The Girl in the Squad

Chapter Six

The Yakiniku Q was bustling with people by the time Hanabi deigned to enter the place. She had arrived with minutes to spare. She had really wanted to skip, but frankly, the thought of sleeping in the training ground forty-four just to avoid her teammates ended up becoming just a silly thought when the morning came around.

She just had to act half-civil and half-rude as was her usual demeanor and they'd drop the issue, leaving her, hopefully, in peace.

And she was going to wring the food for all its worth.

"Hey there, moody girl! We're all here!" Karin exclaimed, waving at her from the other end of the restaurant.

Hanabi walked stiffly to where the rest of her team was, already seated and with the menu open in front of them. There was a fifth unopened menu standing at the side of the table, between Sai and Juugo, as if they were expecting someone else to come.

"Who else is coming?" Hanabi asked.

"No one," Karin replied. "We took their last free table."

"A table doesn't normally seat five," Hanabi replied curtly, warily taking half a step back and narrowing her eyes. "And there'd be no need for a fifth menu if someone else wasn't coming."

"Now, now, pipe down girl," Karin said, both hands gesturing at her to sit. "Honest mistake of the waiter, and I didn't correct him. That's all. Sheesh!"

Hanabi glared at Karin, and then sat firmly next to Juugo. Sai was in front of her, and Karin was instead in front of Juugo, and by Sai's side.

The table was in fact made of two smaller tables attached together, with one end against the wall. Karin's words could have been true, but Hanabi didn't trust her.

"Are you going to remain high-strung the entire evening?" Karin said with a smile. "Come on, loosen up a bit girlie," the redhead's hands clasped together as she dropped her chin on it. "You're going to break like glass if you keep this up."

"I am not glass," Hanabi retorted, her eyes flicking in annoyance towards the entrance of the Yakiniku, as if expecting the mysterious fifth person to arrive. "I am-"

"Pouty," Sai quipped in. He raised an eyebrow next. "No? Sulky? Moody?"

Hanabi sputtered. "No, I'm-"

"Don't make her uncomfortable," Juugo said with a soft voice. "We should all get along."

Karin rolled her eyes, "All right, it was just some friendly banter."

Hanabi looked at Juugo, and a small smile settled on her lips. "At least there's one person with a modicum of good manners."

Sheepishly, Juugo scratched the back of his neck.

The waiter arrived from the kitchens with nimble speed, and quickly took down the order of all-you-could eat meat buffet –Akimichi excluded from the offer- from the entire table.

"So, what's your story?" Karin asked.

"My story?" Hanabi raised an eyebrow.

"Yes, your story, captain, what's your story? I'd like to know if you've got triggers, because it's not funny trying to settle down to sleep next to a trigger happy ninja."

"We already slept next to one another during our missions," Hanabi pointed out, but Karin just smirked.

"I meant off duty, of course."

Hanabi spluttered. "I am not interested!"

"That's because you haven't tried me yet," Karin replied with a cheeky voice. "Once you go red, you'll want nothing else in its stead."

"I can't believe this," Hanabi whispered. "Perversion must be an Uzumaki trait."

Karin shrugged. "It's funny to see you all riled up. It shows the human beneath the glass. Well, for the others, I know you're human anyway, can't lie to my ultimate sensing skills," she stuck her tongue out. "I'm in your thoughts, reading your mind, woo-hoo."

"I am glad we do not have an expansive person as our captain," Sai drawled out. "One is tiresome enough."

"I am not expansive," Karin said. "Someone's got to be the people person in here. You're crude, Juugo's shy, and captain Chibi is clearly unable of loosening up, so it falls to me to be the very best people person there is."

"It's not a mission requirement to field a people person," Hanabi pointed out.

"What? Why not?" Karin pouted back. "It should be!"

"The only important thing in a mission is to return alive," Hanabi said. "Nothing else matters."

"Oh? Not even completing the mission?" Karin acquiesced. "That's a bit cowardly, isn't it?"

"If you can't succeed, why try?" Hanabi whispered, shaking her head. "It's stupid."

Karin turned thoughtful, before drumming her fingers against the table and remarking, "Well, some things are worth it."

Hanabi's fists clenched. "I don't think so."

The waiter returned with the drinks ordered, and soon the meat was brought to the sizzling metal in front of them.

Juugo had instead vegetables. Hanabi wouldn't have pegged him for a vegetarian, but he did have a bird chirping on his shoulder.

"So good," Karin moaned as she chewed on a piece of juicy steak. "If someone had told me I'd end up with enough money to eat steak every day, I'd have killed them for making a pathetic joke," she chuckled. "Come on, eat up Chibi-Captain! I'm the one offering, isn't free food supposed to taste better?"

Hanabi rolled her eyes once, and then started to eat with composure and uttermost care.

Wolf had promised to offer a round of meat. Bird had promised to offer a round of meat. Everyone had promised that, but in the end, Bird had been the only one to keep the promise in the end, and even that had been soiled by the presence of his teammates.

She shouldn't be bitter about it, and maybe this was being childish, but Bird should have offered meat to her and Wolf alone, because the others hadn't earned it in the trenches. They hadn't earned it in the mud.

But this team, her team, actually, had they earned it?

They had been with her in the mud. Technically, shouldn't she be the one offering them the food?

Wasn't it the duty of the captain to take care of the subordinates?

"The next one," Hanabi said offhandedly, as if it was an order rather than a suggestion, "Is on me."

Karin grinned. "All right Chibi-captain, the next one is on you," she winked.

Hanabi chuckled. Maybe being the captain of this team of misfits wouldn't be so horrible after all.

Author's notes

No, sorry. Can't do it. I'm putting this out to claim the 'end' of this story. I can't muster any more creative juice for this. Sorry folks, but the story ends with this 'surprisingly' positive point of a dinner out.

Lots of stuff happened across time, and this is done like this.

Sorry to disappoint, or, hey, consider this some sort of 'avant-guard' ending with positive note, but anyway…

Sorry. (And there's Nanowrimo too. Damn it.)