Title: Number thirty

Set: Still in mist.

Summary: Mist made a weapon that they can't handle through conventional means.

It would take an idiot not to notice his dependence on scent.

Maybe not an idiot. Maybe it took people who were very clever, watching him a lot. Going over mission reports with a fine tooth comb.

Artificial blood lines were so unstable, some days.

She was try number thirty. Swallowing those red pills every morning along with various hormones and pain pills when training was too rough on her. She'd been at it for a month.

Red pills. Almost, sticky.

She couldn't tell the difference.

Strange additions to her beauty regime. Light oils for her hair, strange deodorant.

Her target came back, and she dressed up, prettied up-- well, not really. Lip gloss. Plucked her eyebrows. Brushed her hair, didn't put it up tight simple in her usual perky ponytail. Instead she braided bits back to keep it out of her face. Leaving most of it down, loose, bouncing around her shoulders.

She'd been given a clothes allowance.

She'd considered the psych reports carefully. She got pants, but nice ones. Chest armor in a sort of...tube. It left neck and shoulders bare, but high gloves were lined with steel, could block.

She could wear a vest, or a jacket. Maybe a long scarf?

Boots that went to her knees, but good ones. Heavy duty.

She hated it. Wanted to look cute again. Not... whatever this was.

Maybe it wouldn't work. Maybe it'd be thirty one, or thirty two. It was all in the pills, anyway. The scent, the hook, the bait.

She went to HQ. Settled into paperwork. Waited.

Did some filing. Waited some more. He was supposed to be in today, the target.

She hoped Kira was taking good care of her kitten.

There was a thud. She looked up with a start, and didn't have to fake wide eyed surprise at the target as he leaned over, pulled the pencil from behind her ear, and leaned over (way over. Tall.) to scribble a few things onto the stack of papers. "I need the form for reimbursement for transport, think it's 17-R,"

She knew that one, it was for unexpected ferry costs.

"A request for additional payment allotment for shoes, pants," he added, as she nodded and ransacked the files.

She didn't like him. His eyes were too. They were sharp and shallow. He was too tall. He was two years younger than her, and too damn tall.

Please don't work, you damn pills. Please.

And for a few moments she thought her impromptu prayer had been answered. He seemed more intent on sucking on the end of the pencil, between scribbling in the blanks. Then he was shambling to the wall, dropping his requests into the right slots, before turning and handing over his mission report. "Thanks,"

"You're welcome, Sword-san," she said with a bow of her head, taking the sheets, jotting down the number on the receipt pad and tearing the slip off to hand him.

"K'same," he mumbled, taking the paper. "My name's Kisame," his eyes dropped down, read the name plaque on the desk she set down when she'd come in that morning. "Mia." A statement, half to himself.

"I know," she said, looking down automatically. Dammit. Dammit. The last twenty nine he'd only even spoken too if there was a paperwork error, or if he'd been put to WORK with them. She willed blood to her cheeks, just slightly. "Kisame-san, then. You're welcome."

He rubbed his neck, those eerie eyes still on her, she could FEEL it, and left.

She could hear his weight on the floor boards. He'd turned left, not right, towards the exit. He was checking the schedule.

There was a twist in her stomach, like the mission her teammate hadn't come back from. Slightly ill.

*********

When she finished her shift, he was loitering by the exit.

She started to wonder why he'd picked that one, how he'd KNOWN and decided. She didn't want to know.

"Did you forget something, sword, ah, Kisame-san?" She asked, having to make herself look up at his eyes.

He tugged at the thick gold disk in his earlobe, a moment. "Not exactly. Are you done for the night?"

Except his tone was a little rushed. And it was mid-noon.

"I'm free for a little while," because that was the right answer and she could go talk to her mother later.

"Do you want go to the tea house?"

"Do you?" she asked, already knowing the answer. He liked tea, all the different flavors, it was noted.

It wasn't that Kisame was dangerously unsocial.

It was just that he needed more reasons to come home every time.

He nodded. "I like tea," he said. "Doesn't everyone?"

"Some people don't but they hardly count as human," she said after a moments thought.

She hoped he liked 'thoughtful' girls because that was what she was going to sound like. It was like a deep cover mission. She could feel herself mentally slide into the role of Mia the whore of mist, out of the role of Mia the kunoichi.

The tea was good. She asked his what his favorite type was and he told her about ten different types he cycled through. The best reason to take northern missions was for the pine needles, the new, fresh tips, they made a good tea, he explained.

She let the character she was playing be interested. Asked about that.

"I've got some at my place," he said, thinking. "That I brought back and dried, it'd not that same as fresh, but,"

She thought of going back to his place and the cold snake in her stomach had little snake babies.

"May I bring you some?"

His question, and the almost hopeful look in his eyes, dispersed the snakes.

Good. Pathetic, but good. She'd need time to work up to the idea of. That.

All the stupid of a preteen in the body of a tall and awkward fourteen.

This was why Mia liked slightly older men.

"That would be very sweet, but you don't have too,"

"I'd like too, though. I'll leave them at your desk, if you aren't there," he said.

****

The tea tasted like pine smelled.

She didn't much, like it. But she drank it anyway.

