Title: In Dreams We Live
Characters: Anko, Genma
Challenge: Naruto500 #25 (sleepwalking)
In Dreams We Live
"It's like sleepwalking, sometimes," Genma said.
Anko looked at the Jounin. He was leaning against the wall, looking at the village below. There was, for once, no senbon stuck between his lips. She'd gone after him because of that. She'd sat down and waited for him to say something. Now that he did, it surprised her.
"You go into a fight and the colors fade out and all you see is red and black shapes, and the chakra lines and the best attack spots," he continued.
Anko had always thought he mumbled because of the senbon, but it was just his way of speaking. He swallowed half his words. Sometimes he forgot the verbs. Sometimes he forgot to speak at all and just i looked /i - with the corners of his mouth tugged down in a frown. She could guess the words and the missing verbs, but his stares she could never interpret. She only thought he seemed lost, and maybe that was all these empty looks were supposed to say.
She looked at his hands as they idly played with a senbon. It was crusted with blood. She didn't want to know how long he had been twiddling it between his fingers already. There was blood on his hands, too. Dried and cracked - stained from a fight that had ended hours ago.
"Like sleepwalking, eh?" She didn't know what to say.
He closed his eyes and raised his hand, as if to explain to a scholar. She waited for sweeping gestures, but they never came. "Yeah," he answered, resting the hand tiredly on his leg again. "You go into a fight and the colors fade - and there are red chakra lines and black silhouettes and everything else fades to gray."
She looked down. The others said he'd seen too much. They said he'd lost too many, had survived too many. He was an old shinobi. Thirty, now. Four years older than Kakashi. Or was it five? She had stopped counting. They all looked old, anyway. Older than their years – even the children were already frowning and limping.
Anko wanted to put a hand on his shoulder to comfort him. In the end, she just ripped out a grass and twined it around her finger until the cup was red and started hurting from lack of blood. It was too late, anyway. Last time she had wanted to go after him, Asuma had shaken his head and held her back. "He's lost too many," Asuma had said. "He's seen too much."
Anko leaned forward now. Genma had lines around his mouth and eyes. He hardly laughed anymore. She wanted him to. He'd always made her giggle when she was younger. But then, she frowned and looked at her hands, there wasn't much to laugh at, these days.
Suddenly, Genma looked at Anko, looked at her with that old, empty gaze and said, "It's like sleepwalking. You go into a fight and the colors fade and everything turns to gray, except for the blood and the chakra lines and the best places for a needle attack. And then you wake up and you see what you've done – and the color's still not back."
Then he got up and stuck the blood-crusted senbon between his lips. He left without saying goodbye. Anko stayed. She didn't want to follow him. She didn't want to go down that path.