Who knows how long he stood there watching? His hands lay at his side unmoving; he had too much control to let them tremble. Something was wrong. Maybe he was sick? This wasn't like him at all. He had done this hundreds, if not thousands of times before. It was routine now. Sometimes he even did ten or twelve a week. So why was this one bothering him?

"You kill people a lot don't you?"

Kabuto showed no signs of being startled. "Yes."

"You don't find that weird? I mean, you are a doctor right?"

"… technically, yes."

"So it really doesn't bother you that you're murdering me?"

"No."

"Liar." The boy settled back as comfortably as he could on the operating table. "Well in case you're wondering, it really doesn't bother me."

"… oh."

Ryumaru glared up at the medic. "That was a well thought out conversation opener! The least you could do is pretend to be even slightly interested!"

"Hm?"

"You're supposed to ask me why. Then I launch off into my life story and right before the really interesting part I say 'well enough about me, what about you?' then surprised, you let your guard down. Then you tell me your life story. We become fast friends and you either sneak me out, or, in a fit of nobility, I refuse to let you risk you life for me and I die here so you don't get in trouble. Either way, your heart is touched and you turn from evil. That's the way it's supposed to go! Don't you read?"

"Medical journals…"

"Damn, you are dull." The silver haired medic didn't respond. Instead he concentrated on the charts tacked to the shelf behind the bed. Ryumaru stretched and yawned loudly, his shock of orange hair flopping forward into his eyes.

"…you shouldn't be able to move…"

"Yeah well, it hurts like hell. But hey, I'm used to pain."

"Ah."

"What the hell is wrong with you!" His green eyes snapped in irritation. "That's the second conversation opener you brushed off! Don't you want to know why I've got immunity to pain?"

"Not particularly. I don't care much for conversation."

"So you don't care much for your patients either?"

"No."

The talkative boy sighed. "Well fine, since you're not going to talk, I will. I was lying. I just don't feel like sniveling like a girl, that's all. There's really not much interesting about me. Hell, the most interesting thing that ever happened to me is dying now, ironic isn't it?" Politely he waited for an answer, knowing he wasn't going to get one. "My family was pretty typical. Parents both farmers, both still alive in fact. My father never abused my mother or any of us kids. Mother was always there with just the right soft word to dry any tear. And nobody could make anko like kaa-san! My big sister always claimed I was an annoyance, but during harvest when kaa-san was out late, Yura was always the one tucking us in at night. My grandfather was a shinobi long ago, so he taught all of us how to bend chakra and do basic jutsu. You wouldn't believe how fast a couple of shadow clones can get planting done. How I got here? Well I went out just wandering around pretty far from my house. It started raining hard and in a few minutes the river overflowed, so I was stuck. Some oto-nin were passing and I didn't even last five seconds. Then Wha la! I'm here."

He looked around. "Were you even listening?"

Kabuto put down his file, smothering a growl. "No."

"Oh. Okay then….what's your name?"

"Look, I have important paperwork to do. If you'd be so kind as to keep quiet, it would be greatly appreciated."

"Oh." Several seconds passed and Ryumaru began to fidget restlessly. "I'm Yami Ryumaru by the way. Supposedly our family escaped Yamigakure before it was destroyed a hundred years ago. Pretty much all the village secrets died with the people, although my sister can still create shadow needles."

"You talk too much."

"And you don't talk enough. Hey, I know. We can play chess!"

After years of working with Orochimaru, very few people had the ability to unnerve Yakushi Kabuto. But this boy… all Kabuto wanted to do right now was get a firm handle on his neck and squeeze until even he couldn't talk. But for some reason, he had yet to kill him. His fingers clenched and unclenched at his side, trying to decide exactly how to explain strangulation marks to Orochimaru-sama.

"Well? You play chess?" Fleetingly Kabuto wondered if Orochimaru would really mind having Sasuke try out some moves on this boy. He needed a living target after all… "Um… hello? I'm dying here. The least you can do is let me enjoy the last couple of moments of my life… unless you're afraid I'll beat you."

"Goading will not work… however I will play, IF AND ONLY IF you SHUT UP!"

Ryumaru grinned. "You've got a deal Medic-kun."

"…Medic-kun?"

"Well you won't tell me your name."

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It didn't take long to locate a chessboard. If truth be told, Kabuto quite enjoyed playing. If his opponent wasn't quite so annoying he might have actually been glad to find someone to play against.

"You are controlling and manipulative."

Kabuto's brow furrowed in confusion. "What?"

