Kyo got her cast removed, which revealed the sorry mess that was her arm. Pale, covered in dead skin and pathetically thin.
How could just a little over two weeks do so much damage to her hard-earned muscles?
Spending most of her time either cuddled up to tou-san, Katsurou or Kisaki -Genma was beginning to treat her like normal again- Kyo took turns between home, the hospital and the training grounds as she tried to get back into shape.
Thankfully, she could regain the strength and dexterity in her hand practically anywhere, and she'd taken to practising her hand-seals everywhere and any time she wasn't busy with anything else.
At least it kept her occupied.
Focused on something.
That, and helping Katsurou-sensei with his own physical therapy, which was pretty interesting. In a depressing, gritty sort of way.
Katsurou set about it all like he'd done it a hundred times before, grimly determined to get out of the hospital as quickly as possible, though according to the medic, that wasn't happening any time soon.
“You shouldn't blame yourself,” Katsurou said tiredly when they were finally alone, the last nurse having left them about five minutes ago after tucking the Yamanaka back into bed after the latest session.
“Easily said,” Kyo muttered back, frowning down at her hands as she flexed her fingers.
“Well,” Katsurou sighed, relaxing further into his pillow with irritable fatigue, “I for one am grateful.”
“For what?” Kyo all but spat, frown growing into a scowl.
Her sensei eyed her knowingly for a long moment and then hummed. “Then let's see what would have happened if I had been assigned an Academy graduate that wasn't you,” he began in a way that made it sound like he was just talking out loud to himself. “First of all, it would have taken so much longer to get the three of you into a cohesive, functional team, and that's even assuming I would have passed the lot to begin with,” he paused, glancing at her before he returned his gaze to the ceiling. “Taku and Maki would have clashed more often, more viciously, and our potential third member might even have joined in. Then, assuming we all made it to the main point of our discussion, the poison attack from the Suna shinobi would have killed all three, potentially Kisaki as well, because without you, there's no guarantee she would have learned stealth at all. And then, if the Suna team hadn't managed to kill me, I would have died of my injuries anyway. The main objective of our mission wouldn't have been met, Konoha wouldn't have gotten their hands on five Suna shinobi, admittedly dead, but with all their equipment and personal affects intact.” He took a deep breath. “Did I forget something?”
Kyo didn't say anything, staring miserably at her limp, useless hands.
She rationally knew everything Katsurou was saying made sense, that he was right, but it still made her feel like the worst human in existence.
“So I am grateful, Kyo,” Katsurou-sensei concluded softly. “That you're alive, that you're my student. I'm very happy you've been conditioned to withstand poisons since you were two, and I am thankful the three of us are still alive,” he took a deep breath, and Kyo could tell he was exhausted and should probably be sleeping. “It doesn't make you a bad person to be glad to be alive; it makes you human. It's instinct. And whoever said you can't feel more than one thing at a time should be granted a slow, painful death.”
Kyo gave a small, wet laugh. “You have an awful sense of humour,” she told him.
“At least I have one,” Katsurou murmured back, evidently falling asleep despite his best efforts to stay awake. “Now get over here so I can feel you breathe,” he ordered in a barely audible voice.
Which was an order Kyo was happy to follow.
Sensei did no more than huff a little when Kisaki joined them, draping her large, heavy body over the both of them until she was lying on their legs with her head cushioned on Katsurou's stomach, on the side that wasn't tender with a fresh scar, his fingers burying themselves firmly in the fur on the scruff of her neck.
He wrapped his other arm around Kyo's back and promptly dropped off.
Was that what had happened in the original story, Kyo wondered. Had Katsurou still gotten assigned the team, only they'd all been killed off in that ambush? Or had they died earlier?
Kyo tried to remember any situation where her team might have died had she not been there, but she couldn't recall anything specific, drawing a complete blank.
And was that even something to comfort herself with? They would have died anyway, didn't make her feel better. If anything, it made her feel worse.
Because if Kyo being here didn't make the slightest bit of a difference, then what was the point? Why had she woken up here?
Was it just one of those things? Something no one knew the answer to and just... were as they were?
Katsurou's arm tightened around her, bringing her out of her spiralling thoughts.
