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cute and innocent

weighted_wings in narukorp

Welcome home [Nejiko, Tentsuke]

[ooc: takes place 2 weeks after Tsurude&co. got back from the jounin exam. also! some NejiTen fluff to counteract the angst. :3]

Since being discharged from the hospital (as outpatient, thankfully) after a checkup after the Sound mission, Nejiko fell into the routine of checking up on Tentsuke's animals. She was still finishing up her gate-guard duty so she couldn't go by except in the mornings and evenings, but it was still a twice-daily trip. Finding out who was caring for Mika and Bloodfang was easy as Tentsuke had left a note on his fridge. A quick conversation with the hired help and Nejiko was walking Mika before dawn and just after sunset instead. She cleaned Bloodfang's cat box in the evening while the two ate their food in the kitchen. The cat tolerated her. She wouldn't go far to say that he liked her. Not in the way Mika did.

Then again, Mika loved everyone.

Fishing her key to his place from her pocket, she let herself in and closed the door behind her. "Mika! Bloodfang! Food!" she called out. She didn't bother to look for them. She simply called and if they didn't show for food, then their loss.

From his spot on the couch, Bloodfang opened an eye as if to wonder why she would commit such an act of insanity. He didn't move as Mika came tearing out of the bedroom, around the couch twice and then up to the person at the door, barking loudly and jumping happily.

Nejiko braced herself for impact, then indulged in a bit of puppy-love, giving Mika friendly scratchings and pettings and not wincing too much when the dog insisted on slobbering on her face and hands. "Hey, Mika, you've been a good girl, yes? Not letting Bloodfang boss you around too much?" She saw Bloodfang on the couch and simply arched an elegant eyebrow at the feline before making her way to the kitchen. Bloodfang only allowed pettings if he initiated contact, she had learned. Opening the fridge, she withdrew the previously-thawed steak and (de-boned) fish from the fridge. They had kibble to tide them over through the day, but the evening meal was actual meat. The steak went on the floor for Mika, while the plate Nejiko set on the counter. Not only could the cat eat in peace, but he was also within scruff-grabbing range if he tried to harass the dog.

Despite his attempts to prove otherwise, Bloodfang appreciated the food and a purr started to grow as he chomped down the fish. He eyed the large steak in front of the idiot on the ground but a quick glance to the replacement-feeder proved that it would not be wise to do anything while being watched.

Mika made sure there was nothing left for the kitten to eat, gobbling down to steak in a few bites and then licked the plate and floor around it. Food taken care of, Mika emitted a sound that was half bark, half whine. Bloodfang sat on the counter and licked his paws, eyeing the replacement-feeder impatiently, ears pressed closer to his skull with each noise Mika made.

"I know, Mika. Let's get you leashed." Nejiko gave the cat a quick, cool glance that plainly said Behave before she went to the hooks by the door and pulled the leash down. "Sit," she commanded the dog, waiting until she sat, quivering, before buckling the collar attached to the leash around the thick, furry neck. Looping the other end around her wrist a few times, she opened the door and was practically yanked outside. She planted her feet, though, and locked the door before allowing Mika to lead.

They walked at a quick pace, Nejiko letting her mind wander a bit. The jounin exam was over, and Tentsuke wasn't home yet. She knew he was taking an additional vacation after the exam. She remembered her exam and how brutal it had been. But Tentsuke was older while taking it, more experienced, and definitely more prepared in some ways than Nejiko herself had been at age fifteen. Hell, she didn't even know what Leigh's results were, for Gaia-sensei'd scooped her up before Nejiko had a chance to see her.

Gaia-sensei really needed to stop doing that, in Nejiko's opinion.

She sighed and rubbed her shoulder. The wound was mostly healed. Because Bone had managed to hit her right in the same place as Spider, where there was already a large knot of scar tissue, the healing was going slower. It itched most of the time and was sore only when she used her arm too much. Ahh, the joys of shinobi life.

