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Hear the Silence

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By the time Kou came back from what must have been his latest mission, kaa-san had brought her out of the Village several more times on similar excursions.

Her hands no longer got quite that red whenever she handled just the leaves, but the one time Isshun had let her help with the root, her skin had gotten aggressively red all the way up to her shoulders, and it hadn't faded entirely until the next evening.

Her skin was back to its normal self now, though. Something she was grateful for, no matter how interesting she found her kaa-san's lessons.

The itching sucked.

The only consolation was the promise of becoming immune. Eventually.

Despite -mentally- being an adult, that sounded pretty cool. And useful. Especially in a world where someone thought it necessary to make their two year old kid immune to poisons.

“Tou-san!” Kyo exclaimed when the door opened and Kou came trudging inside, looking rather worse for wear.

She didn't care one wit, though, because she had honestly missed him.

Being an only child was weird, but Kou was a great dad. If a bit awkward at times. Or a lot. But at least he tried his best, and Kyo was mature enough to appreciate the effort he put forth, and the love that was behind it every time the man did something he wasn't very comfortable with, even when that might be something as inane as going to the park with her to push her on the swings.

Kyo was, admittedly, perfectly capable of using the swings on her own, even though she was a bit too small to get very high right now, she got higher every time she tried. But she hadn't been able to resist asking her tou-san the last time he'd been home.

“Kyo,” Kou said quietly, and despite his obvious exhaustion, the dried blood splatter covering parts of his clothing, he readily enough bent down to scoop her into his arms when she ran up to him to give him a hug.

If he held on a bit tighter than he normally did, pressing his cheek against her hair, Kyo said nothing and just hugged him back, her short, thin arms barely making it around his neck with the sturdy Chuunin vest in the way.

“Missed you, tou-san,” she said, quite honestly.

“Ah, I missed you, too,” he sighed, kicking off his sandals and going further into the apartment until he could collapse onto the couch, letting himself fall almost flat on his back, head pillowed on the armrest. “Tell me about what you've been up to with your mother while I was gone?” He requested wearily, rubbing one hand over his face before he scrounged up the energy to smile at her.

If the man needed her to be his innocent little two year old daughter right now, then that's what she would be.

“Kaa-san took me to the park, and she pushed me on the swings, but not as good as you,” she began to prattle, keeping her voice soft but cheerful. “And there was this lady at the market that was very rude, so kaa-san maybe was a bit scary to her, but she deserved it.” Kyo told him solemnly.

Because Isshun definitely did not deserve to be called a whore, to her face, and in front of her daughter, just for wanting to purchase a few wares.

That woman had been a bitter, mean old thing, and she had clearly not appreciated the sacrifice her kaa-san made for her country when she went away on missions, rare and relatively short as they had been so far.

Kyo hadn't lived in a country that prided itself on its' military force, Before, but even she knew that you respected people who put their lives at risk to protect others. And that's what she liked to think Konoha's shinobi did.

It was perhaps a bit naïve, but she preferred it over the alternative.

By the time she had told her tou-san about everything she could think of, including the lessons Isshun had begun to give her, Kou had tucked her head quite neatly under his chin and seemed to have fallen asleep, arms wrapped securely around her.

Falling silent, Kyo took a moment to contemplate the smell of old and new sweat, of forest with a slight hint of smoke that clung to her dad. There was a shadow of stubble on his chin and she didn't know if she was imagining it or not, but he seemed a bit thinner than she remembered.

“Kyo-chan?” Isshun's voice asked from the direction of the kitchen.

Kyo wondered if it would wake her tou-san up if she said anything, and she didn't want that; he looked like he more than deserved the rest.

She did look up when Isshun leaned ever-so-slightly over the sofa to peer down on the two of them, though.

“Tou-san's tired,” she said quietly.

Her kaa-san eyed her husband -or was that boyfriend? Were they even married?- with solemn eyes and then reached down to tap his shoulder gently.

“Kou, you should take a shower and then sleep in a proper bed,” she said kindly when he jerked awake, his hold tightening almost painfully on Kyo for a moment, before he sat up with a deep sigh.

“Yeah,” he muttered, and then lifted Kyo and handed her over to kaa-san, seemingly purely by automatics, before he rose to his feet and disappeared into her parents' shared bedroom. He reappeared a moment later, having discarded most of his clothes and slipped into the bathroom.

When the door closed behind him, Kyo turned to Isshun.

“Tou-san looked bad,” she said seriously. Because he had never showed up at the apartment with blood on his clothes before, at least not when she'd been awake and there to see. And there had just been this look in his eyes that suggested this was something more than just fatigue.

“I'll talk to him once he's gotten a chance to rest a bit,” Isshun assured her, though she seemed distracted, still staring at the closed bathroom door. “Let's go to the kitchen; we'll take a look at our project.”

Seeing the distraction for what it was, Kyo still allowed the woman to carry her off for yet another -unplanned- lesson. Hopefully, her skin wouldn't get quite that bad this time.

.

Kyo woke up early the next morning, like she always did this time around.

Back Before, she'd always had a tendency to sleep in, had done so even as a child, no matter how much she'd resented it and wanted to get up as early as everyone else. Mainly because of the kid's show on TV on Saturday mornings.

But even when she'd been older, she'd always wished she'd been an early bird, and not a night owl.

It looked like she'd gotten her wish, now, as she sat up in bed and glanced around her dark room.

Admittedly, she didn't usually wake up quite this early; the sun wasn't even up yet.

Scratching absently at her arms, Kyo finally stood up and climbed out of bed, deciding to go looking for either of her parents.

