|About A Boy
Author: Quillslinger PM
On chakra colors and bad haircuts. In the mountains of Kirigakure, two ANBU captains meet.Rated: Fiction T - English - Friendship/Humor - Shisui U. & Ao - Words: 3,597 - Reviews: 30 - Favs: 75 - Follows: 1 - Published: 04-12-10 - Status: Complete - id: 5893458
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
It can only be masochism that leads a person to write gen fic about two incredibly minor characters in a highly improbable scenario. I blame this on my desperate need to write Shisui from an external POV, one that isn't Itachi or Madara or some other Uchiha.
Anyway, in case you guys do not remember (and really, who does?), Ao is the Godaime Mizukage's bodyguard at the Kage Summit, the Byakugan thief. He is the only non-Uchiha character known to have interacted with Shisui within canon. This entire story sprung from the following quote:
"The color of his chakra in his right shoulder and arm... and even his right eye... no doubt about it. It's Uchiha Shisui's color. I fought him once... I'll never forget that color." (Ao, Naruto Ch. 459)
Some further notes: 'Ao' means blue. 'Aka' means red. 'Momoiro' means pink. Just... go with it.
About A Boy
Ao met the kid when they were both on the trail of a notorious Kiri missing-nin, a genjutsu master known rather vaguely as the Phantom of the Mist. As these things so often went, they both immediately mistook each other for the target, and spent most of the meet-and-greet making spirited efforts at attempted murder. In retrospect, the initial reports from Intelligence could have been a bit more specific, but that was bureaucracy for you.
This comedy of errors would have been a lot more entertaining had it not ended in Ao and his back getting intimate with a large boulder, in a dirty maneuver on his opponent's part involving the fastest fucking Shunshin he had ever seen. Lashes of pain whipped hard and fast up his spine, every breath in his body slammed up against a sudden blockade in his throat.
The masked shinobi was almost on top of him, pressing a rain-slick katana to Ao's throat, elbow jammed painfully in his solar plexus. His chakra glowed an intense, throbbing red, like the heart of a pulsing fire, and just before the Byakugan faded, Ao felt for an instant like he was staring down a minor sun.
The eyes behind the animal mask seemed to be boring down into his face—the impact had knocked off his own mask, and he could feel the spray of rain light and cool on his skin.
"That's funny," his assailant muttered, in a strangely young voice. "I don't remember Intel's report saying anything about the Phantom of the Mist having a Byakugan."
From there, the situation devolved rapidly from bad to humiliating.
"—and how was I supposed to know—"
"—were acting completely suspicious—"
"—dressed like a Kiri hunter-nin—"
"—flitting around like some kind of ghost—"
"—seeing through my advanced genjutsu—"
"—using advanced genjutsu—"
The not-Phantom made a frustrated noise and ripped off his mask, and now Ao could see that he was young, sixteen or thereabout, practically a kid. Maybe about Aka's age, Ao found himself thinking, and then mentally kicked himself for it.
The boy had a riot of dark curls, plastered flat to his head and dripping with water. His thin lips were blue and pruny, possibly from the drizzle but probably from the Suiton he'd taken to the face earlier between Shunshin leaps, which Ao counted as a victory for trackers everywhere.
After a tense and silence-filled moment, the slanted eyes flickered from crimson to black, and their owner said, in a tragically demoralized voice, "Basically, you're telling me I just spent half a day tailing and fighting the wrong guy?"
Ao was tempted to point out that, correctly speaking, it was him who'd been doing most of the tailing that day, but his chest was still smarting from first contact with an armored elbow, so he settled instead for a willfully laconic, "Looks that way, doesn't it?"
The boy made a choked, hysterical noise in his throat. "Well, shit," he said, slapping one hand over his face.
Ao's newest acquaintance introduced himself as a member of the Konoha ANBU, which Ao had already kind of deduced. He and his comrades had arrived in Kirigakure a week prior, contracted out to a client with some sort of personal vendetta against the Phantom of the Mist. Things, Ao had also deduced, had not been going particularly well for them since.
"He took out our squad's tracker right off the bat," the boy said vehemently, dropping to the forest floor. "Then Yuudai and Kagura both came down with some kind of plague, and I had to leave them back at the hotel. I've been mucking around these mountains for days. Forget kunai and jutsu, when I get my hands on this Phantom asshole, I'm going to wring his goddamn neck."
