April 19, Yondaime Year 5
Kakashi hadn’t seen Rin since the night before the first Trial, when she’d wished him luck, told him to make friends—”Just try.”—and kissed him on the cheek, which she only did when she was worried.
He’d missed her at the hospital after the second Trial, or she’d missed him. She’d been in surgery, he’d found out later, patching up someone’s near-fatal disaster. She’d tried to visit him at home, but he’d been asleep, and she’d been exhausted, which was sort of how it always went lately.
She’d left him a folded origami crane on the counter, resting on top of a new set of shining kunai, a fresh pair of combat gloves, and a medical kit. When he’d unfolded the crane, he’d found a message: YOUR SHELVES ARE EMPTY AGAIN, GO SHOPPING, HOW ARE YOU STILL ALIVE.
It was Rin, anyway.
He should have made a better effort to search her out before the third Trial, but there was training, and extra duties with the threat of Orochimaru, and—
He hadn’t gone, and she hadn’t visited again.
Now, though, he desperately needed a friendly shoulder to lean on and plot murder with. He wound his way out of ANBU’s treacherous maze, stopped at his old apartment just long enough to lock his ANBU armor and new mask in the weapons trunk, change clothes, and wash his face, then he made tracks for the hospital. He could move to the ANBU barracks later.
For the first time in memory, Rin was actually at her office desk.
He paused at the half-open door, taking a moment before she noticed him. She was paler than the last time he’d seen her, tired-looking, purple clan tattoos dark against her cheeks. Her thick brown braid hung over one shoulder, tendrils slipping free from their ties; she fiddled absentmindedly with it. Her lower lip was chapped, stained slightly blue by the pen she was chewing on. Normally, she wore the standard medic’s uniform, but today she was dressed in a plain black shirt with the sleeves rolled up, leggings, and shinobi sandals—which suggested a frantic morning dash to the hospital, or someone had thrown up on her again.
Despite that, she was smiling faintly at the report she was writing.
At least someone’d had a good morning.
Kakashi let his foot scuff the floor as he pushed the door open. “I need help vanishing a body,” he said.
Rin tucked the urge to smile away and finished her paragraph. “Who did you offend this time?” she asked, mock-exasperated. She glanced up as Kakashi made his way across the room to sit on the corner of her desk.
“Why do you always assume it’s me?” he asked. He was in his usual jounin uniform, the curve of his spine accentuating the way the material hung off his lean frame. Was it looser than normal?
“Because there’s a weapons manual where your manners should be,” Rin said, and frowned. “Have you been eating enough? I saw your kitchen.”
He waved her concern away. “Can we focus on my semi-genuine desire to murder Minato-sensei? Because he might have actually hated me for years without telling me, and now he’s punishing me with idiots.”
“Your new team?” Rin said. She put down her pen and reached over the desk, taking Kakashi’s right hand. The bandages wrapped around his wrist were still fresh; she looked up at him for permission before she pushed his sleeve up to his elbow, calling on her chakra. “I thought ANBU was the best of the best.”
“So did I,” Kakashi said, a trace of real despair behind the theatrics. Rin looked up, searched his face to find the telltale downturn at the corner of his eye and the slight slump of his shoulders. He hadn’t looked this disillusioned since before the Fox. She made a sympathetic noise and sank her chakra into his system, expanding her senses. The familiar electric edge to his coils was a comfort after all this time.
“If Minato-sensei picked them out, they can’t be completely incompetent,” she said. There were still minute traces of poison in Kakashi’s system, an acrid tang that was fast losing its bite. With his developed immunities, it wouldn’t even be enough to give him a headache. Rin purged it anyways, sending her chakra through his pathways in steady waves. “I take it your first day didn’t go like you’d hoped?”
Slowly, Kakashi started to relax underneath her hands. Obito’s Sharingan always tended to strain his system a bit, though he was loathe to admit it. “It was… different than I thought it would be.”
“What about the oath-taking ceremony?” Rin asked quietly. “Did Minato-sensei say anything to you?”
After a moment, Kakashi said, “That there’d be no glory in it.” He looked away. “And no lone wolves.”