Maybe it'd grow on her. Tolerate the tea, tolerate the freak.

She bought longer earrings and tried wearing her hair back.

****

"Those are pretty, but if you get in a fight you'll have split lobes," Kisame told her honestly. Bluntly.

"And yours are better?"

"M'plugs come out, and wouldn't be so bad if the skin tore, but you're. You know."

"A girl?"

"Pretty. You're pretty, so it'd be bad for you to have scars like that on your ear."

"And it's alright for you to?"

"Yep. Not pretty," but he smiled for her when he said he, and she smiled back automatically.

Better be automatically.

She practiced during training, smiling at random intervals. When a bell rang.

She could almost hear the bell now, when he kissed her awkwardly on the cheek.

*****

Her mother had a cough, now.

Kisame asked her who she knew that was so sick.

"Sick? Oh, my mother has a cold."

His face had held a hesitation in it. "Oh. Okay."

And she knew it wasn't a cold.

*****

They were pleased with her verbal reports on the mission.

They were probably itching to watch other ways, to somehow coach her with even more precision.

But he was too good for that. The only people in the village good enough to escape his detection were the other six. And they were needed elsewhere.

*****

He compared her eyes to stars, one day, using a turn of phrase that sounds memorized.

She forgot herself and asked where he cribbed it from with more snap than she's dared before.

But he didn't notice. His face lit up, and for the first time in her life she was taken to the theater.

"Listen," she told them, rubbing her neck. "You need to get him into some serious body language classes and SOON because, and I mean this, he's going to catch a cold someday, mistake sarcasm for sincerity, and DIE."

They seemed to think this meant, what he really needed was to watch videos. And since just giving HIM the tv and the disastrously annoying play back system and the pile of black rectangles would be too direct....

She spent a day figuring it out, and told him she'd been cleaning out a dead uncles storage unit.

She decided opera was the thing that won the absolute highest combined score of things she hated and things she knew entirely too much about.

"I like live better," he said, once, coaxing the wires at the back of the thing into working order again, this time without the scrolling, thick, wriggling vertical black lines.

"Because you can smell them. But they're acting."

"Yeah, and they smell like their acting, but the good ones," he shrugged. "It's hard to explain."

It just meant the actors didn't take their red pills, she'd thought bitterly.

"Well, think of this as practice. Someday your nose might fail you and you'll have to tell if they're acting without it," she said, hoping in some perverse way he'd try it one day and see through her.

It was a strange and dangerous thought for a kunoichi to have.

****

She got woken once, at midnight, or later, when he door was shoved open by someone who has forgotten things like knocking or turning the knob. She reached for a blade, felt her wards wash over the intruder like tears over mountains, and relaxed.

But still grabbed for the blade.

Kisame was looking at the remains of the door, dazed. Samehada dragged behind him, half wrapped, chewing the sidewalk outside her apartment.

He was holding something ragged, almost silky, in his other hand. Blood stained.

There was a lot of blood.

"Why do we do this?" he'd asked, hoarsely. Eyes finally focusing on her, or at least, in the general of direction of her face. Maybe.

He could probably see her in the dark, with those flat eyes.

She told him why, carefully practiced, dredging up her own demons exactly as they'd told her too. Got him to sit, made him some of that miserable tea. Gently getting the rag from him, disposing of it without looking at it too hard. Used the poker from the fire to get the sword into the corner where it could just ROT for all she cared. She always felt like it was staring at her anyway.

Then steeled herself, sat down.

Towel the blood off. Patted him down for injuries. Held him till he finally passed out and slept with him in the morning.

Awkward, life affirming sex to the rescue.

Her superiors were ecstatic.

*****

At least, even with the sex, he was fanatical in his training.

She went to watch, once. Didn't tell him, but he knew when she arrived.

He was....

She understood why her mission was important. She tried to picture him having a psychotic break and failed, and she'd been there five months ago when Sugiyama Aina'd woken from her coma and failed to notice she was home in Mist for a full hour.

Mia been there to see the underweight from starvation, weakened woman gut two nurses and damn near take out a whole hospital wing. It'd taken three Anbu and ten jounin to finally sedate her, hold her down.

Trying to picture Kisame in that scene thought. That was like trying to picture a viper in place of a worm. If he truly snapped, went past feeling pain, farther than the normal training's tolerance to hurt and damage...

"How do you have time for me, and training?" she asked just to interrupt her own train of thought after he was done and sitting on the branch next to her.

He shrugged his shoulders. Looked away from her. That meant it was just another one of his freaky little... things. Like his constant teeth shedding. "I don't sleep very much."

She'd known that. He got up in the night, some nights, to eat, and it'd just wake her and he'd be back for an hour, before dawn. She'd hoped he was cheating on her.

He wasn't. He just. Got up and trained, or read on the roof so the light wouldn't bother her.

At least his learning curve was mind-melting steep in anything he set his mind to. She didn't know if the other six had given him some advice or if he'd read a book, but if she didn't think about who was doing those things to her she could black out from the intensity.

Or was it a white out?

It always faded to a blue out.

