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Hear the Silence

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Living with Katsurou-sensei was weird.

Nice, but decidedly strange and a little bit awkward.

She'd been given her own room and everything. It felt a bit like she was constantly intruding on the man's privacy, all throughout the week she ended up staying with him, but it was nice at the same time.

Katsurou made for a pretty good room-mate.

Volunteering to do the dishes when she'd unexpectedly cooked dinner. Something that had earned her no more than a slightly raised eyebrow and a shrug.

Kyo was sitting on the floor in the living room working on making another batch of poison. She would be running low if she didn't make more all the time, and the latest set of incidents didn't change that.

It knocked on the door and sensei looked up from where he was sitting reclined on the couch, feet propped on the coffee table, reading through a pretty impressive stack of files Kyo pointedly hadn't asked about.

Kyo made to get up, but he waved a hand at her and tossed the file he'd been reading back onto the stack and got to his feet.

Kyo watched him go, shrugged to herself and then turned back to her own task.

She continued to thinly slice the root she had collected earlier, putting them into the pot Katsurou had generously sacrificed and donated to her. She'd extract the poison and then reduce it on low heat on the stove until there was barely any water left.

After that, she'd leave it to dry in one of the square bowls she'd been provided with to practice her craft. Once completely dry, she'd carefully scrape it out and voilà! A perfect powder of concentrated poison.

She looked up when Katsurou came padding back into the room.

Instead of returning to the couch, however, the man walked up to her and crouched down beside her. He looked over her work with some curious interest before focusing on her.

“Kou's here,” he said. “He'd like to talk with you, if that's alright with you.”

Katsurou looked like he wouldn't hesitate to send her dad on his way if that was what she wanted. It was almost enough to make her smile.

Almost.

She hadn't felt like smiling lately, though, and now that her team knew, she didn't put in the effort to keep up the charade.

“You don't have to,” Katsurou said firmly when she'd been silent a second too long.

“No, that's okay. I'll talk to him.” Kyo sighed, ignoring the nervous lump in her stomach and put down her knife.

She didn't particularly want to have a difficult, emotionally taxing conversation, but... she'd like to see her tou-san again.

“Very well,” Katsurou-sensei nodded, placed his hand on her head, didn't ruffle her hair, and then straightened up and walked back to the door.

Kyo nervously waited where she sat, fingers twisting together in her lap.

Why was it taking so long?

She'd picked up her knife again to continue working, to give herself something to do, when Katsurou and Kou finally entered the living room.

“I'll give the two of you some privacy,” sensei said after an assessing look at Kyo. “I'm in the next room over if you need me,” and that was definitely aimed at Kyo, who nodded.

It was nice to know she wouldn't be completely alone if this didn't go as well as she was hoping.

It was strange, because she'd never felt like this around tou-san before, but this situation, different as it was, reminded her of the divorce in the Before-life.

Her then-father had been very different after that. Not as... physically frightening, perhaps, but aiming more for psychological and emotional manipulation instead.

She didn't want Kou to turn out to be similar, but she couldn't help the apprehension filling her to the brim.

When the door to sensei's bedroom closed, Kyo forced herself to turn to Kou, who was staring at her with an expression on his face she couldn't hope to label.

After a few seconds' awkward silence, Kou sighed and walked over, taking a seat beside her on the floor, absently looking over what she was doing.

“I owe you a serious apology, Kyo,” he began quietly, running a hand through his hair. “I've been... treating you and Genma, but you in particular, in a manner you neither deserve nor should have had to experience,” he admitted tiredly, rubbing a hand over his eyes before he turned to face her fully. “I love- loved your kaa-san very much, Kyo,” he said. “But that does not excuse my behaviour. I'm sorry, and I can only hope you'll forgive me.”

Kyo took a slow, deliberate breath.

That... hadn't been what she'd been expecting.

“It was scary,” she admitted quietly, frowning down at the root she was chopping, cutting another slice while she was at it. “It felt like you were disappearing, too.”

“I know.” Kou grimaced. “And for a while, I think I did, but,” he took a deep breath, “I may have loved Isshun, Kyo, but I love you and Genma more than anything else. For what it's worth, I apologize,” he said, and he looked it. He looked like he was hurting with how sorry he was.

