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The King of Old Soldiers

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Genma Shiranui: 8:50 AM

Genma shuts the door to the Hokage’s Office. Its many changes over the years have ceased to surprise him anymore, and he takes no special notice of the bookshelves that line the wall or the paperwork piling up on the desk. Only the portraits give him pause, as they always do, but his gaze slides over them as easily as they always have.

The Lord Sixth Hokage, Kakashi Hatake, has his back to Genma, the dog-eared corners of a familiar paperback just visible beyond scruffy silver hair. The paperwork shuffles menacingly in the summer breeze wafting through the windows. Somewhere on a floor below them, a switch flips and heat starts rumbling up through creaky pipes. How quickly even Yamato’s handiwork goes to shit. 

Genma turns the senbon over in his mouth three times before coughing delicately, unable to resist smiling when Kakashi shuts the book with a soft clap and turns his swivel chair around in one swift motion. “Oh, sorry,” he drawls. “I didn’t see you there.”

“Liar,” says Genma. “What’ve you got for me?”

Kakashi slips his book into his flak jacket, making a big show of flipping through one of the smaller stacks of papers. The slim computer at the end of the big oak desk goes completely ignored, a strategy that Genma also takes to the modern technology rapidly invading the village. If you ask him, it’s the signals in the air that’re the real villains. But he’s made it his lifetime goal for no one to ask him. 

Kakashi looks good. Well, good enough. Kind of skinny in the way Genma’s uncle got late in life, all knobby elbows and knees. His father would have ended up the same if he’d lived long enough.

He also looks tired. But every Hokage Genma’s served under has looked tired.

“I have a couple of B-ranks to choose from,” Kakashi says finally. “One’s an escort mission in the Hidden Waterfall—they’ve still got a band of holdouts from the war. The other’s a guard mission out by the Correctional Facility.” 

Genma almost—but doesn’t—roll his eyes. He’s lapped Konoha’s border so many times in the last couple of years he feels like pre-war Guy on one of his suicidal training missions. “Full offense, Kakashi,” he drawls back. “But if I go out that way again I’m going to feel more like a park ranger than a ninja.” 

He slouches, putting his hands in his pockets. Thank god they didn’t streamline those from the uniforms. He wouldn’t know what to do with himself. He rolls the needle over once, twice, and three times before adding, a flutter of nervousness in his chest, “How about something a little more exciting? You got an A-rank hiding anywhere in there for me?”

Kakashi leans back in his seat, lacing his fingers behind his neck. It’s a classic Kakashi pose. Both of them are mimicking their own mannerisms, the tics they’ve carried with them through one war to another. It feels like a dance. 

“What’s this about, Genma?” asks Kakashi. It’s disconcerting to look at two eyes when Genma addresses him, even now. 

“Just looking for a little action, that’s all,” says Genma. “Check my file and you’ll see it’s overdue.” During the last war—no, not the last war, he reminds himself, the one before that, his war—he’d have cried to know that there was a future without back-to-back combat missions. Actually cried. In front of Ebisu, even.

“Mah,” says Kakashi. He doesn’t follow that up with anything. Genma resists a smile. Like that’ll work on him. He’s not one of Naruto’s generation, too scared of silence to resist apologizing and running out the door as quickly as allowed. They both stand there. Genma whistles an old tune. 

Finally, Kakashi speaks. There’s no change in his expression as he says, “You’ve spent the last thirty years flying so far under the radar no one even noticed you were doing it. You’ve been letting the poor hard-working Nara clan act lazy while you’ve dodged every promotion under the sun. I know for a fact you only took the Hokage bodyguard position under the Fourth because you’d already be dead if a threat large enough to kill the Hokage ever actually presented itself.” It’s the most Genma’s heard Kakashi say since his inauguration—honestly, it might be more. 

Genma smiles. He can’t help it. “I mean, guarding the Hokage? They’re supposed to be the strongest person in the village. Not my fault they created a redundant position.”

“Mmm,” says Kakashi. 

“It was my birthday last week,” he adds, as casually as the rest of him. 

“That’s right. What did you turn, forty-four, forty-five?” asks Kakashi. Genma almost laughs. Wishful thinking on Kakashi’s part.

“You know just as well as I do that I turned forty-eight.”

“Happy birthday,” says Kakashi. 

“So, you got an A-rank mission for me?”

“No,” says Kakashi.

Genma stops smiling, although he works hard to keep his face pleasant. “Come on, now,” he says. 

“Genma,” says Kakashi. “It’s not because you’re old.”

“So then, what is it?” says Genma.

“I don’t have any A-rank missions.” 

Genma is speechless for the first time in ten years.

He speaks anyway. “What?”

Kakashi throws his hands up in the air, swiveling in his chair. “I’ve only had three this past month, and they’ve all been handled already. Take that up with Ino and Sai. They’ve got some kind of bet going on.”

“That’s insane,” says Genma.

Kakashi stops swiveling. Genma finds that his chakra signature, even doubled in size from the old days, is like an old friend. The room around them, even rebuilt, echoes with decades of footsteps. Lulled into a sense of security by walls and familiar faces, the world has utterly changed around him. 

It’s those goddamn computers.

“It’s not you, Genma,” says Kakashi. “It’s us.”

Genma leaves before he pulls a kunai on Kakashi’s laptop. After the door shuts behind him, Kakashi folds his arms, swiveling into oblivion, his eyes centered on a fixed point above him. 

Ibiki Morino: 11:37 AM

“Don’t you have anything better to do?”

“You’ve been asking me that for twenty years, and has the answer ever changed?” says Anko. 

“Once, six years ago, you shrieked and disappeared in a cloud of smoke. Later I found out you were late for a doctor’s appointment about your birth control.”

Anko lounges in the chair in front of Ibiki’s desk, something she’s been doing since time immemorial. He’s never needed to replace the chair (well, once, but they’d needed to replace everything after Pain). Discomfort lasts longer and it gets people out of his office faster. Except her. 

Ibiki looks up at the ceiling, taking comfort in the familiar water stains. When he looks back down at Anko, she’s still there. “Shame,” he says. “I always hope you’ll disappear.”

“You want to get lunch?” she asks.

“Don’t you have children to look after?” he asks. 

“Iruka’s been going gray for so long, I figured I’d finally give him the opportunity to even out his roots,” says Anko. “And I know you don’t have anything better to do.”

Ever since she sat down, Ibiki has been shuffling the same twenty sheets of paper on his desk. He shuffles them again out of spite. 

“Come on,” says Anko, drawing out the last word. “You’re a growing boy.”

Ibiki snorts.

“Fine, a growing middle-aged-man.”

“Around the middle, maybe.”

“And there’s nothing wrong with that,” says Anko. “Off we go.”

It is a credit to Ibiki’s team that they say nothing when Ibiki walks out the door, trenchcoat collar turned up and Anko’s hand snaked around his arm. Oh, they laugh after he’s gone, but he won’t blame them for that. They’ve been doing it for twenty years.  

Kakashi Hatake: 11:43 AM 

Kakashi is in the middle of a semi-important briefing about currency inflation with Shikamaru when Genma pokes his head back in the door. With Shikaku dead, the laziest ninja in the Leaf are all gathered in one room, all of them in the act of doing something. Kakashi has no time to ruminate on this when Genma shoves a piece of paper into his hand. 

“I forgot,” he says. “Don’t you dare ditch. If you do, Guy says you’ll be sleeping on the couch.”

That asshole. Genma believes in privacy only as long as it takes for him to think of a joke at your expense. Kakashi would strangle him if it wouldn’t violate some zoning permit. Every day, he thinks about zoning permits and how they saved countless chunin from Tsunade’s wrath. Every. Day. 

“Congrats on your retirement,” says Shikamaru, giving Kakashi a look with such venom in it that Kakashi wishes he could vacate both the premises and this mortal coil. He opens the note. He expects it to read, “Fuck you. Love, Genma.” It says something almost as bad: Meet us at Izakaya. 10 pm.

The bar above the dango shop. Kakashi burns the note with a snap of his fingers. 

“For a bunch of old assholes, you’d think their bedtime would be earlier,” says Kakashi. 

“Says the old asshole,” mutters Shikamaru. 

“I’m sorry?” says Kakashi, cupping his ear. “I must have misheard you. What were you saying to the Sixth Hokage?”

Like many confronted with Kakashi before him, Shikamaru raises his eyes in prayer. For his part, Kakashi misses Shikamaru’s dad. They both make do. 

Raido Namiashi: 12:15 PM

“It’s about time they made the kid Hokage,” says Raido. “It’s been ten years.” 

“Twelve,” says Aoba. “I think they’re just out to torture Kakashi.”

They’re lounging on a big red sofa, toying with the threadbare cushions. Both of them have a glass of sake. Besides them, Ebisu’s lips are pursed, unsure whether or not to chastise them for drinking so early in the day. Raido is just waiting for him to try it. 

“You look like you swallowed a lemon, Raido,” says Aoba. “What’s going on?”

“Which is funny,” says Raido. “Considering the company I keep.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” says Ebisu, pursing his lips harder. Raido meets him in the eye—or the glasses, whatever—and takes a long sip from his sake. 

“What’s having kids like?” Raido asks. Ebisu starts to answer, which is insane, but they let him splutter to a stop as he realizes he does not, in fact, have children. The poor man never learned that he doesn’t know the answer to every question. Sometimes it’s almost admirable. 

Aoba considers, which he does by taking a sip of sake. They don’t even like drinking this early. The twitch in Ebisu’s temple is what keeps them going. 

“It’s pretty nice,” he admits. “I mean, we had kids after the war ended, so it felt safe. Plus, with the mission drought, I’ve got plenty of time to raise them. Himari doesn’t have a ton of time. My wife’s an architect, you know.”

