'We are here and it is now. Further than that all human knowledge is moonshine.'

H. L. Mencken.

- - -

In the grand scheme of things, even the littlest of events have their significance – butterflies and hurricanes and all that jazz. Sometimes, it's the tiniest of stones that cause the biggest ripples and when the infinite threads of possibility spread out in front of an event, who can tell what it was that made one path more likely than the numerous others? Maybe it was a tree falling a fraction to the left and missing a vital organ that it may have crushed. Maybe it was a punch that damaged a body instead of destroying it. Maybe it was one twelve year old boy succeeding in bringing another home where once a battle may have ended in tragedy and betrayal.

In the grand scheme of things, there are many, many options.

In the grand scheme of things, none of that matters because only one path is walked – in an instant, all others become 'could have been's.

This is their could have been.

- - -

'For those rebellious, here their Prison ordain'd 

In utter darkness, and their portion set 

As far remov'd from God and light of Heav'n 

As from the Center thrice to th' utmost Pole. 

O how unlike the place from whence they fell!'

John Milton, Paradise Lost: Book One

- - -

Theoretically, there are worse places to be than the top of a pine tree at midnight on the shortest and coldest day of the year and, here, the key word is theoretically. With the wind breathing spitefully down her neck and making a mockery of her standard issue winter gear, Tayuya curses the unlucky twist of fate that left her with sentry duty on this bitterest of nights. Her fingers ache persistently as they do in cold weather, a gift from the falling tree that failed to take her life, but broke every single digit on each of her hands, plus a handful of ribs, her collarbone and six separate bones in her legs.

Kabuto said she was lucky. But he wasn't the one who had to suffer through rehab as her body struggled to learn its way around itself once more.

Tayuya works those now-healed fingers again, carefully folding each knuckle and tucking them against her callused palms. Her gloves gave up two weeks ago and a supply mission won't arrive for another two months. Until then, she has to live with the cold.

This is the reality of border patrol. Four-month stints – a third of a year – spent sitting at the southernmost end of Rice Country, with only the hostile environment and the ever-present Konoha contingent on the other side of that invisible line for company. It has been this way with monotonous regularity for the past five years, give or take a few bloodstained months when actual battles were fought instead of this silent standoff.

This is the war that was predicted to be over in less than half a year. Instead, it has dragged on for ten times that, draining both sides of money, supplies and warriors. Konoha and Suna face Oto and Kumo. The Mizukage has remained neutral, while the Tsuchikage has fought for both sides on separate occasions. The people of Rain country take advantage of the turmoil in the nations when they aren't fighting among themselves.

And where once Tayuya would have weathered that war in the relative safety of the command centre, of Orochimaru's inner circle, she has spent the greater part of those five years on the front line, enjoying the miserable conditions of a fight whose origins few can remember.

A particularly sly gust of wind makes her duck her head against its chill, burrowing her chin as far into her threadbare scarf as she can. The branches sway disconsolately around her and the still green needles rustle. When they continue to move despite the air having stilled, Tayuya looks suspiciously groundwards and finds herself meeting the eyes of the man scaling her tree.

"How's sentry duty?" Kidoumaru asks her with far too much cheer after having reached her perch in a much faster time than her own usual ascent. Having six arms is cheating, Tayuya reckons.

"A fucking waste of time." Her crude words emerge as white mist when she speaks. "The Leaf-bastards haven't moved for the past three months - they're not going to choose a night as miserable as this to change that."

"Now that's just pessimistic." Kidoumaru swings his legs over the main bulk of the branch she's sitting on and, because of its reediness, forces her closer to the trunk. She sends him an irritated glance (that he ignores) and grudgingly shuffles sideways. "They might still make tonight interesting."

Tayuya snorts noncommittally and swings her legs gently. The long drop that separates her from the frozen ground doesn't faze her (not much does these days) and the cavalier motion does that little bit more to keep her from losing all sensation in her extremities. Snow tumbles from the end of the branch, the rustle quiet but audible in the stillness of the night. Once, her shinobi training would have cried out at the error; now, she ignores it. Stealth, here, is no longer the issue.

The enemy knows exactly where she is.

Their presence on this border is almost token. Neither side has the energy or the resources to front a push forwards.

Tayuya hasn't seen a Konoha shinobi in days and doesn't have any particular urge to change that.