The last of the Oomukado toxin dissolved, filtering out of Kakashi’s bloodstream. Rin reached up and squeezed his shoulder, offering silent support. “I missed you,” she said. “Tell me a little more about your new team.”
Rin always smelled like soap and early spring, the edge of frost under new growth. Her chakra was a cool waterfall around his ragged edges. She was a fixed point; always had been.
Except she was changing, too.
Kakashi let out a breath and put his hand over hers, curling his scarred fingers beneath her calloused palm. “Kind of classified to talk about here,” he said. “Can I steal you for a while?”
She smiled and glanced down at the open report on her desk. “I’m one sentence away from finishing this. Then I’m all yours.”
He let her hand go.
It must have been an important sentence, because she spent a minute in thought over it, absently chewing the corner of her blue-stained lip. Then the pen flicked and a row of neat kanji marched down the page, ending with a restrained flourish. Rin signed the report and tucked it back into the file, stacking the whole thing in her out-tray.
“Patient survived?” Kakashi asked.
“No,” she said. “But it was a good surgery.”
Well, that put his issues in perspective. “Do you need to talk?”
Rin came around the desk and bumped her shoulder companionably against his arm; the top of her head barely came up to his throat. “Later,” she said. “We can trade classified secrets over food.”
“Of course.” She glanced at the door and the hallway beyond, where a secretary was eyeing them both curiously, and turned to the window instead. Chakra barely sparked as she disengaged a seal and slid the window back. She stepped out onto the ledge. Her hair whipped in the wind. “Run with me?”
Kakashi’s mouth quirked. “You spend too much time inside.”
“A little fresh air wouldn’t hurt,” she admitted, smiling. She held her hand out. “Come on.”
Kakashi took it and let her pull him outside.
Rin’s office was three stories above the ground, overlooking one of Konoha’s main streets. A few civilians glanced up as they vaulted from the ledge to the building opposite and ran along the wall, horizontal to the ground. Kakashi let Rin take the lead; she needed to stretch her legs more.
She took them up over the rooftops, graceful on tiles and catwalks and washing-lines strung between buildings, towards the outer edge of the village center. When they reached a squat stone building with boarded windows, Rin dropped back down to the street, and Kakashi followed a second behind.
There was so sign on the building. The door was scarred, desperately in need of painting, and blackened at one corner, as if fire had been a past feature. Rin knocked.
A slender, balding, unremarkable man opened it, and bowed slightly. “Nohara-san,” he said, standing aside to let them enter. “Hatake-san. Welcome.”
Rin nodded. “Toshiyuki-san.”
Kakashi twitched one hand in a little wave.
The entranceway was raw brick and unfurnished, barring the small wooden stool Toshiyuki had been sitting on. An abandoned paperback sat next to it. A door led through a large empty hall Kakashi was pretty sure the owners used for training, or storage, or movie nights. They didn’t go that way. A second set of doors opened onto a freight elevator. Rin hit the button; Toshiyuki returned to his stool, settling back with his book.
The elevator had two sliding grates that needed to be opened and then closed before it would move, and it rattled like a death trap. Kakashi leaned against the wall as it jolted them slowly down. The air warmed, filling with the smell of miso and cooking meat. A dull murmur of noise drifted up.
Rin inhaled with a slow, easing sigh. “This makes up for all the times I had to yell at Oguchi-sensei this week,” she said. “I don’t even want to strangle her anymore.”
“I thought you liked Oguchi-sensei,” Kakashi said.
“I do,” Rin said. “If I didn’t, I actually would have strangled her.”
Kakashi laughed softly.
The elevator screeched as it came to a halt. They wrestled the gates open, and stepped through.
The Cellar wasn’t like any of Konoha’s other restaurants. It wasn’t pretty, it didn’t cater to civilians. The walls were grey slab-rock. The floor was poured cement, scratched and battered from years of use. There were no romantic lamps; fluorescent strip-lighting hung from the ceiling, banishing shadows. There were no windows, either. The tables were made from heavy dark wood, and bolted to the floor. The three waiters had lethally restrained chakra signatures and, between them, nine limbs.
There were maybe a dozen ninja scattered about the room, most of them alone, all of them scarred and quiet, entirely focused on their food.
Kakashi and Rin were the youngest people here.