Reaching up to pull the handle on the door to her room, Kyo paused, taking note of the murmur of voices on the other side.

Straining her ears, she could just about make out the words.

“-s not just increased activity on the border, but they're expecting a declaration any day now.” Kou's voice said tiredly.

“So that is the direction we're moving in,” her kaa-san answered on a sigh, as if she wasn't really surprised.

“We're both going to be sent out a lot more,” Kou said pensively, and he didn't sound happy about it.

“Kyo?” Isshun said, and for one second, Kyo thought she was addressing her.

“I'll talk to my parents,” Kou said, and Kyo grimaced. “She's a bit young to start school already, and I'd like to avoid placing her at the orphanage when I've got family.”

“She won't like it,” Isshun warned, and Kyo silently had to agree, though she was more than distracted by what she'd overheard.

The way they talked; it sounded bad. Really bad.

Heart fluttering like a sparrow in her chest, Kyo finally pushed the door open and padded out into the kitchen, crawling up into her dad's lap without a word.

“What are you doing up, sweetheart?” Isshun asked, though neither of her parents looked the least bit surprised to see her.

“Woke up,” Kyo said simply, curling up and tucking herself firmly against her tou-san's front. Warmth spread through her chest when he automatically curled one arm around her, holding her securely against him. “You're going away,” she said, because she didn't want to pretend not to have heard anything.

“Not right now,” Kou promised, though there was a resigned quality to his voice.

“I don't wanna stay with obaa-san.”

“I know,” Isshun said, a small, sad smile pulling on her lips. “But it will hopefully not be for very long periods of time. The Hokage knows Kou and I have you to care for, so they'll try to make sure at least one of us is in the village whenever it's possible.”

Kyo took in that information with a small measure of comfort.

That didn't change the fact that what they were talking about was, without a doubt, war.

She'd known, of course, that the Naruto world was dangerous, that people died all the time in the fighting and conflict. The Village system was very young; not even a century old, and that had been at the start of the manga. She still had no idea when exactly she'd been born.

Which war was this?

Shivering a little at the thought, Kyo tried to bury herself deeper into her tou-san's hold.

“You're coming back, right?” She asked, and there was no denying how small she sounded. “Tou-san?”

Her parents were silent for what felt like a long moment, exchanging a long look over the table, before her mother let out a heavy sigh.

Kyo's heart skipped a beat.

“I can promise you that both of us will do our very best to come back, every time,” she said solemnly, meeting Kyo's gaze intently.

When she looked up at her dad, he nodded in agreement. “Absolutely, Kyo.”

Kyo took a deep breath, determined that that would have to be enough. She knew that no one could promise not to die, but-

The breath came out as a sob, and Kyo buried her face in her dad's shirt.

She'd been wondering for a while if she had somehow usurped Genma's place in the series; if she should have been born a boy and named Genma instead of Kyo.

And if that was true, then she couldn't even console herself with the fact that her mother, at least, would survive long enough to bear another child.

She hated not knowing.

Had Genma's parents still been alive in the manga? Had both Isshun and Kou survived the war?

With too many questions she couldn't answer swirling around in her head, Kyo cried herself back to sleep and when she woke up later that morning, she found herself, for the first time in this life that she could remember, lying in her parents' bed, wedged between her kaa-san and tou-san.

It made it both better and worse, because right now, she had them both beside her, feeling warm, safe and content. But it just emphasized how much she didn't want to lose either of them.

“Are you awake, little one?” Isshun asked softly, raising one hand to smooth back her hair.

Kyo made a small, affirmative noise.

“Come, let's go make breakfast,” her kaa-san said, lifting her up and getting out of bed.

Kyo slumped tiredly against her mother's shoulder, taking in the simple bedroom with tired, sore eyes.

Kou's eyes cracked open a small fraction, taking in their departure, but he just closed them again and rolled over to go back to sleep.

In the kitchen, Isshun put her down in her high-chair, and set about whipping up something simple for breakfast.

Kyo watched dispassionately, feeling like the familiar routines were making a mockery of her feelings.

Nothing and everything had changed.

Kyo and her mother ate in silence, and when Kyo finally finished the last of her vegetables, Isshun collected the plates and put them in the sink, and then returned to her seat, giving Kyo a considering look.

“Your father and I both love you very much, Kyo,” she began firmly. “And it's unfair to put this on you when you're so young, but you've always been more observant than anyone could've expected.”

Kyo chewed on her lip, feeling a bit guilty, on top of everything else, because it wasn't like she was particularly smart or anything. She just had the advantage of having memories of a life, of being an adult, before being Kyo.

“Things will most likely not escalate right away, so we still have time,” Isshun smiled reassuringly, but Kyo couldn't quite return the expression. “What do you say about more lessons?”

“Okay,” Kyo said, dragging a forearm over her eyes and taking a deep breath, determined not to make things harder on her parents.

They couldn't be that old, either, and this was without a doubt harder on them than on her.

Kyo paused. Was she... mentally older than her parents?

Wasn't that a frightening thought.

She eyed her mother, considering, trying to gauge how old she might be. Isshun most definitely wasn't older than thirty, but was likely not even twenty five.

...she probably was mentally older than her parents. Because she could remember being twenty six, and that wasn't even taking the foggy, uncertain stretch of time before her supposed death into consideration.

Kyo had her suspicions about that, too, but she tried not to think about it.

“Let's take a look at your arms, then,” Isshun said, holding out her hands expectantly, and Kyo dutifully placed her much smaller hands in her mother's.

-x-x-x-