iron will, firenation au, things you said too quietly

Iron Will, Fire Nation!Tetsuki AU, 3) things you said too quietly

June waits until the moon is high in the sky, night gone nearly silent, only the crackling and popping of their fire and Tetsuki’s soft, childish snores sounding through their camp. Father isn’t staring into the fire–he would never be so foolish as to ruin his night vision like that–but he’s definitely keeping his gaze away from her younger sister’s sleeping form.

June waits before she brings up the matter of the letter, “You can’t really mean to give her to them, do you?” she asks, more challenge than anything else. June is older enough than Tetsuki that she remembers Mother, remembers the way her face would go pinched and unhappy whenever she spoke of her parents. As far as June knows, her maternal grandparents are awful people. Tetsuki knows even less.

Tetsuki doesn’t even know where they’re going.

Father’s mouth thins into a flat line, perhaps remembering Mother’s displeasure at her family, perhaps just irritated at June questioning him, “Would you rather I give them you?” he responds, as much assessing as it is punishing.

If June were volunteering to take Tetsuki’s place, Father would let her, but neither of them want her to: Father reluctant to lose his trained apprentice, June unwilling to lose her freedom. Tetsuki is too young to know any better.

Maybe that’s just an excuse.

June grits her teeth, doesn’t answer, the pause was answer enough. But still she persists, “Why give in at all? We don’t owe them anything. Mother left them for a reason, they disowned her. She hated them!” Her shout rings through their camp, loud and almost repulsive in the night. Both June and Father glance over at Tetsuki, waiting, watching, but she remains asleep.

“They’re still your family,” Father says finally. Unhelpfully, “Your mother didn’t hate them,” he adds nothing else.

June can feel her face heat, and she struggles to keep it–rage or tears–down. “We could just ignore the letter, keep going on as we have. We could stay together,” it sounds more plaintive than she means to, Father won’t respond to this kind of weakness. June needs to be stronger.

Father is silent for long enough that June thinks he’s dismissed the conversation. She rises to ready her bedroll, as near to her little sister as she can stand–Tetsuki is at the age where she kicks in her sleep, never still even unconscious–they only have a few more nights before they arrive at Mother’s ancestral home.

June only has a few more nights with her sister.

“They’ll take care of her,” Father says belatedly.

June wants to bite back–we’ll take care of her–but the tone of his voice makes her hold.

“Your mother and I,” Father starts, and June can’t help but listen intently, “Who needed a home when we had each other? Even on the road, you were raised with love.”

What does this have to do with Tetsuki, June wants to ask, but doesn’t.

Unbidden, Father answers. “They’ll take care of her,” he repeats, still not looking at Tetsuki. Inanely, June thinks the night suddenly feels cold.

“The road alone is not enough for a child.”

~

A/N: The implication being that Tetsuki’s backstory is always sad. But at least June loved her! … but June is still only a child herself at this point 😦

Ask Box Advent Calendar is now open!

Advertisements

Shikako’s Guide to Delinquency and Military Insurrection: Really, Danzo had this coming.

Shikako Nara’s Guide To Delinquency and Military Insurrection

(Rule Four: No place is invulnerable. Keep your guard up, even at home.)

The sky has turned dark, the view from the tower’s top now of your village in its nighttime wear. The lights of businesses and houses twinkling bright, people overly loud as they go from restaurants to bars, interrupting the tranquility.

Disorderly.

Despicable.

This lack of discipline is what Hiruzen has allowed to fester Konoha. Weakness. No longer. You will have to make changes. Curfews and and harsher penalties.

You turn away from the window, the sight of your village still so tainted sickens you, enrages you, and so you must look away. But as you turn, you think you see a face in the glass. Behind you?

No, you dart a glance through your office, only your ROOT guards–all under chameleon jutsu and masked besides. When you turn back the face is gone.

Only a reflection, surely.

You put the thought from your mind, put the hat back on–though the veils often limit your peripheral vision and there is no one significant to see. You have much to do in order to make your village great again.

Nothing can stop you now.