“Hatake, Nohara,” said the first waiter to reach them, a grizzled older man with a steel-shod peg where his left leg should have been, and three fingers missing from his right hand. “Corner table?”
“Thank you, Mahito-san,” said Rin politely.
Mahito settled them next to the open kitchen, where they had an easy view of the food being prepared. “The usual?” he asked.
Kakashi traded a glance with Rin.
“Can I get a glass of wine, too?” she said, the way injured people said I need air.
“Of course,” said Mahito, and raised his eyebrows at Kakashi.
“Water’s fine,” said Kakashi.
Despite the false leg, Mahito still managed to sweep gracefully away. Rin watched him go, mouth curving, then turned her attention on Kakashi like a scalpel. She settled in her chair, steepled her fingers, and lifted one meaningful eyebrow. “So.”
Kakashi propped his chin on one hand, amused. “Where’d you want me to start?”
Rin pursed her lips at him in mock severity. “Start with what made you stagger into my office like you wanted to collapse. Did they put you on a team with an Uchiha? Did they give you a chicken mask?”
Kakashi paused, sidetracked from what he’d been about to say. “Why a chicken mask?”
She shrugged. “I’d want to kill someone if I had to wear a chicken mask. And I know there’s a squirrel mask and a grasshopper mask. It wouldn’t be a big stretch.”
“The quartermaster did threaten me with a cockroach,” Kakashi said. “But I got a lion-dog.”
Rin considered this, and smiled in amusement. “I’m sure you could have pulled that off. I guess a wolf would have been too cliché.”
“I guess,” Kakashi echoed doubtfully. The hand not propping his chin up rested on the tabletop. Rin reached out to give it a comforting pat.
“At least it wasn’t a cockroach,” she said. “And a lion-dog is almost as dashing as a wolf.”
His mouth curled up in a smile behind his mask, fleeting but real. “There is that.” Then he sobered. “I’m on Team Six. No Uchiha, but do you know Namiashi Raidou, or Shiranui Genma? They’re both veterans.”
Rin frowned in thought, rifling through the mental files she kept on the Hokage’s handpicked elite. “Namiashi, I’ve treated once or twice. He’s durable, but all taijutsu users are. Never heard of Shiranui. Why?” She raised an eyebrow. “Or should I ask, which one’s your captain?”
“Namiashi,” Kakashi said. “I think it’s his first time.”
Rin felt the corner of her mouth twitch. “What makes you say that? It’d make more sense to give you to an experienced captain.”
“You’d think,” Kakashi said. “He felt new, and happy. This whole team are babes in the woods.”
Rin didn’t point out that all his ANBU teammates were probably older than him. Everyone was older than Kakashi. “Maybe Minato-sensei sees something in them,” she said. “He has a reason for everything.” Even if the reason was a painful lesson intended to make Kakashi grow as a person.
“Or he lacked options,” Kakashi told her darkly. “Or he had an early stroke. I haven’t even told you about the other two.”
Mahito returned with Rin’s wine and Kakashi’s water, setting the drinks down on the table. Rin waited until Mahito had swept away to lean in. “They’re that bad? Are they jounin or special-jounin?”
Kakashi’s visible eyebrow creased in a frown. “I’m not actually sure. Tousaki Ryouma and Ueno Katsuko. I think Tousaki’s a jounin. I’m not convinced Ueno’s human.”
Ueno, Rin knew about. She’d never met the woman, but the team of specialists at the hospital assigned to Ueno’s case were very vocal about the headaches caused by a chakra system mangled beyond repair.
Rin took a sip of wine. “Why? Does she have wings and a tail?”
“She has chakra like Kushina used to,” Kakashi said. “Just without the demon.”
Kushina’s name didn’t make Rin’s throat close up in grief like it used to, not after this long. The little spike of melancholy in her chest, though, would probably always be there.
“That could be useful,” Rin said. “As long as Ueno has control over it. What about Tousaki?”
Kakashi made a face of extreme doubt at the mention of ‘Ueno’ and ‘control’ in the same sentence. He turned his water glass between his hands, stalling. “How much did Minato-sensei tell you about the second Trial?” he asked at last.