Without Kyo, kaa-san's pregnancy might have turned out much worse, and she could've potentially not survived the labour that brought her beautiful baby brother into the world.
Tou-san would've been on his own with Genma and her teammates would never have known her. Sensei and Kisaki wouldn't be alive right now.
Despite everything, she was... grateful to be here.
With that realisation, Kyo closed her eyes and slept.
“I could've used a wind jutsu to clear the poison from the air,” Kyo pointed out bitterly.
“The poison was already in their systems by that point, Kyo. It wouldn't have made any difference,” Katsurou returned gently, patting her shoulder comfortingly and being patient with her despite his own situation.
“But it didn't even cross my mind,” she insisted stubbornly.
“So train harder,” sensei sighed tiredly.
It was another day, after another physical therapy session and he was exhausted after just ten minutes' worth of work. Mostly in an effort to make sure his muscles didn't atrophy further. The small amount of poison he'd breathed in had done a number on him, and the medics had told them Katsurou wouldn't be returning to active duty for months, maybe a year, if at all.
It was all up to sensei, at this point.
“You've always relied more on your needles and stealth than anything else,” Katsurou added, explaining what he'd meant. “Train yourself to use your jutsu without conscious thought. Practice until it feels like you'll drop from chakra exhaustion,” he yawned and then blinked his eyes open. “Though I'll be disappointed in you if you're careless and end up in here due to actually taking things too far.” He gave her a stern look.
“It would give me something to do,” Kyo mused quietly, smushing her cheek against Katsurou's shoulder.
The man hummed faintly.
Kyo remained awake while Katsurou slept.
None of the hospital staff had tried to stop the routine that had established itself; Kyo coming by everyday to spend time with Katsurou, lying in the hospital bed beside him for a few hours every visit. A medic had even taken her aside and told her that it was doing Katsurou good, that the Jounin was much calmer and far more cooperative than anyone had expected, considering the circumstances.
Hugs made everything feel better, and Kyo was rather pleased with herself for corrupting Katsurou-sensei to her side on the matter.
That didn't stop her from thinking -constantly worrying- about the future.
What would happen to her now? Sure, she'd been promoted to Chuunin, but she didn't have a team.
No one had informed her of anything regarding work, and Kyo hadn't asked. Wasn't sure who to ask.
Sensei would have work once he was well enough for it; she wouldn't be surprised to learn Katsurou could help out practically anywhere in the village, whether that'd be T&I, the Academy or working in the Hokage tower as one of the Sandaime's aides.
Kyo didn't have the same options.
About one and a half months after the disaster, Kyo got an answer. A month after Katsurou-sensei woke from his medical coma, Kyo was spending the afternoon at home with tou-san and Genma when it knocked on the door.
“I'll get it,” Kyo said, which left tou-san free to finish Genma's bath.
She padded to the door, pressed down the handle and opened it to reveal-
Kyo blinked at the silent ANBU standing on the other side of the threshold, white mask painted into something with teeth bared in a vicious snarl.
“Shiranui Kyo?” The ANBU asked, voice monotone but business-like.
“Yes,” she answered blankly. She couldn't think of a single reason for this.
Instead of saying anything further, the ANBU freed one of their hands from the cloak they were wearing, holding out a simple, deceptively plain scroll towards her.
Kyo automatically reached out to accept it.
The ANBU gave a short nod and disappeared in a shunshin.
Absently closing the door, Kyo eyed the innocuous scroll with mixed feelings. Part of her was curious. The rest of her felt rather paranoid.
“Who was it?” Tou-san asked from inside the bathroom.
Kyo walked up to the door, because she wasn't sure how to describe the confusing experience.
“Uh, an ANBU,” she said slowly, looking up from the scroll to peer at Kou. “He- I mean, it was most likely a him, gave me a scroll.”
“What sort of scr-” Kou began to ask, a frown on his face before he finally looked up from a happily splashing Genma.
The words died on his tongue when he laid eyes on the scroll, and Kyo had never seen that expression on his face before.
“Did the ANBU say who it was for?” He asked slowly after a beat of heavy silence, the atmosphere in the small room tense enough Genma had quieted and looked up from his playing.
“He just asked for me, gave me the scroll and then left.” Kyo shrugged warily, wondering what in the world was going on.
