Shizune and Genma are not mine. They belong only to each other! (stay away, Kabuto!) Written after writing the word NO on the foggy bathroom mirror after a burning shower. Inspiration, inspiration.

It starts with no. A loud, resounding no, issuing from my mouth without even a split-moment of hesitation. No matter where we are. No matter the time. No matter how we feel. No matter.

It always starts with no.

No matter where we are, no matter the time, no matter how we feel, you always grin. A wry smile, that silver senbon in the right corner of your mouth bouncing in the movement as you raise the left side, narrowing your eyes in the same fluid motion. I look away and refuse to meet your eyes.

The answer it still no.

You don't mention it until you think the time is right. I know you'll bring it up again, but I never have a chance to escape you. There's always work to be done. No matter where we are, no matter the time, no matter how I'm feeling. Papers to be sorted, jobs to be posted, patients to be healed, a lethargic Hokage to put in gear. Sometimes, there's even missions to be done. I can't change my schedule to avoid you because you're always everywhere I need to be.

It's called a life, Genma. Get one.

Sometimes, you help me sort papers and post jobs. I'd rather say yes than allow you to enter the hospital as a medic, and you and Tsunade spend too much time drinking as it is. Missions? Aren't you always there?

But most of the time, you stand back and watch, wearing me down with just your steady, black-eyed gaze. I do my absolute best to ignore you, and while on the outside, I do a damn good job, my mind is in shambles by the time my work is finished. I can't imagine how many times I've wondered what you were thinking. I like to insult you by making fun of your long, blank stares; but to tell the truth, I know there's something going on behind your eyes.

It's still no, I tell you as I straighten up from the last stack of papers, massaging my right wrist. I've used it badly over the years, and now it tires too easily, the aches and numbness interfering with my desire to work.

You saunter over, no matter where we are, no matter what time it is, no matter how we feel, and pull my arm away, rubbing your fingers down the tendons and sensitive skin. I'm a medic kunoichi with the ability to entirely erase the pain in my arm, but I let you continue because your fingers are lighter than the fingers of anyone I've ever met. I don't understand how you can ease the pain by this simple touch, but it always works.

After a moment of this guilty pleasure, I pull away, straighten the desk one last time, and head for the door. You're already outside, waiting for me beside the stairs with an uneven smile on your face. I walk right past, intent on ignoring you yet again. But it never really works; you simply slip up behind me and slide your arm through one of mine, or join your hand with mine. Hidden in the sleeve of my yukata, your fingers will interlace with mine while your thumb strokes the back of my hand. I'll keep ignoring you, but when you pull me off the road and into a small restaurant, I'll go willingly enough.

You buy dinner. You always do. I once tested you by ordered the most expensive meal on the menu. You went and ordered the most expensive sake to go with it.

We talk, sometimes, about things entirely non-related to work of any sort. Like our childhoods. Of course, having both grown up during the Great Shinobi War, it's not about swing-sets and swimming lessons for us. No, we talk about the first invasion, the time the academy shut down for three months because there was no one to teach, or when Genma's older brother was kidnapped by Mist. We can actually laugh during this story, because the fact that the thirteen-year-old killed five of the Mist chunin before he was tortured into insanity is, in a way, cheerful.

I ask you how he's doing, and you smile with both sides of your mouth this time. I know that this smile is the sad smile, the wistful smile, the hoping smile, the human smile. You tell me he didn't recognize you the last time you went for a visit, and that his caretaker says the nightmares are to the point that he wakes up screaming as if someone had just stuck a knife in his heart.

Sometimes we stay late. Usually, we don't. And as we walk out of the restaurant, I turn to you, quelling the mischievous look in your eyes by saying no.

I always try to get you to let me walk home on my own, or to let me walk you home. But you never relent, and when I wind up at my front door, you're beside me, waiting for an invitation inside. I never give it and always try to keep myself between you and the door as I insert my key and turn the lock. But you always slip inside before the door closes, disappearing down the short hall-way.

I hear the clink of glasses as I hang my jacket on the hook beside the door and slip my feet out of my high-heeled sandals. For a moment, I entertain the thought of replacing your senbon with one of my own poisoned needles. Then I unfasten the arm brace that holds said instruments and set it on the small table beside the door.

You hand me a glass of colorless sake as I enter the kitchen, but I set it on the counter and don't touch it again. I used to drink it, but you always won more easily on those nights. And even though you always win, I won't ever make it easy again. I still harbor a hope that someday, you'll listen to me. But listening never was your strong point, and the hope is faint.

What are your strong points?

Well, I've already mentioned your fingers. Light and soft, your touch precise. I'd expect no less from a senbon user, but you have a special sort of touch. No matter how drunk you are, your hands are always light, easing me into a mind-numbing relaxation.

Your smile. As you pull me into the living room or bedroom, that smile is always the one thing I keep my eyes on. No, I tell you, but the smile and I both realize that my no lacks strength.

Your tenderness. I've always wondered if you'd get angry with my persistent negative answers; you never have. You're as gentle with me tonight as you were the first time. In a life of war and violence, tough fa├žades and stern attitudes, your tenderness is what breaks me. It's exactly what I need in a friend.

It's exactly what I need in a lover.

Sometimes, when we're curled up on the couch, wrapped so tightly together that you wonder how our clothes fit between us, I wonder what would happen if I said yes. Would you stare at me for a moment before sending your senbon into a vital spot, then walk off to find the real Shizune? Or would you take it as acceptance and no longer hide our entwined hands in the sleeve of my yukata?

I decided that it's all irrelevant, because you understand that my no has zero power. No matter where we are, what time it is, or how we're feeling, you understand what I mean without having to pay any attention to my answers. Maybe it comes from our similarities. Maybe it comes from our differences. Perhaps, as Tsunade says, it really is time for me to get a husband. Or perhaps we're simply meant to be this way.

You don't hide the fact that you love me. The way you never push the sex, the way you're always willing to just cuddle, the way you cradle my head and hum softly in my ear, proves that. I don't hide the fact that I don't believe in love unless it's concerning you. I don't love Tsunade-sama. I don't love Raido or Iwashi. These people frustrate me, and while you do the same, it's when you drop the bad-ass attitude and wrap your arms around me that I realize that I still love you. Just you.

You pull me closer against you, and in that moment, we are no-where. There is no time. And all we feel is each other.

The power of the pairing never ends! Reviews are awfully appreciated...