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Lack of Emotional Response: How a Good Shinobi Deals with Loss

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There’s a soft knocking against the classroom window and Iruka looks up from his grading to find Genma, his arms crossed over the windowsill as he leans into the room, his eyes dark and his expression eerily blank. A breeze flutters in, slightly skewing Genma’s hair and rustling the papers on the the desk. Neither man says anything for a few long, quiet moments, they just study each other in the silence. Genma isn’t usually still or quiet like this, and a knot of anxiety forms in Iruka’s gut. “What happened?” His voice is softer than he intends, more serious, and he knows that Genma sees how pinched and nervous his silence is making him.

“I wanted to be the one to tell you,” Genma murmurs, his voice gruff as if he hasn’t spoken in a while. He levers himself up and swings his legs into the classroom but doesn’t fully come in. His eyes never leave Iruka, and he sits on the windowsill for a moment watching him before letting his head dip. He looks tired. His whole body slumps, and suddenly he wants nothing more than to go home.

“Tell me what?”

“Hayate’s dead.”

The breeze picks up, and goosebumps break out over Iruka’s skin. A bird chirps outside, and Moegi squeals from somewhere in the distance. The clock above the blackboard ticks away the seconds, and there’s a rushing in Iruka’s ears has he puts down his pen and leans back in his chair. Genma doesn’t lift his head from its bowed position, but the senbon between his lips twitches. Iruka has known both Genma and Hayate for a long time. He closes his eyes and breathes deeply, thinks very carefully about the flow of his chakra and the beat of his heart. These are things that he can control.

He cannot control the catch in his voice when he says, “Tell me.”

“ANBU found his body on a rooftop near Kikyō Castle. They think he was there for up to eight hours before... Anyway. Nobody knows much of anything.” Genma’s chest heaves as if he’d sighed, but there’s no exhale of breath to accompany the movement. Finally he looks up.

Iruka looks up at the ceiling above his head. “It wasn’t because he was sick, was it.” It isn’t a question. Maybe it should be. Hayate’s health had been wavering over the last few weeks; his coughing stint at the preliminary of the third round of the chuunin exams was no worse than any of his other coughing stints, but it was more alarming that he hadn’t been able to stifle or hide it, even in the face of superiors. It would have been sad if he had died in his sleep due to breathlessness, but unsurprising. No, with the way Genma showed up at the Academy, with the way his face looks gaunt, the way he’s holding himself as if something precious was stolen, Iruka knows this wasn’t a death due to sickness. “Somebody killed him.”

Genma doesn’t say anything, and that’s answer enough. His gaze bores into Iruka’s profile until he turns and they lock eyes once again. Genma takes a half step forward before stopping himself and instead slouching back against the window. He crosses his arms over his chest and closes his eyes briefly. “I’m going to Yūgao’s later. You should come.”

“My relationship with Yūgao is complicated. I don’t know if me showing up so soon is a good idea.”

Genma isn’t a soft person, and he isn’t tactful either. But in this moment, he can’t help but try to be. “You deserve to mourn him, too. And you know what she’s going through better than anyone else. You both loved him.”

“Love,” Iruka says before he can stop himself, more forcefully than he thought himself capable of, considering. “We both love him.”

 

Raidō slams a chakra enhanced fist hard into the training post and snarls when he meets resistance. He hits the post again and again, and isn’t satisfied until he’s completely obliterated it. Except that still doesn’t ease the intense itchy feeling of frustration and unease that’s burrowed itself under his skin.

There’s a rustle in the trees off to his left and he whirls, throwing an assortment of shuriken and kunai into the foliage before he can curb his aggression or subtle and newfound paranoia. What emerges from the trees, though, isn’t a giant snake, or a man that is creepy enough to star in the nightmares of pre-genin and jonin alike. Instead, it’s just Anko.

“Hey,” she says, and even though she’s grinning her eyes are subdued.

“Hey.”

“You good?”

He wants to pummel the remains of the training post. He wants to hit the ground so hard it caves in beneath him. He wants to keep pounding at the earth until he buries himself alive. He’s not good. “Yeah.”

She puts her hands on her hips, leans back a little, and laughs. A few days ago, Orochimaru showed himself to her. Yesterday, three ANBU operatives were killed while standing watch over Sasuke Uchiha. Last night, somebody killed Hayate. Kabuto Yakushi is a traitor. It’s been a fucking long week. And yet.