The second time, night again, you are waiting for one of your teams to come back and report.

They are only ANBU, not ROOT, and while you were not expecting much, you are disgusted by how long it is taking them.

It should not be this difficult to apprehend one child, jinchuuriki status or not.

Another matter you must correct, Hiruzen’s indulgence of the creature. It should have been handled and trained properly from the start–even the strongest of weapons can rust from poor handling–but instead that foolish monkey had it pretending at a normal life. As if a jinchuuriki could ever be normal.

One of the proximity sensors sounds off, the ANBU team returning, finally, but when they appear…

“Where is the boy?” you ask, the sheer incompetence of these agents causing you to bite the words out, irritated. The four ANBU stand in front of you in various states of bruised and battered, filthy, not even bearing a single blonde hair from the creature.

They shuffle silently, nervously, uselessly in front of you before the captain utters, “He disappeared. We lost him in the sewers.”

“It was as if the shadows just swallowed him whole!” one of the others says inanely, before hunching down from the sharp glance of their captain.

If this is the quality of ANBU that Hiruzen’s administration produced, then it is no wonder that all their nukenin have been walking the Elemental Nations unharmed.

Displeased, you activate the seals on their arms, watch as they try not to scream, grip futilely at themselves before dropping to the floor of your office. A modification of the old design, incorporating what you could reverse engineer of the Hyuuga’s Caged Bird.

You summon another team–ROOT this time, though lately they’re running thin on the ground which is why you had to resort to standard ANBU to begin with–have them remove the bodies and assign them the incomplete mission.

For ROOT agents there is only success or death.

The jinchuuriki is never found.

You are running out of ROOT agents.

The village, frail from decades of mismanagement, crumbles under your steady hand.

This is not how your tenure as Hokage is meant to go.

You are returning to your office after dealing with Yuuhi’s idiocy–the man is too used to dealing with genin, clearly unable to handle the role of jounin commander as he always claimed he could–when you stop just inside the doorway.

Someone is in your seat.

Someone is in your seat, feet propped up on your desk, looking for all the world like she belongs there and not like she is committing the highest form of disrespect and treason.

“Guards!” you yell, and the fact that you must call for them just compounds the sheer frustration of this situation. Four masked and hooded ANBU appear.

They do nothing else.

“Seize her!” you add, enraged that you must instruct them on this most obvious order.

They turn towards you, instead.

It is at this point you realize you do not sense either ROOT or the updated ANBU seals on them. It is at this point you realize your shadow is stretching far longer than it should. It is at this point you realize you cannot move.

You realize all this too late.

The door slams shut behind you, a second shadow tendril snaking past you and returning to the girl.

The girl who casually removes her feet from your desk, gets up from your seat, and saunters around so she is standing in the center of your office, in the center of the four masked shinobi who are not yours.

The masks come off.

Still you cannot move.

“Honestly,” says the girl, “what were you expecting?”

~

A/N: … ugh, writing from Danzo’s POV is the worst. But also, like, I could not think of any other way to fill this prompt, lionhead. It’s a little bit spin-off-y of Ascendant, though not necessary. Just the sheer delusion of a man who has gotten what he wants and still can’t understand why things aren’t going the way he planned. :/

Anyway, hope you enjoyed!

Ask Box Advent Calendar is now open!

(seriously, i’ve got nothing in my ask box. I might start cross posting brainstorms onto ao3–for safety reasons–so if there’s any old brainstorm (like from all of the ask box fake fic titles event) that you want to, er, re-prompt in some way, they’re open season too)

Shikako finds herself in the perfect moment to quote Conan the Barbarian on the best things in life. The real question is, should she take it?

The first time is during a mission with Red Team, a lull in their stake out as they wait for their target to appear. It pops into her mind as soon as Towa mentions the best place to buy senbon, how nothing could compare to the feel of well-crafted steel under his fingers. Komachi retorts with the superiority of kunai, the best weapon. Even Hawk-taicho joins in, in support of shuriken of course.

