September 10, Yondaime Year 5

Raidou was thirteen days late to his own birthday party. Something that his mothers made him eat much crow for, along with a generous slab of birthday cake. The excuse of ‘I was fighting a murderous demon with a ninja legend’ didn’t buy him as much grace as he might have hoped. 

Equally unacceptable excuses included: 

  • Training
  • Half my team was injured/ornery/hospitalized/getting surgery
  • Autumn Trials just happened, and I needed to split my time between wallguard duty and blowing up small chunks of Konoha’s landscape for the Third Trial. (ANBU got four new rookies and no traitors, hooray.)
  • A man needs to sleep

And of course, I’m in a new sort-of-relationship with my lieutenant and our intel officer, which is morally dubious or fan-fucking-tastic depending which angle you look at it from, and carving out minutes to spend with them is practically a full time job itself. 

That last one he didn’t say. 

He made his appearance and his apologies, had his favorite homemade meal followed by homemade cake, and opened his gifts. A watch from Ume (“It was a nice cookpan three weeks ago, but obviously you need this more.”) and a new weapons care kit from Shun, complete with two fine grades of leather strop and a beautiful array of water stones. They played games in the living room after dinner, and Raidou endured his party hat and the obligatory photographs with good grace. 

“So, did your team do anything for your birthday?” Ume asked, as the evening sky outside turned velvet and the first stars started to glitter. 

“Did you tell them it was your birthday?” Shun murmured. 

Suki had curled up in a white circle on Raidou’s lap. He rumpled her ears, winning a contented purr that vibrated along the tops of his thighs. “Didn’t have to. G— Shiranui had already pulled the date from my file.” 

“And?” Ume prompted. 

And Genma and Kurenai had shown up one unexpected evening, as soon as things had settled enough for a square inch of breathing room. Armed with smiles like a warm secret and a little canvas bag that had contained, among other things, a blindfold. The memory of the night that followed lingered like a banked fire in Raidou’s chest, sending sparks down to his fingertips any time he poked the coals.

He declined to share this, too. 

“Hatake gave me a scroll on genjutsu techniques,” he said. 

Ume looked nonplussed. Shun arched a delicately inquiring eyebrow. “Helpful resource or asshole commentary?” 

“Both, I think. But on the balance, more helpful than not.” 

“Hm.” Shun settled back. A ‘Hm’ from her could mean many things: agreement, disagreement, placeholder, censure. In this context, Raidou thought it probably stood for judgement reserved. 

“That’s still rude!” Ume said, looking outraged. 

Raidou shrugged. “Could be worse. For Shiranui’s birthday, he broke into his apartment and left him a poisonous cactus and a laundry list of security improvements.” 

A fascinated beat of silence followed this. 

“What did Shiranui do?” Shun asked. 

“Squeaked over the cactus,” Raidou said, with a little smile, remembering. 

Kurenai had joined them shortly after that, bringing cake and verbal fencing and subtle concern for Genma’s bruises. They’d agreed to their first date at that dinner.

At Ume’s visible confusion, Raidou added: “He likes poisons, remember?” 

“Oh yes,” Ume said. “Well, I guess someone should.” 

“Yes,” Shun said firmly. “We need the knowledge, which requires someone to have the interest. Lots of someones, for preference.” 

Ume looked doubtful, but conceded the point with a grimace. 

“Tousaki gave me soap,” Raidou said, trailing this bait as a likely distraction. “And Shiranui brought me a cake he decorated himself.”   

Happily, this snared everyone’s attention. Raidou spent an entertaining few minutes describing the buckwheat exfoliator and seaweed extract moisturizer that Ryouma had presented him (with a bow on top), as well as the accompanying lecture on skincare, which Ume fiercely endorsed (“What do you mean you were still washing your face with regular soap?”). Genma’s matcha cake with spun sugar decorations in the shape of miniature kunai, ANBU masks, and kodachi was also received with warm praise — and a mild rebuke that Raidou hadn’t thought to bring any with him (mostly because it had all been eaten). 

“I’m cursed that my only child is a selfish son,” Ume said, with dramatic anguish. 

“Yep,” said Raidou. 

“At least he’s a well-fed one,” said Shun. “And washed, now.” 

“I washed before,” Raidou said, ignoring Ume’s mutter of regular soap

They played a last round of games. Shun mopped the floor with everyone, because she cheated with a blank-faced subtlety that was as impressive as it was annoying. Suki walked up and down on Raidou’s lap, kneading his thighs and gently needling holes into his jeans. 

