It's not that he didn't know he died. That fact is pretty easy to understand and become comfortable with after a matter of hours. It's that he somehow ended up as a baby in another universe absolutely nothing like his own; a world where children as young as three were soldiers and war was fought with magic. (It's not magic, but he'd thought as much for a solid year!)

Aikawa Toshiro is born in Konoha, during one of the hottest summers they'd ever experienced, as war raged around them and more came home scarred than not, if at all. The memories don't really settle in his head right for a bit. By the time he really gets a grasp on everything and takes a few hours to overcome the idea of reincarnation, he's in an orphanage.

His parents are the victims of war.

He's young enough that no one really expects him to feel sad, or even understand the concept of death in a concrete sense, so he doesn't. Feel sad, that is. Because he's not, really. There's only foggy baby memories of them, and while it's certainly disappointing and he feels bad, there isn't enough of a connection to warrant any mourning on his part.

He's two. Soon to be three. The orphanage is a run-down, overpopulated disaster zone, new children arrive by the boatload. He sits back. He observes. He learns. Clan kids never arrive, kept by relatives no matter how distant. Any child four and older is watched for intelligence and skill, then plucked from the orphanage to join the academy. Kids like that are given their own apartment and an 'allowance', though incredibly meager and generally only enough to keep the kids fed. The economy is equally in shambles and booming. There's not enough of some things, sickening amounts of others. Weapon production is at an all time high.

Some kids go missing.

Toshiro doesn't know if anyone notices, or even cares. (But he resolves to not end up like them, because he can't do anything for them, harsh as it sounds. Not like this, in this tiny, weak body.) Children are quite literally drafted, ninja coming by at random intervals to swing some big speech about village loyalty, the will of fire, power and knowledge. All the while, their sharp, piercing gazes sweep the hundreds of tiny, dirty faces peering back, looking for anyone with signs of genius. Of potential.

He finds out the hard way that he is woefully out of his league, and avoiding the gazes of these recruitment nin is more difficult than he realized. Toshiro learns a lot about what happens to children shunted into single-bedroom apartments to fight in a war because he becomes one of them.

(This happens when he's four, just old enough to make the cut. They would have taken him earlier, he knows, if the Hokage didn't have some semblance of restraint and guilt over sending literal children with baby fat padding their cheeks into battle with men.)

Toshiro is not a coward, per se. But he's not interested in fighting a battle like this, when he's not sure he even cares enough for the village to put his life on the line for it. Alas, he doesn't have a choice. They say he does, of course, but they're lying. Toshiro doesn't want to become one of those children who disappear. The route of civilians is safety and a slow, meandering pace. So much time to walk about and breathe. Shinobi are born sprinting, reckless and flashing out like fireworks, their life expectancy just a snap of fingers in length.

Toshiro learns to run.

They call him a genius, and maybe he is. But he has the body of a child and very little motivation beyond his own survival. It becomes obvious that he is a genius of the mind rather than the body, but at this point the shinobi system will take what they can get.

So he gets his apartment, with it's dusty corners and leaky kitchen faucet and the fridge that seems to hum a little too loud — and he trains. He trains until he heaves up half the meals he chokes down, his bruises grow bruises and calluses practically fall off his hands to leave thicker, hardier skin behind.

He doesn't make friends. Friends would be a liability. If he makes it out of this alive, if the war ends and peace happens, then he'll think about making friends. That way it might hurt a little less. All the kids around him act like this is a game — no, that's a lie. Anyone not from a clan acts like it is. They're playing ninja, running with knives in their hands and saying 'I win!' when they successfully push each other in the dirt.

Except that distancing doesn't work. Not a hundred percent.

It still hurts to watch children fold like a house of cards, too small to be formless and gaping on the soil, crimson spilling from carved flesh. Toshiro counts fourteen dead children by the time he's nine, and by then he's only been in the field for a year after graduating at eight. It's not impressive. Everyone is graduating at eight, and that sickens him.

His fighting skills are average, the chakra in his veins average, the only thing extraordinary about him is his mind. And, he finds out, his control of chakra. He pulls it tight into his core and vanishes from the senses of others, which lets him slit the throat of his adversary before they see him coming. It's the twelfth man he's killed — though man is a relative term, it was 8 men and 4 women — and while he's sitting in the middle of the forest among the corpse of the one he'd killed and the six others who'd made up both his team and the opposing one — dust in his lungs, iron in his nose and flaking, hot crimson under his nails, the lone survivor for the third time — he realizes he wants more.