Kou took a deep breath, gave her a tight smile that wasn't at all reassuring and quickly finished up Genma's bath.
“What do you say about spending some time with uncle Ryota for a while, Genma-chan?” Kou asked the toddler in a light-hearted, almost cheerful voice that didn't fool Kyo for a moment.
Genma swallowed it hook, line and sinker, though, and gave a happy, excited cheer of, “Rota-oji!”
“We'll come and get you as soon as we're done with shinobi business, okay?” Tou-san promised, already in the process of getting Genma dressed.
“Promise?” Genma asked.
“Promise,” Kou returned evenly, ruffling the toddler's damp hair. “Okay, let's go,” he said the moment he was done, picking Genma up and mentioning for Kyo to follow.
Not having a clue what was going on, Kyo did the only logical thing and followed her father out the door and to the Uchiha Clan compound.
At tou-san's pointed look, she stuffed the scroll into one of her pockets before they stepped outside the apartment.
“What's going on?” Ryota asked, having gotten an excited Genma thrust into his arms the moment he'd opened the door. “Kou?”
“Some business popped up; it probably won't take more than a couple of hours at most,” Kou said with a pleasant smile that was seriously starting to worry Kyo.
Judging by the look on Ryota's face, he felt the same.
“Who did something and why aren't you taking me with you?” He asked, absently shifting his hold on Genma, who was tugging insistently on a lock of Ryota's black hair, asking to be put down and couldn't 'Rota-oji' show him something cool, please?
“Sorry, not that kind of situation,” Kou returned without pause, gazing steadily at his teammate.
Ryota flicked a glance at Kyo, who shrugged, before reluctantly stepping down. “Alright. I'd like an explanation, though.”
“When we're done,” Kou agreed pleasantly, and picked Kyo up off her feet without warning.
Perfectly capable of keeping up with her dad on her own, Kyo bit her tongue to refrain from saying anything. Partly because she was rather unsettled by her dad's reaction, and partly because she loved the closeness, whatever the circumstances.
With one last nod at Ryota, Kou took to the roofs and left the Uchiha compound quickly.
It didn't take Kyo more than a handful of seconds to realise where they were headed. She didn't say anything, though, not even when they landed on the ground and Kou strode into the Hokage tower with clear purpose.
It felt strange to be carried through the familiar corridors, but she wasn't embarrassed. She loved her dad and she wasn't afraid to show it. Never mind how uptight some civilians were about public displays of affection, whether those were of a familial or romantic nature.
Fuck those people.
Kyo felt her stomach drop when Kou came to a stop outside the Hokage's office.
“Tou-san,” she whispered, tightening her hold on him, but Kou addressed the secretary sitting outside the closed doors, not showing any signs of having heard her.
“I need to talk to the Hokage,” Kou said firmly, giving the woman an uncompromising look. It was painfully obvious he wouldn't take no for an answer, and that he'd wait however long he had to if it came to that.
“I'll alert him to your request,” the woman returned evenly, giving him a cool look.
Kou didn't take a seat, instead remained standing where he was, watching her rise and walk over to the office doors, knock, and then slip inside.
The following minutes were tense, to say the least.
“Tou-san, what are we doing?” Kyo couldn't help but ask into the silence.
Kou just patted her on the knee and didn't say a word.
It made her more worried, frankly.
It felt like it took hours before the door opened again and the woman said, “He will see you now.”
Kou gave her a short nod and strode passed. “Hokage-sama,” he greeted the Sandaime, tilting his head in a quick, shallow bow.
“Kou, I understand that you have some urgent business with me,” Sarutobi Hiruzen said mildly, looking relaxed and faintly curious where he was reclining in his chair.
Something about this whole thing made Kyo think he already knew what this was about.
“Damn well I do,” Kou growled, carefully setting Kyo down on her feet beside him and fishing the scroll out of her pocket in the same motion, tossing it onto the Hokage's desk. “What the hell is that?” He asked sharply.
Kyo stared up at her tou-san with wide eyes.
The Hokage didn't so much as glance at the scroll. “You didn't even give her the chance to read it, Kou?” He inquired lightly, still managing to sound disapproving.
“I don't even know why you'd give it to her in the first place! She's eight!” The man hissed furiously.
