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Pink Carnations and Zinnia

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Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born.

~Anais Nin, The Diary of Anaïs Nin


Introductions

It is winter before you see the blond boy again. That is a considerable amount of time, and yet it also feels like just yesterday when helping him brought up unwanted memories for you. Dealing with him again is an unpleasant prospect, but the way he brightens at the sight of you but then dims at your silence is too much to bear.

“Hello,” you finally greet, managing to not grit or spit it out.

It is just a coincidence that has made your paths cross again, but you do wish it was one that hadn’t happened. Taking a break from the hospital was supposed to be relaxing, not stress-inducing, but you still find yourself wondering if you should bother with vacations anyway if this is what you were risking in taking them.

The boy’s smile picked back up and he waved a hand up at you. “Hey, hey! We forgot to give our names last time!”

No, that was deliberate on your part.

He grinned widely and jabbed a thumb at himself. “I’m Uzumaki Naruto!”

He looked up at you expectantly, leaving you with little choice. It was either answer him, or snub him and risk making him cry. You would rather avoid the waterworks if possible.

“Aburame Kaiya.”

“So, Aburame-sister, then!”

The informal way of calling you ‘sister’ irks you since you don’t even know this kid. You correct him and tell him to call you aneue.

“Aburame-big sister!”

Urgh. You don’t want to be his big sister. The blond hair and blue eyes are too much.

And yet, those same features that make you want to run away are the ones that make you stay to finish the conversation he initiated. Apparently he’d been looking for you ever since he realized he forgot to introduce himself, and you hope that means that he won’t be looking for you anymore. You should probably count yourself lucky enough that it took this long for him to find you again, but since that meant your luck had run out, you didn’t feel lucky at all.

Being winter, it was cold, and Naruto had on a jacket, but a gust of wind had him shivering. You told him that he should get back home, but he sulked and said he didn’t have a home, just the orphanage. He shivered rubbed his hands together, prompting you to want to make a long suffering sigh, but instead you reluctantly pulled off the scarf you were wearing and wrapped it around his neck, trying for maximum coverage.

This scarf was one you had made for yourself after finishing the new one for Father. It was an experiment in making a chunky scarf, and while not quite what you had imagined, it was still a good enough effort that you wore it outside of the house. But, you reminded yourself, you could always make another one, so what was the harm in giving away this one? None that you could see, since he didn’t have parents who could protest that they didn’t want ‘charity’, and your conscience would bother you if you let him go knowing he was cold and didn’t have either mittens, scarf or toque.

He gives you what looks like the same wide-eyed wonder that Torune did and you hope you haven’t made some kind of mistake.


Given

Naruto finally leaves when Aburame-big sister finally nudges him to get out of the cold. He only leaves because he notices that her nose and cheeks are red from cold, and his heart hammers in his chest as he waits for her to take her scarf back.

She doesn’t, and just waves him on his way. She doesn’t even get to take five steps before he yells that she forgot her scarf, running up to give it back. She reaches down and grabs his hands, making him freeze. Was she going to hurt him now? Would she rip it away from him and storm off?

But no, she doesn’t hurt him or take it from him. Instead she just winds it back around his neck and pats it down.

“It’s yours now.”

He glared because people don’t just give him things. “Why?”

She shrugged. “You’re cold, and I can always make myself another one.”

His eyes widened as he clutched the scarf. “Y-you made this? Really?”

She nodded. “Yes, I did.” She shooed him away. “Get inside now. Go on.”

He’s definitely used to being told to go away, but not so quietly. She doesn’t even look mean about it. He remembers that she said it was cold, and then she gave him this scarf, so maybe she’s just worried about him?

Deciding to believe that instead of thinking that he might be annoying her and she just wants him gone, Naruto finally waved goodbye. He turned and ran off before stopping and looking back. His heart lightened to see her still staring after him and lifted his hands to help him yell louder.