Shikako wants very badly to say it. That the best thing in life isn’t weapons but what you do with them.

But the conversation has moved past the point where it would make even the slightest bit of sense, and even then maybe only Sasuke would find it amusing. Which is the problem, of course: to quote a fictional hero from another world is such a Shikako trait, not a Bat trait, that she has to resist.

But still, it’s tempting.

Another opportunity comes much later, weeks and months, the fleeting thought long forgotten. It happens while she and a chuunin from Intel on a simple dead drop retrieval in Land of Tea.

Somehow they get involved in the internal conflicts of the Wagurashi Family.

It’s not too bad, really, Shikako doesn’t know what her mission partner is so worried about. There aren’t any enemy nin involved. The Wasabi Family is even being respectfully uninvolved, even though this would be the best time for them to strike and establish themselves as the reigning Family. Annoyingly, this does mean it’s mostly diplomacy rather than any action, but she’s not so far gone that she’d rather start a civil war just to get out of talking to strangers.

The Wagurashi Family boss is old, deciding between her three successors, and it is during this series of tests that the moment arrives, an almost perfect.

But to say it out loud would be too aggressive during a time when she is representing Konoha’s stance of peace, and to say it quietly would be a waste because her chuunin partner already thinks she’s weird. Aoba wouldn’t have understood it, but he probably would have appreciated it.

Shikako lets the moment pass.

They are at war and it isn’t funny at all. It is too accurate and harsh to be funny.

She says nothing.

Shikako slouches languidly, legs stretched out, propped at such an angle that she can lean casually on the railing of the Academy rooftop.

Ah, memories.

The three tiny graduates in front of her fidget mostly with nerves–the one she’ll come to fondly call Stabby fidgets with impatience–and Shikako decides to put them out of their misery.

“What is best in life?” she asks.

This year’s top rookie, who she’ll later refer to as Punchy, tries to answer philosophically, as if this were an additional test. But that’s for tomorrow, of course.

Stabby waxes poetic about senbon and kunai and shuriken in an echo of a long ago conversation behind masks.

The third graduate, Bitey, babbles on about fuinjutsu in fits and bursts, a boy after her own heart, but in this particular moment he is incorrect. If Shikako is really going to take on a team of genin, they need to know what kind of jounin sensei they’re getting. Bizarre, unknowable references and all.

She shakes her head, “What’s best in life is…”

Sometimes the perfect moment comes and goes, but other times you can make your own opportunities.

~

A/N: I’ve actually never seen Conan the Barbarian, so I did have to look this up, but I did recognize the quote which just impresses how prevalent it is in culture.

I couldn’t seem to land on a tone–not entirely serious, but not entirely silly either–but I hope it isn’t too off-putting, anon. Also, now presenting Shikako’s adorable little genin: Punchy, Stabby, and Bitey. I may come up with more details for them at a later time if anyone’s interested.

Ask Box Advent Calendar is now open!

(EDIT: ahhhh, I meant to queue this for tomorrow, December 2! … oh well. DOUBLE POST TODAY!)

Who do you think would handle knowing the original timeline’s future best, not just in DoS, but in your other works, too? I say original timeline in large part because surely even someone who wouldn’t want to would still find themselves making changes, right?

I’m going to assume you mean Naruto canon when you say original timeline, because otherwise to go through all of my fandoms would be O_O

I think there’s a difference in handling the knowledge in an internal/emotional way vs handling the knowledge in an external/make-changes kind of way. The first largely depends on how a person finds out–whether it’s something that, in the case of DoS, Shikako tells them or, somehow they find out from, like, a vision from beyond or a canon character dimension travelling and exposition dumping from there–whereas the second depends on their resources (whether they even have the ability to make changes on a significant scale) and personality (whether they would even want to.

Like, I’ve mentioned previously that Shino would make a good confidante for Shikako, not because he would particularly make a lot of changes, but because he would, if not believe Shikako immediately, then at the very least accept the knowledge with a certain level of proof (which is easy enough considering the Aburame’s history with Danzo.) So he’d be the first type of “handling” the knowledge of canon.

