Yes, it's morbid. It was meant to be even more morbid, but the residue of my post-vacation good spirits prevented me from making it any darker. The idea actually attacked me as I was returning from a week-long camping trip and trying to scrub dirt out from underneath my fingernails. Ninja have worse things than dirt to deal with, though.

As for the title: I'm guilty of pulling in words from other languages, here. Sanglant is French for blood-covered, and it's appropriately close to sang gant, or, more correctly, gant de sang (glove of blood). It attacked me along with the first two lines of the fic and refused to let go, so I acquiesced to its request and let it remain.


She should have worn gloves.

That was Kurenai's first, ridiculous thought, as the blood fountained hot over her hands and the boy's limp body slumped against her chest. She hadn't expected there to be so much blood. Asuma's face was drenched in it, wide eyes caught halfway between relief and shock in a crimson mask that turned his familiar features into something out of one of Kurenai's worst genjutsu. His mouth moved, but the last explosion had temporarily deafened her; she heard only a dull buzzing competing with the dying gurgle of the Iwagakure genin whose throat she'd just slit.

But it wasn't Asuma's blood that covered his face and dripped down his dirty shirt. It wasn't his blood that gloved her hands and made the hilt of the kunai slick in her palm. It wasn't his weight that sagged soddenly against her, still twitching a little as the heart pumped itself dry. She should have been grateful for that. The Stone ninja had been about to kill her teammate, after all, and it shouldn't matter that he had big brown eyes and a face still round with baby-fat, and that he couldn't possibly be older than twelve or thirteen. That was only two years younger than Asuma and Kurenai, and it was old enough to kill.

She cleared her throat. Her voice still worked reasonably well, even if her ears didn't. "Are you okay?"

Asuma touched the tips of his bloody fingers to his own throat, as if he still expected to feel the tip of the kunai that had been about to slam its way through his collarbone. She couldn't tell what blood was his and what had sprayed from the slashed throat of the boy she'd just killed, but Asuma wasn't falling over yet so she must have been fast enough. He said something else. He was tall enough, and the dead boy short and slumped enough, that she could read his lips over the shock of unruly brown hair. "I'm fine. Are you?"

"Yeah." Her right shoulder was probably embedded with half a dozen chunks of rock from the boulder the last explosion note had torn apart, but it still worked. The rest of her was scratched and scraped and aching so badly that a week of massages probably wouldn't get half the knots out, but she was alive, and her enemies weren't. That was fine, wasn't it?

A muscle twitched in Asuma's jaw. He dug in a vest pocket, produced a cigarette and lighter, and took a long puff. "Um. You could let him go now."

"Oh. Right." She wrenched her kunai out through gristle and bone and stepped back, watching the body crumple at her feet. The brown eyes were wide and staring, already glazed over. Most of the lower face and upper chest were soaked in blood. She dropped the kunai on the body and rubbed her hands together, feeling the same blood smear and pull at her skin. "Where's sensei?"

Asuma shrugged, then jerked his head to the left. "Over there, last I saw. He was taking the jounin on." He hesitated, dragging deeply on his cigarette. The red glow at the end flared a little brighter, burning away the bloodstains his fingers had left. "Kurenai—thanks."

She dropped her eyes again. After a moment she stooped and picked up her kunai, shoving it back in its holster without bothering to clean it. She might need it later. There might be more little boys lurking around waiting to kill or be killed, after all. More big brown eyes looking to stare sightlessly into eternity, more childish round faces desperate for death.

"Anytime," she said.

That night, she scrubbed her hands until the skin broke and blood oozed in crimson drops over the raw flesh, but she still couldn't get the last crumbling flakes of the boy's blood from under her fingernails, and she still couldn't wash that sight of Asuma's blood-drenched face from her mind.

It's kill or be killed. And when it's more than her life at stake, she knows she'll don those gloves of blood again.