Aikawa Toshiro is fifteen years old. His hair is ashy blond and mostly straight, chopped short around his ears but a little longer on top. (He's thinking about growing it out, Yukimura-sensei's dark hair tied back in a bun had an appealing look to it. No, he wasn't attracted to her, but her hair style was inspiring.) His eyes are stunning, sakura petal pink and a faint spray of freckles trails across his nose and cheekbones.

He'd been asked out by six different girls during his first year of work. One day he'll get enough courage to tell everyone that the reason he's not interested is because he likes dick. Unfortunately, that day is not today. He doesn't have enough sway — enough power — beyond the hospital to be protected by prejudice. It's easier among shinobi, most taking the live fast, eat ass motto pretty seriously. They didn't care who slept with who because if you were gonna die sooner rather than later, might as well fuck who you wanna. Clans were stricter, some older members straight up homophobic. The civilians were the worst, wrapped up in heternomative societal norms and traditions. There were pockets of LGBT friendly areas, but they weren't advertised to the public or even protected. (In fact it had taken forever to find them. And he never actually went in, because it was a place for civilians. He supposes he just wanted to know if they existed at all.)

The Third Great Shinobi War ended when he was ten, and those two years of active duty had been completely and utterly traumatizing and an amazing incentive to begin pursuing something else entirely. Healing. Utilizing his stellar chakra control and intellect, Toshiro went above and beyond the education of the average Medic Nin within four years, and it's been a year of working in the hospital. As a Chuunin, he's able to be a doctor all on his own after a mandatory observational period.

Which was over now, one year after officially beginning work at the hospital not as an intern-slash-student. So.


And a Doctor. Of sorts. Medic Nin, technically.

In that year, he'd taken one look at the shambles the hospital had fallen into while attempting to pick itself back up after a fucking war and the desertion of the infamous Senju Tsunade (say what you want, it was a fucking desertion, and the only reason she wasn't being hunted like the missing nin she technically is was because their esteemed hokage was a man with a weak will and selfish sympathy), and thought, Oh no, this won't do.

Now he's basically running the Shinobi Trauma Ward. And has an office. It's all very fancy and official. He breathes hospital air and sleeps more at his desk than in his own bed. It's during one such impromptu nap that there's a knock on his door. And everyone knows it's his nap time, because he'd posted a little note on his door saying FUCK OFF, all caps and underlined and everything, which means something really fucking bad is happening.

"Come in." He grumbles, voice heavy with sleep. He pulls a paper off his cheek, sure that there will be lines on his face from the sleeping position.

The door opens, revealing a mousy looking woman with deep brown hair and eyes, her mouth set in a grim line. Tsutomu Hanako, 27, Shinobi Trauma Team Member for six years and one of the few not pissed about the fact that a fifteen year old boy was running the department.

"Sorry," she says, and she even looks it for a moment, "We need you out here."

Toshiro heaves himself up, "Alright, what's the damage."

"ANBU Unit of six, two with minor injuries, three with major and one in critical condition." Hanako explains as they briskly walk down the halls. They're lucky it's not a busy night.

The great thing about the Trauma Team? They're all professionals. With brains. Before Senju-sama reinvented the Hospital system, the medical profession was basically a joke. It was Konoha's weakest point because almost all efforts were poured into the offensive front. Team work, battle, hit fast and make it last! That was how Konoha nin rolled, until Tsunade pulled everyone's head out of their asses and said, Hey, maybe not so many people would fuckin' die if we actually learned how to put on a bandaid.

She had changed the game. Then left. Which was really the only thing Toshiro was mad about. Because it left a bunch of semi-competent people scrambling for order, with only like, five people who actually knew everything they needed to. Konoha was not as old as everyone liked to think. All these kids running around? Clueless. Did they even realize the walls around them hadn't even hit a hundred years old yet? People from the First Great Shinobi War were still around. (Which was amazing in itself, surviving three fucking wars, even if they'd been too old to fight in the most recent one.)

The hospital was desperate for Medic Nin.

First and foremost, it was seen as both civilian and women's work. Thanks, sexism. Secondly, ninja were never actively encouraged to pursue healing as a learning subject. Toshiro remembered quite clearly that, in the four years he'd attended the academy, the focus was heavy Konoha propaganda that verged on brainwashing, battle tactics, and fighting. Shinobi were expected to harm, to bleed and to kill. The hospital struggled because the amount of Medic Nin was completely overwhelmed by the amount of civilian doctors.