“We know,” says Raido, rolling his eyes. At the same time, Ebisu says, “She is?” 

“I have to wonder what the likes of Shikaku and Inoichi were thinking,” says Aoba. “I mean really, I think about it all the time. The Third Great Ninja War going on and all, and they forgot birth control.”

“Too bad you can’t ask them,” says Raido.

“You could always ask Tsume Inuzuka,” says Ebisu. “Or Hiashi Hyuga. Or Choza Akimichi. Or Kizashi and Mebuki Haruno.” He pauses. “I feel like I’m forgetting someone.”

Raido nods sympathetically, understanding the plight of forgetting things as one gets older. He turns fifty in less than a month, and Genma is going to roast him for it so hard he’s going to feel it for the entire next decade. He still shudders to think of the party Genma forced on him when he turned forty. He’s still not sure Tonbo ever found his panties.  

“What about me?”  The voice is a soft, emphatic hiss, sending bolts of shock down all three of their spines. Raido and Aoba both drop and subsequently catch their drinks. Ebisu, with his non-alcoholic head start, has a kunai pulled by the time the three of them turn their heads.

Oh. A warm blush spreads across Ebisu’s face as he realizes who it is. “I’m so sorry, sir,” he yelps. “It’s not that I forgot about you! I was saving you for last. Seeing as what an illustrious father you are.”

Shibi Aburame glides to the front of their booth, which is shaped roughly like a big horseshoe. It more eventful days, it would be full to the brim with shinobi on mission breaks, but hardly anyone ever comes back exhausted and ready to talk anymore. It gives the three of them plenty of space to spread out, though. Shibi eyes them all critically. His big coat and hood give the impression of a giant bug. It’s good marketing.

“So, you have questions about fatherhood,” he says.

The other two shrivel up in their uniforms. Raido almost rolls his eyes again. Goddamn Genma. He never did shit like that before him. “Aoba was just wondering why people would choose to bring children into the world during a war,” he says. 

Aoba glares, or he would if it weren’t for his ugly glasses. Between the four people, Raido is the only one not wearing ugly glasses. His mother always told him he had nice eyes. 

Besides, even ugly eyes are less ugly than all three pairs of these glasses. 

“It wasn’t deep,” says Shibi. “We wanted a son, so we had one. And children gave us something to look forward to.”

“Sounds kind of deep,” says Aoba.

Shibi looks at him. Aoba says nothing more. 

“I would love to get a drink with you,” says Shibi. “But it is a little early in the day for alcohol. Besides, it’s not like you invited me.”

Ebisu and Aoba fall all over themselves in inviting Shibi to drink with them. Ebisu even finishes off Aoba’s glass of sake to show how excited he is to have Shibi there. Raido slides out of the booth so that Shibi can slide in, and then nods his head to the other three. 

“I need some time to think,” he says. “Have fun, you three.” He disappears in a cloud of smoke before any of them can argue. 

The last thing he hears is Aoba saying, “I wonder why he was asking about kids?” 

Anko Mitarashi: 12:26 PM

Anko came out to have a good time and she’s honestly feeling so attacked right now. Ibiki looks up from his lunch with the kind of slightly smug smile that makes her want to smack him. 

“I want to smack you,” she announces, twirling her fork around her noodles. She picked where they went the last three times they had lunch, so Ibiki picked this time. His taste is fine, but there’s so much meat on the menu. If he ate like this growing up, no wonder he ended up so big. Tallest ninja in the Hidden Leaf thirty years running. Not that anyone besides her is paying attention. If an Akimichi threatens to overtake his reign, she’ll take care of him: silently, secretly, before anyone notices.

Ibiki hasn’t said anything in a while, focusing instead on his plate of meat and mushrooms. There’s almost definitely a better term for it, but Anko doesn’t care. Instead, she wants Ibiki to say whatever annoying thing he’s planning to say. He’s been building up to it. This asshole doesn’t even know the lengths she’s gone to in protecting his height supremacy. 

“Do you want to tell me why you’re upset, or do you want me to do it for you?” says Ibiki. The smugness. Tallest ninja and the first competent therapist in the village. Welcome to Smug Village, population Ibiki Morino. 

“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” says Anko.

“We’re getting lunch outside of your normally prescribed weekdays,” says Ibiki. “Usually you get lunch with Iruka on Fridays, but here you are with me. It doesn’t take a genius to combine that with the recent trade deal that just went public.”

“Maybe I just missed you,” says Anko. “You ever think about that?” Around them, she can hear the clatter of plates and people chatting. It’s a constant balm to her traitor of a mind, a mind that always tries to find something wrong. 

Ibiki shoots her a scathing look before continuing. “Coming to me for lunch the same day the Leaf announces it’s lifting the trade embargo on the Hidden Sound, implicitly recognizing it as a legitimate village? Embarrassingly obvious. If you want therapy, come to me for an appointment instead of wasting my lunch hour.”

“Wow,” says Anko, carefully calculated hurt entering her voice. She bats her eyelashes for further effect. “We’ve been friends for decades, and you don’t want to have lunch with me? You don’t want to help me with my problems?”

Ibiki’s amusement practically crackles in the air. “And when was the last time you helped me with my problems?” 

Anko scowls. “That’s not fair! You don’t have any problems!” 

Ibiki laughs. “You know that’s not true,” he says calmly, eating another bite of his meal. 

The skin around his eyes crinkles in a genuine smile, not a smirk. Anko relaxes into her seat, smiling back. He hasn’t needed her for a long time, but she remembers the last time he did—twenty-three and covered in so many wounds the ANBU who’d found him brought him back in a body bag. When she’d walked into the hospital room, she nearly vomited from the stench of his infected skin, his bandaged head seeping pus. She stayed with him, then and now. It’s not like she’s ever had anything better to do. 

“Fine, then,” says Anko. “You haven’t had any problems that can’t be solved with bed rest and decent medical care. Is that better?” There were the nightmares, but even Anko won’t joke about those in broad daylight, where someone could hear. 

Ibiki puts down his fork and folds his hands together, resting his chin on them. His gaze is steady. “All jokes aside, you were there for me,” he says. “If it’s bothering you that much, I have a question for you.”

She meets his gaze, her heart rate instantly picking up from the intensity of it. Iruka and the Academy are nice and all, but no one brings her back to her roots like the hard eyes of Ibiki Morino. “Yes?” she asks.

“When we were in our twenties,” says Ibiki. “Who did the two of us want to fight more than anyone? Answer on three.”

Ibiki immediately counts to three, and she instinctively speaks, her mouth forming around the same word Ibiki says in a flat, even tone.

“Orochimaru.”

“Now,” says Ibiki. “I had much less personal reason to fight him than you did. He scared the shit out of me when I was a kid, and I never quite let it go. Plus, he always seemed vaguely pedophilic to me, which is obviously upsetting. You don’t need to comment on that. Regardless, he tortured and killed hundreds of people, including two Kage, one of whom was the only Hokage that the vast majority of shinobi in our village ever remembered having.”

Anko’s face is carefully neutral, except for where it’s twitching, and also where she’s making a face like someone just shit in her lunch. So not neutral at all, then. But she trusts Ibiki. She keeps reminding herself of this. She trusts Ibiki. Let him finish speaking. Her neck burns, which is insane, because there’s no reason for that anymore, so that makes no sense, which of course only makes it burn harder.

“For me, I find the whole business distasteful. It’s one thing to play nice with Hayate’s killer because he carried out wartime orders from his commander, although I personally wish Baki a short trip to hell. It’s another to open the lines of friendly communication with the man who stabbed a sixty-eight-year-old grandfather through the chest, along with poisoning the hearts, minds, and bodies of countless children. Still, policies change, and it’s not like our Lord Third didn’t stab a fair amount of people through the chest himself. It’s not something I’m willing to become a missing-nin over.”

Ibiki pauses to take a sip of his water. Anko enjoys the chill his expression sends down her spine. She so rarely faces anything more dangerous than a poorly concealed childhood prank these days, and Ibiki spends most of his time pretending to be exasperated with her than anything else. 

“For you, I imagine it’s much different,” he continues. “Orochimaru personally ruined your life, and now the Leaf is making overtures towards accepting him as a legitimate political entity. Odds are, he won’t be going anywhere soon. People are going to start talking about him again, and after his actions during the Fourth Great Ninja War, they aren’t going to be completely condemning him. That’s difficult. Unfair, really. No one even asked you about it, and you’re going to have to cope with it on your own because it’s clear the effect on his victims isn’t valued more than whatever services he provides.” 

Ibiki leans back to finish, breaking their locked gaze. “So, naturally, you’re upset,” he says calmly. “And you’ve invited me to this lunch to talk about it.”

He doesn’t add, ‘Am I correct?’ It might be the understanding that Anko would punch him if he did, but she knows it’s that he doesn’t need to ask. 

Anko sucks in so much air that she puffs up her cheeks. She blows it all back out. “I hate you,” she says. “You really fucking suck.”

Ibiki’s glittering eyes return to normalcy, and he shakes his head. “People always blame the messenger,” he says. “If you’d learn even a drop of emotional intelligence, we wouldn’t have to do this. I might be able to have lunch in peace.”

Anko sticks out her tongue. Her heart is still hammering in her chest, but she can’t have Ibiki thinking he’s won whatever it is they’re doing. He waves his hand dismissively, seeing right through her tactics.

“I’ll get the tab,” he says, the four most beautiful words she’s ever heard. “You’ve got somewhere to be.” 

“I’m too out of it to go back to the Academy—”

“Not there. If you can’t figure it out after that speech, you’re hopeless.”

Anko starts to protest that he might think he’s so good, but she has no idea what he’s talking about. Before she can get the words out, though, her stomach drops in that sickening, acid-churning way that tells her she knows exactly what he means. She hates Ibiki Morino. She really does. 

