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Hear the Silence

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Returning to Konoha felt absurd.

The village looked to be as peaceful as always from the front gates, and Kyo did her best to pay attention when Katsurou-sensei walked them through the registration process that came with finishing a mission.

The look on the old man's face when he was handed a scroll instead of his son was something Kyo knew she wouldn't forget.

Anticipation and joy falling so quickly into grief and crumbled hope it was enough to give anyone whiplash.

“I'm sorry for your loss,” she told the grey-haired man quietly.

The grieving father closed his eyes and brought the body scroll up to his forehead, pressing it to his skin. “Thank you for bringing him to me,” he managed to return, voice strangled.

Katsurou inclined his head to their Client and mentioned for them to leave.

“That's awful,” Maki commented bleakly when they walked off to collect the paper-work they'd need to fill out.

Funny how the manga she'd read what felt like more than a life-time ago hadn't mentioned much in the way of the administrative side to the ninja life.

“We fulfilled our mission the best we could under the circumstances,” Katsurou-sensei said simply. “It had been different if we'd been tasked to protect the man from the start.”

“Yeah,” Kyo agreed sadly. “Are you going to show us how to fill this out now?” She asked, waving the papers she'd been handed in their sensei's direction.

“The Academy is supposed to teach you that,” Katsurou said, raising a pointed eyebrow at her.

Kyo blinked tiredly and tilted her head. “I might have missed that lesson,” she muttered, because she couldn't remember anything of the sort. “Should be simple enough, though. I just write down everything that happened, right?”

“Yes. It will be a bit more complicated when you move up in experience and rank, because the things you'll be expected to notice and remember rises.”

Which made sense.

“Let's all fill them out together,” Kyo declared, giving Taku and Maki a look. “That way, we can ask each other if we're uncertain about anything.”

Katsurou-sensei smiled faintly, barely an upturn of the corners of his mouth, but it was there, and followed sedately when Kyo turned them in the direction of their training ground, seemingly perfectly willing to go along and help with any potential questions, despite his initial reaction.

If Kyo snagged Taku's hand, holding it all the way to their destination, no one said anything about it.

She was worried, okay? Because the Inuzuka hadn't returned to his normal self yet, even days after their first kills. He was still subdued and distant, as if he was lost in his own head whenever he didn't have to focus fully on the task in front of him.

The paperwork did turn out to be relatively easy to fill out, but Kyo figured that was because they'd been given the Genin forms.

Sensei's own report was bound to be far more extensive and complicated. At least in comparison; it had been a fairly straight-forward mission.

“Take the day off tomorrow, and we'll meet back up here at the usual time the day after,” Katsurou finally said, hefting their combined paperwork in one hand. He'd generously offered to turn it all in together with his own. “Enjoy the rest; you've all earned it.” He smiled.

A proper smile.

With that, he disappeared in a shunshin, leaving them to make their ways back to their various homes at their own pace.

“See you,” Kyo bid the boys farewell and ran off, eager to go back home to see kaa-san.

Tou-san might have left on his mission, but at least kaa-san and Genma were there.

She was early, they'd only been gone five days, rather than the expected full week, but she didn't think anyone would mind, least of all Isshun.

“I'm home,” Kyo said when she stepped into the hallway of their apartment, absently taking off her sandals as she relished the feel of home.

She could smell what was no doubt lunch cooking in the kitchen, and she could see -and hear- Genma playing on her old yellow baby blanket in the middle of the living room.

“Hey, Genma-chan.” She grinned and wiggled her fingers at the baby, who made a delighted noise and waved his chubby little arms in her direction.

He wasn't quite old enough to sit up on his own for very long yet, but was quickly getting there. He liked lying on his stomach a lot, though, and he always seemed to have one plush toy or another in his mouth.

Padding barefoot towards her little brother, Kyo crouched down and reached for Genma, fully intending to pick him up for an affectionate hug.

The sight of old, rust-red splatter on her sleeves made her freeze in her tracks, though.

For the first time since the day they'd found the bandits, Kyo realised that there was blood on her clothes, and the fact that she no doubt smelled.

There was dirt on her hands and clothes, and she definitely shouldn't be touching her baby brother like this.

There was blood on her clothes. On her skin.