Doctors which couldn't heal shinobi. At least, not traumatized, moderate to severely injured shinobi. To protect the civilian doctors from the panic and pain-fueled instincts of an injured shinobi, only Medic Nin could see them. And ANBU or Hunter Nin? Forget it! Medic Nin or no one. Regretfully, there have already been multiple incidents of civilian doctors getting hurt — from nasty cuts to near-strangulation — because, as previously stated, there weren't enough Medic Nin. Brave souls, those civilian doctors. Some of them, anyway.

Tsunade had been close, though. Her appeal to have one Medic Nin per team was not only ingenious, it would have also lowered the casualty rate substantially. Unfortunately, the Council was made up of a bunch of shit heads. For most of those old, tradition-obsessed fools, being a healer was equivalent to being weak. Tsunade broke the mold by being a frontline medic, but not the ingrained stigma. One day they'll learn that just because you stayed at the rear, just because you didn't jump before looking, didn't mean you couldn't defend yourself. And that Tsunade's capability to kill and heal was not an individual trait.

They arrive at the main entrance, which is a flurry of activity. The hospital is really, really badly designed in the way that there are no secret entrances for ANBU, no separate waiting rooms for ninja and civilians, no fucking privacy for ninja coming in, screaming in pain with possible missing limbs or any other ailment. The amount of civilians who came to the hospital to be healed only to walk away traumatized by the sight of a near-feral jounin gripping where his leg used to be and screaming was astronomical. (Injury varied, though. There weren't as many legless shinobi as implied. Really.)

Toshiro takes a deep breath and pretends he didn't just get this promotion last month. Prioritize, prioritize, prioritize. "Ueno-san, the two with minor injuries. Yokoharu-san, Ito-san, Gedou-san, pick an ANBU, pick a team." He barks out the orders, projecting his voice above the rabble. The four Medic Nin immediately set to work, stretchers brought in and younger Medic Apprentices called over for assistance.

There's already a man on one of the stretchers. The critical one. "Tsutomu-san, with me." He says, heading right for the man, who looks unconscious. Maybe not.

"Inu." For the mask can mean no one else. Toshiro has never personally attended to the man, but the guy has been in the hospital a lot. And never for long, no matter the injury. He was the bane of every Medic Nin's existence.

There's only a grunt in response, the entire man's body trembling and taut as a bowstring. Toshiro is already moving. With Hanako, he pushes the stretcher at lightning speed down the hall to the first OR available. There's blood. A lot of it. Toshiro eyes the man's body as they walk with squinted, rosy eyes. Eight lacerations, at least. Possible poisoning. Probable concussion. Broken arm. Likely to be other broken bones. Ribs at risk.

"Inu," he says when they're tucked in a room, two other medical attendees following them in. He keeps his voice controlled and authoritative, a trait he'd picked up first as a nine year old on the battlefield, then as one of the only male shinobi trying to fight his way into the hospital. Yukimura-sensei was a harsh teacher. Also a godsend. "If you are able to respond, do so. You're safe, we're in Konoha. I'm going to perform the Diagnostic Jutsu. If you attack me I will be very displeased."

Another grunt, but at least the man doesn't look like he's going to be moving any time soon. Toshiro's hands light up with chakra, and he begins.

"I hope you aren't thinking of sneaking out that window." Toshiro's voice is authoritative enough to give the man pause from his attempted escape — one leg dangling out the window. Fucking ANBU.

There's no response.

Toshiro sighs and shuts the door behind him. The ANBU's shoulders seem to slump a little when he realizes Toshiro isn't leaving. "Get inside."

Slowly, painfully, the man hefts himself back into the room and stands beside the hospital bed. Toshiro watches with dispassionate eyes. Whatever pain Inu is feeling was brought on by his own stupidity.

"You realize you've been here a total of two days." He begins, walking closer and ignoring the tensing of the man's shoulders. "You've only recently woken up, and while the Mystical Palm Technique is excellent at sealing wounds and purging poison, it can't replenish your chakra. Of which you are currently severely lacking."

"...It is sufficient." Comes the whisper, not even dulled by the mask. God, what Toshiro wouldn't give to get a look at the seals they used.