“I’ll see you around,” she says casually, even as she starts to spontaneously sweat. 

Ibiki arches an eyebrow, an elegant declaration of discontent. As she gets up, preparing to walk out of here and into a situation that’s frankly way too stressful for her paygrade, she turns back and mutters, “Thanks.”

Now Ibiki is smirking, his scars twisting his lips to make him look ever more sardonic. Anko’s mood is not improved as she glimpses the hulking mass of psychoanalytic genius pulling out his wallet when she walks past the restaurant’s front window. The worst thing is, he’s pretty fucking humble for someone who’s always right.

Kurenai Yuhi: 1:32 PM

She’s self-conscious. It’s embarrassing. It’s not like she doesn’t train at all anymore. She’s kept her strength and reaction times up, just in case the impossible happens and she’s needed on the front lines. Or the back lines. Or any sort of lines. But that doesn’t take more than a couple of hours a day, and she’s still out here, squinting until a wooden dummy is a worthwhile opponent. She hasn’t had one of those in fifteen years. 

She works up a slight sweat, forgoing genjutsu practice for the age-old joy of punching something until she feels good about herself. It’s only when she’s finally shedding her ridiculous sense of shame about being seen that someone sees her. And the someone it is. 

“Oh-ho-ho-ho! Is that you? Why, Kurenai, I haven’t seen you here at this hour in two shakes of a rabbit’s tail!”

“I don’t think that means what you think it means, Guy,” she says, starting the sentence annoyed and finishing it with a smile. Turning to look at Guy, it’s hard not to smile back at him. At least, for her and Asuma it always was—Kakashi has always had an inexhaustible reserve for responding to good cheer with neutral despondency. 
 
Guy beams at her, shining brilliant white teeth that have only gotten bigger and stronger with age, a seeming impossibility that Kurenai refuses to think about. 

“It’s good to see you,” she says. She steps away from the training dummy, wiping her forehead. 

She doesn’t see him as often as she’d like, even though she’s not nearly as busy anymore with Mirai out of the house so much. When she tries to identify a reason for the absence of her old friend, she can’t think of any in particular. They’ve just drifted away. The thought fills her with not-so-neutral despondency. 

She beckons for him to join her on the walking path through the training grounds, and he does. At least walking is motion of some kind. Now that she’s moving, she can feel her old instincts kicking in. 

“It’s absolutely fantastic to see you too!” he says. He wheels his chair over to Kurenai’s training area, using one big thumb to point behind him at the section of the training grounds he’s leaving. “I was just supervising Lee supervising Metal’s training. He’s coming along nicely!”

“Oh, really?” says Kurenai. “I’d like to see him train sometime. After all, under your tutelage Lee turned out better than anyone could have imagined.” 

Guy’s cheerful grin turns upside-down, becoming a tight grimace. “Uh….about that! I’d give him a little time. He’s shy, you see. But he’ll get there, just like Lee did!”

“Was Lee ever shy?”

“Well, no, but we all have our hurdles to overcome,” says Guy. “Your students had the same, I’m sure.”

Kurenai sighs. “They did, but sometimes I wonder if I helped them as much as I could have.” 

“Why, Kurenai,” says Guy, wheeling ahead of her on the path and stopping them both. Just when they’d gotten moving. It’s like the man has some instinct in his brain that tells him exactly how to annoy the person he’s with most. Kurenai brushes off the feeling. There is no one more earnest or caring than this man, and those traits deserve rewarding, even if they come with small irritations. 

“Yes, Guy?” she says. 

He frowns again, his brows carving deep ridges in his forehead. “Your students have turned out splendidly, and so has your daughter. I think you’ve been a great teacher.”

All her words turn to ash on her tongue. How can she expect Guy to understand? He is a man who never lets anything stop him. How can she express the pointlessness she felt after Mirai’s birth, the way watching all those children striding ahead made her feel hopelessly behind? His answer would simply be: catch up.  

And yet. She doesn’t glance at his leg, but the presence of it is nearly tangible. Maybe he would understand. 

“Everything I have left behind is someone else’s accomplishments,” she says. “What of my own?”

Guy’s eyes immediately brim with tears. “Their accomplishments are your own.” 

Kurenai thinks of her students. Shino, Academy teacher. Hinata, powerful Byakugan master. Kiba, mid-ranked police investigator and dog breeder. Mirai, promising young ninja. They’ve all done well for themselves, she has to admit, although there is an element of jealousy when she looks at the fates of Team 7. Not that she’ll ever admit that out loud, or even think that within the same block as a Yamanaka. 

Still, when she thinks of Hinata, she gets a tight feeling in her chest. While Hinata never seemed particularly suited for the shinobi lifestyle, when she lies awake at night she can’t help but wonder if she led her down this path. If she didn’t see any other options because Kurenai failed to provide any.

She has too many thoughts in her head. Guy looks at her expectantly, waiting for her to continue the conversation. She keeps walking, watching the other ninja train. There aren’t too many out in the fields. 

“I want my own accomplishments, Guy,” she says. “My accomplishments. For me.”  

He reacts exactly like she expects, bounding from his chair with a somersault that ends by launching him onto his hands. “Then accomplish them! There is nothing like a stiff breeze and a sunny day for building your strength! You’ll be back on the field in no time—today if you want! Let’s walk on our hands to the Hokage’s office and demand to have your commission renewed!” 

“Maybe that’s a little soon,” she says, laughing. “And besides, it’s not like they need me.”

Guy swings his legs emphatically as he says, “Nothing could be more untrue, dear Kurenai! They just don’t know they need you.”

“Perhaps,” replies Kurenai. “Instead of marching to bother Kakashi, though, how about we train together for a little while?”

“I would love nothing more!”
 
She pulls his chair towards another training ground. When she goes towards a dusty little area with two dummies, he cries out, “No, Kurenai, over here,” pointing with one hand still on the ground towards an empty grassy knoll. No dummies. Sparring, then.

She hasn’t sparred against someone who isn’t her daughter in years. They get into position, facing each other from across the field. She relaxes into the sparring position, narrowing her eyes at Guy—although his unique style of fighting makes it impossible to meet his eyes—waiting for him to make the first move. 

He doesn’t. 

She smiles. “Fine then,” she says, and strikes. 

Aoba Yamashiro: 4:04 PM

“Can I ask you something, Aoba?”

There are two things that Aoba doesn’t like about this question. One, there is a slight tremor to the asker’s voice indicating emotional vulnerability. Two, it is Ebisu asking the question.

They’ve ditched Shibi and are now drinking on top of a building somewhere. That somewhere is several blocks over from where they were before, which is a place they couldn’t get back to now. Aoba knows he’s going from tipsy to drunk because every time he looks at the Hokage mountain, he gets emotional and thinks things like “poor Minato, that unlucky bastard,” or “things were a lot more fun when Tsunade was around.” 

Ebisu’s expression is serious, which is normal, but there’s a slight wobble to his jowls that sets Aoba on edge. There’s a chance that Ebisu has something real to say, something that Aoba might have to look into himself to answer. It’s not completely unheard of. 

“Aoba…?”

“Yes, Ebisu?”

“How did you get a girl?”

Aoba looks at the Hokage Rock in despair. The stone faces of his leaders look down at him unflinchingly, no mercy in their faces. Deal with it yourself, stone Kakashi’s face seems to say. I have enough on my plate already. 

Kurenai Yuhi: 4:06 PM

Guy wins. They are both drenched in sweat. Both are unsurprising considering how out of practice she is. There was a time when she gave him a run for his money. Maybe there still will be again. She straightens up, wiping her brow, then wiping her brow again. She pops her back. Her body is not so forgiving as it once was. When she checks the time, she is shocked to discover that they have been sparring for hours. 

Guy sits down heavily in his chair, strands of his bowl cut plastered to his forehead with sweat. She saw him like that often as they grew up. She didn’t see him that much during adolescence, as he spent most of his time training or bothering Kakashi with his repressed homosexual urges. Not that they stayed repressed for long. 

“Thank you,” says Kurenai. 

“No, thank you!” says Guy. “Sparring with the same person for too long can stunt your growth!” His eyes pop wide open, and he whispers, “Don’t tell Kakashi I said that.” 

“Only as long as you agree to do this again,” says Kurenai.

“You don’t have to blackmail me to train with you, dear Kurenai,” says Guy. “This has been a delight. What I was trying to say is…training with multiple people is a delight, but is it rarely a challenge with anyone but Kakashi or Lee. You have been an exception.”

From anyone else, she would dismiss it as flattery. Guy, however, is no liar. It also means he doesn’t train with anyone from their students’ generation except Lee. Still, a compliment is a compliment. 

“I’ll see you soon, then,” says Kurenai. She does not doubt that she’ll run into him at the training grounds again. He should build a shack and claim it as his property. She’s never asked, but there’s a good chance he lost his virginity in a hidden stand of trees. 

“Wait, Kurenai,” says Guy. “We’re meeting at Izakaya at 10 pm.”

“I know,” she says. “Genma told me—I passed him on the way here.”

Guy grins, giving her a trademark thumbs up. “Exactly as planned! I’ll see you there?”

“Sounds good,” says Kurenai. As she leaves, heading home for a shower and maybe a nice post-workout nap, she can’t help but think how motivating it would have been to have Might Guy as a teacher. Maybe she’s not ready to revoke her retirement status tomorrow, but he’s right about one thing: if she wants to have accomplishments, she’s just going to have to go out and accomplish them.

Aoba Yamashiro: 4:08 PM 

“I mean it, Aoba,” says Ebisu, a warm flush rising to his cheeks. “I’m not just trying to be—well, you know.”

