Reshuffle the Deck: Or, Five Genin Teams Shikako Wasn’t On (2016-08-15)

Four of a Kind

(The Ino-Shika-Cho is a good combination, but it’s never good to let genin teams become predictable–it makes them vulnerable to enemy action, and considering who makes up the roster of this year’s new genin? Vulnerability is to be avoided at all cost.

The idea behind the trio is still sound, shouldn’t be abandoned completely, and so the Hokage and Academy teachers build the new teams with that in mind.

It’s not their fault that it completely throws off a good chunk of her foreknowledge.)

“This is…” Shikako says, words drifting off to look at her two teammates.

“Uh, sensei?” Ino picks up, immediately “I think you’ve gotten it wrong–it’s Ino-Shika-Cho, not Ino-Shika-Inu.”

Akamaru barks, Kiba does too. “What you’ve got a problem with dogs?” Smirk easily changeable into baring of teeth.

“Only the ones that haven’t bathed in three days,” Ino says, sharp smile of her own, “Aren’t you supposed to have a good sense of smell?”

Shikako cuts in, brings the tension down but adds to the teasing as well. “Not all of us can smell like a flower shop all the time, Ino.”

(With a steady jounin sensei and normal missions, they would have become strong, solid shinobi in a few years.

With Anko as their sensei, in a matter of months they become the first genin team with the bingo book orders Flee On Sight)

Full House [of Queens]

“They didn’t even try for subtle, did they?” Shikako asks Kurenai-sensei, mouth an opposite slant to her raised eyebrow.

Her jounin sensei shrugs, “You could argue that’s what this entire team is for–given the tenets of kunoichi and all that.”

“Don’t you think this will be fun, Shikako?” Sakura asks, stars in her eyes–the disappointment at not being on the same team as Sasuke quickly passing at the excitement of being on a team with her two best friends.

“And anyway,” Ino adds, “Who needs a bunch of boys messing up our missions?”

(Despite the tenets of kunoichi, their team does not maintain subtlety for too long. Oh, their missions succeed, no doubt about that, and they’re never actually caught; but rumors of a group of girls capable of slipping in unnoticed and completely destroying any opposition spreads.

They become known as the Three Beauties of Konoha, though mostly, all enemies can remember about them is the color of their hair and the scent of fresh flowers)

“Someone asked me to punch them today,” Sakura says to her teammates, bemused.

Although the three of them have long since been promoted from genin, they tend to team up with each other regardless. Why mess with success?

“Oh, yeah?” Shikako adds absentmindedly, writing in one of her eternally present journals even as Ino begins to pull it away, “Me, too, a couple of days ago.”

“Did you?” Sakura asks, watching in amusement as Ino and Shikako begin playing tug of war with the journal.

“Yeah, he wouldn’t leave me alone until I did and by that point he was being so annoying it was a relief to do it.”

“I made mine pay for it,” Ino says, to which both of her teammates look up at her smug face in confusion. Pulling the journal from Shikako’s slack hands is easy; her expression only becomes more pleased. “He clearly wanted it for some reason, and why do something for free when you can get paid for it?”

“And?” Sakura prompts, while Shikako bemoans her lack of initiative.

“It bought me a new dress,” Ino brags. And because she’s always a well of information, she explains to her teammates. “Apparently there’s some kind of superstition going around that if someone gets punched by all three of us they get good luck.”

Two Pair

(She pulls back too late. The teachers have already spotted her talent; genius, prodigy, legend-in-the-making they murmur to each other. She gets accelerated, graduates among students several years older than herself.

When her genin team is called, she swallows down bile.)

“Shikako-chan,” Kabuto says, mild smile on his face. All of his smiles are mild, she wants to punch him in the face.

“Yes?” She chirps back, slipping into her role of over-eager kouhai. She’ll admit he knows an awful lot of tricks that’ll be useful in the future.

Let him think he’s converting the Jounin Commander’s daughter, she’ll feed him lies and bleed him dry.

“You’re always so curious,” he says, ever so patronizing, “it’s a good thing to have in a student.”

“Well, you’re a good teacher,” she says back–always flattering, always sweet–she needs to appear as a book smart genius, not an actual threat.

“It’s not so much a virtue when it comes to espionage,” Kabuto amends, voice still pleasant but suddenly sharp and deadly.

She can feel the blood freeze in her veins. Literally.

“W-what are you talking about, Kabuto-senpai?” she chokes out through the clawing in her throat, her rapidly stiffening lungs.

“Don’t worry,” he says as her vision goes blurry, then dark, “It’s time for you to get a real teacher.”

(When she wakes up, she’s almost relieved to see Orochimaru’s face.

Better him than Danzo, she thinks even as the abomination of mutated natural chakra burns through her. The Curse Seal.

Kabuto won’t need to convert her if a piece of Orochimaru is literally looking over her shoulder.)

Straight

The night of graduation, Shikako faints while walking up the stairs.

It’s also the first time the Kyuubi’s malevolent chakra has been felt in over a decade.

The two events are not unrelated.

Needless to say, Shikaku will not be having his daughter on the same team as someone whose chakra can render her unconscious. He knows the Academy teachers think he is just pulling rank, getting his child off a team with That Monster, but Shikaku’s always been more practical than that: it’d be like having someone allergic to dogs on the same team as an Inuzuka, illogical and troublesome.

And anyway, he remembers Kushina and Mito-sama before that, neither of them were monsters. How could their legacy ever be one?

(Shikako looks at her teammates and feels nothing but conflicted, guilty relief.

A part of her had wanted to be on a more integral team, to better alter the course of future events. But another part of her had always been afraid of taking on such a daunting task.

Better to be on a team with these two–childhood bullies though they may be–than, god forbid, Naruto and Sasuke. She’d constantly be in the crossfire of powerhouses, pushed further and further to a breaking point that she doesn’t know where it will lead.

