She'd gotten her things back.
But other than that, not much had changed.
Kyo still spent her days in Katsurou's hospital room, sitting in the uncomfortable chair and watching sensei sleep while she tried not to dwell on anything.
She didn't know what else to do.
A full week after she had woken up, after her return to Konoha, someone knocked on the door to the room Kyo, Kisaki and sensei were occupying.
Staring stupidly at the door, it took her a moment before she thought to say anything. The nurses and medics never knocked.
“Shiranui Kyo?” The Chuunin on the other side asked, giving her a quick once-over once he'd opened the door.
“Yes.” She stared impatiently at the guy. She was the only conscious human in the room.
“I'm here to escort you to the Hokage tower,” the Chuunin said briskly.
“Any particular reason?” She asked warily as she unfurled herself from her seat in the chair. This had never happened before.
The Chuunin said nothing, but his impatience was conveyed well enough when Kyo didn't immediately jump to attention.
With a sigh, she turned to give Kisaki a look.
“I'll be here,” the ninken said calmly.
It was reassuring, in a way, but she sort of wished Kisaki could have come with her. The ninken hadn't been mentioned in the summon, though.
“Hopefully, I'll see you in a bit,” Kyo muttered and walked out to join the Chuunin.
They walked through the village in silence.
It felt like she was dreaming, seeing all the people going about their business without a care in the world, as if the war was nothing more than a distant inconvenience. Rather than the brutal bloodbath Konoha's shinobi were forced to face every time they left the village walls.
This place would never be the same, because Kyo knew she would never come across Taku on his way to the training grounds, would never join Maki on a trip to the grocery store ever again.
Would never see them again.
The Chuunin left her in the hallway outside the Hokage's office.
Kyo felt cold and a bit removed from the situation, like it wasn't real. Like it was happening to someone else. She could have just fallen asleep in the chair back at the hospital again, she mused distantly.
Before she'd gotten a chance to so much as digest this unexpected turn of events, Kyo was called into the looming office before her.
“Shiranui Kyo,” a deep, smooth voice said, sounding a bit absent even when she was the focus of most of the room. “Do you know why you've been brought here?”
“No, sir,” Kyo returned, her voice coming out entirely blank.
She'd never so much as seen the Hokage before, never mind spoken with him.
If she'd known she'd get to see the Sandaime Hokage under these circumstances...
“As I understand it, you have served me and your village with determination above and beyond both your rank and your age,” the Hokage said gravely. “You've more than earned the promotion to Chuunin,” he waved a hand and someone placed a scroll in her left hand, “I'm giving you. In that scroll, you will find the official promotion documents. Fill them out and hand them in at your earliest convenience, and a new photo for your file will be taken when you hand them in. It also contains a Chuunin vest, though I advice you to either get it fitted for you, or wait to wear it until you've gotten a chance to grow into it.”
Kyo barely registered the words, the information washing over her as she stared at the fancy-looking scroll clenched in her hand.
“May I speak frankly, Hokage-sama?” Kyo inquired in a voice entirely lacking inflection.
“When the situation allows for it, I encourage it in my subordinates,” Sarutobi Hiruzen returned, not unkindly.
“I don't deserve a promotion,” she blurted, feeling like the last hour caught up to her all at once when she looked up to meet the gaze of her highest ranking superior. The man who held all of their fates in the palm of his hand. “Surviving something that I've been trained for since I was old enough to walk,” she swallowed, “that's not something you get promoted for.”
The Hokage lowered the document he had been perusing, even during this... meeting? Promotion meeting? What the hell was she supposed to call it?
“You believe I'm promoting you because of your survival?” He asked mildly, putting the scroll he'd been reading down to fold his hands on the top of his desk, giving her his full attention.
He was bizarrely young to Kyo's eyes. Not the wrinkled, kind-looking old man she'd been envisioning in her head. From a story that was feeling more and more like nothing other than a rose-tinted bed-time fantasy the longer time passed.
His hair was a rich brown.
“If we promoted shinobi based on survival alone, there'd be no Genin or Chuunin left,” a somewhat familiar, gruff voice said from off to the side.
Glancing that way, Kyo saw the greying Senju Jounin she had talked to at the hospital a little over a week ago, standing by the wall, arms crossed over his chest.
“Thank you, Takeshi,” Hiruzen said with a thin smile. “Your survival, though impressive, is not the reason you're holding that scroll, my dear,” the Hokage told her kindly. “The situation you faced ten days ago; injured, three hours from the border with two dead teammates, a feral Inuzuka ninken and a greatly injured Jounin sensei. The way you handled it, the fact you got yourself, the ninken and your sensei back to Konoha alive, with the scrolls you'd been intended to deliver as well as the corpses of five Suna shinobi; that is the reason I'm promoting you.”