Rin studied him, then the bandages on his wrist. “I know you saved a candidate’s life,” she said. “And that another candidate stabbed you.” She left out the part about how shocked and furious she’d been when she’d heard—Kakashi could read it in her expression. Injuries on the battlefield were one thing, but Kakashi shouldn’t have been attacked by someone who was supposed to be a Konoha ninja. Not after all he’d given to the village. “I know that without your built-up resistance to poisons, I would have lost you.”
“Ye of little faith,” Kakashi said, mouth quirking. “I would have thought of something.”
Rin took a sip of her wine. “Before or after you sustained brain damage?”
“I would have thought of something really fast,” he said, which didn’t do much for the hard, angry lines cutting around Rin’s mouth. She had her own family—a mother and a father who were still living, both ninja, and loved her—and they both had Minato and Naruto, but it wasn’t the same. If Kakashi lost her—
He couldn’t lose her.
Gently, he tapped the back of her hand, still lying on the table. “We’re both still here.”
Rin glanced at his left eye, safely hidden behind the slanted hitai-ate. Her smile softened. She knew who ‘we’ meant. “Keep it that way.”
He flicked a two-fingered salute, fingertips brushing one temple, and looked up as Mahito returned with a tray of small dishes, which he laid out neatly. Sesame-tofu in miso paste. Miso-eggplant. Spinach in sesame sauce. Agedashi dofu. Skewers of grilled pork cheek. Salted, grilled smelt. Steamed rice. The waiter bowed, vanished, and then returned with one final plate, which he placed in the center of the table.
A salt-fried red snapper, perfectly cooked, lay gently steaming on pristine china.
Kakashi blinked. “We didn’t order that.”
“For the celebration,” Mahito said. He sketched a quick, curling spiral on his right shoulder. “Congratulations, Hatake-san.”
How did he—
Kakashi abandoned that train of thought. Nothing was secret in a shinobi village. And nothing he or Rin did ever stayed unremarked on for long, no matter whether it was actually remarkable. Part of it was Minato-sensei’s reflected light. But part of it was just… them. They were good stories, in success or failure.
Especially in failure.
Happily, not today’s issue. Kakashi started to incline his head in thanks, stopped, and tapped his left shoulder instead. His instinct was good; Mahito’s mouth curved, and he echoed the salute.
“Enjoy your meal,” the waiter said, and stumped away.
Rin watched him go thoughtfully. “I always wondered if he was ANBU.”
“Me, too,” Kakashi said. He couldn’t feel an ANBU tattoo-spark from the older man, but perhaps the jutsu was removed when you left the service.
“Itadakimasu,” Rin said, picking up her black lacquered chopsticks. She selected a bite of sesame-tofu. “You didn’t finish telling me about Tousaki. Actually, you didn’t start telling me about Tousaki.”
“Itadakimasu,” Kakashi murmured. “Tousaki was the candidate I saved.”
Her chopsticks paused. “Oh?” She considered for a moment, then said, “Was he targeted, or was he in the wrong place at the wrong time?”
“Six of one, half a dozen of the other,” Kakashi said quietly. The Cellar was private and uncrowded, and the open kitchen was noisy, but still. At least with Rin’s back to the room, and his mask, no one could lip-read their conversation. “Whoever primed Akiyama and set him off wanted my eye, but when he couldn’t catch me, he went for Tousaki’s hands as a consolation prize. Are you familiar with Tousaki’s jutsu?”
“No,” she said. “Is it a bloodline limit?”
“Not that he’s said. I hope not, because I want it,” Kakashi said. “He’s the face-melter. Little older than us, made some waves in the war.”
“The rot ninja?” she said, eyebrows flicking up in surprise. “Huh. You didn’t copy it already in Trials?”
Kakashi glanced down, studying his chopsticks intensely.
“That’s your guilty face,” she said. “What’d you do?”
“What? Nothing,” Kakashi said, stung. “He punched me first.”
Rin’s bark of laughter got an answering clatter from the kitchen, as a startled chef dropped something. “What?”
“I might have used the Sharingan during the first Trial,” Kakashi said. “There was this section on jutsu demonstrations, and some of them were actually pretty good. But he got a little pissy about it, and doesn’t know how to use words.”
“So he punched you,” Rin said, delicately selecting a piece of the red snapper. “Did you use your words?”