All that being said… I kinda want to do both for all of them mostly because this prompt would help me further conceptualize characters in a way I hadn’t considered before. So, both Emotional Handling and Influential Handling for DoS, Externality, (In)Difference, and Counterpoise? Hm, if there’s another series you’re interesting in, lionhead, just let me know and I can add that later.

Dreaming of Sunshine:

Emotional Handling – I’m going to stick with Shino for this one, actually. Regardless of if he finds out from Shikako or from some other means. Second place I would say Ibiki, but I’m reluctant to do even that much because of my own fanon that Ibiki and Yoshino are BFFs so he probably would be second hand messed up by the changes of Yoshino’s family composition.

Influential Handling – I don’t know if there is a singular person I would say is best for this, but the ones I’m thinking of all have a certain… flavor to them. In no particular order: Iruka, Ibiki, Aoba, and Shizune. And the thing they all have in common is that they have influence within the village but not the combat prowess to handle S-rank nin by themselves. So they would have to make changes with a softer touch. Would Iruka emotionally handle canon knowledge well? NO WAY. But he is in the position to not only influence Naruto (and other former students) directly but also to affect administrative decisions. Also, Danzo would never think of Iruka as a threat.

Ibiki, Aoba, and Shizune would probably handle the knowledge with better grace than Iruka, but they don’t have that direct connection with the kids that Iruka does. And this could be a positive and a negative, but they’re all also better than Iruka combat wise so they may be tempted to make changes in person which may cause them to bite off more than they can chew.

Externality:

So the thing about Externality is that even I haven’t decided whether or not Tetsuki knows about canon, or how–was Naruto a manga in the KHR world or can she perceive the canon version of the world in her dreams?–so I’m going to exclude her for now.

Emotional Handling – Weirdly enough, I think Naruto would handle it best. Not because he would use it, but because he would be galvanized into doing better. Whether that means keeping Sasuke in Konoha or being a better teammate to Tetsuki and Komadori or making sure to protect the people he couldn’t save in canon. Although, I suppose it depends on WHEN he gets the knowledge. Like, if he gets it before the canon graduation time, then it’s unprovable and basically a really weird dream to him–why would he be on a team without Tetsuki and Komadori?–but if its after canon graduation time, that is, after a genin-for-a-year Naruto gets put on a team with recent graduates Sasuke and Sakura, then he might take it as a challenge.

Influential Handling – Ibiki, Aoba, and Shizune for the same reasons as in DoS–since Externality is in a similar vein of OC–but instead of Iruka, since he isn’t the teacher for Testuki, Komadori, and Team Gai’s year, I would add Anko to the list.

Specifically after Tetsuki has joined Intel/T&I. Well, I mean, Anko knowing about Orochimaru’s future movements is already pretty good influence-wise (although, I’m concerned that Konoha would be “concerned” about how she got that information) but if it’s after Tetsuki has joined Intel/T&I and become Anko’s kouhai then Anko will know that she can use Tetsuki to act on her behalf as well as passing Orochimaru’s future movements along to Ibiki and such.

And I guess, for similar reasons, Tsunade would be good but only after she’s already become Hokage. Because her hands are tied as far as throwing down directly with Akatsuki since she has a damn village to run, but she’ll know that Tetsuki is a piece on the board that she can use in a myriad of ways.

(In)Difference

Since Kiyoshi definitely knows about canon and is trying her utmost to not get involved during her first decade and a half, then doing an abrupt 180 and getting overly involved in specific people’s lives, I’m going to exclude her.

This probably won’t make much sense given I haven’t actually written enough of (In)Difference to have a firm timeline and, unlike Externality and Counterpoise, it doesn’t follow the usual stations of canon. Which brings up the main point: except for a few flashback type situations, most of canon happens decades in the future. Any changes, even minute, will have massive consequences. Additionally, in a way, it’s harder to prove but easier to stomach so… hm… let’s see…

Emotional Handling – When they’re younger, genin/chuunin age or so, Orochimaru would handle it best. Not because he really believes Kiyoshi (if it is, indeed, coming from Kiyoshi) but because on the unlikely chance that it is true then he is still capable of course-correcting. Also, if he was, as I suspect, Nawaki’s jounin-sensei (or captain, if we’re going with wartime terminology) then being able to prevent his death–which Kiyoshi somehow does–will help a lot in keeping him sane and not completely evil.