Blood from people she had killed.

Kyo blinked and stared intently at Genma, who made unhappy noises now, waving his arms more insistently in her direction, before he began to try and push himself into a sitting position.

Genma's arms where small and soft with baby fat, each finger tiny and fragile.

The boy managed to get his legs under him and pushed his upper body off the blanket with seemingly gargantuan effort. Then, he raised his arms at Kyo, making a demanding noise.

Kyo couldn't unfreeze her limbs enough to so much as lower her arms.

Genma opened his mouth, and had he had that one tooth before she'd left? He opened his mouth in a mostly-toothless smile, waving his hands around as he tried to reach her. Or make her react in any way.

Kyo didn't snap out of her own thoughts until strong, familiar hands reached down to pick up a crying Genma from right in front of her.

She blinked twice and took in her brother's scrunched up, red face and the angry cries she'd been entirely oblivious to a second ago.

“Kyo?” Tou-san asked, making Kyo blink again.

“Shouldn't you be out of the village?” She asked blankly.

“I was, yeah, but there was a change of plans,” Kou said, eyeing her intently as he tried to sooth Genma's unhappy tantrum. “I'm leaving in a couple of days instead.”

“What happened?”

“Yuuta's got the flu, so,” tou-san shrugged, “they decided it was better to wait to send us off a few days rather than split us up.”

“Oh,” Kyo said. That made sense. “Tou-san,” she continued, “I killed someone.”

Kou sighed softly and sat down in front of Kyo, cradling a sniffling Genma to his chest. “I figured as much,” he admitted, holding out one arm towards her in a silent invitation.

Kyo didn't hesitate for more than a second before she scrambled into her dad's lap, careful to mind her brother, who reached out and stubbornly fisted a handful of her short hair.

“Ow.” She smiled helplessly at the baby, who whined and wiggled in Kou's hold until he shifted the boy closer to his sister.

“I think he missed you,” Kou observed gently.

Kyo reached up to carefully disentangle her hair from surprisingly strong fingers, and then leaned against her tou-san's chest.

“Where's kaa-san?” She asked, overly aware of the fact that she was avoiding the elephant in the room.

Kou seemed perfectly willing to indulge her and give her the time she needed to build up to it, though.

“She's started working on getting back into shape, but she's probably going to be coming back from the training grounds soon.”

“Okay,” Kyo said, fiddling with one of her cuff-holsters. “There were bandits. They killed the man we were supposed to escort to the village. We had to hand over a body-scroll to his father instead of reuniting him with his son,” she explained quietly.

Kou hummed, but said nothing, letting her work through what she wanted to say.

“We killed all the bandits,” she blurted, frowning down at her hands. “I killed four of them.”

“Was that before or after you were introduced to your client?”

“Before. He wasn't at the meeting point, so we had to go looking.” Kyo curled in on herself slightly. “He'd been dead for about five days when we found him. At least, that's what sensei said. Taku almost threw up.”

Kou sighed and smoothed a hand over her hair, carefully pulling her hitai-ate off her head. “Did any of you get hurt?”

“No.” Kyo's frown deepened. “It was easy, tou-san.”

“I know.” Kou pulled her even tighter against his front, humming a little when Genma made a disgruntled noise. “You came back, though. You're not hurt, you're still alive and you kept your teammates safe.”

“Yeah,” Kyo agreed miserably. “It still doesn't feel right, tou-san.”

“I know.”

“I didn't even think to use my needles,” she admitted quietly. “I just grabbed a kunai like you taught me.”

“That's a good thing, Kyo,” Kou said seriously. “If it means you come back here, I'm gonna tell you to kill as many people as you have to every time you leave the village.” He paused. “It's probably not what I should say, but I care much more about you than a handful of men who made the decision to become bandits.”

“Sensei said it'll be harder with enemy shinobi,” Kyo whispered.

“Yeah,” Kou sighed heavily, “it always is when you're fighting someone more evenly matched to your own skills,” he said, hold tightening almost painfully on her.

Kyo found it strangely comforting.

“But, tou-san,” she said after a while. “It was easy. Like with the bunnies, and what if I accidentally hurt Genma?” She asked in a hushed voice, feeling shame curl hotly in her stomach.

It was a largely unfamiliar sensation.