Ao nodded in sympathy, almost in spite of himself. The rest of his squad had also been incapacitated by the Phantom, and up until running into the boy, Ao had been seriously considering abandoning the mission (and his pride), and returning to headquarters to request backup. This was obviously not an option for the Konoha shinobi.
"I'm a tracker," he stated purposefully. "And I know the geography around here like the palm of my hand."
The boy tilted his head up, and smiled for the first time, blithe and almost throwaway. "Yeah, I sort of figured. What's your point?"
"You're a genjutsu specialist," Ao went on. "We both need the Phantom dead. Two is a team."
The boy stared at Ao for a moment, thumb across his lips. Then he rocked a little forward on his haunches, eyes gleaming with kindling enthusiasm. "Not a bad idea, oldster. I mean, Konoha and Kiri aren't allies or anything, but there hasn't been any direct conflict in recent memory, far as I can tell. Who knows, if we succeed, this might even bolster diplomatic relations."
Ao was not as nearly predisposed to such fits of baseless optimism, so instead, he said, "The name's Ao. I'm a hunter-nin and ANBU squad captain. What do you go by?"
"Momoiro," answered the boy with a completely straight face. Under Ao's widely exasperated glare, he threw up his hand and said, "Alright, alright! It's Shisui. Uchiha Shisui. Happy?"
"It's pointless to lie," Ao told him. "If the people of your clan wanted more anonymity, maybe you should consider developing a less conspicuous kekkei genkai."
In truth, this was Ao's first encounter with a member of the infamous Uchiha Clan of Konoha, though he'd heard enough about them over the years to know he was dealing with a peculiar case.
"I suppose that's true," Shisui said, rubbing his neck sheepishly and further cementing his oddball status. "Hey, it's not like I was expecting you to give your real name either. What kind of name is Ao anyway? I thought you were going for some kind of color-themed aliases system."
Ao was never, ever, ever telling any of the guys back in the village about his defeat at the hand of 'Shunshin no Shisui', at least not without a whole bunch of embellishments. Most of his underlings were cheeky enough as it was; he shuddered to think of the hitherto unknown levels of insubordination this charming adventure in international relations might inspire.
Shisui, as it turned out, was a scant fifteen—and an ANBU captain, a fact which simultaneously made Ao want to raise an eyebrow and explode in intensely bitter jealousy. He couldn't help but wonder, somewhat meanly, if the last shinobi war had left Konoha so depleted of manpower that they'd taken to promoting babies to high-stake leadership positions. Then again, it wasn't as if Kiri was unknown for unorthodox child-management practices or anything.
When he voiced his (highly editorialized) opinion, Shisui just laughed and said, "That's nothing. You should see my cousin—kid's thirteen, and they just made him captain last month too. Seriously, he is one crazy little gnome."
Mentions of his relative seemed to imbue a certain softness into the snappish curve of Shisui's grin. Family kind of guy, Ao thought. He probably shouldn't find that endearing, but did.
"So," Shisui began, deliberately conversational, "how'd you come by that Byakugan? I'm pretty sure that's not on the list of Konoha's chief exports."
Ao barely resisted the urge to roll his eyes. "Once upon a time, I fought and killed a Hyuuga," he said dryly. "And being a hunter-nin, I happened to have all these surgical equipment on hand. I'll give you three guesses as to what happened next."
Shisui made a face. "I think I threw up in my mouth a little."
Then, without warning, a sudden sharpness edged in from the corner of his eyes. "You've never attacked an Uchiha and taken his Sharingan, have you?" Shisui asked, voice tense.
Ao felt a frown pull at his brows. "If I did, what makes you think I'd tell you?" he said, and contemplated activating his Byakugan. Just in case.
Shisui continued to look wary for a moment, and then shook his head in dismissal. "Couldn't have been you, anyway," he said cryptically. "You Kiri guys never leave your damn island. You've probably never set foot in the Fire Country all your life."
Ao couldn't honestly disagree with that.
They spent the rest of the day investigating a series of slimy and distressingly labyrinthine caves, from which emanated strange noises that Ao insisted were just the wind but that Shisui swore were telltale signs of the Phantom. He was wrong, but the experience did afford the two of them an intimate embrace with nature in the form of a run-in with a gargantuan spider and its slightly smaller but equally vicious offspring. Nothing said partnership solidarity like pulling arachnid intestines out of each other's hair at the end of a day.