“Your daughter is a very talented young kunoichi,” the Hokage said firmly, looking like he was done acting like he didn't know what this was really about. “And her talents are very well suited for ANBU.”
“She's eight!” Kou repeated harshly, taking a step closer to the Hokage's desk, but still very much in control of himself. Thankfully.
Kyo felt like the two men had forgotten she was there, and it took a moment before what the Hokage had just said registered in her head.
Her eyes widened.
She didn't have time to dwell on it further right now, though, because the conversation between the two men continued.
“Be mindful of what you say, Kou,” the Hokage cautioned calmly, eyeing the man with his dark, sharp eyes. It could have been made into a threat, but it sounded more like a mild reminder, even without the brief look he slanted in Kyo's direction.
Kou grit his teeth. “She lost her team not even two months ago! Do you want her to get killed?” He asked harshly. “I thought Konoha was supposed to care for her shinobi! That's what sets us apart from the other villages,” he spat.
“ANBU isn't the horrible place you make it out to be,” the Hokage said firmly, thankfully not looking like he was about to take exception to her tou-san's rising temper. “It's a close-knit community within the village, within the shinobi forces, that gives a kind of support to its members that some people find is exactly what they need.”
“She's not broken,” Kou refuted vehemently, looking furious at the perceived insult.
She wasn't sure that was what the Hokage had implied, though.
“No,” Hiruzen agreed, sending Kyo another brief glance. “But she's suffered a great loss. Where would you want her to go from here, Kou? Should I place her on another team? Under a different sensei? To take the place of another fallen shinobi?”
Kyo felt the blood drain out of her face at the mere thought, her stomach turning to lead in her gut.
No. No, that's- she was good. No thank you.
“ANBU is dangerous; it kills people. Worse than that, it can twist them into something else,” Kou wasn't at all calming down, still just as incensed as when they'd arrived and he was starting to frighten Kyo.
Not that she was scared of him, but rather for him.
The Hokage was an undisputed dictator, and she was very much aware of it. If her dad overstepped an invisible line, she didn't want to know what would happen.
“She's too young!” Kou insisted sharply.
“She's eight years old and has already earned herself a field-promotion to Chuunin,” the Hokage snapped, patience wearing thin. “She's a prodigy in her field and I can already say without a shadow of a doubt she'll surpass her mother. Isshun was one of my best assassins, but she wasn't as capable in other fields.”
“No,” Kou snarled. “This has nothing to do with Isshun!”
“I feel it has very much to do with your late wife,” Hiruzen argued evenly.
“My daughter is eight, and I won't let you send her out to start on her assassin career before she's even reached an age with double digits!” Kou slammed a fist onto the Hokage's desk, rattling the heavy wooden piece of furniture, but thankfully not breaking anything.
Heart in her throat, Kyo stepped up to her father and pierced the skin on his left forearm with one of her needles, sinking it about a centimetre into his arm before withdrawing it again.
Kou twitched and glanced down at her, looked at his arm and then frowned.
“Kyo, what did you-” he began to ask, but had to support his weight against the desk he'd just struck when his balance got affected.
“It's just a sedative,” she told him quickly, voice small and unsteady. “You'll sleep for about an hour. Sorry, tou-san,” she bit her lip, staring at her dad with wide, guilty eyes as he struggled against the drug in his system.
It was a fight he was losing quickly, though, because Kyo had stabbed him very close to a larger blood-vessel, ensuring it'd be quick.
Kou slowly sank down in a crouch, head between his knees and putting one hand to his temple. With a quiet groan, he let himself sit down on the floor, leaning his back against the Hokage's desk, and another few seconds later, he was out.
Kyo stared numbly at her dad, unable to move.
“I believe I can understand the reasoning behind your action, but let me assure you that it was entirely unnecessary, Kyo,” the Hokage told her kindly into the following silence.
“He's gonna be so angry with me,” Kyo whispered under her breath, mostly to herself.
“Your family has been through quite a bit in the last few months. I'm not about to hold it against him,” Hiruzen assured her. “While a bit extreme, Kou's reaction isn't the worst I've ever endured.” He smiled thinly.
Kyo blinked a few times, taking that information in. “So you weren't going to punish him for insubordination?”