“It would be easy,” Kou agreed heavily after a long moment of silence, broken only by Genma's occasional baby noises. “But you have to remember that we're the ones in charge of our actions.” He gently took hold of one of Kyo's hands and placed it on Genma's foot. “It may not feel like it in the heat of battle, but you just have to trust yourself not to hurt the people you truly love.”

“I didn't think this would be the hardest part,” Kyo admitted wetly, voice trembling and having to blink the building tears from her eyes. She could feel them drip down onto her leg.

“It may not feel particularly comforting to hear right now, but you get used to it, Kyo,” tou-san promised sadly.

That just made her cry harder, because she didn't want to get used to it.

It was awful and horrible and Kyo wished she didn't understand why this was happening.

This place had never felt as real as it did right now.

It had been a gradual thing, she knew, but this life felt more real than her past one now. As if the Before was just a dream she sometimes remembered, fading more with every passing week, despite whatever she might feel about it.

This was her reality now, and she wasn't ever going back.

Different family, different face, different life.

For better or worse, Kyo was a Konoha kunoichi and she would have to make the best of it.

“Come on, go take a shower and then we'll eat. Isshun's going to be so happy to have you back home again, kitten,” tou-san murmured, helping her to her feet and gently putting Genma back on the baby blanket.

.

Kyo spent her day off at home, playing with Genma and trying to get used to this new status quo she'd tentatively found.

She could still be kind and gentle with her brother and everyone else she cared about. Being a murderer didn't change that at least.

She felt the most comfortable when tou-san or kaa-san was within easy reach while she was at it, though.

Just in case.

The next day's training was a nice return to what felt like routine, going through exercises, sparring with Taku and Maki and working on her wind jutsu some more. All under their sensei's careful observation.

Katsurou-sensei even dismissed them early, for once.

...more like for the first time ever, actually.

“I'll stay a bit longer to work on this,” Kyo said when Maki asked if she wanted to go buy dango together. “I'd love to go tomorrow, though.” She smiled, hoping the boy would realise she wasn't saying no because she didn't like him or something.

Sure, he'd been a bit of an ass at first, but he was working on bettering himself, and that was the important part.

“Okay,” Maki returned with a relieved smile. “See you tomorrow then, Kyo.” And with that, he ran off.

Kyo paused what she was doing to contemplate how it must have felt for Maki to return home. To his civilian parents, whom wouldn't understand the first thing about what shinobi life was like, and couldn't relate at all to Maki's recent trauma.

That would also explain this sudden, unexpected change in behaviour.

Resolving to invite her teammate home the next time she saw him, hopefully before tou-san had to head back out -Yuuta had his check-up today, but tou-san hadn't known what the medic would say- she pushed the thought to a side and continued to go over the second jutsu Katsurou-sensei had provided her with.

This one was also intended to be pretty large-scale.

Unlike the first one, which she liked to just call Cutting Blast in her head, this one seemed to be slightly less agreeable to small-scale adaptation.

Hageshii Osu, translating roughly to 'violent push', was intended to throw your opponent in whatever direction you chose. Which was great for either ambushes, getting some distance between you and your enemy or throwing opponents into the path of an ally they weren't expecting.

Or, Kyo mused dryly, to counter another wind user.

After about two hours extra work, where the most she'd managed was a slightly stronger than average breeze -which wasn't exactly what she was aiming for- Kyo decided she'd had enough, giving up for the day.

If it hardly rustled the leaves of the bush she was aiming at, then it wouldn't do much more than be mildly annoying to a shinobi.

If even that.

Feeling disheartened and tired, Kyo gathered up her things and prepared to go back home.

Sweeping her gaze over the training ground one last time, she turned and started back towards the village.

“Kisaki?” She murmured confusedly when she spotted the white ninken trotting towards her on the path.

Scanning the area behind her, she couldn't see Taku anywhere close to his partner.

“Kyo!” The dog said once she'd come to a stop in front of her.

“Kisaki? What's wrong?” She asked, automatically crouching down in front of the dog and burying her fingers in her thick fur. “Where's Taku?”

“Taku is,” Kisaki began slowly, clearly struggling with her words. The ninken was learning more and more when it came to human speech, but it was pretty slow going. “Sleeping bad.”