Mika was enjoyed the nice weather, sniffing places to make sure they were in the same condition she had left them in and remeding it if they weren't. All and all it was nice time. True the current master didn't play with her as much as the last one but that's fine. It was better to have more masters than just one and big master would be back to play soon.

In fact...

Mika stopped and started to sniff the air. She sniffed the ground too and realized soon enough that her initial guess had been right. She barked happily tugging on the leash, pulling the second master along as she started to run.

Nejiko swore under her breath as she was literally jerked out of her reverie. Trying to stop Mika when she got into her furry head to sprint was impossible, so she simply lengthened her stride to match all while keeping an eye out for her surroundings. Damned if she knew what Mika had scented to get her this excited. The most she could do was make sure she didn't crash into anything or anyone. Nevermind the pain and embarrassment of that, but the dog had the power to dislocate her shoulder as the leash was still wrapped around her wrist. The alternative was to not have the leash looped and run the risk of losing the dog. Neither were good choices.

Mika followed the scent, only half concerned whether or not the second master was keeping up. Turning the corner, she realized that the scent was coming from just up ahead. Unwilling to stop, she charged forward, crashing into the seven-foot-tall wooden chest that has been left in the middle of the road. The impact jostled the box and there was an undignified cry of pain.

"Damnit! I just stopped to rest for a second," the owner complained. A millisecond later, Mika had run several laps around the box, winding the leash around there and effectively trapping the man against it.

Under normal circumstances, a person would be very angry, down right furious. But instead, he laughed and resigned himself to his fate. "Hey puppy," Tentsuke said. "Taking the dog watcher for a walk I see," he smiled, pushing the leash down and trying to get free.

"More like a sprint worthy of Gaia-sensei, hazard-wise." Nejiko, now bound to the opposite side of the trunk by the same leash (why was this leash so long in the first place?), sighed and tried to get untangled herself. The arm with the leashed hand was flush against the box, unable to move, so she tugged ineffectively at the impromptu lashing holding her legs. It made sense, though, she realized upon hearing him curse. No one could get Mika as excited as Tentsuke.

Mika barked once and fell silent. In fact for a blessed moment, that's all there was. Silence. Then the sound of something getting unsheathed, leather being sliced and before she had a chance to react, he had gotten around to the other side of the box and enveloped her in a nearly bone-crushing hug. He had forgotten protocol, the fact that this was most definitely not in her comfort zone but he had acted and he didn't have any desire to change the current position anytime soon.

Nejiko tensed out of instinct when she found herself nearly crushed by him, but made herself relax when she realized it was just a hug. She rested her head against his shoulder and let her free and not-sore arm hug him a little back. He was home, and that's what mattered. Gladdened, she allowed herself to close her eyes and even smile a little. (And decided he had another sixty seconds before she would start poking him to let her go.)

Fifty-nine seconds later he started to relax. A bit. Partly because Mika had almost removed a layer of skin off his forearm from licking but mostly because he realized he was being a bit silly. Everything had been explained after the jounin exam was over. And he had had enough physical verification to know it was true.

So he let her go, looked a bit sheepish as he put a hand through his hair (now falling well below his chin in length), and smiled broadly. "Hey," he said.

She smirked a little in reply. "Welcome home," she replied as she studied his face. The length of his hair was a surprise, especially in conjunction with the growth on his chin. She stilled the itch to brush her fingers over it by looking at his eyes. Apparently, the jounin exam was still living up to the stories from what she saw. They didn't have the same thing each year, but she supposed she might have had the same look about her after her exam. It definitely was an experience.

"You passed."

His smile faltered a bit before returning. "Ah... probably. Hokage seemed to think so at least. Just got to wait for the official word, you know how they love to make you wait on result," he added.

She didn't need to ask if the exam was that bad. His actions confirmed it. "If the Hokage said so, then it's yours." She looked down at the leash, now destroyed, and at Mika, who stood nearby, tail wagging and tongue lolling. "Mika hasn't done her business yet, so we might want to at least get your trunk home before she decides the road's as good as place as any."