They sit in silence for a while, and it may not be companionable on her part, but it isn't pissing her off either. Tayuya keeps her eyes on the border, open but unseeing. A human sentry is backup – the chakra wards surrounding the camp are warning enough should anyone step where they shouldn't. Sakon and Ukon between them make the best wards Tayuya's ever seen, but they've had the tedious monotony of the past five years – four of them very slow – to perfect their technique.

A shift in the air beside her makes her suspicious and, even after all these years, she is still annoyed that a glare from her isn't enough to cow Kidoumaru. "What the fuck are you doing, shithead?" she asks, eying the decreased distance between them with obvious distaste.

His own expression is blithe and that little bit too innocent for his sardonic features to quite pull off. "It's cold, Tayu. You wouldn't want me to freeze, would you?"

She just looks at him and lets her lack of an answer be telling in its silence.

He grins, momentarily wicked, and clutches at his chest as if wounded to the quick. "Oh, the sweet pain of your tender rejection, how it stings." Of all of them, he always was the one most prone to pure silliness – Jiroubou being too serious and the twins being too touchy and Tayuya not having a frivolous bone in her body. "It works for penguins."

"Pen-what now?"

His teeth flash white in the night. "Right, you never did come on that mission to Snow country, did you? Penguins. They're birds that live on the coast, where the sea freezes all year around. They can't fly, but they swim like fish, and they weather out blizzards by huddling together, backs to the wind."

She looks at him from behind her forelock of blood red hair and wrinkles her nose, trying to decide whether he's messing with her or not. He grins at her, but the smile lacks the faux-sincerity it would have held if he had been taking the piss, so she snorts (breath steaming in the frigid air) and rolls her eyes. "Why the hell do you know shit like that?"

"Because some of us enjoy being educated." Kidoumaru isn't at all fazed by her baring her teeth at him so, instead of cowering like the junior-ranked shinobi do, he looks up at the sky. "Not all knowledge has to be useful."

Tayuya grumbles deep in her throat and rearranges her arms around herself, tucking her bare hands into her pockets. If possible, it's getting colder. She hates it – being cold, that is – hates being unable to escape the sensation of being chilled to the bone and too cold to even shiver. It reminds her of times gone by.

And Tayuya dislikes hindsight and the uneasiness that memory brings.

Something shifts beside her and she catches the scent of Kidoumaru – warm, hint of soap, the richness of damp earth – before cloth settles around her shoulders. Tayuya looks down just long enough to confirm that he's had the audacity to put his jacket around her before glaring at him, and with a certain amount of danger in her eyes this time.

"What," she says with a growl and a threat in her voice, "the fuck is this?"

"You never wear enough clothes," he replies genially, but his tone is over-casual and he's watching her carefully, gauging her reaction. "Especially when you know you're going to be stuck with watch duty. It is Midwinter, Tayuya."

Her answer involves watching his jacket fall quietly to the frost-covered ground and bringing her eyes defiantly back to his.

This is yet another step in an ongoing power struggle that's been going on between them for as long as she can remember. She fights – mainly for the hell of it – but also because she hates him treating her as if she's any different to the twins, or Jiroubou. He fights…hell, she doesn't know what he's fighting for, but he can take his consideration and affection and jam it up his ass for all she cares.

When he sighs, it's a victory and she feels a savage surge of pride that counteracts the cold, however briefly.

"You're so damn stubborn sometimes," she hears him murmur.

"It's taken you this long to figure that out, shithead?" she replies acerbically.

He smiles and it's curiously hollow. "You know me – slow learner."

Tayuya grimaces at his insistence on always having a response, just so he can be the one to finish everything, and turns her eyes back to the border. The murky clouds up above have started to spit out snow and the flakes spiral dizzily on the wind. The nape of her neck aches suddenly because the sinuous waves almost remind her of the way a curse seal moves under skin. In the distance – through the trees – she can see the flickering lights of the campfires belonging to the enemy and quietly despairs. Once, no signs of life would have betrayed the presence of either side.

At this point, no one even pretends to be stealthy anymore.

Her scowl gradually fades, turns into a pensive look that she's worn more and more as she's gotten older. She's still tetchy and hostile at heart, but the slow attrition of the years have dulled her sharp edges, and maybe all the rain in this place has rusted what was once shiny and aggressively bright. Where once she would have pushed Kidoumaru out of her tree, now she lets him stay and share her branch as she watches a forest she doesn't even bother to focus on.