Shisui's wavy hair was badly-kempt, and fared spectacularly poorly in the perpetually moody weather of the Water Country. The first time he sneezed, Ao made the mistake of remarking—quite innocently—that walking around with a wet mane was a likely cause for the so-called plague his teammates had contracted. He thought nothing of it until the next time they stopped to make camp, when Shisui sharpened a kunai and began chopping off his hair in wads.
By the time Ao stopped blinking in disbelief, several large, uneven chunks had already fallen casualty to the cause, so he did the only charitable thing to do and ordered Shisui to hand over the kunai. The boy immediately raised his guards, sending Ao a suspicious, narrow-eyed look. It took an act of enormous will on Ao's part not to roll his eyes and remind Shisui that he was a seasoned ANBU, with access to an arsenal of weapons, at any given time, even.
"You're not bad at this," Shisui said, after a moment. "Got a lot of practice?"
"Some," Ao replied. "I used to cut my little brother's hair when he was alive."
"What happened to him?"
"Failed his graduation exam."
"Oh." A thorough lack of surprise accompanied this utterance. "Sorry."
"It happens." All the time, actually. Sometimes, it truly depressed Ao how far and wide his village's reputation had spread. "You said you knew someone who had his Sharingan stolen?"
"I never said that."
"Yeah, you did."
"Fine. It was my dad. Couple of months ago, in fact."
Silence followed this statement. Shisui shifted uneasily, and hunkered lower into his own bones, shoulders pulled taut into a bow. Fingers tracing a tattoo on his upper arm. A kind of adolescent unhappiness, unfeigned and palpable in its sheer youngness. For reasons unknown, the sight made a strange shadow press against the plane of Ao's mind. Aka, he found himself thinking, the association making no more sense now than it had the first time.
So he said, in the lightest tone he could manage, "Guess that explains why you were allowed to leave the house looking like an unshaven maneater."
"Hey," Shisui said feelingly. "You don't see me making fun of your stylish coiffeur. How early in the morning do you have to get up to get it to look like that anyway? Just thinking about your monthly hair product bill makes my wallet hurt."
It took three more days before they finally tracked down the Phantom's hideout, and by this time Shisui had almost entirely forgiven Ao for the fact that he was now practically bald.
"By the way," Ao started, "I should probably tell you that, since it's my duty as a hunter to dispose of the target's body and take the head back as proof of success, I can't let you have the Phantom's head."
Shisui gave him a strange look. "Who said anything about taking his head? You can have all the body parts you want. My mission's to retrieve something the bastard stole from the client. Anyway, I got something to tell you too."
"What is it?"
"This Phantom guy from what I can tell moves like, well, a fucking phantom, and likes to stay hidden and lob genjutsu at you from afar. I can probably break most of his attacks, but that'll take for-fucking-ever and he might escape again. So, I was wondering if you could…"
Shisui pursed his lips thoughtfully. "I was wondering if you could use the Byakugan to scope his position, and then lure him into the open. Even for just a second. Think you can do that?"
"Not a problem," Ao said carefully. "But why should I?"
"There's this new technique I want to try out," Shisui said simply. "Just… trust me on this."
Later, while they were setting up the ambush, Shisui abruptly turned to him and said, "Do you know where I can buy some sea-salt dango?"
Ao blinked. "I think they sell them in the markets down in the village. Why?"
"Oh, nothing," Shisui said stiltedly. "I heard they were a local delicacy. Thought I might bring some back to Konoha. You know, as a gift."
For some reason, the shells of his ears were turning a curious shade of pink that would, ironically, do his fake name proud. Ao couldn't help but care a little more. He didn't know what was popular with the kids nowadays, but distinctly recalled that, in his days, it was usually the kunoichi who liked to employ culinary seduction. But he had no time to subject Shisui to some good old-fashioned manly hazing, because right then the Phantom of the Mist sauntered straight into their trap, and proceeded to go full-scale ape-shit and hostile.
The battle unfolded with insulting predictability. The Phantom remained stubbornly out of sight, and Shisui flickered gracefully in and out of reality with such effortlessness that Ao was starting to feel like he was the only actual human on the scene, caught in a conflict between immortals.
In the end, it came down to a stroke of blind luck with the Byakugan—pun unintended—and an uncharacteristically suicidal move on his part that succeeded in pissing off their target to the point that he decided to throw caution to the wind and abandon his hiding place in favor of treating Ao to some up close and personal mental torture.
The rain was coming down in vicious sheets, icy water running in rivulets down his face and neck, and Ao was half-certain he was seeing the face of death when the Phantom of the Mist paused abruptly in his track, rearing back in what appeared to be a violent seizure of agony.