Ryumaru pointed to his first three moves. "My main priority is to try to attack as many pieces as I could to weaken your side, since I'm the kind of person who likes to charge in head first… that's why I never win. You on the other hand, tend to want to control the board and manipulate my pieces where you want them. Which is good for chess; that means you'll win. But it sucks for a personality."

For a moment light from the ceiling reflected off his glasses and hid his eyes. A chilling smile that didn't reach his eyes crossed his face. "Then doesn't that mean I'd be more likely to succeed in life as well?"

"Ambitions, yes. But you'll be pretty lonely."

"Good."

Kabuto easily detected the other's trembling fingers as he made his next move. "So you don't have anybody you care about?"

"No." Kabuto captured a pawn.

"Not even one person?"

"No."

"You know, you always adjust your glasses so people can't see your eyes when you're lying."

"And your fingers twitch when you lie."

The orange haired boy blinked at him, then burst out into laughter. "Alright! You got me! I'm no farm boy. I'm a chuunin …"

"From Iwagakure, I know. You have old scars on your feet that are identical to scars received during Iwa genin training. Konoha and Suna genin both wear shoes during training."

"So," Ryumaru took a bishop, "you knew all along."

"I'm a medic." Another pawn.

"The infamous Yakushi-san. I never did get your first name though."

"Good."

"So, who is that special person you lied about not having? Orochimaru?"

"No. Checkmate."

"What! How…" Sure enough, his king was cut off by a queen and a rook. "No way!"

"You talk too much instead of paying attention."

"Rematch! I'm white this time."

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You think I'm blind…you think I don't see the way your hand tremble when you make a move. You think I know when you sigh in frustration and throw yourself back, that it's really because it hurts too much to sit up. You think I don't understand that when your eyes narrow to contemplate a move, that it's because you lack the strength to keep them open. You think I'm blind…

"What are you doing?"

"It's part of the experiment. Hold still." A needle slid slowly into Ryumaru's arm.

"So what's this one supposed to make me do, sprout wings?"

"…hn…"

The chuunin managed a small smile as the pain slowly faded from his body. "Just when I think I've figured you out, you turn around and surprise me."

"…check."

"Wha? You little… give me painkillers and then move while I'm distracted!" He glared and moved a rook between his king and Kabuto's queen. "Your move."

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They played for over an hour, Ryumaru losing every game. "You're either really good at … this… or I'm worse…than I remembered…" He doubled over, coughing. His shoulders jerked violently as blood flew from his mouth.

"You lasted longer than expected."

"How… sentimental. What can I say… I'm a trooper…So doc, how…much time do…I have?"

"Two minutes."

"Kabuto?" Sasuke cast odd glances between the medic, the chuunin and the chessboard. "What the hell?"

"Did you need something Sasuke-kun?"

"…I'm bored."

"Oh…" Ryumaru's eyes widened in recognition as he looked back and forth between the two. He smiled weakly at Kabuto. "I think I see now…" His laugh was cut short by a second bout of coughing. "…I see now… why you lied about him Kabuto-kun. I'll bet… Orochimaru would be upset…"

"…what is he ranting about Kabuto?"

"You know, you should watch what you say Iwa-nin."

"Or what? You'll…kill me?" Ryumaru dropped the ivory piece he was holding. His eyes became hazy and out of focus. The medic leaned over to check his vitals, only to find his arm locked in a vise-like grip. Sasuke tensed, ready to fight, but Kabuto waved him back. "You know…" the chuunin whispered, "you know…you'll have to hang on to him. Orochimaru… has a habit of taking someone's special person away… you're going to have to…protect him…if you want to keep him."

"…I know."

"That's good…to hear. Who knows… you might just …become something good…" The thin fingers loosened and the hand fell away.

"Is he dead?"

"…hai." Out of curiosity more than anything else, Sasuke picked up the chess piece and placed it on the board where his Sharingan had told him the iwa-nin was intending to put it.

"Was that going to be his move?"

"Hai. What about it?"

Kabuto eyed the board impassively before turning back to cataloguing and bagging the body. "He would have won…"

The young Uchiha snorted. "Pathetic. Dying right before finishing."

"You play chess Sasuke-kun?"

"…it's a game for old fools."

"I suppose it is."

"You seem to enjoy it."

"Aw, jealous Sasuke-kun?"

"Che."

The silver-haired boy wheeled the body out on a gurney to storage for later examination. He came back moments later to find Sasuke glaring at the board. He had set up all the pieces the way the instructions had shown. "What the hell are you supposed to do with these things anyway?"

Although the rest of his face remained emotionless, a smile shone in the medic's eyes. "You see, it's a game of strategy…