 “Do I know?” says Aoba, thinking longingly of his apartment, where his wife is probably sitting with her half-finished plans for the new train station being built on the western border. If he was home he’d make them both a mug of tea and chat for a little bit, and then he’d put something on TV while she works. 

Ebisu leans in real close. His lips carry some sort of sour scent, one a little reminiscent of pork dumplings. Aoba is no longer a fan. “I’m not trying to be…you know, debauched. Deviant. Perverted.”

Aoba turns to him in a fit of inspiration that might be frustration pretending otherwise. “Ebisu, are you a virgin?”

Ebisu’s mouth drops open. He appears so surprised that he clutches his hand to his chest. Finally, he’s able to splutter, “How dare you!”

“Not an answer,” says Aoba, who is finding himself soberer by the second. Alcohol can’t take on bullshit of this magnitude.  

“I don’t think it’s any of your business!”

“It is when you ask me how to get a girl,” says Aoba. “By the way, girls aren’t something you get.”

“What do you mean?” 

“What do you mean, what do I mean?” says Aoba, suddenly deeply annoyed with all the questions they’ve been asking each other. “Here’s my advice, Ebisu. Women are people. Stop peeping on them and approach them like you would any man, or Anko.”

“But Anko’s different than most girls,” protests Ebisu. 

“No,” says Aoba. “You just know her, so you know she’s a complex person with her own thoughts and feelings. Believe it or not, they’re all like that.”

“Wow,” says Ebisu. “This is really good advice, Aoba. Thank you.” His chin wobbles. “You’re a genius for realizing all this.”

“I am not,” says Aoba. “I really seriously am not.” 

“Believe it or not, they’re people,” breathes Ebisu, staring up into the clouds. “Believe it.” 

“I fucking hate you, man,” says Aoba, but Ebisu is too gone to listen.

Ibiki Morino: 4:33 PM

There’s no one to torture.

That’s fine, really. Intellectual games played with other peoples’ bones are for younger men. Still, if Ibiki can’t muster up something to do, people are going to start noticing that their village money is being spent on a redundant and frankly morally antiquated department, and Ibiki will find his department closed and himself out of a job. Spend your career torturing people only to find your division downsized out of existence. What an embarrassing way to end his career that would be. 

He’s mustering up the willpower to go through his bottom-of-the-barrel files on old wartime missing-nin when his door opens. “I know about the party,” says Ibiki without looking up from the folder. “This is the Intelligence Division, Tonbo, I’m not an amateur.” 

There’s no answer. Not Tonbo then. How unprofessional of Ibiki. He’s going soft in more than just the middle if he’s prioritizing one-liners over doing his job. By the time he’s finished looking up, he’s already saying, “Idate Morino.”

Oh, how easy it is for him, how second-nature it is to remain unflappable in the face of emotional turmoil. He doesn’t even cry about it in his apartment later like Hatake, although it might be treasonous to even think such things in the current administration. 

His brother is thirty-five now. His hands are calloused, and he wears a simple uniform that’s both free of stains and worn to the seams. Smile lines crease his face, and the upright pose he’s maintaining seems unnatural to him. The ring on his finger has settled so firmly onto his hand that there are stark tan lines around it. The Land of Tea isn’t prospering, but it’s doing fine with a little hard work. His brother is married and happy and has been for some time.

Ibiki leans back in his seat, crossing his arms. This causes Idate’s semi-calm composure to slip, and holds out an open scroll while stammering, “I’ve been pardoned.”

“You were pardoned nine years ago,” says Ibiki.

“By the Sixth Hokage,” says Idate. “I was waiting until Naruto could pardon me himself.”

Ibiki leans closer to examine the scroll before declaring that Naruto, for now, still isn’t Hokage. Sure enough, underneath Kakashi’s lazy signature is scrawled hiragana declaring, “Idate! Come home already!” with a somewhat crude drawing of a scarecrow added next to it. Naruto’s work, no doubt.

“Welcome home,” says Ibiki.

Idate rolls up the scroll and puts it away, using the movements to exorcise some of his nervousness. Ibiki watches him. 

“I’m so sorry,” says Idate. “About everything.”

Ibiki thinks about his reaction. He could be stoic the way he was the last time he saw his brother, almost twenty years ago. He could give him the cold shoulder, or even give him the same slight smile and encourage him to go on his way if he’ll leave Ibiki be. After all, this boy aided and abetted a criminal in his selfish attempt to make chunin. 

It was over twenty years ago, and Ibiki doesn’t believe in the kind of punishment that lasts forever.

Well, except for Orochimaru.

All of this thought happens in a second, maybe two, before Ibiki relaxes and motions to one of his uncomfortable chairs. “It’s good to see you,” he says, hiding his exasperation when Idate’s eyes fill with tears. When that boy wasn’t being brash and arrogant, he was overly sentimental. Frustrating on many accounts.

He pulls open the bottom drawer in his desk, keyed to open only to his touch. It contains three sake bottles of varying quality. He picks the middle one. Brother he may be, Idate Morino is no Kage. 

He pours them both a drink on his desk. Idate hesitates before taking the cup. “Is this allowed while you’re at work?”

“I’m not testing you,” says Ibiki, who most definitely is, just not with sake. He drinks first to show his good-will. He’s not feeling any yet, but hopefully acting out the motions will create some.

“The village has changed so much,” says Idate, picking possibly the single most common topic of conversation in the Hidden Leaf, and that’s including the weather. 

“It has,” says Ibiki. 

There is a moment of silence. Then another, and a few more on top of that. Ibiki is falling back on incidental intimidation because he, too, is at a loss for what to do. Having attended therapy unlike most of his generation (even if he had to develop the program himself), he feels sadness open up in him. His inability to shut off his work persona as a cover for emotional trauma is in the act of inhibiting his interpersonal relationships.

“To be honest with you, little brother,” says Ibiki, reinstating a bond he’d broken when he’d pretended not to recognize Idate at those docks all that time ago. “I’m at as much as a loss here as you.”

Idate laughs. “Like hell you are,” he says. “You’re never at a loss for anything.”

He’d been at a loss when it came to not getting captured, but pulling off his headband would be unnecessarily damaging for his brother, who indirectly caused some of his scars. 

“How’s your family?” asks Ibiki. Idate’s look of surprise is immediately replaced by fondness as he pulls out his wallet. Everything from here on out will be an act of repair. Never let it be said that Ibiki Morino doesn’t follow his own advice.

Might Guy: 5:00 PM

After his inspiring training match with Kurenai and finishing up overseeing little Metal’s training with Lee, Guy marches back towards his house. He’s not nearly breaking the sweat he should be at this time of day, so he does it by balancing his wheelchair on his feet as he walks home on his hands. By the time he’s home, his muscles have relaxed into a pleasant scream. 

The home he’s entering is neither the Officially Sanctioned Hokage Residence nor the dilapidated Hatake family home. It’s certainly not the dingy little apartment Kakashi spent his self-flagellation years in. Technically, Guy’s name is the one on the deed. And still, there’s a whiff of Kakashi’s chakra signature in the air as Guy kicks his shoe off, wheelchair balanced on his bad leg.

Guy smiles. His mouth is closed as he does it, although it graduates to a grin after he sets the wheelchair down and finds the note Kakashi left on the fridge. “Shopping List—eggplant.” Guy knows for a fact that they also need eggs, rice, beans, and curry powder, but it’s certainly nice of his rival to start the list!

He digs around in the fridge and finds one of his premade protein shakes, ignoring the sour smell as he chugs it. There, one meal finished! He’s tempted to start another round of push-ups, but the ominous voice of Sakura floats into his head: ‘if you overwork yourself, I will hunt you to the ends of the earth.’ She wouldn’t even have to go that far. Kakashi won’t give him clearance to leave if Sakura is out for his blood. 

With that in mind, he washes out the bottle his shake was in and puts it in the dishwasher, which is only half full. Kakashi’s had a lot of late nights in the office recently as he and Naruto put the finishing touches on the transition, and Guy guesses he’s been eating there or not at all.

“You can’t do that, Kakashi!” he says fervently. “Eating well is the key to a happy life!”

With that in mind, he settles back in his wheelchair, finally off his hands (he’d used his feet for the protein shake). Since they’re out of curry powder, he pulls everything he needs for a curry base out of his shelves. He’ll make a good, reheatable dinner for whenever Kakashi gets a moment to himself. So what if curry is Guy’s favorite food? Kakashi will eat anything as long as it isn’t processed or fried. After all, his body is his temple, and Guy admires that dedication to his physique! 

 He only sneezes seven times while mixing the powder, which is a new personal best for him. Halfway through, he blinks several times, realizing after a few moments that his eyelids are trying to shut. Oh, yes, he’s tired. From all the physical exertion! Again, Sakura’s voice looms in his head: ‘if you’re tired, Guy, it’s perfectly acceptable to take a nap. It’s much more acceptable than me beating up a patient. Do you want to make me do that?’ 

When they got home from that particular doctor’s appointment, Kakashi off-handedly called Sakura manipulative, which made Guy cry with anger. How could he say such things about his own student! Kakashi had closed his book, looked him dead in the eye, and said, “I never said I wasn’t proud of her.” 

Guy grins at the memory. He covers the bowl of spices and puts it away for now, wheeling himself to the bedroom. The whole home is sparse, but the little touches here and there—Guy’s collection of ceramic turtles both gifted and chipped by Lee over the years, Kakashi’s shelf of Make-Out books—all keep the smile on his face. He hums his favorite song as he changes into his pajamas (green, of course) and sets his alarm clock to go off in an hour, as well as several backup alarms in case the first one doesn’t get him up. It hasn’t happened yet, but he can never be too careful! He would die of shame if he missed the party tonight.