Team White Fang would also handle it okay but only as a team. I don’t know why I feel certain about this, but, I dunno, they’re 2/3 my characters so there.

Influential Handling – Actually, all of the above wouldn’t be too bad in terms of influencing things. Orochimaru, obviously, just has to not be a complete sociopath and never work with Danzo (or, even, just kill Danzo outright) and already he’ll make the future a better place. And Team White Fang is either A) Sakumo, father of Kakashi who is in line to affect ALL the things or B+C) a shape-shifter and genjutsu mistress. So, not too hard to make changes. But I think the BEST person to make changes might be Nawaki.

Because just him being alive would mean so much in terms of Senju presence. And even if he doesn’t have Wood Release (but which I’ve written that he does so…) what his continued existence means for Tsunade and Kushina personally (who can then influence Naruto directly or not). Or what his continued existence might mean for the Uchiha clan… I suppose it’s more a potential of influence than actual influence, I guess.

Counterpoise

Konran definitely doesn’t know about canon. Immediately I know she would emotionally handle it the worst, because basically it’s a world in which her twin brother isn’t even a twin or a brother. Here comes an existential crisis. Because she’d emotionally handle it the worst, I’d be reluctant to predict how she’d handle it influentially. Obviously she’s in position to influence Naruto most directly, but will she want to? Will she do so in a positive way? I don’t know.

Emotional Handling – Zakuro. Hands down. I considered Ringo, because of the two Ringo is the “calmer” one, but then I realized: he’s a medic. He’s a taijutsu using medic. He’s as pacifistic and selfless as a shinobi can be. If he did believe the canon knowledge, however he got it, he would view all the deaths in canon and try his best to prevent them and only destroy himself.

Zakuro, in contrast, is a genjutsu and trap specialist. He knows that perception is more important than reality and for all his brash personality, he can be patient. Traps don’t always get sprung–it’s about preparing for possibilities, not getting directly involved. Zakuro wouldn’t lose himself to the knowledge. He’d take it, absorb it, learn from it, adapt.

The only hitch in this is that he wouldn’t want to keep the knowledge a secret from his teammates, but given their personalities, he would have to. So it’s not the knowledge itself that he would have trouble handling.

But to be clear, Zakuro is ony best at emotional handling. He’s not really in a position to make significant enough changes, for all that he has the mindset to do it.

Influential Handling – … the three people who I think could best utilize the knowledge and make changes are also the three people (besides Konran and Naruto) who would emotionally handle the knowledge poorly. Ringo is one of them–because for all he is the same rank as Zakuro, he does have sort of bonds with both Obito, though he doesn’t really know it, and Kakashi, and if he can figure out how to leverage said bonds he can mitigate a lot of suffering on their and everyone’s parts.

The other two are Kakashi and Jiraiya. The reason why I didn’t bring them up in previous series is because the nature of canon vs Counterpoise is a missing Uzumaki child. Minato’s child. And yes, it’s true, that shouldn’t be such a big deal seeing as how they they ignored Naruto in canon. But I wonder how much of that was the Sandaime’s terribad “don’t discuss the Kyuubi even though everyone and their monkey summons know about it” and how much of that was the village plausibly denying Naruto’s heritage.

So DoS brings up how Naruto could have been named Uzumaki because of his jinchuuriki status not because he’s actually related to Kushina. Additionally I’ve read somewhere that some people thought Naruto took Minato’s appearance because the Kyuubi was being deliberately cruel and kitsune are all about shapeshifting (which is why Naruto’s specialty before kage bushin is henge). And also, while I don’t know how canonical this is, there’s the idea floating around that Minato and Kushina kept the pregnancy a secret so enemy villages couldn’t find out and such. So, like, the village could have just been handwaving the obvious connections between Naruto and his parents. And because Kakashi and Jiraiya don’t get involved with him, there’s nothing to contradict that.