Kakashi thought back. “I’m ignoring your tone, because I actually did, even when he called me an asshole. I was practically polite. And I didn’t copy his jutsu.” He picked up a neat parcel of spinach, because Rin was a bear for vegetable eating. “And I saved his life later, so I win on all counts.”
“I wasn’t aware there was a point system,” Rin said, which was a lie. There was always a point system. She waited until he’d made the spinach disappear behind his mask to ask, “Why would Minato-sensei put Tousaki on your team?”
“Because he’s always secretly hated me and now he’s found his moment to strike,” Kakashi said darkly.
“If Minato-sensei really hated you, he’d fine you for every minute you were late to anything,” Rin said, and started in on the miso-eggplant. “Does Tousaki still want to punch you for copying jutsu?”
“I—” Kakashi started, then paused. “Well, he hasn’t punched me again. But he’s so annoying.”
Rin popped another piece of eggplant into her mouth, enjoying Kakashi’s aggravation. “What did he do?”
“Told me good luck just before I took the oath,” Kakashi started with, like it was damning evidence. “Won’t share his jutsu. Talks all the time about everything, but he doesn’t take anything seriously. And he keeps flirting with me.”
Because she was a highly trained shinobi, Rin didn’t even let her expression change. “Is he attractive, at least?”
“Rin,” Kakashi said. “Can you stay on topic? He’s ruining my life.”
After this, Rin was going to exercise her privilege as the hospital’s lead surgeon and pull up every single file they had on Tousaki Ryouma. “So he’s very attractive,” she said, pleased when Kakashi’s exasperated look intensified. “He’s trying to make friends with you, Kakashi. Have you tried talking back?”
Kakashi groaned. “You sound like the captain. Don’t step on a boundary, just use words.”
“He told you that?”
“Or something roughly similar,” Kakashi said, dismissive. It was clear he thought the issue lay with the rest of the team and not himself. Given the way he kept everyone but Naruto, Minato-sensei, and Rin at arm’s length, it wasn’t hard to understand why. Rin made a note to pull the rest of ANBU Team Six’s files up, as well. Minato-sensei’s judgment was sound, but it never hurt to double-check.
“Namiashi seems like a sensible man,” Rin allowed. She took another sip of wine. “Does the rest of the team have issues with boundaries, then? Besides Tousaki.”
Kakashi propped his chin on his hand. “Ueno asked me to address her as ‘Your Luminescence’.”
“Ah,” Rin said, and put her glass down. Maybe Minato-sensei had cracked under the stress of raising a child and running the village at the same time. Maybe he actually had an explanation for assigning Kakashi to a team designed to push all his buttons at once. “And did you?”
Rin narrowed her eyes at him. “Anything else you want to tell me about your first day?”
“No?” he said, startled. Then he amended, “Well, I don’t actually recommend the tattooing.”
“Funny you should mention that,” Rin said, and smiled. “Because I heard from someone that you fainted.”
The strip of pale skin above Kakashi’s mask flushed red. “Heard from who?” he demanded.
Rin arched a brow. “I have my sources.”
Kakashi eyed her for a moment. “You’re friends with Nanami, aren’t you?”
“We’re getting off-topic,” Rin said sweetly. “Ignoring the fact that you forgot to eat, again, and fainted, again, how did your team react when you blacked out?”
He blinked, then paused to actually think about it. “Shiranui’s a field-medic. He did something medic-y, brought me around, and had that exact judgmental face,” Kakashi said, nodding at Rin’s expression. “Ueno told me about walking into walls when she got her tattoo.” When Rin nodded for him to go on, he added, “Namiashi didn’t say much. Tousaki just kind of snorted.” His eye narrowed slightly, as if Tousaki’s reaction had bothered him the most.
Rin had expected Tousaki to be the teammate most concerned about Kakashi’s well-being, after the whole fiasco at Trials. But it was a pleasant surprise to learn that the rest of Team Six had tried to reach out to Kakashi, even if he didn’t recognize their efforts as such. And Kakashi… did not react to disappointment well, and made no effort to hide it. That probably had something to do with Tousaki’s reaction: even gratitude for a life saved couldn’t last long in the face of unyielding scorn.