She does not imagine that she will survive beyond this war, but – more and more – she simply thinks that, instead of being killed in battle, it will go on so long that she and the others will have died of old age and faded into the obscurity of assassins who never existed before it is over.

This is their purgatory.

This is their punishment for not having brought the Uchiha to their lord and master.

Once upon a time, the Sound Four fell from grace…

"Penguins mate for life, you know."

Kidoumaru's odd conversational jumps (for nothing about the young man is linear) used to annoy her. Now she just raises a half-hearted eyebrow at him. "What're you talking about, shithead?"

His deep eyes gleam in the darkness. "Just saying," he murmurs, turning those eyes towards where the snow falls from a dreary sky. She senses he isn't finished and watches him in a way that is almost expectant. He doesn't disappoint. "Do you think…" Kidoumaru says, and there's a wistful little croon in his words that she's never, ever heard before. "…do you think things would have been different? If we'd brought the Uchiha home, where he belonged?"

Tayuya is momentarily confused by his words – mainly because these strange, fragmented statements are so alien from the teasing sentences that usually flow with such grace from his cultured tongue. Then their meaning transcends their structure and her foul mouth turns mute. She is a creature of the present, too impatient to look backwards and too heavily based in reality to wonder about what is to come. This…hindsight is foreign to her. So she stays silent and watches Kidoumaru struggle with his own thoughts.

"Orochimaru-sama would have had his vessel. He would have been pleased and, maybe, he would have been satisfied." Kidoumaru's brow furrows as he brings an internal monologue into the tangible, audible world – Tayuya's presence is merely token (in more ways than one these days.) "He would have left Konoha alone. They would have concentrated on the cloud-cloaks instead. And maybe we wouldn't have--."

"Quiet," she interjects and his eyes go wide, startled as he is out of his musings. Her voice sounds terribly loud in the stillness of the snowy night, but she needs him to stop sending her mind down in spirals, tracing her life back to that one night when she was fourteen that stained the rest of her shinobi career with failure.

Tayuya is not heartless, but she does not like to be unsettled.

"There's no point in thinking about shit like that," she goes on, more quietly (and if her voice contains a tinge of almond bitterness, well, she is older now and allowed to know the taste of regret.) "You're meant to be the genius – if you can't change it, don't think about it." She looks out at the forest as it sleeps beneath a growing blanket of insulating snow and – briefly, but oh so intensely – wishes for spring. "It doesn't matter now." Then, more savagely: "It doesn't fucking matter."

She does not expect him to touch her – in fact, she'd thought she'd long since beaten it into the boys that physical contact of the recreational kind was ill advised. So when he does, taking her lax hand in his own long-fingered one, she just gapes at him.

That, of course, only lasts a few seconds.

She rips her hand away from him, sending more snow tumbling to the ground with the violence of her motions. "What the hell was that?" He doesn't say anything, just watches her with those damn knowing eyes of his and why on earth does he have to look so intensely at her? It's as if he actually cares and that makes her itchy inside of her own skin, as uncomfortable as if ground glass was tearing up her insides.

All of a sudden, she needs to escape. "I don't have time for this," Tayuya growls at him and then she's wrenching herself away from a gaze that is the warmest thing in this frozen night, tumbling out of the tree in a slide that's only half-controlled, darting through the snowfall like a will-o-the-wisp with flaming bright hair…

Kidoumaru does not follow her.

She is glad of this.

Except later – much later, when she's wrapped up in her bedroll and trying to sleep – she really isn't.

She almost wishes he had followed her because then she'd have been justified in pounding him into the ground and there'd have been some sort of…resolution! Because, now, he has made her mind almost painfully busy and she cannot sleep and, dammit, she hates it when he does this.

Tayuya has had encounters with men before – usually in some shady, sleazy bar, usually drunk and never permanent. But she has also always viewed her teammates as sexless (easy with the ever-ambiguous twins, more difficult with Jiroubou because he still feels compelled to point out the differences between them) or at least tried to.

Except…except…and she hates that word and the way it keeps cropping up as her mind runs rings around itself.

Except that Kidoumaru has to go and ruin that for her. He's different from the others who always seem vaguely surprised when, in the communal showers, she bares breasts and womanly curves (however minimal.) Kidoumaru doesn't so much treat her like a woman as remind her that he is her comrade, her teammate and, in his eyes, her friend.