But Konran doesn’t have the Kyuubi. Konran has bright red hair and goes by the name Uzumaki. Konran is so undeniably Kushina’s child that there is no handwaving this away. It’s for this reason that I’m kind of playing around with the idea that the Cloud ambassador tried to kidnap Konran in addition to/instead of Hinata (which also explains why Konran becomes so desperate to keep her hair hidden when she’s a genin).

Anyway. That incident and the lack of plausible deniability means that Kakashi and Jiraiya kind of have to get involved and canon knowledge would only help them if they would get off their asses and do something. Don’t get me wrong, love the characters. But they are capable of making great change, they just need a massive shove to do so.

~

A/N: Uh… that got long and rant-y towards the end. Hopefully this was what you were looking for, lionheadbookends, and if not feel free to send another ask my way 🙂

Ask Box Advent Calendar is now open!

Word Prompts (K5): Kiss

Edmundo leans back, away from their kiss. It is reluctant, yes, but still a retreat. Their faces are still close enough that they can share breaths, but the distance means no contact. No heat.

“You’re one of those heroes now,” he says in the scant space between them, near to a whisper, though it’s hardly needed. Beyond the thin walls of the office space, the garage is in operation, the sounds of machines and their mechanics echoing back and forth.

She shrugs in response, tips her hand back and forth. Hero-adjacent would be a pithy, but accurate, response; she’s just not sure it would come out right.

“It’s different than what you were doing before,” he says, leaning even further back which isn’t what she wants at all! But he takes her hands in his and that’s an okay consolation prize, she supposes. “Protecting your block from pendejos is one thing, but you’re on the news now. You’re in bright spandex and everything.”

She crinkles her nose in protest: she doesn’t wear spandex. She just wears normal clothes. It’s not her fault her powers manifests as flowing green lights.

“No, no, you’re right. I’m getting off track,” he says, smoothing his thumbs over the back of her hands. It’s rough and a patch of black smears across her skin, but it’s warm. She likes it.

From the way she thinks this conversation is going, she’s going to miss it.

“You’ll always have a home here,” Edmundo says, and when he leans in, he presses his forehead to hers in a deliberately chaste way, “But you’re outgrowing us, and I can’t keep you chained down.”

She can’t say he’s wrong.

She doesn’t try to kiss him again–they’ve already had their final goodbye kiss, even if she didn’t know it for what it was at the time. But if she tightens her return grip, hoping to press the shape of her hands into his, well. He doesn’t say anything about that, at least.

She kisses Maya because she loves her and, also, Tetsuki might very well never see her again–either because they will be separated on opposite sides of an inter planar barrier or Tetsuki will be dead.

Maya kisses back because she loves Tetsuki, too… but perhaps isn’t sure in what way she loves Tetsuki and thinks that kissing might help her figure it out. And also because, even though Tetsuki isn’t saying it out loud, Maya is more than aware that her best friend may very well die and she doesn’t want to be a last regret in any way.

It is a lot of emotions and concepts for their first, hesitant kiss to convey.

Luckily, it is not also a last and only kiss, and they greatly improve their communication via kisses in the future.

There is no kissing between them. For many reasons, really.

Mainly because intimacy and vulnerability are not luxuries either of them can afford.

Tetsuki has been experimenting with wearing hound-snake venom atop wax coated lips. Azula can literally breathe fire.

And depending on which timeline they’re in, they may be trying to kill each other.

So, no. No kissing for them.

The first kiss of Team Two actually happens between Naruto and Komadori.

Tetsuki does’t understand what’s so embarrassing about it but, then again, as mentioned, she wasn’t actually involved so…

She promises to talk about that mission only once a year at most.

Tetsuki is dripping with river water, mildly concussed, and high off the wave of endorphins that is surviving an apocalyptic, dystopian future when she kisses Kusakabe-senpai for the first time.