"Yeah," he laughed, stepped back to the front of the box and lining his back behind it. "So why are you walking her anyway? Thought I told the pet sitter to stick around until at least the end of this week." He reached up and threaded his wrist through the metal strap there. He took in a deep breath and pulled forward, letting the trunk settle on his back before starting to walk again.

"My mission only took a week, and I thought, why pay someone else when I was here?" she replied as she picked up the pieces of leash before matching his stride. It also gave her something to do besides gate duty and training. And with the whole hullabaloo with Kureno and Asuka-sempai... she wanted to do something totally removed from the norm. Mika and Bloodfang allowed for a nice distraction.

She'd missed him a lot, she realized. On the mission there had been nothing else but the mission. But once back, it was almost scary how different it was with him not around. The house seemed huge with just Mika and Bloodfang in it. It just wasn't the same. "And Leigh's off with Gaia-sensei again."

"Not a surprise," he huffed, trying to keep the chest steady. He concentrated on his feet, somewhat glad that it didn't long for the house to be visible. "So, the mission? Or do I get to imagine the worst considering the injury on your shoulder?"

Her hand automatically went to cover the new scarring. If she had known he was coming back today, she would've worn a sleeved shirt. But the evenings were still too warm in her opinion. "It's not that bad," she muttered. If not for the wall of chakra, though, it would have been. She pushed the thought away but her still hand shook. Didn't matter how much time passed; she still had a long way to go.

He watched her from the corner of his eye with a small frown. "I doubt that," he replied but let it go as they stood in front of the front door. His hands were full so he let her do the honors, walking in and depositing the chest on the floor of the living room. He looked over to the couch and saluted the kitten there. "Your highness," he remarked before turning his attention to the dog.

Kneeling down, he alternated between rubbing the dog's ears and fending off the licks. "Who was a good puppy?" he asked, tossling her ears. If he didn't know any better, he would have sworn the cat snorted. He held out a hand near Bloodfang and was rewarded with a single lick. Welcome home indeed.

As Mika pushed him on the ground so he was forced to lay on his back, he attempted to turn his attention back to Nejiko. But the Saint Bernard was doing a good job of blocking his view so he just kept talking instead. "Everyone get back okay?" he managed inbetween getting happily mauled by the dog.

"The mission was successful, and yes, everyone made it back," she answered as she sat on the couch. She linked her fingers together and watched him and the animals. She had a new mask now. Still avian, but not the same one as before. That particular Raven mask was put in forced retirement, and anyone seen using it was to be killed if not captured.

Mika finally settled to just resting her muzzle on Tentsuke's stomach. "That's good, can't ask for more," he commented, stroking the dogs head. A moment later, Bloodfang stood up and stretched before jumping down and approaching. He settled back to lying down just within reach of Tentsuke's free hand. He smiled a bit before stroking him as well.

"I brought back shinies," he beamed, "but my hands are kind of full at the moment."

She smiled a little at him. "It's fine. They missed you." She did, too.

He didn't read too much in that, no, not at all. "Eh, they'll get over it soon enough," he replied. "Anything interesting happen while I was gone?"

"You could say that," she replied, the smile vanishing. "Kureno-san got himself arrested for mission abandonment and a whole bunch of other things - that's all public record including being relieved of Team Eight, Asuka-sempai's in the hospital in ICU, and the Houshi-sama's been barred from the village." Oh, and one of the Sound Five we thought dead? Isn't.

He paused for a moment in petting before resuming. "So just a normal day at the... Kureno-sensei? Really? That's just..." He fell silent and resumed petting. "Che, if it's mission abandonment though, he deserves no less. Just didn't seem like the type, you know?" Mika stood up suddenly and trotted off heading towards the kitchen, pawing at the door back there.

He stood up, only to be meowed at by the cat. "Yeah okay, one second," he replied, following Mika to the back. "Seemed like a stand up guy. Shit, that's got to be hell on his kids though." He opened the back door and let Mika out. He watched her run around for a few seconds before closing the door and walking back towards the living room.