“For yelling at me out of concern for his eight year old daughter? No.” Hiruzen sighed. “I've always been of the opinion that it's important people should feel secure enough to speak up when they encounter something they believe is wrong. That doesn't always mean their words will be heeded, but I try to at least listen,” he said, picking up the scroll that had started this whole thing and held it out towards her. “Read it,” he advised her calmly.
Kyo took the scroll, sent the Hokage a questioning look, and then opened it and began to read.
It wasn't so much an offer, as orders to turn up in a specific location six o'clock in the morning two days from now, in full gear and prepared to be away from home for at least a week.
When she was done reading, she looked up at the Hokage, who was watching her curiously.
“It's not a promise, so much as the offer of a chance,” he said idly.
Kyo sighed quietly. “It's like graduating all over again,” she returned with a thin, bitter smile.
The Sandaime chuckled. “In a way, I suppose you're right.”
Kyo considered the situation, wishing she could just talk to sensei about it, ask for his advice.
“So I show up, go through some unknown test and potentially win a spot as an ANBU?” She asked, rolling up the scroll and putting it back in her pocket. It said to bring it with her to the designated spot in two days. “No offence, Hokage-sama, but I am only eight. Do I really have anything resembling a chance against shinobi that are bigger, stronger and with more experience than me?” She asked tiredly.
“And that is the reason you received that scroll,” Hiruzen smiled in a quietly pleased manner. “I have shinobi trice your age with not even half your self-awareness.”
“It's just stupid to pretend I'm more than I am,” Kyo muttered awkwardly, not sure how to respond. She was silent for a few seconds. “Can I talk about this with sensei?” She asked.
“I don't see any problems with that,” the Hokage replied after a brief, considering pause, giving her an intent look. “You're very fond of him.”
“Yes.” Kyo nodded. “He's my sensei, but,” she hesitated. The Hokage was supposed to know, but she wasn't sure if there were any ANBU in here. There probably was. “He's also my friend,” she finished quietly.
And the Hokage looked like he understood what she was talking about, because he smiled minutely, inclining his head.
“You are a remarkable young girl, Kyo. I'm looking forward to see where the next few years will take you.”
And it sounded like a clear dismissal, prompting Kyo to dip her head in a respectful bow, before she paused.
“Uh, Hokage-sama? What about tou-san?” She asked sheepishly, feeling her cheeks heat up at the amused look he sent her.
“Are you angry with me?” Kyo asked quietly a few hours later, sitting curled up on the couch at home.
One of the ANBU in the room, protecting the Hokage, had cleared the sedative from her dad's system in a matter of minutes at the Hokage's directions, before they'd left the office.
Kou sighed heavily. “No. I'm not angry. A bit chagrined, perhaps, but not angry. Not with you,” he said, coming over to sit beside her. “I'm angry at this war, the situation, the world around us that makes this an acceptable venture.” He pulled a hand through his hair, giving her an apologetic look. “I'm sorry if I scared you.”
“I'm not afraid of you,” Kyo replied instantly, because she knew what that felt like. “...but I was scared for you,” she admitted. “The Hokage has a lot of power.” She shrugged uncomfortably.
“He does,” Kou agreed kindly. “And I'm sorry I didn't take into account that you haven't yet gotten the chance to learn what kind of man he is.”
“I'm sorry for drugging you,” she said, leaning against his side, insides warming and relaxing when Kou automatically shifted his arm to pull her closer.
They sat in silence for a moment, just enjoying the calm. Genma was sleeping already, having been worn out by playing with Ryota.
Of course, if the prickly Uchiha had heard anyone refer to it as such, he would have insisted it was training, preparation for the Academy. And nothing else.
“He was right, you know,” Kou said abruptly, making Kyo blink and look at him questioningly. “When the Hokage said you're already showing signs of being better than Isshun was. He was right.”
Kyo stared at her dad, uncertain how to respond.
“It doesn't feel like it,” she settled on saying.
Tou-san hummed. “Age gives perspective.” He shrugged. “She started training later than you, and while she was very, very good with poisons, the rest of it wasn't something she was as skilled at.” He paused, staring at the far wall. “It's what killed her in the end. The constant stress and strain wore her down and she wasn't really trained for a battle-field.”
Kyo pressed closer to her dad's side, soaking up his warmth.