“I’m not going to tell you what to do,” she said at last. “And I’m not going to lecture you. But it does sound like you don’t hate Tousaki—or the rest of your team—as much as you want to.”
Honestly, he would’ve preferred the lecture.
“I didn’t say I hated them,” Kakashi said, and ran out of words. He didn’t know what he felt, besides frustrated. Which was dangerous for a ninja—if you didn’t know what your internal landscape was doing, you couldn’t master it. But shinobi weren’t supposed to have emotions anyway.
Weapons probably complained a lot less than he did, too.
He sighed once, softly. “You’re probably right, about everything. And Minato-sensei’s doubtless got a plan which he’s also right about. And it’ll turn out this team contains actual adults who’re good at what they do, but it’s not—they’re not—”
Rin’s face wiped clean of expression. “We can’t have Team Minato back, Kakashi,” she said. “Not like it was.”
He knew that.
He knew what that emotion was, too, and all the multicolored ways it hurt.
“Well,” he said. “It’s not like we were much of a good team, anyway.”
“That’s because you were stupid,” Rin said, like the thought made her fond. “You and Obito. My stupid, idiot boys.”
“We did save your life,” Kakashi pointed out.
“In the most spectacular fashion possible,” Rin agreed quietly. “I didn’t say being an idiot was a bad thing.”
In all the worst ways, it had been the best thing possible. Obito was the one who’d gone back for Rin, dragging Kakashi along behind him on a tether of guilt and I believe the White Fang was right! Obito had thrown the mission over for a teammate. Obito had activated his Sharingan just in time to make it a gift. Obito had saved Rin, and fixed Kakashi, and died for them both.
He’d been an idiot, and he’d paid for it.
And Konoha had gained a revolutionary medic and a genius with bonuses. Everyone won, except the one problem kid, who’d gone down in the history of the Third Great Ninja War as a footnote.
Now Obito’s memory was leverage for the Uchiha clan, when they wanted to pry into the remains of Team Minato, and a thorny, painful tangle between Kakashi and Rin, who’d had five years to get over it and still hadn’t.
Wouldn’t ever, probably.
“Guess I’ll try to be smarter this time around,” he said at last.
Rin leaned forward, careful of the still mostly uneaten dishes, and curled strong, calloused fingers around his. Her chakra rippled beneath her skin, water and fire, but so closely blended they were almost indistinguishable. She just felt like a waterfall of light.
“If they don’t treat you well,” she said, very calmly. “Tell me. I’ll take care of it.”
Kakashi tilted his head. “I thought medics took an oath to do no harm.”
“Civilian medics do,” she said, and sipped her wine with her free hand.
Distantly, Kakashi wondered if other brand new ANBU had this problem, or if he was the first one in history to have a high-level medic offer to subtly eviscerate the people who were mean to him.
Then he thought about Rin meeting Ryouma.
And, somehow, things seemed much brighter.
“Thank you,” he said, and squeezed Rin’s hand before letting go, picking up his chopsticks again. A seedling of her chakra stayed pressed into his palm, spreading warm, calming tendrils through his coils. “If you ever do go after Tousaki, you should shave him bald. He seems like he’d be hair-proud.”
“Then that won’t be the only thing of his I’ll shave,” she said sweetly.
Kakashi paused, laughed—and kept laughing. He had to lay his chopsticks back down and put a hand over his face, shoulders shaking. It wasn’t that funny, but the tensions of a long, difficult week ruptured like a bubble, and the future contained the possibility of Ryouma sunburning his shiny bald head (and other things), so laughter, low and hoarse, spilling up like a fountain that didn’t stop until he dissolved into a coughing fit.
When he pulled himself back together, Rin was watching him, soft and a little worried.
Kakashi cleared his throat. “So, if you don’t practice that, it injures you.”
“I thought I was going to have to give you rescue breathing,” she said, worry shading into amusement.
“Just dinner,” Kakashi said, reaching for another bite of red snapper. “You are paying for this, right?”
Rin’s look would have skewered a lesser mortal. “We’ll go halves,” she said, uncompromising as an iron girder.
“Who do I go to when you’re not treating me well?” Kakashi inquired.
Rin smirked. “Try Minato-sensei.”