Guy settles into bed for a nap. When he rests his head against the pillow, he hears the crinkle of something sticky hitting his immaculate hair. He bellows with rage and pain, reaching for it and finding a sticky-note from the same pad the shopping list was on. 

“To Do—Guy.” There’s also a scarecrow expertly drawn next to it. The scarecrow is winking. 

Guy’s eyes fill with tears. He sticks the note to the front of his pajamas and has the kind of dreams that don’t bear repeating. 

Kurenai Yuhi: 5:16 PM

After grabbing a bite to eat, Kurenai walks home. She could pull any number of jutsu to get her home in a flash, but she enjoys a walk through the village, especially since it began changing so much in recent years. Many of the older generation of ninja dislike all the new technology, but she enjoys seeing all the opportunities they present. The world is a more colorful place now than it was when she was a child, and that’s nothing but a good thing. 

She waves at a shopkeeper she frequents, not stopping because sweat is still drying on her back from her workout. Despite her desire to not be seen up close by anyone until she takes a good shower, she blinks and suddenly Anko Mitarashi is next to her, walking beside her as though they made a joint decision to take a stroll together. 

“Why hello, Anko,” says Kurenai. “I don’t think we’ve spoken in a while. It’s good to see you.”

Anko grins over at her, but something about her seems distant. Her eyes dart around, taking in telephone wires draping across the sky and the children racing around the dusty road in short, staccato bursts. The sun is beginning to set purple and gold over the craggy Hokage horizon. It’s the familiar landscape of her life. It’s what they all fight for, theoretically. It is what she fights for.

“You ever think we’d make it this far?” says Anko.

“Sometimes,” says Kurenai, used to ninja non-sequiturs. “Sometimes I didn’t. I never really thought we’d lose in the last war, but I wasn’t fighting in it. When we were teenagers, though. That was different.”

“Yeah,” says Anko. “But we were teenagers. It always feels different.”

She’s got her hands in the pocket of her long white coat. She scuffs her shoe against the road slightly. Kurenai, having raised a child, waits her out.

“I’m about to do something that’s a pain in the ass,” says Anko. “I haven’t felt this way since the war ended.” 

Kurenai passes her turn without comment. It’s a nice evening out. “Things have been calm for a long time now,” she says. 

Anko snorts. “Yeah, well, it’s not like we put ourselves at the front of the action. After all, I’m an Academy teacher now. If you’d told me that twenty years ago I’d have laughed in your face, and that’s if I was being nice.”

“I have been so angry with myself for retiring so young,” says Kurenai. “I ended up doing exactly what my father expected of me.”

They look at each other. 

Anko winks. “Well, you held up a lot better than me, that’s for sure. Wouldn’t want to risk a battlefield right now.”

“Oh, shut up,” says Kurenai in as friendly a tone as she can muster. “Don’t even go there. You’ve been teaching Academy students, and that’ll keep you in better shape than anything. 

“That’s true. You ever seen Iruka’s six-pack?” says Anko conspiratorially. 

“No,” says Kurenai, interested despite herself.

“Suzume swears he has one, but I’m not sure I believe her.” Anko playfully nudges her shoulder, and they both laugh.

“You know, I admired you when we were in the academy together,” says Anko. 

Kurenai looks over at her in surprise. “Really?”

“Of course! You and Rin were the only other girls in our class, and while she was nice, you just seemed so put-together.” 

“It was an interesting generation,” says Kurenai. “We were all such different ages, but with the war on, so few people were having kids. They’d canceled several previous years’ incoming classes. Can you imagine that now?”

“I was three years old,” says Anko. “My parents were hesitant to send me, but it was either that or risk waiting, and look what happened to Raido. Didn’t even get to the Academy until he was ten.”

“That’s so young,” says Kurenai, and means it. “So unbelievably young.”

“The Third Hokage helped potty-train me,” laughs Anko. “He came in for training one day, and I was trying to hold in my pee so bad. He noticed and helped me to the bathroom. He told me his son was just the same way when he was my age. I didn’t even know he meant Asuma, or that he was in the other room.” 

The stab of pain at Asuma’s name is quick, and Kurenai lets them both slide over it. “He was kind,” says Kurenai. “I thought he was born an old man when I was a girl.”

“Meanwhile, when you were a girl I thought you were born a grown woman. You were so cool!”

“I was just quiet,” says Kurenai. “I’m not sure what’s so cool about that.”

“It’s the opposite of me,” says Anko. “And we always idolize whatever we’re not. I’ve learned that lesson from teaching.”

Kurenai is still formulating a response when Anko continues. 

“And Orochimaru,” she says softly. “I learned that from him too.”

They stop walking. They’re almost at the village gates. No matter the changes in their village, this will always be the point of all contact, the nexus of their home. Everything comes and goes from here. 

“Thanks for talking to me,” says Anko. “I’m less nervous now.” Kurenai doesn’t ask. If it was her business, Anko would tell her.

“We should talk more,” says Kurenai, and means that too. “We may have been different as girls, but I think we have more in common now. Let’s meet up soon.”

“Girls’ night,” crows Anko loudly, cheering with both arms. She splits from Kurenai, walking away.

“Wait,” calls out Kurenai. 

Anko looks back. “Yeah?”

“Izakaya, 10 pm,” says Kurenai. “I’ve spent enough of my life as the only woman in the room.”

“You don’t have to ask Anko Mitarashi to go to a bar twice,” says Anko. “I’ll be there.” She waves. Kurenai watches her leave the village before heading home. A long, hot shower awaits.

Aoba Yamashiro: 6:21 PM

“Sure didn’t expect to find you two up here when I came out for a smoke.”

“Yeah?” says Aoba. 

Tonbo lits his cigarette between grinning teeth. “Good timing, though. Just ran into Genma. Party at Izakaya tonight, 10 pm.”

“What kind?”

“Celebration. Memorial. Reunion. The whole nine yards.”

Tonbo tilts his chin towards Ebisu, who’s been spread out on his back, testing his sunglasses against the UV rays for the last hour or so. “What’s up with him?”

“Criminally stupid,” says Aoba. “Wanna push him off the roof with me?”

“Nah,” says Tonbo. “I hear shinobi prison is a real bummer. Remember Mizuki?”

“What about him?” says Aoba.

Despite the bandages over both eyes, Tonbo manages to radiate a disapproving look at Aoba. “He went to prison, dumbass.”

“Oh, yeah,” says Aoba. “Turned into a crazy tiger or something. I remember Iruka talking about it.”

“Like I said, I’m good,” says Tonbo. “See you tonight.” He grinds his cigarette out beneath his heel and hops off the roof. 

Aoba looks at Ebisu. He’s going to get sunstroke if he stays out here. With a groan, Aoba stands up and lifts the drunken idiot over his shoulder. “Time to sober you up,” he says. “We have a party to go to.”

Anko Mitarashi: 7:43 PM

It’s simple. All she has to do is walk up to the tent and go in. The tent flap is open, so she doesn’t even have to lift it. It couldn’t be simpler. The shinobi around her keep glancing over at her nervously, both nations having their reasons to be anxious to see her here. 

They’re not nearly far enough from the village gates. She glares around the tent camp angrily, angry at the presence of nature. He doesn’t deserve to see nice things. 

“You’re too good for him,” she says loudly, causing considerable consternation among the surrounding shinobi. She doesn’t care: she wasn’t talking to them. The trees around her rustle appreciatively.  

She stops thinking about it. Her heart rate is high enough as it is, and her chest is tight. She’s sick of her bullshit body betraying her, so she strides towards the tent. 

“I’ve always wondered how the old man managed to work this thing,” says a soft, familiar voice. There’s an overlay of amusement to his tone, a sense that he finds everything said to him worthy of mockery. There was a time when Anko couldn’t see that. There was a time when she thought his voice was kind. How stupid she once was. 

When she stands in the doorway, she can see him holding a crystal ball. She hasn’t seen it in so long that it takes a moment to recognize, but when she does, she feels anger heat her veins, bursting to fill her whole body with a searing rage. Good. It pulls her from her fear.

He sees her silhouetted in the light, her body blocking the entrance. He rises gracefully, still holding the crystal ball. The curves of his face seem softer. He looks younger. When he smiles at her, he looks like he means it. There is no irony or malice in his gaze.

How dare he.

He reaches the entranceway of the tent, facing her. He’s less than a foot away. “Ah,” he says, “It’s good to see you, Anko. I was hoping to apo—” With those twelve (does half a word count? What about contractions?) he instantly crosses the threshold of “acceptable rage” to “absolutely, definitively, unacceptable.”

“Shut the fuck up,” says Anko. “I don’t want to hear another word out of you.”

He smiles placidly. It’s almost worse to see him like this. At least when Anko was a child he was striving for something, even if that something was very evil and involved using Anko as a pawn to achieve that something. 

“I just came here to say this,” says Anko. 

“Yes?” says Orochimaru. It’s another word, but she moves on. She doesn’t want to be here any longer than she has to.

“You are the worst person I’ve ever met,” says Anko. “And I knew a guy who notched every kunoichi he slept with on the inside of his headband. I don’t know how you’ve ended up on the good guy side after everything, but since it means I’m not allowed to die trying to kick your ass, I just want you to know this: I don’t forgive you.”

“They say forgiveness heal—” he starts. 

“SHUT UP!” 

Anko’s scream rattles the shinobi around them, but he shakes his head slightly when they turn towards the tent. She continues, ignoring them. 

“I don’t forgive you! I don’t care if I live with some seed of resentment in me forever! Who cares if I die a slightly meaner person if it means that you’ll never get the satisfaction of me forgiving you! There’s a trail of dead children behind you a thousand miles back, you fucking freak, and I’m holding onto my hate for each and every one of them! If you’re the same person you’ve always been, then this is whatever, you’ll have a laugh, who cares. But if you’re truly redeemed, which is a batshit insane thing to even consider, then you have to live with that. Forever. Because fuck you, man.”