Jiro and Youbirin are blank slates as far as she’s concerned. She doesn’t need to worry about them, doesn’t need to watch over their destinies. They could die for all she knows, and plotwise it’d still lead to a good ending.)

“Fuck!” She shouts, turning to her fallen teammate who has crumpled to the forest floor. Youbirin gives a bloody cough in response, hands shakily going for the sword through his chest. “Jiro get over here!”

“I’m a little busy!” He shouts back, sending a bolt of lightning towards his opponent before retreating. They’re fighting Rock nin, with an Earth Pillar it becomes useless.

“I can’t heal this on my own,” Shikako says, hands futilely glowing green anyway. “Why would you do that? You could probably heal something like this.”

Youbirin gives another wet cough.

“Don’t die, please,” she begs, “You matter to me, don’t die, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean it, don’t die, don’t die,” she chants, hoping and pushing herself to her limits.

That’s the problem with genin teammates–they’ll always be important, no matter who they are.

Royal Flush

(On the one hand, traveling through time to meet the Nidaime Hokage is pretty cool. Getting to compare fuinjutsu notes with him is practically a dream come true.

Somehow being stuck randomly appearing at various points in his life? She’d rather not.

But, well, there’s a silver lining to everything.

She just has to find this one.)

Team Tobirama is a seven person team.

Except for when it’s an eight person team.

Tobirama-sensei only briefly introduces the girl before they’re off on what will undoubtedly be a difficult mission.

Cloud shinobi. It won’t be anything but difficult.

She’s a stranger and it shows, their team falling into the familiar grouping–Kagami, Danzo, Torifu and Hiruzen, Homura, Koharu–while sensei single-handedly destroys his own opponents. It leaves her alone, and for a moment Kagami worries, before he realizes that she’s holding her own.

More than, even.

(The Kinkaku Force should have overpowered them, forced the genin to flee while their sensei sacrifices himself.

Eight instead of seven.

Nobody dies that day. The hat does not get passed on quite yet)

She’s not a permanent member of their team, which confuses Kagami because as far as he can tell she’s not on any other team either.

“I don’t recognize her,” Torifu says in a hush, which is especially worrying. It’s not an admission, it’s a clue: if Torifu can’t recognize someone wearing Nara sigils, something is going on.

“She keeps staring at me,” Danzo adds, before his face flushes with a sudden realization, “Not–not like that!” he says, embarrassed, while Kagami and Torifu share a smirk.

“She is rather pretty,” Kagami teases, Torifu nodding in solemn agreement, because an opportunity to fluster Danzo is always something to take advantage of. And besides, it’s not as if they don’t trust her–Tobirama-sensei trusts her, and more besides she’s risked her life alongside them–but this is a mystery that needs solving.

(They never do figure it out.)

~

A/N: A little late but still respectable, I think. Also it’s not really my fault since tumblr appears to be having technical trouble–is that everyone or is it just me? I do have somewhat sporadic wi-fi right now.

I’ll try to meet the midnight deadline properly tonight, anyway.

So the first two are from a conversation I had with @unfortunatehatlessness, the third one was just a haunting idea I had–though, highly influenced by @donapoetrypassion’s In Which Someone Attempts To Kidnap Shikamaru, Instead. Fourth is the anonymously prompted AU of @kuipernebula’s and mine Team Medic!AU (uh, sorry for the bleak ending on that one, it works out okay in the end?) And fifth is kiiinda a response to Linnypants’ comment on ao3 about Shikako’s POV of my Semi-Phenomenal, Nearly Cosmic ficlet.

Wow, okay, that’s a pretty impressive sweep if I do say so myself 😀 Also, happy belated birthday to myself.

I’ll post this to ao3 in a bit

Hail To The Queen: Or, Some Ways Shikako Never Became The Hokage, 1/? (2016-04-18)

jacksgreysays:

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(one: she who kills the kingslayer)

There was a tradition, in a different land, from a different life, that he who killed the king would then become the king. For if one could kill the king, then hasn’t one already conquered the kingdom?

That is not the case in Konoha, not really. The Shodaime was founder, and the Nidaime his brother, the Sandaime their student, and the Yondaime a war hero. The hat–the crown–passed down amicably, if not peacefully.

But the logic remains, in its own way, and could easily be applied. For if the Hokage is the strongest shinobi of Konoha, then the one who kills him proves they are even stronger: and, by definition, ought to become the next Hokage.

So what does that mean, for the girl who kills the monster that killed the Sandaime Hokage?

On her way to the stadium, she observes that the adults are wary, tense and prepared, waiting for something to happen. They know about an impending attack, yes, but they don’t know the details. They know the enemy is Sound and Sand, they even know Orochimaru is involved, but they don’t know the full truth.

Shikako does.

She steers her growing group closer to the Kage’s box, because even if she knows it’s mostly a product of the rigorous desensitization of the Academy, she is still a shinobi of Konoha, sworn to protect it’s leader.

And when the feathers fall, when everyone else is busy shaking off the genjutsu and dodging attacks from disguised Sound and Sand shinobi, Shikako looks up.

The Kazekage, no, Orochimaru has held the Sandaime hostage, has dragged him up to the roof of the stadium to start a battle that Shikako knows will lead to the Hokage’s death if he fights alone.

But the adults know, surely someone will be able react in time? Instead Sand shinobi, no, the Sound Four, rebuff their attempts long enough for the Sandaime to be isolated. Long enough for them to position themselves onto the four corners of the roof–Shikako knows that if they get the barrier up then it really will be all over for the Sandaime. She has to act now!

“Be ready to attack whoever comes here,” she says in a rush, hoping her friends hear her.

A barrier in the shape of a rectangular prism simply cannot exist if one of the four corners is switched out. And Shikako has practiced the Replacement Jutsu an awful lot recently.

The barrier fails and the shock of it is enough that some of the ANBU can engage the Sound Four–the Sound Three, right now–in their distraction while others rush the newly revealed Orochimaru.