"And while I'm kind of curious what a priest could do to get kicked out of Konoha, I don't know if I want to know," he laughed, picking up the kitten off the ground gently. If he minded it didn't show, especially after Tentsuke settled onto the couch and plopped the cat into his lap.

"Not sure if I want to know, either. And I agree with you, both on deserving it and being hard on his students. Hinaji's been scarce in the compound, not that I blame him. It's almost like as if Gaia-sensei pulled a stunt like that. Completely unexpected." What she wanted to mention, but couldn't, was that she had been part of the mission Kureno had abandoned. At some point she wanted to talk to him, but a part of her was still too furious. Kakami-san had been in no condition to replace Kureno, but that was the best Hiashiko-sama could do in order to keep with the mission's timetable. She didn't know the 'why' behind it, nor did it matter - you did not just up and leave, whatever the reason.

"Probably have to train them more now," he remarked, petting Bloodfang slowly. "Not that I mind or all. Kind of nice to get practice in before getting a real genin cell." The cat nuzzled him and purred before quickly stopping short. Looking a bit embarrassed, he jumped off Tentsuke's lap and headed towards the forge. "Yeah, missed you too," he called after the kitten, smiling at he seemed to cringe and run faster.

"So you gonna let me look at your shoulder or am I'm going to have to pin you down first?" he asked, looking over at her.

She blinked, the comment about teasing the cat dying immediately, and angled her shoulder away from him while she looked at something else. "It's fine. It's been looked at. Outpatient, even."

He rolled his eyes and reached out to take her arm and tug her a bit closer. "I really don't care if it was only a scratch. Let a guy take a look so he doesn't have to keep imagining the worse."

Her arm tensed, and her hand curled into a fist as she stubbornly stayed upright. At least it was her right arm and not her left. "And what's the worst that he would keep imagining?" she replied.

He didn't say anything, just stared at her for a good ten seconds before blinking back to the present. He let go of her arm and forced a smile. "Ah, yeah, guess I'm being silly," he laughed. "I know they wouldn't let you out of the hospital if you were fine."

...Damn it. She closed her eyes and made herself relax. "It didn't go through. It just stabbed me. I didn't lose mobility." She turned so he could see. "See? It's fine."

He examined it from his position on the couch and nodded after a while. "Yeah, yeah it looks fine." He dropped his gaze back to the ground and was silent for a bit before standing up. "So, did you know Iwa mountains are inhabited by pumas? Nastiest things you'll ever meet and very unfriendly." He unlocked the chest and pushed half of it to the side to open it further.

"They are, however, kind of tasty and..." He paused as he pulled something out of the trunk. "They can make a real warm blanket."

"Is that... Is that a fur?" she asked, grateful for the distraction.

He smiled broadly. "Yep!" He flipped it around a couple of times to show her. "Can't believe how warm it'll keep you either."

"It's beautiful." She reached out to touch it. "And soft, too."

"Yeah," he replied. "Kind of reminded me of sleeping at home... well, you know, if I sleep on the floor and the roof was gone and it couldn't decide whether it wanted to rain or snow." He pulled it back. "It'll need a few good washes but I think it's worth keeping around. You know, to remind me Bloodfang's scratches ain't nearly as bad they could be."

"You need to be careful when washing furs. I would recommend taking it to a good cleaner. And I think that was clue enough as to how bad they could be." She was leaning forward now, arms crossed as they rested in her lap. Her eyes followed his movements carefully while he poked around in that trunk of his.

He nodded a bit, not really sure what type of cleaner she meant. Mind you, most of his wash was done in a bucket in the forge so stuff could dry quicker. But it was probably better to not say that outloud. "Hm, can't give you that yet," he said absentmindedly, pushing a few more things out of the way. "Oh here, catch!" He threw her a metal rod. It was fairly unremarkable, just a bit darker then normal but at the same time incredibly light.

She snatched it from the air, angling away from it just in case she missed. She turned it over to look at it more thoroughly. "What is it?" she asked, puzzled.