Kyo blinked. “Taku is sleeping bad?” She repeated confusedly, peering into Kisaki's yellow eyes.

The dog huffed irritably and shook herself.

“Taku is,” she said firmly, making it easy to forget just how young she was. “Kyo help?”

Kyo frowned in thought, staring at the dog as she tried to figure out what she meant. “Help,” she parroted quietly to herself.

Thinking back to the last couple of days, Kyo tried to figure out what could possibly be wrong with Taku for Kisaki to ask her for help rather than his Clansmen or even sensei.

The boy had been a bit pale, distracted and rather quiet, but that had been the same ever since they'd...

Kyo felt like smacking herself.

“He's having nightmares?” She asked, peering at Kisaki, who visibly sagged with relief.

“Yes!”

“So Maki can't talk about any of this to his parents and is probably feeling isolated, and Taku can't sleep,” Kyo summarized bleakly, covering her face with her hands. “I'm so stupid.”

Taking a deep breath, Kyo scrambled for anything she could possibly do to actually help. Empty platitudes about things getting better with time were worthless.

“Okay!” She said, letting her hands fall from her face and straightening out of her crouch. “Let's do our best, Kisaki.” She smiled determinedly at the ninken, who wagged her tail hopefully, looking confused but supportive.

“Yes,” she agreed.

“My place first, then Maki's and then you can bring the both of us to the Inuzuka compound, okay?”

“Okay,” Kisaki agreed readily enough, looking very pleased with herself about Kyo actually trying something and taking her concern seriously.

Kyo smiled at the young dog, and then took off running towards home, Kisaki right behind her.

“Kaa-san?” She called once she'd slipped inside, kicking off her shoes and running into the kitchen. “I'm gonna sleep at the Inuzuka compound tonight!” She grinned at her mother, who raised an eyebrow in response.

“Hello, Kisaki-chan,” Isshun said with a smile at the ninken, before she turned back towards her daughter. “That's a bit unexpected, isn't it?”

“I know, but Kisaki asked,” Kyo explained. “Taku's having nightmares and can't sleep,” she confessed, smile fading quickly from her face.

Isshun sighed quietly but nodded understandingly. “Alright. Want me to pack you some snacks?”

“Thanks, kaa-san,” Kyo said, throwing her arms around her mother's waist in a tight hug. “I'll be back tomorrow after training,” she promised.

Isshun had been a bit more clingy than usual after Kyo's out-of-village mission.

The woman smiled. “I know, sweetheart. You're just growing up so quickly.” Kaa-san sighed again. “It feels like no time at all has passed since you were as little as Genma-chan,” she confessed.

Kyo smiled. She didn't agree, but time was always a relative thing.

She stepped back from kaa-san and rushed to her room, Kisaki trotting faithfully at her heels, looking around curiously.

Perhaps looking for Genma. Who was probably napping, actually.

It took no more than two minutes to throw together an overnight bag, leaving some room for the snacks kaa-san had mentioned.

“I don't need to bring my own pillow and stuff, right?” She asked Kisaki, who gave her an amused look.

“No,” the dog said.

“Oh, that's good. All set, then!” Kyo smiled, slinging her bag over one shoulder, made sure she had all the equipment she'd need tomorrow, and then bounced back out to the kitchen.

“Here you go, Kyo,” kaa-san said, placing a few bags of crisps on the table, together with some other treats.

Oh, chocolate!

“Thank you, kaa-san,” Kyo said, stuffing the things into her bag. “We'll go now. See you tomorrow, love you!”

“Have fun!” Kaa-san called after her.

“Will do!” Kyo grinned, basically ran into her shoes and was back out the door.

.

It was a good thing Maki had invited them all over to his place for dinner a few days before they'd gotten their latest mission, or she wouldn't have known where he lived.

“Hello, Minami-san,” she greeted her teammate's mother politely. “Is Maki home?”

“Ah, Kyo-chan,” Maki's mother -what was her name again?- said after a surprised second. “He's in his room. Would you like to come in?”

“Yes, please.” Kyo smiled, easily stepping through the door when the woman held it open for her. “Thank you, Minami-san, I just have to ask him something real quick.”