There. She sees it. His eyes widen slightly. His throat contracts as he swallows. Maybe the seed of her hatred will live dormant inside him, tormenting him silently. Maybe it’ll cause a relapse and he’ll go back to cursing the village. If Kakashi and Naruto have a bone to pick about that, she’ll ask them why they let him live at all. 

“If that’s all?” he asks finally. His tone is normal, but the pause before he says the sentence is satisfaction aplenty. 

Anko starts to turn, changing her mind mid-step. She snatches the crystal ball out of his hands. “That doesn’t belong to you,” she says. 

There’s a flash of annoyance on his face, the same that is always there when his experiments are tampered with, but Anko is already moving on. She wraps her arms around the crystal ball, turning her back on Orochimaru and heading back to the village. Around her, crickets chirp encouragingly.  

As she holds the crystal ball snug to her chest, her feet treading that well-worn path towards home, she looks down. “I’m sorry,” she says. “Will of Fire and all that. But there’s a limit, you know?”

The crystal ball neither confirms nor denies her beliefs. Fine. Let the Hokages take the moral high ground. She’s perfectly content down here on the road. 

Raido Namiashi: 7:58 PM

Raido lays flowers below the memorial stone. He’s not trying to impersonate Kakashi during the man’s depressing early twenties, but there is something to coming here when he’s feeling unsettled. 

He sits down next to the old stone, leaning his back up against it. Maybe that’s not entirely appropriate, but he doubts any ghosts will mind. That thought makes him sit back up, scanning despite himself for Edo Tensei reanimations. With Kabuto in the village—one of the most insane post-war decisions ever, and they’ve all told Kakashi that about thirty times—the odds are not zero.

“Thinking deep thoughts?” 

Raido doesn’t have to look. He hears that voice in his dreams. Also, while shaving or taking a piss, since Genma doesn’t believe in bathroom privacy after you’ve slept together. 

“I am,” says Raido. “But I’m not ready to share with the class.”

Genma laughs. “Alright. I just came to remind you about Izakaya.”

“I’m not senile yet,” says Raido. He thinks of a mean joke but decides not to say it. 

“You’re right. Who do I think you are, the Council?” says Genma, finishing his thought with such a smug smile that he must know he read Raido’s mind. 
 
Genma’s standing to Raido’s side. If his senbon fell out of his mouth, it would probably land directly in his left eye. Raido looks up at him. Still handsome, if a little rough around the edges. The sun is finishing its rounds for the day, and strands of Genma’s hair glow amber in the last of the light.  

“Let me know when you wanna talk, babe,” says Genma, leaning down to kiss him on the corner of his mouth. “See you tonight.”

He disappears in a cloud of smoke. Raido continues to lean against the Memorial Stone. There’s a warm feeling in his chest. Even with no hand coming out of it, it doesn’t take a genius to figure it out.

“Well, that solves that,” says Raido fondly. “Thanks for the help, everyone.” He stands, pausing at the Memorial Stone. “I changed my mind. I don’t like talking out loud to dead people.” He should have guessed that Kakashi Hatake can’t be trusted when it comes to coping mechanisms.

Tonbo Tobitake: 9:15 PM

Tonbo settles down on the rooftop across from the bar. He can hear the bustle of the pedestrians below, still audible despite the thinning of the crowd after nightfall. He pulls a cigarette out of his pocket and lights it. They’re damn expensive these days, but he still uses them to unwind. Needs them, Ibiki would say, but Ibiki can fuck off. 

He’s early, but he likes listening to the village. He’d call it people-watching if he could see. 

He’s never been the flashiest or the loudest or, frankly, the best of his peers, but he’s happier that way. Leave the bulk of the fighting and the struggling and the hurting to others, he’ll do his job and go home at the end of the day. It’s a good strategy (until a god descends from the sky and destroys that home, but that worked out alright, didn’t it?). 

Still, that doesn’t mean he liked seeing the pain everyone went through the last few years. Ibiki, Kurenai, Guy, Anko. Genma and Raido have had their fair share of struggles, and Aoba earned his happy ending. Ebisu must have struggled with something at some point, even if it was only himself. And Kakashi. Tonbo won’t even think about that dark pit. 

He stretches his legs on the cool house tiles and waits for the rest of his graduating class to show up. 

It’s been a long few decades, but Tonbo is good at waiting. 

Genma Shiranui: The Party 

He doesn’t get there exactly on time, because that’s lame, but he’s not much late either. No one is. None of them are there, and suddenly all of them are there, crowding the dingy second-story bar with their louder-than-life shinobi presences. The room seems smaller than it used to, but Genma knows that’s just nostalgia speaking. At least the laminate booths are still cracked and worn, and the bar is carved with the initials of dozens of hopeful ninja in love. 

“This way!” Anko screams in his ear. He isn’t exactly sure when she appeared there, but she’s swishing her old beige coat, although not the fishnets it used to hide underneath. The music isn’t that loud, but hey, maybe she’s going deaf. A lot of ninja their age are after a youth spent in close quarters with paper bombs.

Genma follows her. She leads them straight to the corner booth, the very same one Genma once threw up in after taking up a bet with Aoba over who could down the most sake. The lamp hanging above it flickers every few seconds. It’s wide enough that Ibiki, already seated, doesn’t dwarf the rest of the seating space. Anko slides over to him on the laminate, cushioning the big man between her and Raido on the other side. As soon as Genma sits next to Anko, Kurenai snags the last decent seat, leaving Aoba and Tonbo to hover awkwardly on the corners with their asses half hanging off the seats. As they’re all getting settled in, Guy arrives with a grin, positioning his wheelchair at the open front of the table, and Ebisu pulls up a chair. 

That’s it, then. Everyone except Kakashi. 

“That Kakashi,” says Ebisu. “He’s never had any respect for timekeeping.” It’s considerably less snotty than something he would have said in decades past. Doesn’t stop it from being snotty, though.

“He’ll be here,” says Guy with the confidence of a man who determines the consequences Kakashi faces if he doesn’t show. “He may be uber cool, but Kakashi wouldn’t ditch his comrades!”

There is an awkward moment of dead air where each of them recalls some different time Kakashi didn’t show for a social gathering. Guy’s cheeks redden. “He’s different now!”

“Come on,” says Anko, rolling her eyes. “Let’s change the subject. Kakashi this, Kakashi that. Let’s live a little!”

“This party is for him,” points out Aoba. 

“Keep it up and we’ll never have a party for you,” says Anko. 

“Wounded,” says Aoba, unable to keep up the banter long enough to complete a full sentence. 

Genma relaxes into the booth, waving down a server with a high red ponytail. She gives them all long looks, clearly unimpressed by this group of aging shinobi come together to reminisce about the glory days. Her expression immediately sends him into a spiral about said glory days: nightclubs and pounding music and dark bathrooms, peeling off armor for trysts where he and his partners came or cried or both. Awful times. Exhilarating times. For a terrible second, Genma misses war.

“I’ll have a beer,” says Genma. “Whatever you have on tap.”

“We have more than one beer on tap,” she says. 

“Then pick the cheapest one,” says Genma.

She glares. Genma smiles. He likes a server who’s honest about her job. He’ll tip well. 

She acquires everyone’s drink order with speed and precision before turning on her heel, heading back into the shadowy bar. She would have made a good shinobi.

“There you all are,” says a smooth voice. “Sorry I’m late, I had to help a little old lady cross the street.”

All heads turn towards Kakashi. He grins unabashedly. 

“You know we’re adults, right?” says Genma. 

“I had to try,” says Kakashi. “What, you didn’t leave me anywhere to sit? The guest of honor?”

It’s Aoba who gets up, grumbling, to pull himself a chair and position it on the other side of Guy. Kakashi sits next to Kurenai where Aoba was previously, but they shift and there’s enough room for him to look nonchalant instead of crammed. Of course, with Kakashi, you never know.

Their server comes back with drinks, and Kakashi claims Guy’s as his own, leaving the other man spluttering. He orders another, and the server casts her baleful gaze at him now, leaving Guy even more flustered than before.

“Stop teasing him,” says Kurenai with a smile. 

Kakashi turns to her. “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

Anko slings an arm around Ibiki. Around their table, people are starting to mingle around the bar. The music gets a little louder. Anko is still perfectly audible when she says, “Let’s not beat around the bush. You’re done! How’s it feel, old man?”

Kakashi laughs. “I’m not done until this weekend. That’s when Naruto officially takes the hat.”

“We know when the next major governmental transfer of power in our village occurs, thank you, Kakashi,” says Ibiki. 

“Semantics,” says Aoba. “The bigger question is, how do you spend all that time with Naruto without going crazy?”

“Practice,” says Kakashi fondly. His eyes drift away from them a little, accentuating Kakashi’s lazy look, and Genma knows they need to get the heat off Kakashi or he’s going to say he has to leave because Pakkun threw up on his rug. 

“Look at us,” says Genma, throwing himself into unfamiliar sentimentality. “The War Generation, all grown up. You remember when we used to party here?”

Ibiki chuckles. “You mean when we’d come here to party and you’d find some guy to hook up with?”

“Wow,” says Genma, shaking his head. “Of all people to bring up my slutty past, I didn’t think it would be you.” Genma has slept with five of the men present, so between him and Anko, they’re all slept with each other. Degrees of separation, wartime shinobi edition.

“Don’t you know,” says Tonbo. “He never goes off the clock.”

“Never,” says Anko, professional eye-roller. 

Kurenai, ever the peacekeeper, opens her mouth and calmly says, “You know, Kakashi once described you as a sadist to me.” Well, that’s not very peacekeeping. There’s a little smirk to her red lips when she says it, and Ibiki’s gaze flicks to her and then to Kakashi with amusement.