“I’ll take good care of this scarf! See you later, Aburame-big sister!”

(running off with a wide smile on his face, he doesn’t see her pinch the bridge of her nose before turning and leaving)


Ponder

Hanging out on the floor of Torune’s room with a book, you half-listened as the younger boy talked about his training with Shibi-sama. From what you did register, your admiration of the man only grew. Surely with his tutelage, someday Torune would have enough control not to need you and your Shapers follow him around in public.

Eventually he wound down from talking and joined you on the floor with a book of his own.

You were grateful that he understood that you didn’t want noise or activity every time you came to visit him. If that had been required, you would have started looking for excuses not to come. As it was, your visits to Torune were usually low-maintenance and therefore not too burdensome.

Before long, with your Shapers active in the room, even Shino could join you two and touch things without the danger of coming into contact with Torune’s poisonous insects. When all three of you were in a room together, you could sometimes expect Yoji to join in, even if all you lot were doing was reading. Despite being a genin now and former Root member, he disliked being left out.

Sometimes, in the quiet of the room when all of you were together, you wondered if you really would end up marrying one of Shibi-sama’s sons.


Nerves

Time slides by like water slips through fingers, and it isn’t long before you find yourself with a metal headband of your own. You had taken the graduation exam as you had told Father you would, and now you were a genin. Wearing it over your forehead, you don’t share the same excitement that the rest of the successful graduates do, not when you’re already concerned about future missions that might require you to be in danger. Your only consolation is that Yoji has more than once complained about D-ranks, so you know that the village isn’t going to just throw you and your team into the deep end of things.

Stepping out of the academy doors, you spot Father in the crowd of proud parents. Making your way over to him, you stand in front of him as he gazed upon you, a new graduate and newbie genin.

“Congratulations, Kaiya,” he said. He put a hand on your shoulder. “Your mother would be proud.”

You don’t remember her enough to love her, but you nod at his words anyway.

He takes you out to dinner to celebrate and presents you with a weapons pouch filled with new throwing stars and shinobi-grade wire, as well as a kunai pouch for your thigh filled with new kunai. You aren’t proficient with throwing stars or wire for fear of cutting or losing your fingers, but you are adequate with kunai. They are common tools for all shinobi, and you accept them gratefully.

That night, despite having graduated, you have trouble sleeping. The thought of tomorrow is bothering you, because that’s when you get team assignments. Who would your teammates be, and would you get along with them?

Sleep eventually comes, but it is fitful and not exactly restful.


Slipping

Aburame Kaiya has finally graduated.

Itachi hears this news from his father, as well as the fact that she and her team passed the final hidden exam to become Team 4. Her teammates aren’t notable aside from being her teammates, and they are an eleven year-old named Ogura Jirou, and a twelve year-old named Kitagawa Arata. Their team leader is a kunoichi named Hamada Azumi, a former Anbu who specialized in seduction missions.

Speaking of Anbu, Itachi was reminded that that was his father’s goal, to have his first-born son enter Anbu at a young age. Itachi knew he could achieve that, and had told his father thus (his bland tone being completely ignored), but as with most things in his career, Itachi was only doing it out of a sense of obligation and duty.

His younger brother Sasuke was the best thing in his life, and he took every opportunity he could to spend time with the younger boy. Unfortunately, the time he could spend with his younger brother was becoming less over time as he needed to focus on his training in order to meet his father’s expectations. He was a chunin now, but the next step was jonin, and then Anbu after that.

Sometimes it troubles him that this is the only path in life that is open to him, but he continues on as best he can. There are rumbles in the clan, people unhappy with how the clan has been treated since the night of the attack from the Nine-Tails, and Itachi suspects that he will need every skill he has in order to face whatever comes. He hopes it’s nothing too terrible, but considering his clan members, he suspects that is a dwindling hope.

For Sasuke, if nothing else, Itachi needs to be ready to face the future.

So sometimes he finds himself forgetting that Aburame Kaiya exists.