But he summons the Shodaime and Nidaime and they were not Hokage for nothing and even the best trained ANBU can fall before legends.

The battle is above Shikako’s ability, truly, for she has grown stronger but not on par with this. But she can pull her chakra in, become invisible, strike when an opening arises.

Orochimaru still kills the Sandaime, despite the additional help, but the Shinigami also still takes away the use of his arms and that is opening enough. He is not expecting a mere genin to sneak behind him and tap the largest, most lethal touch blast she can think of onto his obi, and so that is what she does.

She is not fast enough to get completely outside the blast radius because she didn’t give herself time to do so–it would have given Orochimaru time to escape, somehow, too. And so, as the massive explosion detonates, an enormous fireball of light and heat scorching her eyes, she hopes that this will all be worth it.

Shikako wakes up in a hospital bed, one month later, to Tsunade Senju’s smirking face and is summarily informed that the Slug Sannin has not returned to Konoha to become the Godaime Hokage.

No, she has returned to heal the Godaime Hokage.

~

A/N: Hahahaha… haha… ha… uh. This was supposed to be hella shorter because this wasn’t supposed to actually become a series 😡 this was supposed to be a bunch of tiny drabbles all contained in one post but apparently my brain was like… nah. You gotta make it longer. You just gotta. Goddamnit, brain…

So this one is for you, anon who wanted to see Shikako as Hokage. The first of several ways she will never become Hokage.

Quest For The Queen, 1/6 (2016-04-26)

(one: ending)

The funeral is a miserable thing, somber and serious and everyone wearing black and standing in neat rows. The sky is dark, clouds heavy like the weight on his shoulders, and if Naruto were ever to hate something it would be this.

He never wants to go to another funeral again.

He knows it’s stupid, but he wants to make it so that a funeral never happens again.

He knows death is part of life, he’s not that dumb. He knows that he can’t actually prevent death, but maybe he can become strong enough to prevent this kind of funeral from happening. He’d rather have gone to a funeral after Hokage-jiji died peacefully in his sleep, or from losing too much blood from a giant perverted nose bleed, or something like he ate too much and his stomach exploded.

He hates this helpless feeling, standing around quietly as his inability to protect his precious people is rubbed in his face:

Hokage-jiji and so many other Konoha shinobi dead.

Sasuke back in lockdown in case the curse seal takes advantage of his chakra exhaustion.

Shikako in a medically induced coma, put in the intensive care stasis room because her entire body is covered in third and fourth degree burn–he didn’t even know there was such a thing as fourth degree burns.

All Naruto has to show for the attack are some bandages on his face.

And then it starts raining.

“Why do people do it? Why do they risk their lives for other people?” He blurts out, the questions scratching away at his throat because he’s trying so hard not to cry.

Iruka-sensei answers him, something about people being tied together even after someone passes away. How the memory of that person will still live through their family and friends and loved ones. And if Naruto had been talking about Hokage-jiji it might have helped, but if anything it makes him feel worse because he’s not thinking about Hokage-jiji–he’s thinking about Shikako.

She might be the next funeral he goes to, the thought flickers so quickly through his mind that he can’t even squash it before it registers.

“So we do it because we have to. Sort of,” he says, because that at least makes sense. Shikako tried to save Hokage-jiji, even if that meant fighting the freaky snake bastard who had already beaten all three of them in the forest. She was willing to risk her life for that smallest possibility she could save him, “Still, I’m worried for her.”

Iruka-sensei looks confused for a moment before understanding dawns on his face. His eyes dart away, guilty, for not having interpreted Naruto’s question correctly.

Kakashi-sensei, who snuck in late but was stealthy enough to not make a disturbance, puts a careful hand on Naruto’s shoulder and squeezes. He’s worried, too. Too worried to say anything.

Which means that Naruto has to be the one to speak.

“But Shikako’s strong,” he says, because it’s true. He’s never known her to be anything but strong, “She’ll definitely recover,” he adds because maybe if he says it, that will also become true. “Believe it!” He says, even as he struggles to do the same.

The sun comes out and starts to shine, and Naruto hopes that it’s a sign that things really will be okay.

~

A/N: Okay so… Quest For The Queen will have six parts… I think…

I DUNNO! NARUTO’S VOICE IS SO DIFFICULT! THIS IS SO FRUSTRATING! @book14reader totally knows what I’m talking about.

But I just really want to address Naruto in this series so here’s his spin-off!

Quest for the Queen, 2/6 (2016-04-29)

(two: resolution)

After the memorial, Naruto goes to the training grounds. He doesn’t want to get in the way at the hospital, even though part of him really wants to see Shikako because maybe in the past three hours since he’s last checked they’ve somehow figured out a way to heal her.

Hell, he wouldn’t mind at least being able to talk to Sasuke for five minutes because that way they can be miserable together. But no, both of his teammates are cordoned off to special areas of the hospital that he can’t get to.

He’s not entirely sure why he’s come here, though. It’s not like training is any fun without either of them, and it’s not like he can do much by himself. Maybe he can spar against some of his clones but that seems kind of lonely. And inevitably he’ll summon clones to fight his clones and then he gets confused as to which clones he originally created in the first place.

He would go to Ichiraku’s except he doesn’t feel hungry, not even for ramen. And going by himself, knowing both of his teammates are in the hospital, doesn’t sound appealing at all. So really all Naruto can do is sit on the bridge and stare morosely at the little creek flowing underneath it, trying very hard not to be reminded of that swing hanging just outside the Academy.

Which is how the pervy sage finds him, still in his funeral blacks, kicking his feet back and forth as if that’ll solve anything at all.

“There you are, you brat,” pervy sage says, as if Naruto was late for a planned meeting which, no way, he’s not Kaka-sensei.