Tayuya has never once in her life had a friend – her emotions do not run to something as soft as that.

She growls and turns over, rather savagely kicking her covers into a more comfortable conformation.

It does not help.

…she hasn't stopped him. In fact, Tayuya realises with dawning horror, she lets him get away with things that she would not tolerate from the twins or Jiroubou, people who've known her just as long as the spider-freak. She's come to ignore his off-hand flirtatious comments instead of hurting him for them. She only shrugs him off when he loops an arm around her shoulders instead of tearing the offending limb away from him. She even finds a margin of peace in lying on the floor of the command tent, toying with her flute while he flicks through a book.

When did she get soft?

Frustration at not having an answer to that drives her out of her bedroll and into the night. It is still snowing and she has no shoes, but the cold is less important than a burning need to be on the move. She wanders through the camp, feet silent on the snow-covered ground.

It is quiet, with most of her people asleep or on the way to do so. A few linger around the campfires and send her tentatively awed glances when she passes by. She is a pale, blood-topped ghost in this place of black trees and white ice and her mind is spinning around like the snowflakes caught on a breeze at her feet.

She would like to pretend her wandering is aimless, but a small part of her knows that her path has already been decided.

And that there are no accidents.

A shadow in front of her resolves into Kidoumaru's tent and she pauses to give it a baleful glare, as if blaming it for the restlessness that has brought her here. For him and his damn words bringing her here. And, for once, indecision hits her.

Once, she would have moved on.

Once, she would have rejected sentiment and comfort both.

Once, she would have been content to remain a pariah, too cold and defensive to let anyone even close to scaling the walls she'd erected over the course of a life most would call difficult. Too difficult.

…she is not the person she once was.

Decision made.

Canvas rustles as she pushes the flap open and she doesn't bother with stealth because she knows Kidoumaru is already awake and sitting up, kunai in two of his hands and a question in his eyes and on his lips when the moonlight makes her face visible.

"Tayuya?" he asks, but she has no time for words and merely bends down to press her hot mouth to his. She isn't gentle as she presses his lower lip between her teeth, but his low, surprised groan is more due to pleasure than pain. He sleeps bare and she can feel the warmth of his chest through her clothes as she presses close, demandingly so.

She can sense his hesitation, but it's only there for a split second before his muscles release their tension and his arms, all of them, encircle her.

For a moment, he holds her tight enough that her bones creak and she lets him.

Then she pushes at him insistently with her body and his grip lessens, hands smoothing rather than grasping, fingers indenting skin rather than bruising it. His touch is curious and even in the dark she can see a goofy, delighted smile on his face as he traces the curve of her hip, the line of her thigh, the hardness of her sternum…

She fidgets, impatient, and all Kidoumaru does is laugh before he kisses her. He is bolder now, sliding that clever tongue of his into her mouth. She bites it, as a token gesture of defiance, then allows him to explore while she brings up a hand between their bodies to start unbuttoning her shirt. The angle is awkward and Kidoumaru pulls her hand away, pushing her back just enough that there is space between them.

The moonlight picks up on the whiteness of his smile, but his eyes aren't on her face. Tayuya watches him watch his own fingers move slowly down her chest, leaving an ever-increasing triangle of pale skin in their wake. He reaches her bellybutton and her shirt hangs open, still tentatively on though the curves of her breasts peer through the opening.

The air is cold upon her skin when, oh so slowly and almost…reverently, he pushes the garment from her shoulders.

Tayuya looks at him then, almost uncomfortable under his scrutiny in this state of undress, but too proud to cover herself. It isn't as if he hasn't seen her nude before, she tells herself, but she cannot pretend that this isn't different. There is heat in those dark eyes of his when they meet hers and she is unable to deny that such a look makes things stir down in her belly and lower.

His lips shift and Tayuya frowns, thinking him about to say something, but they close again. Kidoumaru shakes his head, looking almost rueful, but soon distracts her by leaning down and placing his lips around a nipple. The sudden change between the cold of the air and the molten heat of his mouth makes her shiver and she shifts restlessly until his hands gently yet firmly restrain her hips. Denied this, her competitive side is piqued and her own hands start sliding over the complicated arrangement of his shoulders.