“Oh, just call me Sachiko-oba-san, dear.” The woman smiled indulgently. “Do you remember the way or do you want me to show you again?”

“I remember,” Kyo replied easily.

It grated to be treated like a child all of a sudden, but it wasn't like she was unaware of what she looked like.

Still six years old.

She was getting closer to seven, though!

Kyo knocked on the door to Maki's room.

“What?” Maki's voice asked, and he sounded rather down.

Kyo opened the door and stepped inside, carefully closing it after her again, keeping it open only long enough to let Kisaki pass through after her. “We're having a sleepover at Taku's place,” she said by way of greeting, making Maki fall off his desk chair in surprise.

“Kyo?” He asked from the floor, eyes boggling. “What are you doing here? I thought it was kaa-chan again,” he added in a disgruntled mutter. “Wait, sleepover?”

“Yeah.” Kyo nodded, glancing over at Kisaki, who had waited just inside the door. “Kisaki says Taku's having nightmares, so I figured we should all try to help.”

Maki slowly sat up, a slightly conflicted expression on his face. “And Taku isn't actually aware we're coming?” He asked worriedly. “He's not gonna like that.”

“He can deal.” Kyo smiled, inordinately pleased by that automatic 'we' out of Maki's mouth. “If anything, he'd have to get mad at Kisaki, and he'd never be able to keep that up for long,” she said cheerfully.

Kisaki gave a doggy grin in agreement.

“Okay?” Maki said slowly after a second spent blinking at Kyo. “I'll ask kaa-chan.”

Kyo wanted to say that, technically, Maki didn't have to ask. Since he was legally an adult now as a Genin.

She kept quiet, though.

Civilians, in her experience -thanks grandma- weren't particularly happy when the differences between them and shinobi were brought up in conversation unexpectedly.

Like pointing out that your ten year old son was now a legal adult and technically didn't have to listen to what you said unless he felt like it.

While she waited, Kyo sat down on Maki's bed, kicking her feet a little and frowning up at the ceiling.

Then Maki was storming back into his room, throwing things into a bag he pulled out of his closet, tossing a grin at Kyo while he was at it.

“Kaa-chan looked really relieved about me doing something normal,” he confessed when they'd left his house. “She said yes before I'd even finished asking.”

Kyo slipped her hand into Maki's and squeezed his fingers gently. A smile just wouldn't cut it.

It was a bit strange to think it -because what the hell?- but not everyone had such a secure, understanding and supporting home-life as she did. In this life.

Kisaki led them to the Inuzuka compound, and then appeared to have a short conversation with the seemingly laid-back gate guard and his ninken before they were waved inside without issue.

“This place is a bit bigger than I imagined,” Kyo muttered under her breath as she looked around. She hadn't really ever visited one of the Clan districts yet.

The closest she had gotten had been the one time tou-san had brought her along to Ryota's place. That had been on the very edge of the Uchiha compound, though, so it wasn't like she'd gotten a good over-view.

Maki made an acknowledging noise, staring around with wide, curious eyes.

There were plenty of people walking around, most of them with the Inuzuka Clan markings on their faces. The most common colour was red, but Kyo saw one with deep blue marks instead.

She wondered if the colour had any specific meaning, or if it was personal preference.

“I think Taku said this place also has a veterinary clinic,” Kyo observed as they walked after Kisaki, who definitely looked like she knew where she was going.

Which was absolutely a good thing, because neither Kyo nor Maki had a clue.

“That's pretty cool,” Maki said. “Think he'll show us if we ask nicely?”

“Maybe. Depends on the mood our surprise sleepover leaves him in.” Kyo snickered quietly, swinging her and Maki's hands back and forth between them.

Kisaki ended up leading them to a nice-looking house, rather generous in size, but instead of just running off to join her human, she sat down by the front door and gave the two of them an expectant look.

“Okay, then.” Kyo nodded, stepping up and knocking decisively on the door.

A few seconds later, foot-steps approached quickly and then the door was thrown open, revealing a frantic-looking Taku.

“What?” Was his eloquent response to the sight of them. And then, “Have either of you seen Kisaki?”

“Yes, she's right here,” Kyo said, pointing at the dog in question, who wagged her tail and looked as innocent as a new-born as she peered up at her partner. “She came to get us.”