"Out of the two of us, who is the medical professional?" The question is redundant, of course, so he bulldozes forward without waiting for a response. "It's not sufficient. What you need is rest. And another round of treatment. No soldier pills."

The ANBU looks very… awkward. It's late afternoon, the sun just beginning to slip under the treeline visible from the open window. Orange-tinted rays turn the white room into peach and spun-gold, the gray of the man's hair aglow like a flame. He holds himself tensely, likely from pain but also from something else. Inu isn't bulky. He's lean muscle, skin yellow with bruises and pink with new and old scars, the hospital clothes hang shapelessly off his frame (they'd taken everything but the ceramic mask, his ANBU uniform taken away just last night). He looks, surprisingly… young. Even if he is a good five inches taller than Toshiro.

Spinning these details through his brain for a second, Toshiro comes to the conclusion that the guy probably isn't much older than him. (Operating on the guy had at least told Toshiro that Inu was young, maybe twenties. Maybe younger.) So. Definitely socially and emotionally stunted, like every child soldier the Third War churned out.

Toshiro doesn't know Inu's actual name or face. He didn't ask and he didn't look. Inu is an ANBU, so it's expected. Medical history is rarely shared, almost never stored. (Another disaster that needs to be sorted.) Allergies? Not always something they can get out of a patient if they're badly injured and incoherent. Running on luck is not how Toshiro wants to run a hospital.

Is that the plan? He hums to himself. Hospital takeover?

"Get back in bed." He orders after another silence.

Inu sits.

Toshiro very painfully refrains from saying Good boy. Heh. Dog puns.

The ANBU is quiet and stiff as Toshiro passes chakra heavy hands over his body, checking the rate of recovery and status of his current ailments. Inu could run and be out of here before Toshiro even blinks. He's not stupid. He knows the man far outclasses him in skill. Toshiro has always known that while he can hold his own, his fighting capabilities will never be S class like they were required to be for Black Ops. So it says something that Inu decided to stay. Social awkwardness, definitely.

"The poison didn't leave any lasting effects." He says in the silence, the sky shifting into sunset hues. Inu's hair shines pink and gold. "Your concussion is… nearly healed. You may still feel nauseous, so if you end up needing to puke, you know where the bathroom is."

Inu's body language doesn't give much away. He's still coiled like a spring and doing the exact opposite of what he should be — which is relaxing. Ninja are the absolute worst patients. Toshiro frowns.

"Get some sleep, Inu." He says, and hopes it sounds like an order. "We both know I can't stop you from leaving, but you're not cleared for duty so sleeping here won't be any different from sleeping at home. At least here you'll have access to medical attention if something crops up."

There's another long, quiet moment — then Inu settles back, pulling himself fully onto the bed and under the covers with heavy reluctance and painful slowness. Something like a huff can be heard, barely more than an exhale. "Yes, sensei."

It's drawled, though the tenor of the man's voice is still way too...soldier-like. Still, the hint of exasperation from behind the mask is both a relief and mildly telling of Inu's age. Toshiro nods shortly, flashing a tired smile and hoping the deep bags under his rosy eyes aren't too terrifying. It's a little refreshing to be taken seriously. The world was aware of freaky genius children with abilities far beyond their years — that didn't mean people liked being bossed around by someone younger than them. Toshiro still dealt with shinobi who assumed him to be some child playing doctor rather than the Head of the Shinobi Trauma Ward.

"Aikawa Toshiro." He introduces, realizing belatedly how impolite he had been in not doing it upon entering the room. "You know the drill. Seal at the bedside if you need a nurse, they'll grab me if you want me."

Predictably, Inu does not return the introduction. (Toshiro expects nothing less.)

Toshiro takes a lot of notes. He fills notebooks upon notebooks with potential ideas for the future, plans to improve the hospital system and maybe even throw the entire village into political upheaval. (Those notes were more like 3 am delusions after not sleeping for three days straight.) He doesn't know what kind of person he'd be if he didn't have the maturity and early clarity of a previous life backing him, so he's thankful for it at times like these.

"I understand your concerns, Aikawa-sensei." The hospital director is a gaunt, pale woman with gray-streaked black hair and piercing silver eyes. They have something of a reluctant partnership, because she sees him as wild and revolutionary, which is dangerous in a shinobi village.

"Do you?" He quips, sitting across from her in the uncomfortable little chair provided. His legs are crossed, notebook open on one knee and fingers absently tracing the sentences inscribed there. "Then you agree with the motions I'm putting forward?"