“What do you want?” Naruto asks, immediately suspicious, because, sure, last time he hung out with the Jiraiya he did end up summoning a really huge toad but that’s only because the old pervert pushed him off a cliff and he ended up nearly sleeping through the finals so…

“Time to go,” he says, instead of answering Naruto’s question, “why haven’t you changed already? You can’t go on a mission like that.”

“I’m not going on a mission!”

“Not dressed like that, you aren’t,” Jiraiya says completely sidestepping Naruto’s protests, “and with no mission gear? Okay, tell you what, brat, I’ll give you thirty minutes to get ready before we go. Now shoo,”

“I can’t leave,” Naruto says instead of quietly obeying because when has he ever done that?

“Why not?” Jiraiya asks, finally seeming to hear him.

“Because!” he shouts, to give himself time to think, “We just got invaded! The village is going to need all the help it can get to clean up and I’m not going to just leave on some stupid mission with some old pervert! You’ll probably spend the entire time looking at ladies in the baths!”

Naruto hasn’t really known Jiraiya long, but even a few conversations is enough to know that such a statement should at least get the pervert leering stupidly at even the thought of naked ladies. Instead his expression seems to darken, turning stony and solemn and nearly angry.

Naruto’s not afraid, but he is suddenly wary now: this is not the perverted old man who can be tricked with some clones and a henge, this is an S-rank shinobi.

But maybe he is a little bit afraid, enough to show on his face, because Jiraiya seems to soften. Only a little, though.

“I’d have thought you’d want to help your teammate in the hospital,” he begins, musingly. “But if you don’t want to take this mission to find the best healer in the Elemental Nations and heal your friend, well. But if you’d rather sort through rubble then…”

Naruto stares, too surprised and full of hope to speak.

“I thought so,” The pervy sage smirks, victorious, “You’re down to twenty minutes now. I’ll see you at the main gate.”

Naruto has never packed faster in his life.

~

A/N: Paaaaart twoooooo…

Naruto is probably the most difficult for me to write but Jiraiya’s definitely in the top five as well so…

Quest for the Queen, 3/6 (2016-05-10)

(three: confrontation)

For the first few days, Naruto stays quiet. Or, well, quiet for him. He asks the perverted sage all sorts of questions and makes comments on the things they see, the places they go, and the people they meet. On more than one occasion, Jiraiya has told him to shut up, and Naruto tries as best as he can–which means in less than an hour he’ll forget himself and remark on something. But he doesn’t complain.

How can he? He and Jiraiya are going to find an amazing healer to heal Shikako and then everything will be alright! There’s no way he’s gonna complain–not even if, for the most part, the perverted sage makes him stay at the inn because “Like hell I’m going to bring a twelve year old into a brothel.”

Which, gets steadily more and more annoying. Naruto kind of figured a good chunk of their trip would involve the old man being perverted, but they’re wasting time!

It’s on day four that Naruto explodes, just as Jiraiya says he’s going to go to a bar.

“It’s still morning!” Naruto shouts because there’s annoying and then there’s horrible, “You’ve been going in and out of bars and brothels for the past four days and we’re nowhere near closer to this lady!”

Jiraiya’s hand smacks over Naruto’s face, in an attempt to prevent him from yelling more, “Quiet down brat,” he hisses, but Naruto has already squirmed out of his hold.

“I could just make a thousand clones and I’ll find that lady in no time!” Naruto suggests, because if he’s going to be honest this isn’t so much about the perverted sage being a pervert or a drunkard as much as it is about himself. Naruto hasn’t been doing anything productive and he’s feeling antsy.

“And give up the fact that someone’s after her?” Jiraiya scoffs, slapping him upside the head, “Thank, brat. She’ll go to ground in seconds and we’ll never track her down. She’s cured a lot of very influential people, some who wouldn’t mind exchanging sanctuary for a live-in miracle healer. My contacts will help us figure out where she is, but they’re not going to be any help if you’ve made it obvious we’re searching for her.”

Oh. Well… he guesses he never thought about it like that. Shikako would have. She would have caught on way in the beginning instead of spending four days not knowing what was going on. And she would have explained it to him, too, so that he’d understand.

But if she were here, then they wouldn’t even be on this mission to find this healer lady.

“Then what do I do?” Naruto asks, because while it might make sense for the pervert sage to go to bars and brothels, he can’t exactly do the same thing.

Jiraiya hums musingly, glancing thoughtfully at the sky as if in deep thought, dramatically snapping his fingers. “I’m going to teach you a powerful jutsu,” he says, before stretching out his hand. In the center of his palm a swirling ball of chakra appears. He smirks and leans in, as if he’s telling a secret:

“It’s called the Rasengan.”

He’ll admit it: he did get distracted by the Rasengan. It is undeniably a cool and powerful jutsu–even if it’s being taught to him by a super pervert (then again, all of his teachers have been perverts of some degree or another)–but still, he should have been more focused on what the mission is even for.

So what if he can pop a water balloon and a rubber ball with chakra? That’s not going to help Shikako!

After a week of training they’ve passed through different towns, but they may as well all be the same because Jiraiya knows where all the bars and bathhouses and brothels are and that’s where he spends his time. Their time. The time they should be using to actually find this healer lady and bring her back to Konoha!

“If this were your teammate you wouldn’t be wasting time like this!” Naruto shouts, finally fed up and impatient, because Shikako has been in the hospital for weeks and what if–what if he never sees her again? what if, before they get back, her condition turns worse? what if it’s all his fault because he didn’t come back in time?

Jiraiya’s irritation swiftly slides into anger: a chilling, stony thing.

“Which teammate are you talking about?” He asks so coldly, “The one that hasn’t been to Konoha in decades, who has run around the Land of Fire doing whatever she wants and ignoring the consequences? Or the one that tried to invade Konoha, and killed our sensei? The one that your teammate killed.”

Naruto gulps, the killing intent a pressure against his spine, behind his eyes. He can’t speak.