It was fully dark outside when Raidou made his excuses, which Shun accepted with a silent nod and Ume bewailed as if the roof was falling. He hugged them both tightly. 

Shun put a hand on his shoulder when he released her, giving it a squeeze. Effortlessly, Raidou decoded this familiar gesture. Proud of you

Ume kissed him on the cheek. “Twenty-four,” she said softly. “You make me feel so old.” 

Raidou laughed and picked her up off her feet, which made her shriek and slap his biceps. “Shun, help! Kidnap! Save me from this beast!” 

“You made him,” Shun observed. 

“Beast-mom,” Raidou said, still laughing. 

“I hate you all,” Ume said, but she was laughing when Raidou set her back down. 

He left them in the warm glow of the porch light. Shun looped an arm around Ume’s waist, snugging her close, a dark protective shadow around her civilian lady. Suki twined between her shins. 

It made going back to ANBU easy, knowing they were there. The little heart of his family in the center of Konoha, wrapped in the cloak of the village’s protection. 

Or it would have, if he were going back to ANBU tonight. 

His evening target was only a stone’s throw from the Hokage’s palace, less than a five minute walk from Intel HQ. Raidou took it at a stroll, enjoying the lingering heat still radiating from the dusty streets. He reached the building, found the staircase, climbed it to the roof. 

A lush garden greeted him, netted in the confines of a low-walled rooftop. He spotted styrax, with its drooping white flowers, hosta with deep purple leaves, yellow irises, lonicera draped in tiny bluish-purple berries, and more kinds of ferns than he could name. A tiny water feature burbled quietly, surrounded by young bamboo. Leafing vegetables had been carefully cultivated in metal planters and wooden boxes: he spotted shiso, mitsuba, horenso, and kometsuna at a glance, and knew there would be more if he kept looking. But his attention had gone to the door, standing partway open, and the person in it. 

Kurenai smiled at him. She wore a silk robe, open at the neck and thigh, showing pearly stretches of skin. Her hair was loose around her shoulders. A subtle red mark lingered just below one collarbone, not yet a bruise. Her lipstick, normally impeccable, was smeared. 

Behind her, a shadow moved, and then Genma came forward to slide one arm around her waist and rest his chin on her shoulder. She allowed this with a tilt of her hip, accepting his weight. 

He was shirtless, bare arms and shoulders catching light from the stormglass lamp next to the door. His hair was also down, curling around his neck. His mouth looked bitten and red, but it stretched to a lazy, pleased smile. 

Raidou caught his breath. Heat spread dangerously from his chest to his spine, and places further south. He’d known they were planning to meet before him, but knowing and seeing… 

It wasn’t jealousy. It was too warm and intent for that, not poisonous claws in his ribs. Fascination, intrigue, sharp, bright pleasure at the sight of them, fitting so neatly together, but still with space for him. When he spoke, it came out deep. “Started without me?” 

“Rule 36,” Genma said. His voice had a rasp to it, as if he’d used it for louder purposes recently. “But don’t worry, there’s more than enough for all of us.” 

Kurenai tipped her head sideways to glance at Genma, mouth curling in amusement. “‘A shinobi never wastes opportunity or supplies’?” she quoted dryly. “Well, you certainly didn’t.” She slid one hand down to rest on Genma’s arm, still circled around her waist, and reached the other out for Raidou. “Come in.” 

Raidou took her hand, small, strong fingers wrapping around his own, and let himself be pulled inside. 

It wasn’t his birthday anymore. Genma resumed full duty in a few days, Kakashi’s hands were healing, Kurenai had her own assignments, and Ryouma — well, Ryouma was Ryouma. But as Raidou kicked the door closed behind him, taking in the shadowed details of her apartment — normally immaculate, now much less so — it still felt like a celebration. Or perhaps, he thought, as they wrapped around him, Genma’s mouth finding his jaw, Kurenai’s talented hands going to his belt buckle, a gift. 

One he did not mean to waste. 

He kissed them back, first one then the other, and somehow they all made it to the bed. 

2 thoughts on “Breathing Room

  1. Ahhhhhhhhhhhh *dissolves to incoherent screeches* how do u hurt me so???

    I love themmmmmm! This made me so ridiculously happy, from Raidou’s little home slice with his mothers to how he found a space for himself with Genma and Kurenai. I just adore them so much, and the way you write them. I’m happy this tender scene made it in, and that they’re finding their slices of happiness amidst ANBU’s gruelling missions. Beautiful! Thank you ❤️

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