Like he hadn't slept much in the last week, but at least he'd been taking better care of himself. Or, Ryota had ended up kicking him until he maintained basic personal hygiene, at least.

He was clean-shaven and he hadn't lost any weight, that she could see.

“Kami, I make for a lousy father,” Kou muttered to himself, rubbed a hand over his face again and got to his feet. He turned to leave, but paused. “Katsurou's offered you to stay for however long you'd like,” he admitted. “I'd like you to come back home, but-” he cut himself off and cleared his throat. “Think about it, Kyo?”

“Yeah,” she said faintly, feeling shell-shocked.

Tou-san thought she wouldn't come back home?

Kyo numbly watched her dad leave, shoulders slumped and looking defeated in a way she'd never seen before, weighed down by both grief and quiet shame.

It made her feel awful.

“Sensei?” She asked when a few minutes had passed since she heard the front door close.

Katsurou came wandering out of his bedroom, hands in his pockets and a thoughtful look on his face.

“Yeah?”

“Did you really tell tou-san I can stay here?”

“Yes.”

“Why?” She couldn't help but ask, feeling completely out of her depth. She couldn't see why the man would go out of his way to do that when she still had a parent. And even if she hadn't, there were other options.

Katsurou hummed, retaking his seat on the couch, but didn't move to touch his files. “Because you're my student, and I care about your well-being.”

“But tou-san...” her voice trailed off, unsure what she was trying to say. Was still alive?

“Knows you're legally an adult and don't technically have to do anything you don't want unless the Hokage steps in,” Katsurou said calmly. “And while you could get your own apartment -Konoha has good housing for her shinobi- you're still just eight.” He shrugged. “You make for a surprisingly good house-guest. Despite the poison.” He smiled amusedly, glancing over the project currently spread out in front of her.

Right.

Being a Genin meant she was legally an adult, and having been an active kunoichi for two years, Kyo had a perfectly acceptable capital saved up in the 'bank'.

Though it wasn't really a bank. More like a village-run account system, where a select division of shinobi kept track of how much you earned and made sure the numbers were as they should. It was then just to withdraw however much you wanted from you personal account whenever you were in the village.

It also helped the village save up on funds in difficult times, saving them from constantly handing out massive amounts of hard cash when things were tight.

“I love my dad,” she said.

“I'm aware.”

“I just don't understand why he would think I don't want to come back home,” Kyo told him, pulling her knees up to her chest and wrapping her arms around her legs.

Katsurou crossed his arms over his chest, head tilting a fraction in thought. “It's mostly conjecture on my part, but I suppose he feels like he's failed you in a way that's unacceptable.”

“He's only human,” Kyo muttered, a frown pulling on her brows. “He's a good dad, but he's not perfect.”

“And that is how you're different from your average child, Kyo,” Katsurou said, smiling humourlessly. “Most children think their parents can do no wrong, and when they finally find out that it isn't so, can't forgive them for it.”

Kyo grimaced but couldn't argue against his point.

She sighed. “I'll go home to talk with him again tomorrow, if that's alright with you,” she said, shifting her seat and prepared herself to go back to work. She needed to finish this.

And it was better to get it over with quickly, rather than drag things out.

She knew from experience.

“Of course,” Katsurou agreed easily. “The offer stands, though.”

Kyo felt her lips curl into a small, heart-felt smile, which she pressed against one knee as she picked up her knife.

She had the best sensei.

.

Kyo stared at her own front door, uncertainly contemplating if she should knock or not.

Knocking on the door to her own home just felt weird, though, so she took a deep breath and pressed down the handle, stepping inside.

“I'm home,” was murmured quietly under her breath as she took off her sandals.

Then she walked out of the hallway into the living room, getting her first look at the place in over a week.

Ryota was sprawled out on the couch, a very familiar, sleeping toddler draped over his chest.

Kyo smiled wanly and gave him a small wave, fully aware of Ryota's gaze on her, no matter how much it may look at a glance like he was as deeply asleep as Genma was.

“Hey, kitten,” he rumbled sedately, lips curling ever so slightly in a tiny smile.

“Hi,” Kyo returned quietly, walking up to him to peer down at Genma. “Is tou-san home?” She asked, because she wanted that out of the way first.