He is warmer to touch than she is and she is surprised to discover that she knows this isn't just because of her having gone for a walk on Midwinter. She knows Kidoumaru, knows the way of his body. She knows that his skin is generally less cool than hers, that his knees click when he stands up, that he favours one of his left hands because Kimimaro shattered all the fingers on it what seems like a lifetime ago now…

He brings her back to the present with a swift, sneaky bite to the top of her breast (one that will later leave a rosy mark) and she gasps in surprise. He looks up at her, cheek pressed against her belly, and his smile is a cheeky one.

Tayuya scowls. It is so on now.

She pinches him in remonstrance on the ribs so that he squirms, laughing softly, and she suddenly remembers that he is ticklish. She takes shameless advantage of this to ensure that it is his back that hits the bedroll, not hers and she looks triumphantly down at her from her victory seat astride his hips.

Kidoumaru just cocks an eyebrow at her and slides the rough pad of a finger underneath the waistband of her shorts. She stills at that and that makes him stop. There is hesitancy in his eyes all of a sudden, cutting through the lust, and the threat of returning to reason is enough to make her lean down to kiss him roughly again, grinding her hips against his.

He bucks up at that, hands tightening reflexively around her hips while he keens lowly in the back of his throat. She swallows the sound and tries to chase it back to its source with her tongue. This must break some sort of barrier in him because he groans, louder this time, and then his hands are all over her. They skim the length of her spine, making her arch her back like a cat, running up the backs of her thighs to cup her ass and squeeze it…

She cannot keep track of his hands – there are too many of them and she is drowning in the rough, rich pleasure their touch brings her. It has been too long she realises before retaliating in like, though only having one pair of hands puts her at a severe disadvantage.

She still rises to the challenge.

At some point, her leggings disappear and then there is nothing between them. His skin scorches her cooler body and things are soon sweat-slick. Time turns ephemeral and, later, Tayuya isn't able to tell how long they spent thus.

It could have been an hour. It could have been a year.

Finally, Tayuya is over-full of burning, liquid heat and there is a choice between spilling over and being consumed, so she leans down to pin one set of hands over his head. Her intent is clear and, slowly, his other hands come to rest on her hips. Kidoumaru knows what is coming and accepts it in the calm way that she has never been able to manage.

She does not kiss him as, oh so slowly, she sinks down onto him, but not once do her eyes leave his. He's looking at her again, with a world in his eyes that she cannot decipher and emotion that she cannot understand. The look unsettles her and she almost looks away, but Tayuya has a peculiar sense of honour and looking a lover (and he's more than that because sex is one thing, but she trusts Kidoumaru after all these years) in the eye is one of them.

His only close when she starts moving, and then they roll backwards, lids shuttering down.

This power she has over him makes her grin ferally, even as her own breathing is fast and erratic.

And so Tayuya rides him, battling with her own self-control and the pull his body exerts on her, until the pleasure almost becomes pain and she is forced to let the moment consume her…

Then, when she's done and has had her fill of him, Kidoumaru strikes back. She's on her back with her hands pinned above her head before she even sees the world moving around her and, in the gloom, she can just about make out Kidoumaru looking down at her, all intent and serious. The strength of the vice his fingers have made around her surprisingly slender wrists isn't laughable and that along with the slightly feral look in his eyes tells her that he isn't a force to be ignored.

She bares her teeth at him in a soundless snarl and makes a token struggle, but she is boneless and sated from the first time, so she doesn't fight all that hard. And when he's moving in her – over her – and the strength of his lean, wiry frame presses her into her bedroll, she knows that this is the power Kidoumaru hides behind his smiles. It touches a flame inside of her, calls to the part of her that rejoices in the swift fierceness of it all, just as he does, and the molten sensations from it all makes her arch her back beneath him.

Only skin separates them.

Afterwards, he lies pressed against her and Tayuya knows that she will have bruises on her wrists and he will have marks from her teeth on his shoulder for weeks to come.

Kidoumaru laughs breathlessly and kisses her sweaty shoulder. "I'd have appreciated this method of keeping warm last winter," he says. His voice is brimming over with a male sort of satisfaction, but Tayuya cannot find it in herself to care too much.

She can feel this chest against hers and, through his skin, the rapid tempo of his heartbeat slowly starting to resolve itself. Her own is doing much the same and the rhythms don't mesh at first, but – eventually – they reach some semblance of concordance.