Phrased like that...
Kyo felt pale.
“I cannot- that was just- I had to,” she gave a frustrated huff, fingers clenching around the scroll until her knuckles shone white against the rest of her skin.
“There are many things we have to do,” the Hokage returned wryly. “That does not mean all my men -and women- keep a level head in a seemingly hopeless situation. That is to say nothing of my Genin.”
Kyo glanced at the Senju -Takeshi?- who nodded firmly. “You earned it, kid,” he told her simply.
She felt like she was gonna throw up.
So Taku and Maki died and she got a promotion?
She almost laughed.
“You have served your village admirably, and I can only ask that you strive to do so as a Chuunin as well,” the Hokage said.
It was a clear dismissal from a very busy man.
Kyo dipped her head in a deferential bow and followed Senju Takeshi when he led her out of the office.
He gave her a long look, nudged her in the direction of the closest seat and then returned back into the office, closing the door behind him.
Kyo took one step towards the closest chair only to sink to the floor, all strength leaving her.
She could... not really deal with that.
Raising a hand to her mouth, Kyo was fully aware that she was breathing too quickly, too shallowly. Wasn't much she was capable of doing about it, though.
“Hey, hey,” a soft voice said as someone crouched next to where she was sitting on the floor. The stack of papers that was put down next to her were an indication it was one of the shinobi aides. “What's happened? Anyone see what happened to this kid?”
“Came from the Hokage's office,” someone else said. “Got a promotion, it looks like.”
“Kyo? What are you doing here? Inoichi told me you were in the hospital,” yet another voice said and it took a few seconds for her to place it.
It was Inoichi's sensei, Sarutobi Shinzu.
She stared at him with wide eyes, and oh, she was hyperventilating, wasn't she? She couldn't speak.
The man frowned, glanced at the scroll in her hand and scooped her up into his arms with a sigh.
“Hiruzen's got shitty timing,” he muttered under his breath. “But he's not wrong, Kyo.”
Kyo sagged into his hold as he carried her off towards the hospital.
Kou came back to the village four days later.
She had no idea who told him, all she knew was that she blinked out of the trance-like state she found herself in most of the time to hear his voice.
“-lease just go home, take a shower, eat a meal and come back afterwards, shinobi-san,” a rather harried voice said outside the door, sounding like they'd repeated it several times to little avail.
“You get the hell out of my way right now or I punt you through a wall,” someone growled back and they sounded furious.
It must've worked, though, because the door opened in the next second and tou-san walked in, looking like he'd run through a battle-field to get here, carrying with him the smell of smoke, blood and death.
“Tou-san,” Kyo croaked, blinking tiredly at the man.
Kou glanced around the room, took in the sight of Katsurou and Kisaki and then walked the two strides it took to bring him up to the chair Kyo was curled up in.
Without a word, he swept her up into his arms.
“I got promoted to Chuunin,” Kyo told him weakly and then broke down sobbing.
Kou sank to the floor, cradling her to his chest like she was the most precious thing in existence, taking slow, deep breaths and running one hand over her hair, again and again in what was a bit too desperate a manner to be soothing.
“You're alright,” he finally breathed, pressing a kiss to her temple, smearing dirt and soot on her skin at the same time.
Kyo just cried; she wasn't alright. She wasn't fine.
“It hurts,” she sobbed, the words muffled by the torn fabric of Kou's Jounin vest, which she was clutching desperately in both hands. As well as she could.
One of the medics had told her she'd get rid of the cast in another three days, so that was nice.
“I know,” Kou sighed, holding her tighter. “I know, kitten.” He took a shaky breath. “When I heard you were in the hospital...” he whispered softly.
After a few minutes, an hour, who knew, Kou let out a heavy sigh and rose to his feet, still with Kyo in his arms.
“Let's get you home for some rest, Kyo. You've been incredibly brave, but you can relax now, okay?”
“Okay,” Kyo muttered reluctantly, tilting her head to glance over at sensei's sleeping form.
The medic had said he'd most likely wake soon. In just a few days.
“You can come back after you've slept,” tou-san promised. “Kisaki? Are you coming with us?”
The ninken looked tired when she met his gaze, but turned back to stare at Katsurou soon enough.
“Thank you, but I will stay,” she said quietly.
“Taku's proud of you, Kisaki,” Kyo told her shakily. “Thank you.”
The dog just laid down her head and kept her gaze on Katsurou when Kou turned around and walked out of the room, striding down the corridor towards the main exit, not so much as acknowledging the nurses they walked passed.
He was taking his daughter home and the higher powers that be help anyone who tried to stop him.
Kou scrounged up a quick meal for the two of them, and while Kyo mechanically ate, he stripped out of his clothes, threw them in the washing machine and then took a well-needed shower.