Ryota hummed, gaze flicking over her shoulder to look into the kitchen.

Kyo turned around to see Kou standing stock still by the sink, staring unblinkingly at her. He'd been in the middle of making lunch, it looked like. He'd been so completely motionless she hadn't noticed him.

Was he even breathing?

“Can we talk, tou-san?” She asked, feeling awkward and slightly out of place. Which was just ridiculous, because she lived here. This was home.

Kou managed a stiff nod and mentioned to the kitchen table with a twitch of one hand.

Kyo took a seat, not at all minding Ryota's presence. He was family, too.

Her father cleared his throat once he'd sat down opposite of her. “I didn't think you'd come so soon,” he admitted, still staring at her as if he couldn't make himself look away. Or blink more than absolutely necessary.

“I need- want to talk to you,” Kyo said, taking a deep breath. “You're my dad; I love you.” She shrugged.

That had never been in question.

His actions had hurt her, frightened her and stressed her to the point of tears, but... she loved him. He was her tou-san. Her dad.

And none of it had been intentional. Which was an important distinction.

Kou let out a slow breath, carefully relaxing in his seat and finally starting to look more like himself.

The air between them got marginally lighter, less tense.

“You know,” tou-san said with a small, humourless smile. “I always figured that if anyone in this family was going to- Out of Isshun and me, I was the one with the biggest chance of not coming back alive.” And he sounded like he'd been pretty okay with that thought.

Kyo nodded before she could stop herself, feeling guilty and sheepish at the brief spark of genuine amusement it elicited from Kou.

It was true enough. There'd been two very close calls already, and the war wasn't looking like it would be over anytime soon.

“Why would you think I wouldn't come back home, tou-san?” She couldn't help but ask.

Kyo couldn't let that go.

It was just... this was her family. Yeah, they'd lost kaa-san, but that didn't mean she wanted to lose the rest of them, too.

“Because I scared you, Kyo. You looked like you thought I'd attack you,” Kou said quietly, gaze dropping to the table-top with shame and regret. “Like you felt you had to defend yourself from me. And that's on top of everything else,” he ran a frustrated hand over his short hair. “I left you to deal with Genma, with everything, on your own.”

It sounded pretty bad when phrased like that.

“It's okay,” she muttered uncomfortably.

“No. It's not, Kyo,” Kou said firmly, giving her a stern frown. “Katsurou was right to do what he did.” He shook his head with a self-deprecating grimace. “I needed a kick in the ass.”

“If you'd given it another couple of days, I would've done it myself,” Ryota's voice came drifting in from the living room.

Kou snorted but didn't say anything about that.

“Tou-san,” Kyo spoke up again, fiddling with her hands, “when's the funeral?”

Kou's expression faded back to muted seriousness. “Soon. In a few days.”

“Oh.” Kyo blinked, not sure what she'd been expecting.

“I'm sorry, kitten.” Kou sighed. “I've been a shitty dad, but I'd like to give it another try,” he said. “It's not going to be the same, but, do you think you, me and Genma-chan can give a try at being a family even without- without your kaa-san?”

“Don't forget Ryota,” Kyo added with a wobbly smile.

“Don't worry; I'll kick him out first chance I get.”

“Hey,” Ryota protested idly from the living room, not sounding even close to bothered. “I can take you in a fight any time, Kou.”

“Just, please don't do it again?” Kyo asked shakily, biting the inside of her cheek to keep a somewhat straight face for a little bit longer.

“I promise that I'll do everything I can to make sure I never do anything like that ever again,” Kou swore firmly, not so much as pausing to think about what to say. It was obvious he'd given it a lot of thought.

“Okay,” Kyo answered, slipped off her chair, walked around the kitchen table and crawled into her tou-san's lap.

Kou's arms wrapped tightly around her and he pressed his cheek against her hair.

Kyo hugged him back just as tightly, barely noticing the trembling sob racking her chest, or the wetness dampening her hair.

She had already cried, but for once, that didn't feel like enough.

Kaa-san wasn't coming back, she was gone, and it would just be her, tou-san and Genma now.

And Ryota and her team, too, of course.

-x-x-x-