Ao blinked the rain out of his eyes, and saw Shisui stepping out of the rising mist, silhouette almost wraithlike in gangly teenagehood. His eyes were pinned open, transfixed to some point on the back of the Phantom's head. The black flecks in his red irises swirled at a dizzying speed. The color of his chakra had changed, Ao noted with a start—the former brightness darkened to an almost bruise-purple, shot through with tinges of black.
In front of him, the Phantom of the Mist had stopped convulsing. His eyes were blank, no sign of intelligence behind the pale surfaces. Casually, he reached for the knife at his hip, unsheathed it, and dragged the blade across his throat in a single stroke, fluid and economical. Throughout all this, his face remained slack and untroubled, as though death had overtaken him even before the knife met his skin. As blood spilled from the slit in his neck, he crumpled to the ground in a heap.
"Not bad for a first run," Shisui said coldly, and wiped a thin trickle of blood from his nose. He walked up to the contorted corpse, rifled around in the sodden clothes for a moment before fishing out what looked, for all intents and purposes, like a long jade prayer beads.
"That's what you were supposed to retrieve for your client?" Ao asked, and managed to keep the tremor of anxiety out of his voice. He almost had to force himself to deactivate the Byakugan. "Seems like a lot to go through for a bit of jewelry, doesn't it? What's so important about it?"
Shisui shrugged. "Who knows? Maybe it's got sentimental values." He opened his weapon pouch, and carefully slipped the beads inside. "Well, that's all for me. I should, uh, leave you to your work, shouldn't I?"
"You can stay if you want," Ao said, unrolling his equipment on the forest floor. "I don't particularly care." As if on cue, all the strains of the past few days began rushing up at him, filling his bones to the core, but at least for this portion of the job he could proceed on auto-pilot.
He blamed his exhaustion for the fact that he felt somehow reluctant to meet Shisui's eyes.
The boy didn't seem to notice. He had made his way over to a tree stump, sitting with one leg pulled up to his chest, chin balanced on top of his knee. His under-the-lashes gaze flicked easily from place to place, periodically coming to linger on the short work Ao was making of the Phantom's corpse. It was almost fascinating, the way he vacillated seamlessly from loose-limbed to jittery and immediately back again. For the moment, he seemed like a person who had sunken beneath his own skin, all the buoyant, frothy excess energy erased like chalk off a blackboard.
But Shisui's eyes were dark and still again, no trace of the former spiraling rage, and Ao didn't need the Byakugan to know that the aura they emitted had purged itself of the darkness, once more bright and carelessly warm.
A few days later, Ao went down to the harbor to see Shisui off. He found the boy kicking around on the rickety dock, killing time until his boat finished loading. His traveling cloak flapped wildly, billowed out around him in the rippling sea breeze. Ao walked right up to him, and pressed into Shisui's hand a carefully wrapped packet of authentic Kirigakure sea-salt dango.
"Call it a parting gift," he told Shisui. "Personally I think these are a bit of an acquired taste, but hopefully your little girlfriend will like it."
Shisui blanched visibly. "They're for my cousin!" he protested, clutching the packet to his chest like a chastity shield.
Ao raised an eyebrow. "If that's what you're into," he said with a shrug.
Shisui scowled, and made a gesture considered highly offensive in four of the Five Great Nations and several disputed territories.
"This might be kind of a long shot," he said, lapsing back into his easy smile, "but try to drop by if you're ever in the area. There is life outside the island, you know. I'll introduce you to my cousin. My cousin with whom I have a totally platonic brotherly relationship."
"Sure," Ao said, returning the smile. "Looks like the boat's done loading. You'd better get going."
"It's been a slice," Shisui said, head cocked in a cheesy salute.
Ao stood on the dock watching the small boat glide out into the cloud-edged horizon, and wondered idly what part of Shisui he would remember the most, should he never get around to taking the boy up on his invitation. He thought it might be the coltish mannerisms, the scatty gaze, or the wide, lopsided grin, but would later be proven wrong. Years from now, it would not be any of these things for which he would remember Uchiha Shisui, not his poor harassed hair or weird incestuous fixation—not even his enviable speed or the mysterious, unsettling power of his Sharingan that Ao was certain would someday carve out a place for him in the shinobi world.
Instead, what would end up staying with him the longest was simply this: the color of Shisui's chakra, flame-bright and vivid as watercolors. Flaring like an ignited match, and just as warm.