Anko drops her hands into the pockets of her trench coat and falls quiet. “We could spar. I’m sort of in the mood to hurt something. Or we could fuck. An orgasm would be okay too. You’re tense.”

“I think everyone’s a little tense right now, considering,” Raidō states, and he tries not to be too terse.

“Great! An orgy it is, then!” Anko grins. It’s all sharp lines and hard edges, and it’s a testament to how skittish everyone is feeling that he can even sense how frayed she is. There’s not many people in the village who have been so close to Orochimaru for as long as Anko was and lived to walk away from him. Raidō knows from Genma that she used to wake up in cold sweats from dreams about Orochimaru’s tongue, about the way that he can stretch and twist his body grotesquely, about how once he had his hands on you there was next to nothing you could do. He smiles at her, but he can tell that his face hasn’t arranged itself adequately.

He wants to join in the joke, say something to make her laugh the way that she’s trying for him, but the only thing that he can think to say is, “Why is he here? What does he want?”

Anko looks off into the distance, her face slowly falling until it’s just a blank slate of careful features. “He wants what he always wants,” she says, and she isn’t whispering or mumbling at all but it somehow feels like she’s doing both. “He wants to hurt people.”

“There has to be more to it than that. Right?”

“Well. He wants to be God. But as for ‘why here?’ He wants to hurt us. He hates us. That’s all.”

Suddenly Raidō leaps back farther into the training field and flings a handful of shuriken at Anko before taking to the trees. “So are we gonna spar or what?” he calls as he circles around behind her. He’s sort of in the mood to hurt something, too.

Anko laughs, and it feels a little more real than her last one. She flicks a snake out from the sleeve of her coat and both her and the reptile come at him. He tries not to shiver, even though his skin is crawling.

 

“Yo.” Kakashi drops out from the tree and lands silently, the leaves under his feet when he hits the ground not even making a sound.

Ibiki just stands there, staring at the memorial stone. He doesn’t react to Kakashi’s presence, but he does shift himself a little closer to the memorial after a moment. Eventually he says, “They’ll need to take better care of the lawn. It should be mowed more often.”

Hayate’s name will be carved near the bottom of the memorial, and today the grass is a little overgrown around the base. Kakashi’s noticed that the grass doesn’t get mowed as often as it maybe should, and he nods just slightly.

It’s enough movement for Ibiki to have noticed. His shoulders loosen just a fraction.

 

It’s already late by the time Yūgao gets back to her apartment. One of Hayate’s vests is hanging on a hook beside the door, and a pair of his sandals has been left part way in the kitchen. He’s always leaving his things just lying about, and she’s quick to put the sandals in their rightful place underneath his vest. Then she strips out of her own vest, pulls off her arm guards and gloves, and shimmies out of her pants right there in the foyer.

She pads softly to the bathroom and runs herself a scalding hot shower, and she scrubs at her skin until she feels pink and raw. She towels off briskly and then slips into the bedroom, where she puts on a pair of Hayate’s boxers and then one of his t-shirts, and then she sits on the bed and just stares at the wall.

The only light in the apartment is cast by the moon, and on a regular night she’d probably be out on the apartment’s tiny balcony, stargazing and watching the moon. It’s full tonight, she knows, but she feels too sick to stand up. She doesn’t want to look at anything beautiful. She doesn’t want to look at anything that might soothe her. She wants to be sad.

She wants to be sad.

Instead, all she feels is angry.

She slams to her knees beside the bed and digs around underneath it until she hauls out an ornate wooden box. She lifts the lid and and just stares inside. The empty eyes of the porcelain rabbit mask stare back at her, and she snarls at it before gently touching its cheek. “How dare you,” she whispers. “How dare you go where I can’t follow. I told you. I told you!  All you ever had to do was call for me, and I’d be there.”

And just like that, the anger drains out of her, leaving her feeling as hollow as the eyes of the mask staring back at her. Her own mask is in the closet, where she’d hurriedly stashed it this morning after running home from finding Hayate’s body. Part of her wants to put it in the box with his, and part of her can’t bear to ever look at that damned white cat face ever again. When she’d taken it off, the inside of it had been wet around the eyes.

She closes her eyes and slips Hayate’s mask back under the bed, then she gets up and heads to the kitchen for a cup of tea. At the last second she changes her mind, and instead grabs a bottle of plum wine from the fridge and takes a swig without bothering to get a glass. Hayate likes sweet alcohol, and one cup of wine is enough to make his skin flush. She takes another long swallow.

Her eyes are dry.