“Maybe I should let your teammate die,” he ponders, still so dark and cold, “What’s one more person after everyone who died in the invasion? She went up against an S-rank shinobi, after all, genin don’t survive those kinds of odds.” He finishes pointedly, a not so subtle comparison between the situation now: Jiraiya, an S-rank, and Naruto, a mere genin.

Instead, of being scared of the threat, though, Naruto gets angry: “If you do that, you’re no better than that snake freak. Shikako’s a hero! Ranks didn’t matter to her and they don’t matter to me, either! I’m going to find this healer lady with or without your help!” And because it’s been on his mind lately, he tries to create a Rasengan–except he hasn’t gone on to the last step.

His chakra swirls, smooth and strong, but he doesn’t have control yet. It dissipates in a matter of moments.

Jiraiya snorts derisively, “And how are you going to do that? You haven’t even mastered the Rasengan yet?” In a swift movement, he goes around Naruto and pushes him to the ground, an imperious sandal keeping him there, “You can’t even protect yourself, much less your friend.”

Even though Jiraiya’s tone has gentled, his words hit the mark.

“I know!” Naruto shouts into the dirt, near sobbing with frustration, “I know I’m too weak, I know I can’t protect myself yet. But I can’t just do nothing!” The pressure on his back releases, and Naruto scrambles to his feet, scrubbing furiously at his cheeks, “I don’t care who I have to fight or what I have to do. I’m going to get stronger and I’m not going to let that happen to her again!”

Jiraiya sighs, looking skyward before meeting Naruto’s eyes. “Save me from genin with no self preservation,” he says, exasperated, but no longer a emitting a cloud of killing intent.

They stand in silence; Naruto’s breath heaving, Jiraiya assessing, before he turns around and leads the way, “I’ve heard news that Tsunade might be in this town, so keep your tantrums to yourself.”

“They’re not–!”

“But it’s good, that you’re so loyal to your friend,” he continues, not even looking back at Naruto, “She’ll need that when she wakes up.”

It’s not until they find and talk to Tsunade, does Naruto understand what he meant.

~

A/N: this is a really good spot to end this part but it’s a little early according to what i planned out so…

okay so I’m still pretty sure it’s only going to be six parts but I may have to… shift some things around from my original outline…

also! since this is an AU in which the whole Tsukuyomi debacle has been sidestepped because of ~reasons~ Jiraiya gets to have the “genin with no self preservation” conversation with Naruto instead of Shikako. Although he probably also has that conversation with her… or someone does. Trying to take on an S-rank missing nin? That’s silly, Shikako.

Quest for the Queen, 4/6 (2016-05-18)

(four: crisis)

Given the sheer number of casinos in this city, it’d be foolish to try and physically search each of them for one person. Not to mention, a person who doesn’t want to be found.

That being said, apparently the pervert sage is actually good at his job because he asks about the healer lady in a very round about way which shouldn’t give off any prior warning. Or, at least, that’s what he says he’s doing and Naruto’s trying not to doubt him as much as before. But it’s kind of difficult when all Jiraiya says is, “I heard the Legendary Sucker was in town.”

Which doesn’t sound like the kind of description he’d want for an amazing healer lady that can cure Shikako, but what does Naruto know?

The bartender, who hadn’t so much raised an eyebrow at Naruto despite him being almost a decade younger than the legal drinking age, nodded solemnly, “I’ve had a couple of customers celebrating big wins. Got a lot of tips,” she adds, then pointedly holds her hand out.

Grumbling, Jiraiya slides a couple of ryo across the bar, pettily refusing to put it in her hand.

Regardless, money is money, and the bartender accepts it with aplomb, “She’s been doing different casinos everyday–probably because she keeps reneging on payment. But none of them have sent debt collectors after her yet–she healed the mayor’s son so she still has some political capital left even if it’s not, you know, actual capital.”

That sounds like… good news, maybe?

“How many days has she been here for?” Jiraiya asks, because if they’re working on a deadline made of some kind of inverse relationship between monetary debt and political good graces then she might not be here for much longer.

“A week,” the bartender says, “There’s only one casino she hasn’t been to yet.”

Tsunade stares at the table in shock as the dealer, also surprised but a consummate professional, pushes the pile of poker chips towards her.

The other players around the table look at each other and mutter distrustfully about bad information, annoyance etched on their faces.

Until it turns into confusion.

“Gods damnit,” the Legendary Sucker growls, before standing up and stomping away, leaving her winnings behind.

Even forewarning gambling victories aren’t enough to help her escape from Jiraiya and the shrimpy brat trailing after him, which is highly unfortunate. So on par with her usual luck, then.

“Jiraiya,” she says flatly, because she can’t exactly go punching him in the face unprovoked.

“Tsunade-hime,” he says with a wide grin, “Let’s go get something to eat.”

She’d like to reject him out of hand, partially because that sounds suspiciously like a date even with their respective kids in tow but mostly because she heard about what happened in Konoha, what happened to Sensei.

She’s pretty sure she knows what he’s here for.

As it turns out, she’s wrong.

The healer lady comes with them to a restaurant and brings another lady, too, one who’s carrying a pig which seems like a weird thing especially when they’re ordering food and they get barbecue, but Naruto’s seen weirder and contents himself with the food instead. He’s starving!

“Sensei is dead,” pervert sage says, and Naruto tries to swallow his food down around the lump in his throat.

“I heard,” healer lady says, all cool and uncaring like Sasuke at his worst.

“Orochimaru, too,” pervert sage adds, which actually gets a reaction out of healer lady. Which is annoying and which he’d normally protest, but after his talk with Jiraiya about teammates he thinks maybe he kind of understands so he keeps quiet.

She looks away, a poor attempt to hide her face which somehow looks both angry and sad at the same time.

“Konoha needs you to come back,” pervert sage says, after allowing her a moment of silence.

And now it’s just anger, “I’m not going back just to be the next sacrifice wearing the hat!”

The other customers of the restaurant look their way curiously, before Jiraiya forms a seal with one hand and they all go back to their own meals.