"Some special metal they make up in the mountains of Iwa. Try hitting the table with it!" he smiled happily.

He was nuts; he had to be. "...How hard?"

"Just a good thwap," he nodded. "Like you were hitting me upside the head."

"..." She considered just doing that but decided against it. She lifted her hand and smacked the rod smartly against the table.

He smiled broadly. "See!" he exclaimed.

"...See, what?"

He waved at the rod. "The vibrations from hitting are significantly less then normal. Plus, I saw a couple of them crack a boulder in two with a bigger version. Gonna send it home and let them play with it." He decided to leave out the vital information like how he had managed to smuggle it out of Iwa but hey... details weren't always important.

"I mean think of it, I could retrofit Reva and not only would she be three times as light, but she'd still do the same amount of damage and not make me hands go numb after a few hours of fighting."

"That would be useful," she admitted, holding out the rod for him to take back. She looked to the trunk. "So what's this thing you can't give me yet?"

"It's a surprise," he said as if that should be rather obvious. "And I don't know, it needs more introduction, like a fancy dinner or something." He went back to pawing in his trunk. "Now where did I..." He paused and stepped inside the trunk, disappearing from view.

She tilted her head to the side when he did that, waiting for him to come out. Then she tilted her head to the other side. And then reminded herself that using Byakugan for this would be rude.

He came out a second later. "Found it. Neat huh?" He held up the leather collar, a burnt amber hued one for her to see.

"It's......... a collar," she said tonelessly while trying to figure out why he would have a collar. "That's for.... Mika?" It certainly couldn't be for-- No.

He looked at her oddly. "Yeah, obviously. It's too big for Bloodfang," he added. "Which is why I got him this!" He held out a small black collar, complete with tiny studs.

"Nice. Can't say, precisely, if he'll approve." She sounded vaguely amused. And pressed her hand against her knee when she realized she had been rapidly tapping her index and middle fingers against her leg.

"Eh, he'll get used to it. I could have gotten one with a bell and given the mice a sporting chance but this should just reflect his attitude," he smiled. He eyed her hand. "Something wrong?"

"...No. Not really," she amended when he just looked at her. She kept both hands flat on her knees. "I'm just... glad you're back."

He squatted down next to her so his eyes were level with hers. "Did you know?" he asked with a smile.

She blinked at him even as something inside eased when he smiled. "Did I know what?"

"How just saying that would make everything right again."

A blank look was her reply as she tried to figure out what was wrong that needed to be made right in the first place. The look quickly passed - mostly because she was hugging him now, her face against his shoulder and therefore no longer visible. It wasn't just that she missed him, though that was a significant chunk. It was also the mission, that one of the Sound-nin were still alive, and she didn't know what would've happened if it had meant facing that one again. And the mission's ranking forbade her from discussing it at all. So she held onto him and took comfort in the fact that she was home and he was home and all would be well.

He froze at first, mostly out of surprise, but then slowly started to relax. He couldn't make his arms move right away, the overpowering combination of the familiar scent of shampoo and delicate yet firm feel of her skin against his own made his heart stop a few times before he realized that this was real and what had happened wasn't. It took a few seconds but eventually he reacted, reaching out with one arm around her back, one hand wove into her hair. He didn't dare move from the position, even if his knees started to protest. In fact, he was quite certain that if it came down it, he probably could stay here forever.

She relaxed into the embrace when he put his arms around her. Maybe she was finally beginning to understand why Gaia-sensei and Leigh insisted on hugs so much. When they weren't threatening to break your back, the simple contact and the presence of the other... It was nice to not be alone.

Breathing slowly, she focused on the familiar smell and feel of him. Dirt and sweat and the faintest traces of soot and then that particular scent that was just him. It had been in his bed when she had woken up with that hangover, and it had been missing the whole time he was gone. And the firmness of the muscle his shirt hid from plain sight was easily discerned through the cloth where she was pressed against him.

It felt good, she decided, to have him hold her. And as silly as it sounded in her mind to even think it, she felt safe, too. Whatever else happened she could find him and find a haven with him.