Aoyama-sensei's office is sparse and white, like the rest of the hospital. She probably spends just as much time as he does here, if not more, but there's no personal touches anywhere aside from a little plant on her desk. Toshiro's office is filled with too many notebooks, filing cabinets, about fifteen plants, a futon and an assortment of knick-knacks he'd squirreled away over time.

He likes shiny things.

Aoyama-sensei pinches the bridge of her nose. "We don't have the funding, Aikawa-sensei. Don't protest — I agree with you. The hospital could desperately use some remodeling, both for updates and for easier… handling of patients. It means nothing when the Council denies us at every turn! We had to struggle for the funding we manage to receive already."

Toshiro purses his lips. "If I show them my plans?"

Aoyama-sensei raises her brows, face marred with slight exasperation. "I'm sure some of them would appreciate the benefit that would come with it, others would laugh in your face. They are not willing to spend money if they do not have to."

"Then I'll make them see that they have to," he declares, "How else do they expect a village to prosper if they do not allow it to grow? Aren't plant metaphors Konoha's thing?"

She offers a quaint smile, "I will express your… plans to my greatest ability."

Toshiro sighs, "No way I can do it myself?"

"You know that won't happen." She murmurs, just a hint of remorse in her tone, "Not until you take my job, that is."

"Oh?" He grins, pretending he's not feeling the weight of her first words pressing on his chest. Konoha, for all its claims about being a peaceful place for the people, tended to choke out the voices of their population. If you had no clan, you weren't seen. If you had no power or reputation, you weren't heard. He was a clanless orphan who lived in the same one-bedroom apartment he'd been gifted as a four year old. He'd made no waves in the war, had no special ability or skill to attract attention. No, Aikawa Toshiro was just a guy living his second life, throwing caution to the wind and setting his sights on changing the world for the better. Might as well, right?

(He thinks of eight year old bodies lined up, mutilated and staring unseeingly into the abyss of a dark sky. He'd only been carrying two body scrolls. How do you choose which child to bring back? Which to leave alone in the forest, left in the carnage and rot? Logic. Clan kids had higher importance. He hated it. Hated it, hated the bitter feeling of leaving a kid behind, taking the corpse of his sensei and the corpse of an eight year old Inuzuka with him. What made them better than the other one? The clanless kid who deserved just as much, just not in the eyes of the elite? There's some measure of vindication, knowing a clanless kid like him had been the only one to survive, even if the other had fallen. It's a poisonous, regretful thought, because none of them had deserved to die.)

"Don't act smug," She interrupts his thoughts, "You're not ignorant enough to not know you're the most considered replacement, you only lack experience and age. It's why I can't finally retire. A few more years under your belt, and this damn office is all yours, kid."

"I'm gonna tear them apart." Is what he settles on, not sure what expression he's conveying, though his lips have pulled into some semblance of a smile.

Aoyama-sensei matches him, her own grin unrepentant and sharp, making her look like the shinobi people sometimes forget she is. "I'm counting on it."

"Inu." He says, very little inflection in his voice. He's not surprised to see the ANBU. This is a hospital and the man is a ninja. "What a relief, you're not critically injured this time. Might even get away with leaving tonight."

If Inu cares for Toshiro's dry tone, he says nothing of it. Still, Toshiro feels like the ANBU's eyes are on him, peering from behind that painted, ceramic mask. Toshiro doesn't take the silence personally.

They're lucky enough that the night is slow once more, and the ANBU team that shows up isn't very injured — and only three of them are even here, which speaks for the success of the mission because ANBU squads generally contain six members. (At least, that's what Toshiro has observed.) Maybe it's sensitive information, maybe it's not. Either way, a separate entrance for shinobi would help keep away gossip and rumors spread by curious civilians.

A Council meeting is taking place today, and Toshiro feels like his heart is about to leap from his chest with how much anxiety he's feeling. If Aoyama-sensei plays her cards right — well, his cards, but same thing — then maybe some change would be heading their way soon. He's trying very hard not to get his hopes up, because she'd been right the other day. The Council would burst out laughing at the audacity of a clanless, fifteen-year-old Medic Nin's proposal. Especially when it included them spending money where they didn't want to.

With the amount of money they put into their shinobi forces, you'd think the education system would be better and the kunai would be gold-plated.