“'Get you',” Taku repeated blankly, staring uncomprehendingly at them.

Kyo silently thought he'd be a bit quicker on the uptake if he weren't so tired and distracted.

“For the sleepover Kisaki's planned,” Kyo informed him promptly. “So? Will you let us in?”

Taku stared for another second, before he gave Kisaki a rather wry look and then stepped to the side.

“Alright, come in, then,” the boy finally said.

Kisaki was the first through the door, walking in like she owned the place, which... wasn't all that far from the truth, actually.

Kyo and Maki right behind her, pausing only to take off their sandals before Taku led them into the kitchen, where they all settled awkwardly around the kitchen table.

“I still don't get why you're here,” Taku said when he could no longer stand the silence, arms crossing defensively in front of his chest.

“Kisaki told me you can't sleep,” Kyo told him honestly, deciding to be frank. “So I wanted to help.”

Taku bristled. “That's none of ya business!” He shot Kisaki an angry frown, before he turned back to glower at Kyo.

“I'm having nightmares, too,” Maki admitted in a rather rushed manner before Taku could say another word, and he looked embarrassed by the confession. “About- About k-killing those bandits.”

Kyo reached over to take his hand again.

Taku said nothing, but stared off to a side, as if he didn't want to look at them.

“None of this is easy,” Kyo sighed, but before she could continue, Taku scoffed and hunkered down further in his seat.

She frowned confusedly at him, but it was Maki who elaborated.

“You don't seem very affected, though,” he said hesitantly, looking slightly shamefaced. “And you're younger than us, Kyo. It's a bit-” he trailed off.

“It shouldn't be a big deal,” Taku ground out irritably, visibly wrestling with his temper. “I've been training for this my whole life.”

“You think,” Kyo began slowly, trying to wrap her mind around the idea, “that I'm not affected?” She asked.

“Well, it doesn't seem like it,” Maki muttered, frowning down at the table. “You're behaving just like always.”

“In front of you, maybe.” Kyo laughed humourlessly. She fell silent quickly, however, lost in thought. “I couldn't make myself touch Genma when I came back home, you know.”

When she blinked back to the present, both boys were staring at her.

“All I could think about was how easy it had been to kill those men, and what if I accidentally-” she swallowed, “did the same to my brother?”

“What did you do?” Maki asked quietly.

“Tou-san talked me through it,” she said, clasping her hands together. “I cried some more, and I'm still not very comfortable touching him when my parents aren't there, but.” She shrugged. “I'm getting better.”

“But you're not having nightmares,” Taku grunted, still sounding sour, but at least willing to talk now.

“I've never been prone to nightmares.” Kyo shrugged. She'd hardly ever had them in her past life, either. “And this wasn't-” she cut herself off, wondering if she really wanted to tell them.

“What?” Maki asked, looking curious now, leaning forward slightly in his seat.

“I've had a few experiences before that were a bit traumatic,” she admitted uncomfortably, squirming where she sat when even Taku looked interested. “I deal with trauma through tears.”

“But what happened?” Taku asked with a speculative frown. “What could be considered traumatic inside the village?”

“Well. Tou-san almost died just before I turned three.” She shrugged. “Kaa-san rushed to the hospital and that's how I was introduced to tou-san's team.”

“I don't think I remember anything from when I was three,” Maki muttered under his breath, making Kyo smile wanly at him.

Her smile faded quickly when she considered the next part. “And kaa-san,” she cleared her throat, “kaa-san almost lost Genma and her own life when she was pregnant. She started bleeding pretty badly in the middle of the night.”

“Your tou-san?” Taku asked.

Kyo shook her head. “Mission. I- I ran to the hospital,” and this was really hard to talk about. She hadn't told anyone about this after she'd cried all over Kouki-sensei at the Academy the day after. “So I've practised a bit.”

“Shit, Kyo. I had no idea, I'm so sorry,” Maki blurted, looking at her in a rather horrified manner. “Wait. Was that that day you disappeared after lunch?”

Kyo stared at him. She hadn't known anyone had noticed that, other than Inoichi and possibly Shikaku. Not that the latter one had shown any outward interest in much of anything during their shared time at the Academy.

“Why the hell would you go ta school after something like that?” Taku demanded gruffly, sounding angry but looking deeply unsettled.