Then he looks back at her, smirk on his face, “The council doesn’t want you to be the next Hokage.”

“What?” Tsunade says, sounding confused and almost offended.

Naruto is glad, because now they can finally get to the point!

Except instead pervert sage says, “You remember what Sensei told us when we went on our first mission out of the village? About the laws of succession–just in case things went south.”

She stares at him, “… Who? How could someone… It’s not you is it?” she says, almost accusingly.

And now Naruto is really confused.

Pervert sage snorts, “No, it’s not me. It’s Shikaku Nara’s brat, the girl one.”

Naruto bristles at the insult, but before he can yell at Jiraiya, the man adds almost formally:

“The Godaime Hokage is in critical condition–if you don’t come back and heal her, she won’t live to see her coronation.”

~

A/N: … do they have poker in the Naruto world? Well they do in DoS so that’s canon enough for me…

Okay so it’s a little late and that’s entirely my fault because it’s not like I was busy (except for catching up on my fanfic reading) and i probably should have done a quick mash of something before midnight but i didn’t want to distract myself from this installment of Quest for the Queen because I WANT THIS TO BE FINISHED SOOO BADLY ALREADY SO I CAN GO ON TO OTHER THINGS.

Also, weird POV switching halfway through the fic! I dunno? It’s still Naruto’s story but it didn’t want to flow from his POV so I just… didn’t for that part. Also… suuper need to shift around some things in my outline…

Quest for the Queen, 5/6 (2016-05-22)

(five: incentive)

There’s a moment of silence: Pervert sage, serious. Healer lady, shocked. Healer lady’s student, also shocked. Healer lady’s student’s pig, probably whatever pigs normally feel.

Naruto, definitely confused.

Until healer lady throws her head back and laughs, a loud, whole-bodied thing, which would normally make him smile, too, because he likes it when people laugh. But not in this case:

Naruto gets angry.

And it doesn’t matter that he doesn’t really understand what’s going on. All he knows is that Jiraiya mentioned Shikako, about how she might die before the next Hokage’s coronation, and all of a sudden this healer lady is laughing?

“It’s not funny!” Naruto shouts, “She’s seriously hurt!” he continues, raising his voice just to be heard over the lady’s laughter, and he doesn’t care if she’s some kind of amazing healer or pervert sage’s teammate–and, anyway, considering how evil the last one was, he’s not too surprised that this one’s terrible, too–but he’s not going to let her laugh at Shikako’s life.

“SHUT UP!” he roars, slamming his hands against the table, making it shake and the dishes rattle.

Their table, along with the rest of the restaurant, become silent again.

Tsunade looks at him with narrowed, cool eyes. “You want me to heal your little girlfriend?” she asks, tauntingly,

“You’ll have to pay me ten million ryo.”

Beside her, her student gasps.

Naruto can’t respond, something sticks in his throat. He doesn’t have that much money–he’s pretty sure no one has that much money.

Jiraiya argues, “That’s more than eight times the value of an S-rank.”

“Konoha is the wealthiest shinobi village. They’re good for it,” she responds, “And surely they’d pay anything for their Godaime Hokage to be healed.”

Naruto doesn’t know why they keep jumping between topics like this. Doesn’t understand why they’re suddenly talking about a new Hokage–until Tsunade continues, snidely, face twisted into a cruel smirk:

“Although why bother? That position is clearly cursed. The little Nara won’t last long under the hat–if she even lives to wear it, that is.”

And something inside Naruto’s head, buzzing low beneath his anger and fear, suddenly clicks.

They’re not jumping between topics, talking about two different people at the same time. They’re talking about the same person:

Shikako. The Godaime Hokage.

But… that can’t be right: that’s his dream!

And, sure, Shikako is smart and strong she’s a great shinobi, a good person–but she’s not… She’s not Hokage level!

Naruto has always dreamed of becoming the Hokage, but he’s not deluded like Konohamaru used to be–he’s not anywhere near strong enough to be Hokage yet. And if he’s not then Shikako’s not either!

But…

They wouldn’t talk about the Hokage and Shikako interchangeably unless they actually meant it. And they said something about laws of succession. It… makes sense, maybe: because Shikako killed the snake freak that killed Hokage-jiji. No one else did.

Sure, she wasn’t able to actually save Hokage-jiji but she still tried. And… isn’t that the kind of Hokage that Naruto wants to be? The kind of Hokage that Naruto wants to fight for? Because Shikako is still one of Naruto’s precious people–the first, even–and it doesn’t matter if it’s his dream, she’s still someone that he wants to protect. And maybe that’s not why he started off wanting to become Hokage, but that’s the reason now.

He can still protect his precious people even without being the Hokage; even if he’ll never be the Hokage. Because if he does succeed at protecting his precious people–and he will, that’s more important than being Hokage–then that means Shikako will be Hokage for as long as he protects her.

His thoughts spin around and twist on themselves and it’s confusing and almost gives him a headache, but his heart knows what’s right. It hurts now, having to let go of that old dream, but it’s something that he’s willing to do. Something he’s willing to give up, so long as Shikako ends up healthy and happy and alive.

When Naruto checks back into the conversation, shaking himself out of his tangled thoughts, pervert sage and healer lady are arguing about money of all things! As if Shikako’s life were something to be haggled over like a set of kunai!

Jiraiya is negotiating for a more reasonable price, talking about A-ranks and S-ranks and the council’s budget. About how Konoha needs money to rebuild after the invasion, about how recovery is expensive and a single person can’t be worth almost half an entire village’s finances.

Tsunade, meanwhile, snipes back about how Tsunade is the preeminent leader in the field, how her services are worth far more than a mere A-rank. About since the Hokage is the most important person in the Konoha, surely the village should be willing to do pay her rate.

And back and forth as if Shikako isn’t injured and in pain and possibly dying right this very second!