Kakashi waves his hand casually. “A misunderstanding,” he says, which Genma knows is his way of saying ‘I made a pass at Ibiki and he told me I needed to go to therapy.’

Anko shrieks and they all look at her. “I almost forgot!” she says, holding up an object large enough to cause concern for where she produced it from. 

She places the crystal ball on the table, resting it against the wall and between two condiment bottles so it can’t go anywhere. They are all silent. None of them have seen that crystal ball for twenty years. 

“So that’s who had it,” says Ibiki, with a note of satisfaction.

“Where did you get it?” asks Ebisu. “We should turn it into the proper authorities as soon as possible, not play with it at our party!”

“Ebisu,” says Kakashi. “I am the proper authorities. Chill.”

He leans over Aoba to Guy to make a private joke, and this breaks some heretofore unseen tension. Ibiki, Raido, and Kurenai break into a discussion about long-term changes in the private sector, which makes sense for the three most boring people at the party (which he says lovingly, considering he’s sleeping with Raido). Tonbo and Ebisu pick up a prior discussion about recipes they’ve exchanged, which is both charming and very lame. Guy engages Aoba in a fervent discussion about effective workout techniques (and the DVDs he’s producing with Lee to address them). This leaves Anko, Genma, and Kakashi to work out their own conversation.

Genma only slept with Kakashi a few times. It feels like a thousand years ago now, and he can hardly recall the vulnerable young man Kakashi was, so tied up in his grief and using killing to assuage it. He was skinny, and sharp, and he clung to Genma like a safe port in the storm. Genma, only a little older, thought that sex would help. He’d been so young and unaware of his own pain. It’s more accurate to say they clung to each other as the storm raged. When Genma thinks of them as young men, it is always in bathrooms that don’t lock or tangled in sheets in the dark. 

Now, Kakashi is thin again, but in that stringy older man way he noticed earlier. And he’s relaxed—maybe not all the time, considering his job—but the laziness of his gait doesn’t seem so forced anymore. The way he looks at Guy, not just when no one’s looking, but all the time—it makes Genma happy to see how far he’s come, even if he wasn’t much of a part at all. Even if he worries he hurt rather than helped. 

And Hokage on top of it all. Genma won’t lie: he didn’t see that one coming.

“God, Genma,” says Anko, snapping his fingers in. “You’ve had one beer and you’re already zoning out. Is it your bedtime yet or what?”

“You wish,” says Genma, signaling the server for another round of beers all around. 

Kakashi drums his fingers on the table. “You know, Anko, I should talk to you about what you did today.”

Anko bats her eyelashes. The crystal ball slides ominously in its makeshift holder. “What did I do again?”

“I can’t seem to remember,” says Kakashi. “Oh, well. I guess it’s lost to history. Genma, buy the birthday boy a drink?”

“It’s not your birthday,” says Genma. 

“That’s right,” says Kakashi. “Worth a shot. Why are we here again? I seem to have forgotten.”

Raido, across the table, catches a snippet of their conversation. “Doesn’t surprise me that no one bothered to tell you. It’s a retirement party.”

“I thought it was our academy class’s reunion,” sniffs Ebisu.

“It’s both!” says Guy. “It’s all of the above!”

“Also, it’s my birthday,” adds Kakashi.

“It isn’t that, though!” Guy turns to Kakashi, scandalized. “It’s not your birthday!”

“Still had to try.”

“You have to try everything, apparently,” says Ibiki.  

Anko slings her other arm around Genma’s shoulder. “You know, it surprises me how repressed this generation is sexually, considering they learned from this lot.”

“I’ve wondered about that myself,” says Kurenai, accepting another drink from the server. “I hope I didn’t contribute to that.”

“I don’t get it,” says Aoba. “I mean, it doesn’t make sense for so many of us to turn out…” He trails off, leaving a joke ripe for the taking. Genma, Anko, and Kakashi each exchange looks. For once, it’s Raido who goes for it. 

“Cocksuckers?” says Raido. 

Ebisu’s drink snorts straight out of his nostrils. By the time the spray reaches the rest of the table, they’ve blocked it with napkins. When he’s finished choking on his beer, he splutters, “I most certainly am not…that!”

Genma’s memories say differently, but he restrains himself from raising his eyebrows. 

“Okay, but for real,” insists Aoba. “It’s unusual, isn’t it?”

Kakashi points to the rest of the table individually. “Wait, don’t tell me…you guys…no, it can’t be!”

“Shut up, Kakashi,” says Genma.

Kakashi winks at him. You can tell when he does that now. 

“It’s not that many of us,” continues Ebisu. “I mean, Kurenai, you have a child!”

“That’s only evidence I enjoy the presence of men,” says Kurenai. She sips from her drink with a smug look. “It doesn’t preclude women.”

“Okay, but Ibiki! You’re not—” 

“I’ve been in a committed relationship with another shinobi for eight years,” says Ibiki calmly. “I just don’t feel the need to air my business like the rest of you.”

“Is that shinobi a man?” asks Aoba.

Ibiki looks him dead in the eye. “That’s none of your business, now, is it?”

Anko mouths “yes” to everyone in the room, although Genma thinks the chances of Anko knowing something about Ibiki before now and not immediately spreading it to the rest of them are pretty slim.

Ebisu looks to Guy and past Aoba to Kakashi. He pauses, looking between them. Wait. Ebisu doesn’t know. Genma’s going to have to have a talk with him about the birds and the bees, or the birds and the birds, or the Sixth Hokage and the blue beast, whatever works. 

But it turns out he won’t have to do that.

Kakashi looks at Ebisu and tilts his head towards Guy, wagging his eyebrows. Genma is intrigued to watch Ebisu’s brain break as he’s torn between respecting his superiors and the shock of finding out the coolest ninja in the Leaf is rolling around in the hay with Might Guy. Despairingly, he moves onto Genma. Genma mimics a motion Ebisu should be familiar with using only his tongue. 

Anko wags her finger. “If you call me straight, I’ll kick your ass.” Ibiki doesn’t care enough for Ebisu to judge him effectively, and Raido says nothing and yet exudes the same energy as Anko simply by sipping his drink. Kurenai has already made her opinions clear.

Ebisu turns to the last member of the group. “Come on,” he says. “You can’t be…?”

“Obviously, I am,” says Tonbo. “Why do you care so much, anyway? It’s not like you’re a gold star heterosexual yourself.” 

“How dare you!”

Genma and Guy share a grin. “Remember what it was like when we saw him every day?” says Genma. 

Guy pumps his fist. “Our teammate Ebisu is…” He stops, and Genma has the delightful privilege of Guy’s brain trying and maybe even failing to think of something positive to say. “He’s…passionate about his passions!”

“He sure is that,” agrees Genma. “You’re still on for taking Choza out to dinner with Ebisu next week, right?”

Guy nods. “I’ve always admired our instructor’s healthy appetite, and I look forward to seeing it in action again.”

“You’ve got a way with words, you know that?” says Genma, moving his senbon from one side of his mouth to the other as he empties his bottle.

Guy whispers conspiratorially, “You’re not the first one to tell me that. Kakashi says I’d make a good writer.”

“Does he now?” says Genma, hoping to glean whatever punchline Kakashi must be angling for.

Guy nods. “Yes, he says my words make him feel like Himari in Make-Out Paradise.” 

“Like…what now?” asks Genma, losing grip on the story.

Guy is whispering for real now, and not that loud half-whispering he usually does. “Like it’s okay to be in love.”

Oh. Genma looks at Kakashi, who’s letting Anko talk his ear off about a new species of snake in the Forest of Death, as though that place needed a new animal to kill people with. His expression is neutral, showing such an encompassing lack of interest that it just barely registers as disinterest. Anko and Kakashi: an unstoppable force meets an immovable object.

Genma looks back at Guy, whose own gaze is lovingly settled on Kakashi as well. “I’m happy for you, Guy,” he says. “I really am.”

Guy’s eyes are brimming with tears, and he opens his mouth to say something far too emotional. Thankfully, Raido’s voice floats over to them, drawing everyone’s attention back to the table at large,

“Maybe it’s a good thing they’re all getting married and settling down,” says Raido. “I mean, look at us.”

Raido probably doesn’t mean right then, but Genma does it anyway. Nine of them crammed around a bar with a round of drinks and an old crystal ball. Even the dim lighting can’t hide their wrinkles and gray hairs. Ibiki, the center point of their group, is as grim and intimidating as ever, still wearing the green trenchcoat he’s taken to wearing during his workday. Almost everyone else is in the redesigned flak jackets, as ugly as they are—Genma still has a couple of the old ones hidden away in his closet, forgetting to turn them in until still having them became nostalgic instead of annoying. Of course, Guy’s in his jumpsuit, Anko’s rocking her old coat, and Kurenai’s dressed in a short-skirted red dress. 

These aren’t the changes that matter. Neither are these: Kakashi has two uncovered eyes. Anko’s gained weight. Guy’s in a wheelchair. Kakashi is Hokage. Tonbo is still a chunin. Kurenai has nearly been retired for longer than she was an active shinobi. Aoba is the only married man, although if Guy has his way, that won’t be the case for long.

Some of the people who should be here aren’t, and that matters. But everything else is water under the bridge.

Genma’s beer arrives, and he clangs a spoon against it to get everyone’s attention. 

“I propose a toast,” he says. Raido smiles at him, and Genma grins back, a rush of affection for the man adding to the mix of emotions and alcohol inside him.

“What’re we toasting to?” asks Tonbo. 

Genma is at a loss for words. How does he say “everything” without sounding corny?

“To the village,” says Ebisu.

“To us,” says Raido, still looking at Genma.

