “That’s what seemed off to you? I was going to go with Kakashi passing out on Nanami, the cricoid bruise he gave me when he came to, or maybe his complete lack of anything resembling social skills. But you? You were great.”
Raidou lifted his elbow just enough to expose one brown eye. “Cricoid?”
“Throat cartilage.” Genma raised his chin and tapped the tender spot below his Adam’s apple—Kakashi had definitely left a bruise.
Raidou uncovered his eyes altogether and sat up, leaning across to very carefully touch his fingertips to Genma’s throat. “Lucky he didn’t grab harder. You need arnica for this?”
“Probably,” Genma said. He got up and went to his cabinet to get the bruise cream from his med kit.
“I should’ve put that in the rules,” Raidou said. “‘Don’t choke out your team medic, dumbass’.”
Genma chuckled. “That’s a good one. I like the ‘dumbass’ part.” He sat back down, detached his gloves from their sleeves at the wrist, and tugged the stretchy fabric of his uniform away from his neck to smear the astringent-smelling paste over the bruise. “How’s it look?” he asked, turning his head to show Raidou. “Anything visible yet?”
“Couple of fingerprints, maybe,” Raidou said, squinting critically. “We can get you a scarf, if you want. New fashion trend for April.”
“Eh.” Genma eased the turtleneck down, rubbed his fingers dry on the back of his hand, and recapped the arnica tube. “I’m more of a ‘let the bruises show’ kind of dresser. When I’m not in uniform.”
“Or that,” Raidou said, looking amused. “So how do you think it went, fainting and throttling aside?”
“Well.” Genma stretched his legs out in front of him and leaned back. “Actually. It could have been worse. Ueno was wildly inappropriate, but she reined it in when we called her on it. Tousaki didn’t commit justifiable assault despite being clearly provoked, and Kakashi, for all he’s a complete ass, didn’t outright refuse to take orders. And both Tousaki and Kakashi were pretty heavily stressed, given the last several days. All of us have been when you consider the situation at Trials and the current threat level the village is under. So…” He spread his hands. “Well. It went well.”
“Hooray, mediocre success is ours,” Raidou drawled, waving one hand in a half-hearted celebration. “Actually, I think you’re right on every count. Did I say thank you for being on top of things? Because thank you. You are my favorite lieutenant.”
“I’m your only lieutenant,” Genma said, trying to hide his pleasure.
“Still counts,” Raidou insisted.
“Hajime and Gojo get the credit. Stepping into Gojo’s shoes as lieutenant when she got hurt was good training.”
“You only served as replacement for three months, right?” Raidou asked.
“The higher-ups did well making it permanent.”
Genma rubbed the back of his neck, unprepared for the compliment. “Thanks.” It had been a lot of work getting organized, actually: he was glad it had paid off. His filing cabinet, after five solid hours, was a thing of beauty. The case of rat-bars under his desk was a trick he’d stolen from Gojo, who’d always had a box of her own personal favorite flavor available for anyone who was hungry.
“I meant it when I said I thought you were great, you know,” he said. “Your whole talk about boundaries… I’m guessing that’s one Ueno has heard before?” It was as soft a lead in as Genma could come up with for the question that had been burning at the back of his mind ever since Tousaki and Raidou had exchanged those oh-so-telling smiles when Raidou mentioned the no-fraternization policy.
“Many times,” Raidou answered, with a fondly exasperated head shake. “I figure if I repeat it enough, she’ll learn it by rote.”
“Looked to me like Kakashi could use to have listened to it, too. He was way over the line with Tousaki.” A second, more topical question presented itself, one that was maybe related to the first. “Why’d you let him run with it for so long? Wanted to see how Tousaki would handle himself when pushed?”
Raidou winced. “Partially. Wanted to see if Hatake would get the clue and rein himself in, too—which, obviously, no. But I kind of wanted to hear the answers myself. I’ll crush it faster next time.”
“It was interesting to see how Tousaki handled it,” Genma said. “If you’re going to survive as a functionally illiterate jounin, you’d better have a pretty broad set of coping mechanisms.”
He grabbed a senbon and stuck it between his teeth, clamping the slim metal needle between his molars. It clicked against his false lower bicuspid, rattling into the tiny grove in the implanted tooth where years of chewing senbon just like it had worn away some of the ceramic.
Pussyfooting around the issue wasn’t going to get him anywhere. Better to just out with it. Raidou seemed like a straight-forward kind of guy, at least so far. “Is there, uh… any other reason you might have let that drag out?” he asked. “You and Tousaki were both mighty relieved looking about that no-canoodling-your-superior-officer rule.”
Raidou’s head snapped up. He stared at Genma for a second, expressionless, and then visibly gave it up, cracking a crooked smile. “I was hoping you’d missed that.”
A double punch of relief that Raidou hadn’t busted him for overstepping, and sympathy for a guy in an awkward situation made Genma smile back. “I, uh. Yeah. I don’t need details or anything, but… One-night stand, or bitter exes? Or amicable exes?”
Raidou looked across the room, gaze fixed on the clean chalkboard, and didn’t answer immediately. The longer the silence dragged out, the more Genma second-guessed himself for having asked. But then, “Leaning more towards the first.”
“The higher-ups are aware of the potential conflict,” Raidou continued. “After today, I don’t anticipate it being an issue.”
“Sounds good,” Genma said. “I’ll forget we ever discussed it.”
“Discussed what?” Raidou asked, dry, but with half a smile.