She realises that his breathing is slowing down as well, turning deep and measured. "Oi." She pokes him in his ribs and he squirms. "Don't go to sleep on me. You're heavy."

His smile is heavy and lazy as he rolls off of her, leaving an arm strewn across her chest. "It's just the extra bones. Promise."

"Pfft, yeah right."

They lie in silence for a while in the dark confines of the tent and Tayuya watches a slow, enchanted smile spread across his face.



Dubiously, she does so, and soon becomes away of a soft, whispering noise on the other side of the thick canvas.

His expression is as soft as the sound when he looks at her. "You can hear the snow falling."

Tayuya snorts and rolls her eyes. "Geez, you're such a fucking faggot sometimes."

The bastard only laughs at her and runs a knowing finger over the curve of one soft breast. "No, Tayu," he says sounding annoyingly pleased with himself, "I'm really not."


Later, as she is just about drifting off to sleep (too tired to even care that this might be counted as cuddling) she feels him giving her that look again, the wordless, intense one that makes her skin itch.

"What?" she demands irritably.

He doesn't keep her waiting. "What brought this on?" When she doesn't answer, he goes on. "What changed? What made tonight – this night – any different?"

She almost doesn't know what he's asking, why he's asking…except she does.

He loves her. He tries not to, but he does, and him doing so is annoying, but that's Kidoumaru for you.

…she doesn't feel the same way about him, but Tayuya doesn't really operate that way, never would and never will. Labels and the confines of a defining word don't suit her for language itself cannot contain the complexity that is why Tayuya does or doesn't do anything.

"Nothing," she tells him. "Nothing's different." He doesn't understand, Tayuya can see it in his eyes. She rolls her own and ducks behind her scarlet forelock, uncomfortable with explaining herself. "I'm here, right now, because I'm not dead yet." She shrugs. "Can't guarantee it'll be the same tomorrow, but I'm alive now. Doesn't matter what's been, certainly doesn't matter what's going to fucking come – you can't change a damn thing." Another shrug. "Every moment…you gotta take it or leave it."

His arms are suddenly tight around her, almost desperate, and his voice is low and urgent in her ear. "I'll take it."

She elbows him in the ribs, none too gently. "Good. Now shut the fuck up and sleep."

He chuckles quietly and she pretends not to notice the kiss he drops on her temple. "You're so romantic."

"Fuck romance."

"Point proved."

Outside it is still snowing and there's a quality to the darkness that says dawn is on its way. Tayuya will be on sentry duty once more and the war will still have no visible end and they'll all still be the soldiers who fell from grace…

…but that is tomorrow and Tayuya does not think of the days that will come.

She thinks of now and now is this place and this man and this slow, steady descent into sleep.

This is now.

- - -

'The fire is dying now, my lamp is growing dim
The shades of night are liftin'
The morning light steals across my windowpane
Where webs of snow are driftin'.

If I could only have you near
To breathe a sigh or two
I would be happy just to hold the hands I love
On this winter's night with you.'

Sarah McLachlan (covering Gordon Lightfoot's 'Song for a Winter's Night')

- - -

Lell says…

The song excerpt at the end is my apology to Kidoumaru for not writing this from his point of view – the snippet and its melody reminds me very much of the way I write Kidoumaru in relation to Tayuya. This story, more than anything I've ever written, makes me sad – just because he loves her so much and she just…can't love him, or anybody. And it's a different universe, and they're different, and Tayuya's just so old and weary…I was aiming for a melancholy shade of bittersweet. I hope I got there.

This piece is dedicated to Judo Creature, whose reviews to Secondhand Faith always make me smile. She requested Tayuya and Kidoumaru actually getting together for once and I was happy to oblige. I must admit, I was surprised by how it turned out – I never expected Tayuya to be the one who initiated things, but it all came so naturally that I didn't argue. She's the only Naruto character where I don't really need to think to write her because it's so easy to slip into her mindset.

…I miss roleplaying Tayuya, since it was doing so that allowed me to become so familiar with how she works. I'm half thinking of setting up some alternate timeline roleplay centred around Oto, just for the excuse to do so again.

Again…what degree?

This also marks my fiftieth story released on ff dot net. I'd pass cake around, but whenever I bake anything in our communal kitchen, it generally gets eaten before I've even finished icing it – the joys of living with boys who play rugby!

Thank you for reading.

And Judo Creature? I hope you like it. :)