Attentive

D-rank missions are every bit as boring as Yoji complained about, but you remind yourself that painting fences and weeding gardens is preferable to C-rank missions, so you might as well enjoy them while you can. You don’t, but you continue to try to convince yourself that you should.

Team 4, of which you are a member of, doesn’t seem to have been made with any particular purpose in mind aside from being a team of genin that need training. Ogura and Kitagawa are bearable as far as teammates go, although you still need time to get used to Hamada-sensei.

The older woman is occasionally suggestive, and you think she’s trying to lead you towards the idea of seduction missions, but you would rather not step that far outside of your comfort zone if possible. Sure, if you had to go that far, sex wouldn’t get you pregnant unless you wanted to (and you hope to every deity there may be that no one in the village realizes you have the ability to harvest semen if you apply yourself), but that doesn’t mean you want to get close to targets like that. And yes, you could make targets fall hopelessly in love with you, but again, you don’t want to have to get that close to do it. Bottom line, you don’t want to do honeypot missions and you think that trying to push you that way will be enough to make you lash out, so you really hope no one is that stupid.

For now, you listen as Ogura and Kitagawa bitch about the team’s current mission which is to haul lumber around. The boys are moving planks, and right now you’re moving a bucket of nails, which is surprisingly heavy. Delivering the planks and nails to the designated spot, the three of you turn around and head back for another load, though this time you carry a toolbox while the boys carry more planks.

“Are you alright, Aburame-chan?”

You blink at the sound of Ogura’s voice and look up at him to see that both boys have paused to look back at you. His concern shouldn’t surprise you because by now you’ve realized that Ogura is a considerate person. Kitagawa labours under the impression that girls are weak (grown up kunoichi like sensei don’t count, apparently), so even he checks on you from time to time. For boys, they’re surprisingly mindful of you, if only because they think being a girl means you need to be looked after, even if you are a kunoichi.

You nodded. “I’m fine, Ogura-kun.”

“Let us know if you need us to carry that,” Kitagawa called from the front as they started walking again.

“Okay,” you said, knowing you wouldn’t.

Well, maybe if you got blisters, but not before then.


Plot

Hiruzen watched Team 4 through his crystal ball with a sense of satisfaction.

Ogura and Kitagawa weren’t from prominent clans, but that was the point. The Uchiha and the Hyuuga still didn’t want to have to do anything with the Aburame if they didn’t have to, so none of their children from Kaiya’s graduating class could be placed with her. Many of the other clans had expressed an interest in having their children on the girl’s team, but since only two could be chosen that meant leaving out the rest. In the interest of fairness, she had been assigned civilian-born teammates and a civilian-born sensei.

Moreover, the boys had been chosen based on their personalities. Ogura had younger sisters he was fond of and a gentle mother he tried to help in any way he could. Kitagawa had been raised by his grandmother and the old woman had imparted to him the importance of taking care of girls even if they seemed strong. It was Hiruzen’s hope that Kaiya would become fond of her teammates and in that way become closer to the Will of Fire.

As for their sensei, Azumi had the skills to protect Kaiya. The suggestive comments were outside of his expectation, and he saw that Kaiya was having a hard time connecting to her sensei because of it, but he had faith that things would turn out fine. Azumi knew when the draw the line and not step over it, and while she hadn’t had a genin team before, her skills made her a good candidate for a jonin sensei.

Hiruzen knew that Kaiya’s abilities had the potential to be dangerous, and because of this, he wanted to take steps to ensure that those abilities were never pointed at Konohagakure. If all went well, her team would become important to her, and Kaiya would see that the village was important and needed to be protected. The sins of the village against her needed to be outweighed by the good.

Seeing the way that she began lingering after each daily dismissal, Hiruzen felt that his plot was already beginning to bear fruit.


It does not do to leave a live dragon out of your calculations, if you live near him.

~J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit or There and Back Again