“To new beginnings,” says Ibiki.

“To my new snake,” says Anko. “And to putting assholes in their place.”

“That’s two, Anko, that’s not fair,” says Aoba. 

“To the youth of old friends!”

“How are they youthful if they’re old?” asks Kakashi innocently. 

“You wound me—”
 
“To the king,” says Kurenai. Everyone stops talking. 

“You mean the Will of Fire?” asks Genma. 

“Yes, but there’s something else as well,” says Kurenai. She uses her cup to motion towards Kakashi. “I know you dislike overt displays of emotion, Kakashi, but you’re the Hokage of our generation. I think we could apply the king moniker to you as well. It’s like you’re…how do I put this?” She hesitates.

“Like he’s our king, the one who represents us,” says Genma. “The king of old soldiers.” The words feel heavy out of his mouth, and he has to resist the urge to feel embarrassed.

Kurenai flashes him a smile. “Yes, exactly that.” 

Kakashi scratches the back of his head. Guy is tense, poised to catch a fleeing Kakashi, but he looks fairly relaxed. Genma should have known it’s because he has a rebuttal. 

“Ah, well,” Kakashi says. “The Will of Fire doesn’t really work like that. It’s not the Hokage who’s the king in the original metaphor, after all, it’s the future generations. So it stands that since I’m the Hokage of our generation, that makes the king…” He pretends to hesitate, but Genma knows him better than that. He’s pausing for dramatic effect. “That makes the king all of you.”

Genma shakes his head. That son of a bitch could deflect a bomb. 

“The king is the old soldiers,” says Raido.

“Mine sounded better,” says Genma. But he’s right.

Anko reaches around Genma to flick Kakashi on his masked thing. “You can’t escape that easily,” she says. “You’re one of us, too, you know.”

Kakashi meets her gaze. “Yeah,” he says. “I am.”

There’s a beat where no one knows what to say. Finally, Ibiki breaks the silence. “You are the most maudlin group of shinobi I have ever met,” he says. “If any of you had gotten therapy when I told you to, we wouldn’t be crying over our sake right now.”

“We can’t all be emotionally healthy like you,” says Aoba. 

“Or like Guy,” says Ebisu, in what might be the first recorded instance in history of Ebisu complimenting one of his teammates. It’s a big night for everyone.

“The toast?” says Genma.

They all raise their cups of sake or bottles of beer. “To old soldiers,” they say together. And even though they haven’t discussed it, they haven’t even mentioned any of them, they add in unison, “To Asuma. To Hayate. To Obito. To Rin.”

“And all that other shit we mentioned,” adds Anko. Nine sets of eyes look at the crystal ball and down their drinks, watching the reflection of themselves do the same. Who knows what that crystal ball has seen? 

There doesn’t seem to be much to add after that, and they spend an awkward few seconds all not looking at each other, each lost in their thoughts. Except for Ibiki and Guy, of course, the two emotionally healthy assholes above such behavior. Presumably they spend the time locking eyes and letting themselves feel their feelings. Genma wouldn’t know, on account of the avoiding eye contact thing.

The king is the old soldiers. Man, fuck Kakashi. No one that emotionally stunted should be able to come up with something that good. 

To be fair, it’s Raido that said it. 

The conversation is picking back up—Aoba is telling Kurenai about the time he and Yamato tried to prank Naruto by turning a wreck into a fake ghost ship, only for it turning out to actually be a ghost ship. 

Genma turns to Kakashi, who’s sitting between him and the edge of the booth. “I’m just going to go outside for a minute. I need a little fresh air.”

Kakashi disappears into a cloud of smoke, appearing three feet away. Genma rolls his eyes and scoots out of the booth, edging past Aoba and out onto the bar floor. Once he’s done so, Kakashi turns into a second cloud of smoke, appearing back in his spot on the booth.

“Why?” asks Genma.

“Because I can,” says Kakashi. 

Instead of processing that, Genma goes to the bar’s second-story balcony, passing several groups of older chunin and genin who must be even harder hit by the dearth of missions available. He shuts the door behind him once he’s outside, leaning on the balcony’s railing. The fresh air is cool against his alcohol-flushed cheeks. The night is not as dark as it was in Genma’s childhood. 

He can’t pinpoint exactly what he’s feeling. Sad, maybe. Nostalgic, definitely. Hopeful? He wonders now if he should have taken a genin team. Maybe then he’d have a legacy. Maybe the whole village is his legacy.

Maybe he really is getting old, if he’s thinking shit like that.

“Hey there.”

Raido shuts the door behind him, joining Genma in leaning his arms on the balcony. It trembles under their weight, but they know how to land on their feet. The streets below them look the same as ever, but when Genma looks up, he sees skyscrapers on the horizon. 

“You’re a little different tonight,” says Raido. “You okay?”

“Don’t mind me,” says Genma. “It’s nice having everyone together again. We should do it more often.”

“Only if you promise not to stare at the moon every time,” says Raido.

His sleeve brushes up against Genma’s. He looks over at Raido. He’s a little grayer, a little more tired, but the same Raido he’s been falling into bed next to for a long time now. The mottled scar across his face has only faded a little in their years together, something Genma is selfishly glad for—he would miss running his fingers over those familiar ridges. 

“I’m retiring,” says Raido. 

“Shit,” says Genma. 

“You wanna move in together?” asks Raido. 

“Wait,” says Genma. “What?”

Raido shrugs. “I figured it was time we stopped beating around the bush.”

“But we’re open,” says Genma. “You know me.” He’s never been the type to settle down, and while a guilty little part of him has always known Raido is, Raido has never expressed any dissatisfaction over their relationship before.

Raido smiles. “Genma, when was the last time you slept with someone else?”

Genma starts to answer, but Raido interrupts him, saying, “Think.”

He looks at the moon and thinks. “Fuck,” he says. “Like six years.”

“I don’t pretend to know everything you think,” says Raido. “But we’re getting older. And I think we’d be happier if we moved in together.”

He thinks of Kakashi and Guy. It comes down to one thing, doesn’t it? He looks at Raido and tries to imagine himself spending the rest of his life with anyone else. The thought makes him queasy. And angry. And, strangely, like he wants to read Jiraiya’s entire body of work.  

Genma doesn’t say anything, and Raido adds, his words a little faster now, “Just think about it and get back to me.”

“Let’s do it,” says Genma. “Let’s move in together.”

Raido blinks several times. “Really?”

“Really,” says Genma.

“I’ve never seen you commit to something so fast,” says Raido, slinging his arm around Genma’s shoulder. Genma can hear his heartbeat, rabbit-quick, beneath his uniform. He’s almost too close now for Genma to see that rarest of things: Raido’s grin, nervous and half-giddy from alcohol. 

“You’re retiring? You sure?” says Genma.

“Yeah,” says Raido. “I’ve done enough. Let the next generation take over. And this way, we have more time together. It’s not too late for…well, for a lot of things.”

There lies something unspoken there, but Genma knows better than to push Raido too quickly. He pulls Raido to him, one hand pressed against the small of his back, one hand tracing his jawline. It’s familiar. He always thought he’d run from this type of familiarity, that he’d think it was boring. Instead, his heartbeat picks up to match Raido’s. 

“I love you,” he says. He’s forty-eight years old and saying it for the first time. Ibiki would have a field day. 

They kiss. Up close, Raido needs a shave. Both their breaths reek of booze. The wind carries the sound of two civilians arguing about groceries their way. It could be considerably more romantic. 

“I love you too,” says Raido.

Scratch that. Nothing has ever been more romantic. Genma may not have a lot of experience with the subject, but he knows that in his heart. 

“Let’s go back inside before I say something embarrassing,” he says, letting go of Raido with a remorseful groan. 

Raido laughs. “Don’t lie. You don’t know how to be embarrassed.”

“My teammates were Ebisu and Guy. I had to adapt.”

They enter the bar, exchanging the cool night air for loud music and dim lights. When they make it back to their table, Tonbo has disappeared, giving Anko the room to spread out on as much of the booth as she can. Kakashi is sitting in Guy’s wheelchair, Guy is doing a handstand with the crystal ball held between his legs, and Kurenai is giggling at Aoba’s impression of Yamato in the shower.

“Hey, man, that’s not cool!”

Genma turns, and there’s Yamato in the flesh, holding two beers in each hand. How Yamato’s managed to be the gopher for the group before he even knew they were here is beyond him. Behind him is Yugao Uzuki, and she waves demurely before downing two shots she’s holding without flinching. 

“Happy retirement,” she shouts over the chaos.

“Happy reunion,” says Iruka, turning the corner.

“Happy birthday!” chorus Kotetsu and Izumo, popping out from behind Yamato. 

“These guys get it,” says Kakashi. 

Genma slides into his seat before he loses all chances and gaining it, and Raido does the same. Ibiki looks at him knowingly. Genma mouths “fuck off” at him before accepting a beer from Yamato.

“It’s crazy,” says Anko, her words slurring ever so slightly as she practically flops into Genma’s lap. “Ibiki’s so smug, and he doesn’t even know he’s the tallest!”

“Don’t be ridiculous,” says Ibiki. “Of course I know I’m the tallest.”

Genma turns to Yamato. “Hey there, kid,” he says, knowing it’ll make steam come out of his ears. “How about a ghost story?”

“There’s nothing scarier than this group of people,” says Yamato dourly. Next to him, the crystal ball drops onto Guy’s groin and then the floor, causing general pandemonium.

Tonbo arrives, also holding a mess of alcohol. “Oh, shit,” he says. “Now look at all the booze we’ve got.”

“I suppose we’ve got no choice but to drink it all,” says Kakashi dryly.

“You heard the man!” shouts Kotetsu. “Hokage’s orders!”

And like the old soldiers they are, they follow suit.