Unsurprisingly, this doesn’t scare him off.

~

A/N: A sort of reverse tag of this ficlet.

Ode to 11010201 Redux, Traditions Torn (2018-11-20)

There were an odd number of candidates at the trials.

Normally, this mattered not. Quantity of candidates were less important than quality, and only the best and brightest could join the Premier Witch Council.

But for this particular set of trials, the fact that there were an odd number of candidates was not just surprising but also worrying:

On the full moon after the Premier Gemini Witches died, trials were held to find a new pair of luminaries to replace them.

One candidate had come alone.

“I know what they think of me,” Candidate Chacone says during the final trial, “I know what they said.”

The eleven luminaries remain silent, observing. Judging.

“They think I’ve done something to her, a diabolical thing. Then mutilated myself for more power. An abomination of a Gemini witch.”

Still the luminaries say nothing.

“But she was the one that slammed a wall between us. She’s the one that left me alone, screaming!" 

Some of the younger luminaries at the ends flinch at her tone, but the Premier Taurus Witch at her place in the center merely holds up her hand, settles them.

"My magic wants desperately to harmonize and all I had were the shrieking echoes of myself.”

~

~

For seven hours and thirty one minutes, Luminary Chacone headed the largest, most successful coven in history.

If the knowledge had stayed within their secret half world of magic and marvels, then it would have been a triumph. 

As it is, Luminary Chacone’s actions have brought unwanted attention from the shadowy government organization known as SHIELD.

The magician doesn’t look like anything special, Maria thinks on the opposite side of the glass. Nothing like Loki–grand robes and staff and regal demeanor–but perhaps that had more to do with his alien heritage than his magic.

If Maria had passed by this magician on the street, she wouldn’t even turn around. The magician looks absolutely normal. Absolutely human.

The magician waits, patiently, silently, as she has done since agents escorted her here. No demands for explanations. No pleads to go back. No questions.

How alarming.

This should Coulson’s job. For all that SHIELD is still cleaning up the literal alien invasion, this feels like a peace time interview, or even a recruitment.

But Coulson is dead, and Fury can only trust Maria to do this, never mind that she’s a battle commander and not the deft touch of whatever Coulson was.

Enough.

Maria steels herself and enters, posture impeccable, and the magician reacts by blinking slow and sleepily at her.

“You did something,” Maria begins, a shaky start but not inaccurate, “During the invasion.”

The magician nods, open, “I protected those that I could.”

“More than that,” Maria responds, unable to find words for what she means to say.

SHIELD had experienced losses that day, of course, Coulson one of many. But only from the direct attack on the helicarrier. When the rift was open, monsters from across the universe raining chaos down, SHIELD stood firm. Agents stood back up from hits that should have taken them down, were able to do things that should have been beyond them. For several hours, SHIELD was undefeatable.

The magician huffed a soft but honestly amused sort of laugh, smile curling her mouth though her eyes continued to droop in exhaustion. “A matter of convenient coincidence,” she answers, though Maria hardly had a question formed. “My priority was to ensure that the building would be safe.” Again she laughs, or tries to, “I told everyone to believe that the shield would hold.”

~

A/N: The later bits are related to this long ago Avengers crossover. Just doing some “spring” cleaning of little ficlets and such on my computer.

I re-read the Primadonna Girl (Says No Thank You) tag ’cause of the recent prompt fill, and I have got to see more of the Shikako and Ibiki partners in crime scenario, so, uh *rolls dice* 24?

Shikako and Ibiki partners in crime, 24) things you said with clenched fists

Shikako Nara’s Guide To Delinquency and Military Insurrection

(Rule Three: Look underneath the underneath)

Ibiki refuses to look back. Eyes forward with the occasional check of peripheral vision because tunnel vision is stupid and deadly, but otherwise he only looks ahead.

He knows she is following–a strange, suspicious shadow–but he refuses to acknowledge her.

All that matters is the mission.