"Aikawa-sensei." Inu finally replies in a stilted greeting, and Toshiro is actually a little surprised the man remembered his name.

"You can walk, right? Follow me and I'll fix up that arm for you." Toshiro moves away from the desk area, heading straight down the hall to the nearest free room. If it weren't for the fact that the ANBU wasn't hiding his chakra, Toshiro wouldn't have even noticed the man following him. Moving silently isn't a skill only the Elite know, Toshiro is pretty good at it himself, but Inu seems to take it to a whole new level, erasing his very presence. Toshiro doesn't even feel the weight of eyes on him, even though he knows he's being watched.

Inu lets him disinfect and stitch up the wound down his forearm without a single complaint. Not even a wince. Not unusual, but sad. Very...sad. With his glove and forearm protector off, Toshiro is left looking at an arm not only baring the freshly stitched wound, but the marks of many previous scars. A hand and wrist covered in… lightning burns. Very telling. Either Inu has a lightning chakra nature, or had a bad run in with a lightning jutsu. Judging by the fork-in-a-socket look Inu's hair pulls off, Toshiro is pretty sure it was the man's chakra nature.

He runs a chakra coated hand over the wound, sealing up the worst of it. "No poison detected, the stitches will dissolve in two days. Try not to get them wet — sorry, you probably know all this." There's a bit of a joke in there, "Seeing as this is your favorite place in the village."

Inu twitches a little, the subtlest roll of shoulder muscles. "I'm not entirely medically incompetent."

"Oh ho?" Toshiro raises a brow. "I'll believe it when I see it, flight-risk."

He pretends he doesn't hear the man exhale in a way that sounds close to a laugh. There's still too much tension in Inu's body for humor. Toshiro wonders if the other knows the meaning of the word relax.

"Go home." He finally says, releasing the man's arm with another cursory glance. "You're taking up space."

The man is gone within the next blink.

Bad news, the Council remains filled with dipshits who get their rocks off on sabotaging the livelihoods of future generations. His proposal (delivered through Aoyama-sensei's mouth) is rejected. It's not surprising, not really. But it smarts a bit. Turns out he'd held a little more hope in this endeavor than he'd realized.

So he stews in his thoughts and makes a few more lists out of stress, reorders all his cabinets again, then goes out and buys a cute little mint plant to sit next to the little cactus he'd gotten last month, imported from Suna. It grinds his gears, but he can wait. He's only fifteen.

In a world that uses children as cannon fodder.

Ok, so maybe he's more pissed than he lets on, but that's not surprising. He never shows the full scope of his emotions. It's better that way. Easier to not get attached or have people get attached to you. A habit he still hasn't broken out of, even five years after the war. Guess the trauma is a little more deep-rooted than anticipated, mature mind or not.

He thinks he's forgotten how to… accept being lonely. Admitting it. He's gone a bit numb, frankly speaking.

Speaking of…

He makes another note on a stray piece of paper.


The words are swiftly underlined twice, and he puts the note next to his new mint plant. Hopefully he won't forget it.

In other news — not good, not bad, just… news — Inu's mission return schedule seems to suddenly line up with Toshiro's shifts. It feels like he always ends up patching up the man, unless another shinobi is critically injured, and it's gotten to the point where Toshiro almost feels like the man is seeking him out.

Well, he thinks, I suppose he just trusts me a little more. Maybe?

Get patched up by the same face every time and you're bound to be Pavlov'd. It could be a lot of things, actually. His age, for one. Child genius finding comfort in another 'supposed' child genius. Because Toshiro was very obviously fifteen and very obviously in charge. Stunted kids related more to stunted kids. Loathe as he is to admit his own faulty mental health, a childhood in Konoha fucked him up. Like, a lot.

"You know," he murmurs one day, hands coated in Inu's blood and shining with healing chakra. "You keep showing up here and I might start thinkin' ya like me."

The slice isn't too terrible, but it must be painful, feeling the flesh of your leg knit itself together. Sage knows no self-respecting ninja would take painkillers fresh off a mission. Idiots.

He almost misses the weak laugh.

It's an odd sound, it almost sounds distorted; except Toshiro knows by now that those ANBU masks somehow let voices be heard clear as day. After a moment he comes to the realization that it's probably because Inu has forgotten how to laugh, so the sound is heavy with discomfort and shock, perhaps at his own slip up.

So he says nothing, and neither does Inu.