He was wearing nothing more than a clean pair of underwear when he came back into the kitchen to scarf down his own meal.
“Let's go sleep,” he declared once he'd put both their plates in the sink.
“What about Genma?” Kyo asked on an exhausted sigh.
“I'll go get him tomorrow.” Kou smiled wanly. “I know you never liked it there, but he's well off with my parents.”
“I know.” Kyo held her arms up at her dad, feeling like a toddler again, demanding to be picked up and held. “Can I sleep with you?” She asked, settling against Kou's warm and still slightly damp skin.
“I don't think I'd be able to sleep without easy access to you right now,” Kou admitted, leaning his cheek against her hair. “You don't realise how scared I got when I was told you've spent the last weeks in the hospital, Kyo.”
So soon after kaa-san, too... had he thought she'd died?
“Sorry.” Kyo slumped miserably.
“It's not your fault, kitten.” Kou sighed. “Being able to check your breathing and make sure your heart's still beating will help, though.”
Kyo knew what he meant. She'd been doing the same with Katsurou for almost two weeks, waking up from fitful sleep just to check sensei was still breathing, having to make sure before she could go back to just as restless sleep.
Instead of saying anything else, they simply went to bed, Kyo burrowing down beneath the covers on kaa-san's side of the mattress, pressing her face into the pillow and telling herself she could still smell Isshun's scent.
Kou settled down next to her, one of his hands coming to rest on her back, perfectly positioned to feel every breath, every heartbeat, and Kyo finally slept calmly.
Tou-san allowed her to spend eight hours with Katsurou the next day before he and Genma came to collect her.
They had dinner, and then Kyo resolved to sit down and make more poisons.
She needed to restock.
She had the time and she'd been doing absolutely nothing since she came back to the village. It was time to get off her sorry ass and do something productive.
Kyo carefully ignored the tears that occasionally dripped from her eyes as she prepared all her tools and materials.
“What're you doin'?” Genma asked, coming toddling into the kitchen to peer curiously at her where she sat on the kitchen floor. He was growing so fast; it was hardly more than half a year until he'd turn three.
“I'm working,” Kyo said, hurriedly wiping her cheeks dry and smiling at her adorable little brother. “Wanna help?” She asked next.
Genma blinked large brown eyes and gave an excited nod.
Kyo had been two when she started, and now that kaa-san wasn't here any more, poison lessons for Genma would fall onto her, wouldn't they?
“Okay, nee-san.” Genma smiled, carefully walked around her spread out work-station and seated himself somewhat clumsily close beside her, peering at the plant material with obvious interest.
Kyo quickly sorted through the piles of leaves she'd gathered this morning before going to the hospital.
“Here, see these leaves?” She asked, picking up the dark green, fuzzy leaves she herself had first started with. “I need you to tear them up like this and put them in the pot over there, okay?” And she gave her brother a demonstration with the leaf she'd picked up. “Don't touch anything else, alright?”
“Okay,” Genma chirped, eagerly reaching for the closest leaf that looked like the one Kyo had shown him.
Kyo watched him carefully a moment, pleased to see he was doing his best to mimic her demonstration. Satisfied that things were going alright, Kyo turned part of her attention back on the other batch of poison she'd planned to make.
When Genma was finished with his first leaf, Kyo didn't take much notice.
That changed when he started crying, though.
It began with a pained whimper, the boy holding his hands close to his stomach and trying to wipe them off on his t-shirt.
“Nee-san,” he sobbed, growing more and more distraught. “It hurts,” and tears were streaming down his steadily reddening face, scrunched up with pain and rising emotions and soon enough he was screaming.
Kyo snatched him up and rushed him to the bathroom, disinfecting her own hands with chakra before touching her baby brother.
Heart beating loudly in her chest, Kyo grabbed Genma's hands and stuck them into the sink, turning on the tap for cold water, and proceeded to scrub his swelling hands, trying to hold him still and not let his hysterical wailing get to her.
Which was the scene Kou walked in on a minute later.
“What is going on here?” He demanded to know, taking in the bathroom with slightly wide eyes.
She wasn't sure what he'd said he needed to do, but Kyo had a vague memory of tou-san telling her he needed to step outside for a few minutes and could she please keep an eye on Genma?
Genma screamed louder. “Tou-san!” The toddler cried at the top of his lungs, doing his best to wiggle out of Kyo's hold with little success.
She was still holding his small, angry red hands under the tap.
“I-I'm sorry!” Kyo stammered helplessly, already on the brink of tears herself. “I just- I thought- I'm sorry,” she sobbed once before she took a deep breath and firmed her hold on Genma.
“Kyo?” Kou asked, stepping into the room and picking Genma out of her arms, helping her keep his hands under the steady stream of cold water.