“This is so–!” He can’t even think of a word that’s explains how awful and petty and unimportant their arguing is, “I’ll bring you back to Konoha myself if I have to!” He points a finger at her, challenging and furious and promising.

“You honestly think you can fight me?” Tsunade says, turning her sharp eyes at him, “I won’t even need more than one finger to beat you.” She jerks her head towards the exit, “Let’s take this outside.”

~

A/N:… okay, this is not where i wanted to end this section but I still only want this series to be six parts so I’m just gonna have to squish the rest of this section into the beginning of the next part. But I think I’m on a roll so I’ll probably be posting that in a few hours, anyway.

Quest for the Queen, 6/6 (2016-05-23)

(six: beginning)

Technically, Tsunade ended up using more than just one finger in their fight. Not that Naruto really appreciated have his face in the dirt with an S-rank’s sandal on his back for the second time in as many days.

But maybe something he said or did changed her mind, because she said if he could master the Rasengan in one week then she’d come back to Konoha and heal Shikako for free. If he couldn’t, then… well… he wasn’t listening by that part, focusing on the task of mastering the Rasengan.

Maybe he couldn’t heal Shikako himself, but this was something he could do, and no way was he going to fail, believe it!

Except then things went… weird. Not that he wasn’t expecting them not to–because even he can recognize that none of his missions turn out normal–but, really weird.

A few days later, Kabuto–the four eyed genin that Shikako had been so suspicious of–showed up. He had talked about bringing Tsunade’s brother and boyfriend back to life. Only if she didn’t heal Shikako. It would be easy, he said, it’s not like Tsunade actually wanted to go back to Konoha anyway. Get rewarded for not doing something, that easy.

Except Tsunade-baachan really is a good person, because she told him no. It wasn’t what either Nawaki or Dan would have wanted, and she would always be a shinobi of the Leaf.

And then Kabuto began screaming about how he’d sneak back into Konoha and kill Shikako himself and no way was Naruto going to let that happen! He used a mastered Rasengan against Kabuto, but apparently the glasses freak had some kind of healing ability to withstand it and there’s no way that guy was a genin–Shikako had been right to be suspicious.

But Tsunade-baachan had been amazing! She had snapped out of her weird shock and beat his ass and it was amazing! Annoyingly, the slimy bastard got away, somehow, but Tsunade-baachan had totally agreed that Naruto mastered the Rasengan which means that she had to fulfill her promise and come back to Konoha to heal Shikako and everything would be okay.

“… She even gave me this cool necklace,” Naruto concludes, showing said necklace to a somewhat irritated Sasuke and a mildly exasperated Kaka-sensei. Even Shikako’s mom, sitting in her allotted visitor’s chair, has a somewhat bemused smile on her face, and Shikamaru has just slapped a hand over his face. Which is weird because it’s not like covering his eyes is going to prevent him from hearing Naruto tell everyone how he totally convinced Tsunade-baachan back to Konoha.

“You’re the worst storyteller,” Sasuke says, shaking his head, “Your written reports must be awful. No wonder the nin running the missions desk hate us.”

“Am not!” Naruto argues back, but he’s not really angry. He’s too happy to be angry. He thinks they all are–too happy to be anything else, that is. Because Tsunade-baachan is back in Konoha and she really is as good a healer as Jiraiya said. Baachan had examined Shikako and said that, while it would be difficult, she could be healed.

It would have to be done in steps–repair her organs and bones before doing muscles and skin–Naruto didn’t really understand because he’s not a medic nin, but he guesses that makes sense: inside first, then outside. But Tsunade-baachan had said it was doable and taken Shikako, along with a team of other medic nin, to the operating room.

Shikako would wake up today: she wouldn’t be completely better, not yet, she’d have scars and everything would be different, because it’s not just Shikako who would wake up today, it’d be the Godaime Hokage and that’s still something that hurts. But it’s fading, even now, because he’s too happy and relieved and grateful.

Shikako’s going to live, and that’s the most important thing.

The coronation for the Godaime Hokage does not happen for several more weeks, because Konoha’s newly instated Chief Medic will not allow her patient to risk her health on some stupid pageantry where all sorts of potential contagions can upset the Godaime’s still fragile immune system.

It gives the village time to recover, too, salvaging what they can and rebuilding what needs to be. Much like its new Hokage, Konoha is sturdy and adaptable–changed, but not lesser for it. And when she is finally deemed healthy enough for the coronation, the villagers are ready and eager.

There’s a crowd around the temporarily built platform–the street full with civilians, the walls and roofs and fire escapes full of shinobi–both groups just as excited to see the Godaime first, the genin who killed an S-rank nukenin.

She is a small figure, nearly swallowed in the traditional red and white robes, the overlarge hat precariously tilting side to side on her head as she speaks. She is a child in adult’s clothing and, normally, such a sight would be ludicrous or silly or even adorable, but not today.

Because for all that the Godaime is not a legendary shinobi–not yet, anyway–nor the strongest or the most experienced, she represents something that Konoha has been needing for a long time:

Hope. Courage. Determination.

The Will of Fire.

~

A/N: … aaaaand that’s it, folks! I know this installment feels a little rushed pacing-wise, but I did want to keep it to six installments and I realized that the meat of this series wasn’t about Tsunade healing Shikako so much as it was about Naruto coming to terms with the both Shikako’s grievous injury and her simultaneous sudden promotion to Hokage…

As @mermbernation suggested, I’ll probably be transferring this to ao3 for easier readingand because… well… it’s finished. Which is not something I can say for a lot of my other recursive DoS fics… I guess I’ll do some ao3 transfers today since with this I technically did my post of the day.

So I’m really behind on DoS stuff and I’m just now attempting to get back into it. (And I’m sorry I’m not good at maintaining conversations with people regularly!) But I was curious if you’ve thought any about the Team Medic AU since we last discussed it? My personal thought was that I’m definitely making either Jiro or Youbirin gay, but I’m not sure which yet. (It was actually that thought of forcing representation into the universe with my own two hands that made me want to get back into DoS.)