His hand clenched once as a passing memory gripped his mind but he relaxed it a bit and managed to pull away. He pushed the lingering echoes from that incident back into the recesses of his mind and smiled again. "A welcome home like that and you almost make me want to go away more," he said.

Her arms tightened around him. "Don't you dare," she warned.

He would have smiled more if it was possible but he was currently stretched to maximum width. He settled for closing his eyes and enjoying the moment a bit as he shifted his weight and tried to ignore the rather large pop that came from his left knee as he did. Couldn't be that important...

"Eh, guess I'll stick around then," he joked.

"Good," she stated. And because she was wondering about that pop... "Is your knee all right?"

He didn't really respond a first. On the one hand, he meant what he had thought before. If he had to, he could probably stay right as he was until the end of time. The sun could go out, the oceans could dry up, Konoha itself could be swallowed into the center of the world.

On the other hand... ow.

"No," he replied, without moving either his body or the smile off his face.

"Maybe you should sit on the sofa then," she advised. Her arms loosened some so he could move, but she didn't fully let go. If she had to she would. She hoped not, though.

"Yeah," he managed, slowly straightening up. No more popping but boy were his legs happy at the change of position. He fell onto the couch and managed to pull her along with him. "Oh... see that feels good," he said, carefully straightening out his legs and propping them on the coffee table.

She slumped against him, amused at how through skillful movement on his part she was now sitting in his lap. Her arms still encircled his waist, just as his arm was still around her and the other in her hair. She liked his hand in her hair. "Hn," she said as she leaned against him, "I concur."

"See this is much better then some dirt ground and a patch of fur to keep you warm," he observed, letting his head lean on the top of the sofa. He wiggled his toes a few times to relax his legs and then closed his eyes.

"And here I would've thought you had had enough of that with Gaia-sensei's camping trips. To think, people complain at having tents."

"Lightweights," he chuckled, settling down into the cushions and into a steady rhythm of breathing. In and out, in and out, and slowly he realized there was at least one position he liked better than getting hugged.

She stayed like that for a while, not moving or speaking as she listened to his breathing and his heartbeat. Finally her curiosity got the better off her. She brought one hand up so her fingertips could brush the growth on his chin. It was more than the stubble she remembered, but nothing she could tug on yet (had she wanted to). The hairs were coarse and could be slightly spiky or bumpy-smooth depending on the direction she moved her hand. The sensation was intriguing, as demonstrated by the fact she kept stroking his chin.

His nose wrinkled in reaction, though it was more reflex then anything else. He cracked opened an eye, halfway between asleep and awake as he looked at her. With a small smirk, he wiggled his chin a bit in jest. "I can go shave," he managed, though some of the words were lost in the middle of a yawn.

"I wouldn't recommend it if you're yawning," she replied. As good as he was with a blade, handling sharp while sleepy was a bad idea all around. The hairs continued up in a line that framed his mouth, and she traced that, too (the hair, that is, not his mouth), before drawing her hand back. "Would you like me to go so you can sleep?"

"No," he said quickly, tone a bit more awake. "I want you to stay so I can sleep."

"Ah, all right," she said after a moment's pause. "I can stay." Not that she had anywhere she needed to be. No, the hesitation came from her wondering at him before she simply accepted it as a Tentsuke-request. A smidgen of squirming in his lap so she was in a slightly more comfortable position before she relaxed against his chest, listening to it speed up a little before gradually slowing down to a more normal pace. Just don't blame me if you lose feeling in your legs when you wake up, she thought.

He didn't reply, just waited for her to settle. After that it was only a matter of seconds before he fell asleep, the weeks of sleepless nights, the echoing screams of memories finally silenced. In the present, with her this close, he finally understood that it really had only been a genjutsu. But in the end, he knew that even if it had been real, his actions wouldn't have been different. That was the knot that had settled in his stomach and refused to release. So rather then concentrate on that, he turned his attention to the now, to what he had now, and left all the lines of future possibilities fade to darkness as he fell asleep.