“I just- he asked what I was doing and I asked if he wanted to help, kaa-san isn't here any more and I figured I should do what she did, but then this happened and I'm sorry,” the words just rushed out of her mouth and Kyo felt like the worst sister in the world.
She couldn't stop the tears dripping down her face as she miserably tried to wash the toxin off Genma's tiny fingers.
“Do we need to take him to a medic?” Kou asked with far more calm than Kyo felt was fair.
“I don't think so, it's just, painful and I don't understand.” She hiccuped a little, picking up the bar of soap again to go another round.
It took an hour to get Genma to settle down somewhat, and by the time he stopped crying, the little boy was exhausted.
Kou had smeared his hands in a salve he'd dug out of one of his packs and then tucked him into bed.
“Kyo? A proper explanation, this time?” He asked, seating himself on the couch and mentioning for her to join him.
Guilt and shame churning in her stomach, Kyo didn't dare hesitate to comply.
“I had to make more poison,” she began in a small voice. “Genma was curious, and kaa-san started when I was two, so I thought he could help a little.”
Kou sighed, putting a hand on her head and gently ruffling her hair. “I realise that I should have talked about this with you,” he muttered, mostly to himself, “but children aren't generally like you, Kyo.”
“I'm sorry,” she said again, unsure how often she had repeated the two words in the last two hours. Her face screwed up and another wave of tears leaked from her eyes.
She hated being so weepy!
“It's not entirely your fault,” tou-san told her kindly after a brief pause. “You've always been so far ahead of the curve, Kyo. But you can't expect to hold Genma to the same standards; that would be unfair. He's his own person.”
“I know,” Kyo sobbed quietly.
“Let's wait with the poison lessons for another couple of years, okay? And please tell me in advance before you try again, please.”
“I will, I'm sorry. I wasn't thinking,” Kyo admitted miserably.
“It's okay. No harm done, kitten.” Kou sighed and pulled her into his lap for a hug.
“What if he won't trust me any more?” Kyo asked, unable to help herself, a fresh wave of tears accompanying the words. “I hurt him, tou-san.”
“Children are resilient,” Kou said, resting his chin on the crown of her head. “Genma will forgive you, if not right away then given time. Everyone makes mistakes.”
They sat like that for a long while, nothing but silence filling the walls of the apartment.
Then Kou sighed and squeezed her gently. “Go finish your little project while I make us a snack, okay?”
“Okay,” Kyo returned, feeling subdued and completely despicable.
How could she have thought this would be a good idea? Poison hurt people, and that was clearly the only thing Kyo was any good for, too.
Katsurou-sensei woke up the next day, nine thirty in the morning, two hours after she'd arrived for the day, when she had crawled onto the bed to lie next to him, listening to the steady beat of his heart and trying to hide her face in his chest.
Genma hadn't let her hold him today, and had looked so confused and hurt and-
Kyo took a deep breath and closed her eyes, entirely missing the way Katsurou's eyes had opened a crack.
She did notice when he took a deep breath and shifted the arm behind her back so that it curled ever so slightly around her.
Kyo raised her head to stare at sensei's face with wide, hopeful eyes. The slice of sea-foam green meeting her gaze was the most beautiful thing she'd ever seen.
“You're in Konoha, sensei. In the hospital,” she told him softly, hearing how Kisaki shifted on the other bed, which no one had bothered to remove yet. “We ran into an ambush on the way back on our latest mission and you got hurt.”
“Taku? Maki?” Katsurou's voice was faint, hoarse and barely coherent, but Kyo still understood what he was asking.
“They died,” Kyo whispered, curling closer to sensei's side.
Katsurou's hand, which had been resting on her side, curled and tensed, fisting the material of her shirt.
“Kisaki?” The man asked after a minute, still not having let go of her shirt.
“Here,” the ninken said, and she sounded wrecked.
Katsurou's eyes slowly migrated to the right, no doubt trying to catch sight of the dog, before he closed his eyes with another sigh.
“You've been unconscious for over two weeks,” Kyo told him quietly, and then reached over to press the button to call a nurse.
She could've asked Kisaki to go fetch someone, she supposed, but she didn't want to. The ninken deserved to be here just as much as Kyo did. If not more.
Two minutes later, a nurse opened the door to check on them. She ran off to get the medic when she realised Katsurou had finally woken.
A medic and what felt like half an army of nurses barged into the room a minute later, and Kyo and Kisaki were soon enough exiled to a waiting room when they rolled Katsurou's bed off for what would no doubt prove to be a plethora of tests and examinations, and-
Kyo settled in for a long wait, arms thrown around Kisaki's neck, the remaining two members of Team Katsurou drawing strength from each other.