All that matters is getting back to Konoha.

“I could heal you,” the shadow offers, maintaining a constant distance between the two of them. Closer, he gets testy. Further, he gets wary. This exact distance is irritating, but bearable.

Ibiki does not respond.

“I promise I won’t do anything bad,” the shadow continues then, after a considering pause, “Though I guess that’s what I’d say if I were going to do something bad, so how could you tell?”

“I could tell,” Ibiki answers, automatically defending his abilities, before grumbling at himself. New chuunin rank obviously doesn’t mean new maturity level. He’ll have to work on that, later. In the village. If he gets a later.

The shadow smiles, pleased at finally getting a response. She skips a bit, drawing nearer, but at Ibiki’s increased grumbling, she slows down again, hands raised in acquiescence.

“Didn’t I prove myself in that last skirmish?” the shadow asks, more to the air than to him. He wouldn’t trip up again so soon, and so she’s certainly not expecting him to respond.

In more than one way, she’s right: the team of Cloud nin would have easily killed him had he been alone. Should have easily killed the two of them, really, outnumbered as they were. In terms of battle prowess, she’s definitely proved herself.

The fact that he’s still standing and not bleeding out slowly in the middle of contended territory also proves that she’s real and not just a pain induced hallucination like he had assumed for the first few hours of their interaction.

Of course, that doesn’t disprove the possibility that this is a genjutsu. And a particularly sadistic one at that, given the face that the shadow is wearing.

Eyes forward. Complete the mission, get back to Konoha. Nothing else matters now.

But retreating is one matter, avoiding the truth is another.

Internally, he sighs. Out loud, he says, “Cloud has made many enemies.”

She blinks, surprised that he’s answered even if belatedly, before tentatively offering, “The enemy of my enemy is my friend?”

“You sound uncertain,” Ibiki responds, “And that’s reductive. Wars can and frequently do have multiple sides.”

Rather than immediately argue, the shadow hums. “Well, you’re not wrong,” she concedes, before letting them return to a casual silence. 

That’s not how Yoshino would have responded.

Forward. Mission. Konoha.

The shadow is young, though. Younger than Ibiki despite her skill. She takes his words as a learning opportunity, never mind that she must be more experienced than he is.

If she really wanted to sabotage his mission, she would have already done so, and easily. If this were a genjutsu, then he’s already failed. Either way, stubbornly letting his head wounds remain untreated is just stupid.

Ibiki sighs, stops, and eyes the shadow.

She slows to a stop at a respectful distance away.

“What do you know about this?” He asks, lifting the box. Seals cover the outside, an active array, so he hadn’t been able to put it in a storage scroll, but it’s small enough as not to be unwieldy.

“Enough,” she says with a shrug, noncommittal, and he’d almost admire it if it weren’t currently counter to his goals. “If you let me heal you, I’ll tell you more.” She punctuates this with an overly bright smile and a playful flourish of her hands.

“That’s poor negotiation,” he says, because if he’s apparently committing treason by colluding with the shadow then he might as well do so thoroughly and continue their teaching moments. “But I’ll take it.”

Her smile softens, turns more genuine, as if understanding the decision he’s made. She heals him and even gives him supplies to clean up the blood, before lackadaisically swiping a finger across the top of the box.

Ibiki tenses. The sealing array glows briefly before going inert. It unlocks.

“Look inside,” the shadow says, and for the first time she sounds like the battle hardened shinobi she really is, “If you think Danzo should get that, then you’re not Morino Ibiki.”

Ibiki never gave her his name. Somehow, he’s unsurprised.

~

A/N: Finally filled all the things you said prompts! The longest ask box event that just slow bled across literal MONTHS. Sorry for taking forever lionheadbookends!

I’m reluctant to start a new ask box event–or, at least, since it’s mid-November and December is coming up, I’ll probably just do another Ask Box Advent Calendar again in two weeks anyway so a different ask box event now is kinda excessive so… I guess what I’m saying is save ask box prompts for December and I will try to figure out what else to do instead over the next two weeks?