Might as well try carving sympathy out of a mountain face; one that would landslide and then mock him. Kakashi gave up and said, “Want to get dessert after this?”
Rin smirked. “We’ll go halves on that, too.”
“Which one of us is getting the doctor’s paycheck with excessive benefits again?” Kakashi said. “Because I’m pretty sure it’s not me.”
“And which one of us gets free appointments from the hospital’s top medic? And also an ANBU’s pay raise?” Rin said. “If you’re not going to finish the red snapper, I will.”
Kakashi gestured with his chopsticks. “Have at.” He watched her drag the dish over to her side of the table before saying, “How is business as a top medic? You said you lost a patient today.”
Nawada Kojirou, age thirty-four, special jounin. Rin sighed and put her chopsticks down. “Poison. It’d already reached his heart by the time I developed an antidote. On the plus side, now we have a new counter-agent against the chemical attacks Mist’s been using.”
“Guess that’s a new immunity to add to the rotation,” Kakashi said, but gave her a sympathetic look. “Did you have any good luck today?”
“Mm.” Rin picked up her chopsticks again. “They’re firing Mamura from Intensive Care. Good riddance. Bastard wouldn’t know what proper medical procedure was if it hit him in the face. And they want to give me my own team.”
Kakashi blinked. “Your own medical team?” He lit up. “Why did you let me talk about bullshit for ages when you had that up your sleeve? That’s fantastic.”
Rin smiled, a little giddy. “I get to choose from the candidate pool. Cream of the crop.” She leaned in. “I’m going to have minions, Kakashi.”
He laughed softly. “Poor minions.”
Rin rolled her eyes at him. “I’m better than some of the other surgeons. I’ll even give them days off.”
She could hear Kakashi grinning behind his mask. “To cry?”
“To train,” Rin said. “I don’t hire slackers.”
“To cry a lot,” Kakashi said. “And question their life choices. What are you going to do with your team?”
“Research, mostly. Lab-work.” She broke into a grin. “Anything I want, really, within legal and ethical bounds.”
Kakashi rested his chin in his hand, thoughtful. “Does that mean you’re getting away from surgery? Or planning to work both?”
“Both,” Rin said. “If I’m going to make Director of the hospital before I turn forty, I need to make at least as many advances in the field as Tsunade-sama did.”
Kakashi touched his hitai-ate with two fingertips, where it slanted over his left eye. “Transplanting a viable bloodline for the first time in recorded history is probably a good start.”
“And making an enemy out of every Uchiha in Konoha. Don’t forget that part.” Rin smiled to herself. “I still have a bone to pick with that clan. And a Director has a lot more power than a surgeon.”
He eyed her. “I might be wrong, but I’m almost certain the Director isn’t allowed to have biases against patients.” After a beat, he added, “Not that I’m against it, exactly.”
“An Uchiha brought to the hospital won’t be treated any differently than my other patients,” Rin said. “The Uchiha elders, on the other hand…” she shrugged. “I’m not fond of bullies.”
Kakashi’s smile this time held no cheer. “Me, neither.”
“Hm.” Rin polished off the last of her rice. “Konoha’s still stuck in the old way of thinking. Minato-sensei’s changed some of that, but he’s only one man. Surgical operation procedures and policies haven’t been updated since Tsunade-sama left Konoha, and we lost extremely talented medics during the Fox. We need more people and more resources if we’re going to keep up with the other Villages.”
“I’ll try and kidnap you a few medics the next time they send me across the border,” Kakashi promised her.
“I do love presents,” Rin said, amused. “Any foreign medical jutsu or scrolls you can get would be nice, though. Live medics are too much of a hassle. What do you want for dessert?”
Kakashi thought about it for a second. “Ice cream.”
Rin hid her smile behind her hand. “What flavor?”
“You need a battle plan for frozen treats?” Kakashi quirked an eyebrow at her.
She smirked. “Like you don’t already have one? Be honest.”
Kakashi picked up a serene bite of tofu and made it vanish. “Smart tacticians keep their strategies secret.”
“So modest,” Rin said, and finished off the last of her wine. New ANBU teams and plans for the future could be set aside for today. Right now, she just wanted to enjoy one of her rare free nights with Kakashi.