Kyo shrugged, curling in on herself.

“I didn't realise I probably shouldn't go until I was already in the classroom. Kouki-sensei took me back.”

Taku slumped over the table with a deep sigh, head cushioned on his folded arms. “Why didn't they ever tell us how fucked up this all is?” He wondered bitterly.

Kyo smiled humourlessly. “They did, several times. Most kids in class interpreted it the way they wanted.”

Much to the various sensei's perpetual exasperation.

Not that she could entirely blame any party; shinobi life did sound awfully exciting from an ignorants' point of view. Even Kyo, who had known intellectually at least hints about the truth, had been caught somewhat flat-footed by reality.

“Hey, Taku,” Kyo spoke up into the growing silence. The boy shifted his gaze to look at her, looking rather listless. “Is your family home?” She asked.

“Kaa-san's working in the clinic until tomorrow, and Teki-nii should be around somewhere.” He shrugged, not really shifting his slumped position.

“Then let's make dinner, and then get to the sleepover part! I brought snacks.” She grinned, jumping out of her seat and walking over to the fridge to see what they had to work with.

“She's doing it again,” she heard Maki mutter behind her. “It's like nothing's wrong.”

“I'm just good at pretending nothing's wrong,” she corrected him with forced cheer. She'd had twenty-some years of practise. “What do you guys want to eat?”

A couple of hours later, they were all ready for bed and stretched out on the floor in Taku's room.

Kisaki was quite happy to claim the bed all to herself, which also gave her a nice vantage point over the three of them and the door.

“It makes me nauseas whenever I think about it,” Maki admitted quietly. “As if I'm gonna throw up again.”

They were all lying on their backs, close together and staring up at the darkening ceiling.

It was pretty early, but they'd decided to get ready for bed and talk if the mood struck them. Kyo fit quite comfortably between the two bigger children, and her small size meant they had plenty of space to go around.

“I knew it was gonna happen, you know?” Taku added his own pieces. “It just sounded more...” He made a frustrated sound in the back of his throat. “Different. It sounded different.”

“It was easy,” Kyo whispered. “I thought it'd be harder.” And she couldn't let it go; murder shouldn't be easy. “Like hunting rabbits with tou-san.”

Taku grunted and shuffled closer. “You realise we're that fragile, too, right?”

He raised a hand to stare at his nails. Nails that could sharpen into claws with just a few hand signs.

“Kaa-chan asked me why I was acting so strange, and I couldn't even tell her why,” Maki breathed miserably. “I don't want them to look at me differently.”

“That's perfectly understandable,” Kyo replied sincerely. “Taku and I are lucky that our parents understand.” Which reminded her. “You could come over and talk to my tou-san if you want? He's civilian-born, too.”

“Really?” Maki lifted his head off the pillow Taku had provided him with to stare at her.

“Yeah,” Kyo nodded, “I'm not sure if he'll still be here, but you can come with me tomorrow after training to see if his team got cleared for duty or not.” At the curious looks that got her, she elaborated with a shrug. “Yuuta came down with a fever.”

“Right,” Maki huffed and let his head fall back down on his pillow with a muted thump. “We have to worry about stuff like that, too.”

“Great.” Taku sighed. “I'm really glad we got the baby on our team.” He snickered.

Kyo snorted. “I'm flattered, Taku.” She smiled. “I'm glad to be on this team, too. You're not as bad as I feared.”

“Hey,” Maki protested half-heartedly. “We're awesome.”

“We're something.” Kyo snickered. “Do you think we could con sensei into hosting the next sleepover?”

“No way,” Taku immediately disagreed. “Ain't gonna happen.”

“Unless you poisoned him and blackmailed him with the antidote?” Maki offered with a laugh.

Kyo couldn't help but join in. “Only problem is that I don't have any antidotes,” she managed once the worst of her laughter had died down.

The boys' stilled.

“Wait, what?” Taku asked, sitting up.

Kyo blinked at him. “I don't have any antidotes? I thought you knew?”

When both boys paled, Kyo couldn't help but snicker and bury her face in her pillow.

“That's not funny, Kyo!” Maki exclaimed, grabbing his pillow to hit her with it.

-x-x-x-