Hello again! I was a little worried that I had somehow offended you with my overeagerness to talk about Team Medic AU–like I had completely jumped the gun and put pressure on you to do a thing that you were only tentatively thinking of doing. I hope that’s not how I come off across as–I just really love brainstorming and was pretty excited to brainstorm with someone else and not just by myself. 😀

DoS is quite the undertaking–even when we first corresponded it was maybe eighty chapters? And now it’s over a hundred so it’s definitely a marathon of a fic, not a sprint. Silver Queen recently updated the chapter titles to include story arcs so if you want to pace yourself but find single chapters not enough you can read by arcs instead.

I have actually thought a bit more about the Team Medic AU–though unfortunately I haven’t really noted them down much anywhere because I didn’t want to hijack the AU when it really is a collaboration. I remember it was mostly some world-building though? I remember seeing this post regarding money in the Naruto world and I rambled a bit about how the calculations might be correct but how the values might not be (since inflation rates would be different due to the differing technologies) towards the end I wondered what exactly shinobi were spending their money on, and while I didn’t follow that line of thought at that time I think I wanted to in a Team Medic mindset.

Especially considering that those mission rates are probably Konoha-specific and it’s basically canon that Konoha has the best healthcare of all the villages (and maybe Fire Nation has the best of all the countries as a result?) then I wonder if there’s something going on there. Like… is Konoha so advanced that they have free healthcare and everywhere else is still doing pay out of pocket? Or is there health insurance companies? Is it only free for active shinobi (and their dependents)? Does this in fact extend beyond Konoha into the rest of the country? How much do medics get paid? There are probably medics who specialize in different things but do certain “departments” get paid more/are more prestigious?(Sorry, I was an Econ major so my brain got caught on this track for a while).

And all of this shakes out to, basically, figuring out how the Medic Corps works and how Team Medic would fit into it. Because the Medic Corps are comprised of the “civilians with chakra” and the Academy graduates that didn’t get onto a jounin team and didn’t want to just be shuffled into the regular Genin Corps–so Team Medic would be a little outside of the usual Medic Corps process of training but still likely in line with it considering their sensei would be–as we discussed here – a combat-medic on sabbatical of sorts.

I also had some Suzu/Nohara clan thoughts on behalf of Youbirin–trying to figure out what their clan would be like in order to figure out his personal storyline better. Like… exactly how large/prestigious are they? Are they ambitious? Are they strict? Do they actually have any secret clan abilities? Is Youbirin clan heir? Those sorts of thoughts.

As for making either Jiro or Youbirin gay, I say go for it–specifically, go for whichever one would make a) sense for that character and b) an interesting story whether or not it includes a romantic subplot (I say this because being LGBT+ is more about a sense of identity than the actual attraction).

Maybe consider, also, a bisexual Sakura? Like–it’s canon that she is attracted to men but it’s never been specifically stated she’s NOT attracted to women as well, and I’m of the mind that unless it’s been explicitly stated/proven then anything goes? Even with Shikako–though this is more because SQ wants to keep the story gen–she’s never given any hints about what she might (not) be attracted to… It’s my personal headcanon that she’s biromantic ace but everyone’s interpretations are different and, until Word of God says otherwise, completely valid.

As for “forcing representation into the universe,” well, the ships for DoS are very het-populated, but I’m pretty sure that’s the fault of Masashi Kishimoto for having so few female characters that just strictly statistically speaking there are more guys than girls to ship Shikako with. Literally, there are at least twice as many potential het ships for Shikako because there are at least twice as many guys as girls. In fact, given SQ’s creation of the kunoichi study group, she’s increased female interaction such that there are more opportunities for Shikako to be shipped with one of the other kunoichi.

I’m not really on top of the entirety of DoS ships, but as far as I knew it was mostly about who Shikako might end up with? I wasn’t aware that there were any non-Shikako ships being discussed, although the argument could be made that since DoS!Sasuke is vastly different to canon!Sasuke that shipping him with a character would be an entirely distinct experience from the canon!Sasuke shipping. I was a wee NaruSasu shipper back in the day (pre-Shippuden, because NaruSasu in Shippuden is just so toxic it makes me sad) but I can definitely say that a NaruSasu ship would manifest differently in the DoS universe.

Now, to step away from my vague ranting, if it is a matter of either Jiro OR Youbirin, I’m really unsure… actually… well… what I’m worried about is–given the plan we had for Youbirin being mentored by Kabuto–it might edge into even creepier exploitation. We already made an Orochimaru comparison, but I’d be really uncomfortable about having Kabuto essentially grooming Youbirin in the psychological manipulation definition. And you know Kabuto would take advantage of any weakness Youbirin shows–and Youbirin wouldn’t know that it even is a weakness to be hidden. Basically, for Youbirin to be betrayed by his senpai/mentor is one thing–but for him to be betrayed by (presumably) his first crush? Who exploited him? (uh… no thank you)

Whereas with Jiro it can be a part of his discovering his self-identity character development. You can do a romantic subplot without it being creepy, and you can even have it be one-sided without it being squicky like with Youbirin and Kabuto. Actually, it’d be interesting if Jiro had a crush on Youbirin but eventually grew out of it? Like, maybe the hanger-on thing during the Academy was the expression of that childhood crush but after they graduate it kind of fades or maybe Jiro deliberately lets it go (but Youbirin will still be his friend and teammate, which is basically family). And maybe he gets a crush on someone else–maybe Neji, if you want the drama–someone who is so definitively Konoha that it kind of ties together with his “loyalty is to people not to an idea” subplot.

Uh… I think I answered everything? And, of course, feel free to hit me up for more brainstorming. If you like, you can make a post of it on your blog and either tag me in it or just send me the link that way I can just reblog it and you won’t be limited to the ask or messaging system.

It’d be nice to correspond with you again 🙂