“I have no idea,” Genma said. “Let’s see, what else? I was surprised Tousaki already had experience with soldier pills. I guess it makes sense—his jutsu are chakra-intensive—but he seemed pretty cavalier about it. He strikes me as the kind of guy who doesn’t take a warning seriously until he’s already dealing with the consequences.”
Raidou rubbed his face thoughtfully, rasping fingerless gloves over the faint stubble on his chin. “That’s probably more accurate than I’d like,” he said. “Y’know, the thing that surprised me was that Hatake wasn’t more interested. Chakra drain is supposed to be his issue.”
“Yeah, I wondered about that, too,” Genma said. “He seemed to be doing his level best to act like there was nothing new under the sun, though. We’ll see if he comes asking for them once we’re running missions. Or more likely, uses them without telling anyone.” He could just imagine how that would play out in the field.
“Oh god,” Raidou said, lying back at an angle across the couch. “‘Sorry about your student, Hokage-sama. We had to bring him back in a jar because he doesn’t know how to use words.’”
“Hah,” Genma said, envisioning a thousand different ways he and Raidou might have to explain Kakashi’s death to the Hokage. “All kidding aside, maybe we’d be better off if they did let him switch to someone else’s team. He’s certainly going to try.”
“And put him where?” Raidou asked.
“In a special squad of one? Although I’m pretty sure giving a spoiled kid the thing he wants isn’t actually good for him.” Genma shrugged. “Maybe your early morning training sessions will knock the chip off his shoulder.”
“Or they’ll make him extra pissy,” Raidou said. He covered his eyes with his arm again, looking weary. “Either way, fun times.”
“Hey, it could be worse,” Genma said. “He’s just one guy, and he’s one of us. Like it or not, he’ll get that eventually. Once we start running missions, I bet he’ll shape up. He was sharp as a new kunai in the field when that shit was going down with Akiyama.”
Raidou’s arm lifted just enough to reveal one shaded eye. “Did I just earn a pep talk?”
“Maybe,” Genma allowed. “I’m pretty sure that’s one of my responsibilities as your lieutenant.”
“Don’t let me stop you,” Raidou said, sounding amused. He let his arm fall back, and gestured vaguely with his other hand in a ‘go on’ motion. “What else is shiny?”
“Let’s see,” Genma said, looking around the room. “On behalf of your and my asses, I got us practically new office chairs. I switched them with a couple from the conference room next to the exploding-seal lab that no one uses.”
“Our asses surely thank you,” Raidou said dryly.
“We’re scheduled for Wall duty tomorrow evening,” Genma went on, even though standing watch over Konoha’s gates could hardly be called shiny. “Assuming it’s another night of watching nothing happen, Tousaki’s hand shouldn’t be an issue.”
And if something did happen, Tousaki would have to help defend the walls, injury or no. Even a one-handed ninja could run messages and tend to the wounded. But despite the heightened tension and massively increased patrols, there was still no sign of Orochimaru, or any other significant threat to Konohagakure.
Raidou nodded from under his arm. “I’m subbing in as a general hitter for Sumeragi’s team tonight. Nakamura’s down with food poisoning or flu, or something. I think it’s just a patrol, though. Nothing too heavy. What about you? The schedule keeps changing faster than I can keep up with it.”
“No kidding,” Genma said, “Yesterday I thought I was supposed to fill out Morioka’s roster again this afternoon, but I saw Nara-san this morning, and he said I was assigned with him for a night patrol.” He looked over at Raidou. “Did they even bother to clear it with you before they yanked me on for that? I may have a conflict with being at an 0500 training if I’m still out with Nara.”
“I’m sure there’s a memo somewhere with my name on it,” Raidou said. He hauled himself back upright with a tired yawn.
Contagious. Genma yawned, too. No one in ANBU had gotten a decent night’s sleep since the incident at the Trials—and the Trials hadn’t exactly been a cakewalk.
“Thanks for that,” Genma said, when he could close his mouth again.
“You’re welcome. I’ll be back around 0200 if it’s uneventful,” Raidou said. “I’ll run training without you if I have to, but get there if you can.”
“I think I’ll be getting back about exactly 0500,” Genma said. “Good thing you suggested the rookies bribe us with coffee.”
“Yeah, I’m not holding out hope,” Raidou said, in the tones of a man who planned to bring his own coffee and a lot of it. He glanced at the wall, where a clock should have been. “What time is it?”
Genma pulled a slender pocket watch from his belt. “Just about 1100. Sorry about the clock. Whoever had this office before didn’t leave one. I req’ed a new one.”
Raidou shrugged, evidently unconcerned.
“If you don’t need me for anything else,” Genma said, “I was thinking I might catch a rest.”
“Have at,” Raidou said. He lurched to his feet and stretched, cracking his back. “Couch is all yours. I’m gonna crash on an actual bed.”
“Thanks,” Genma said. “I’m starting to forget couches aren’t real beds. Soon as they stop double-shifting us and I have time to look, I’m finding a new apartment.” He stood up, too, saluting Raidou with a brief tap to his inked shoulder. “Have a good patrol tonight, captain.”
“Safe hunting, lieutenant,” Raidou said, returning the salute.
When Raidou’d gone, Genma unhooked his utility belt and shucked off his armor, hanging it all on the pegs by the door. He lay on his back on the couch, studying the ceiling, ticking things off on his mental list of tasks. Meet the rookies, done. Orient Team Six, done. Debrief with the captain, done. Next up, nap. He yawned again, set the alarm on his pocket watch to wake him in six hours, and closed his eyes.