******
They didn't move in together.

That at least was... Something. He liked things... Messy wasn't the right word but for a shinobi he seemed to accumulate things. She teased him about it once, on a day when she was feeling blade proof and up beat, sitting on his bed painting her toenails and listening to the radio. He had copper tubing wrapped around it, going out the window, and on clear nights could pick up a grass weather station.

"If this place ever catches on fire you'll be scorched trying to save it all."

"Why? Could just, you know, flush the fire out."

"You'd never soak your precious books."

He nodded in agreement, watched her.

"You keep staring I'll assume you want your nails done too," she said, lips quirking.

"Would you?"

She thought he was joking, so she said yes. Then after, she thought maybe he was doing it as a joke.

Then after he bought this own jar.

His learning curve was steep here as well. He could even do white tips, small designs.

It was oddly endearing.

She developed a sense of when he was looking at her. An oily feel on her skin no matter what she wore.

She felt it once while sparring with a former team mate. Almost took a hit to the face for her carelessness except the ankle that was connected to the foot that had been aimed at her nose was suddenly gripped in that too big hand.

"Don't let me distract you, Mia," he said with a grin, then looked at her sparring partner. Reached out and shifted her knee down, a little. "And your form needs tightening."

The girl nodded dumbly. Blushed.

Mia stared at the blush. Well, noted it, and mentally stared at the image in her own head. The idea that...

It was absurd.

Utterly.

She reported it, and the rest of that day was spent swimming in foolish hope.

Hope that her superiors would pass her mission to that stupid, stupid girl.

Then that stupid stupid girl was sent on a mission and didn't come back.

Mia swallowed and told herself it was just bad luck.

Right.

Her collection of pills grew. Red pills for scent. Little ones to halt pregnancy. Pain pills for sparring (and she did still spar, threw herself into it, sometimes with him, usually with other chunnin who'd hit her hard enough to bruise) and now little blue ones to put her to sleep at night. Because the blushing girl had a round face and her name had been Kikimo, and Mia wished she didn't know that.

****

She had, a few video's of her own. Slightly questionable ones. She kept them to the side, behind her ever sprawling collection of black rectangles.

When he found them, it was one thing. It was, slightly awkward but somewhat funny.

When she caught him watching them, later that night after he'd thought she'd gone to sleep.....

It was a blinding ray of hope.

Please be queer, she mentally begged him. Please.

And she'd played the concerned girlfriend role, confronted him on the spot, and... He'd turned deep purple and admitted to being curious, but he loved female bits, really, or at least he loved hers, loved HER..

She told him she loved him too, the lie as trained and automatic as her smile.

That she didn't mind, he could have her tapes. Admitted a half-fake voyeuristic fantasy about watching him with another man. Half fake because while she'd ADORE him with another man, she didn't really want to be there.

She didn't like the way her superiors looked at each other. She liked the mission scroll she got a month later even less.

*****
She was sparring harder now. Somewhere between needed to burn energy she never spent on missions, and wanting to hit something.

The secret was to bruise, but not to bleed.

He could smell the blood. He never said so, directly, but when cramps had her grouchy he knew. When she'd been cut in a spar, he knew. He treated her as if she was slightly more fragile.

It was something that should have felt... Good. Right? Every girls dream, to be treated like a princess. She acted like it was good, that he was sensitive to her like that.

But it made her feel naked.

He'd been gone for two weeks. She knew where he was.

He was on a mission with Junpei.

Junpei, who should have been on the sticky red pills a month now. His with the blue stripes, extra testosterone or something.

She barely went on missions, anymore. Not ones that took her out of the village. She did a lot of paperwork, helped at the academy.

Her superiors discussed levering her into a teaching position, or something in T&I (T&T, more like it. Bastards.) giving her a reason to always be in the village.

She hated kids.

Lately though, that was alright. She hated everything.

*****
She read a few books about more flexible relationships. There weren't many books, but there was more than one team in Mist that took the phrase 'teammates' rather seriously.

They didn't always last very long.

But not because of internal strife.

And her superiors agreed. If something happened to her, then if Kisame had another...

It'd both deepen his loyalty and protect his sanity.

It felt wrong, but she hoped Kisame wouldn't be open to the idea. She remembered that blushing girl who'd vanished, even without dreaming, and didn't want that to be her.

She might be a whore in this mission but she was alive. There was no guarantee that'd stay the same if the mission ended because someone else could do it better.

*****

The trickiest part of the sex was not touching the gills, the fin, and ignoring the teeth.

But if you could manage all that...

*****

"You're amazing, you know," he told her. "You're always, serene."

"I am?"

He nodded. "Yeah. You're always. You're calm and warm. Like a cup of tea."

"Drinkable?"

"Hot. Steady."

Flat eyes. She was starting to think he might actually be blind except she knew he wasn't.

Afterwards, she couldn't remember if he'd suggested it, or she had, or maybe she'd gotten him to think he'd suggested it. She'd gotten good at that. Wasn't too hard. He was young, after all. And in love. And male.

But what was two became three.

Junpei was under orders, of course. On red pills with a blue stripe because she'd been right, his didn't have extra estrogen in them, meeting with her when Kisame was away to discuss how the mission was going. He had olive green eyes and olive gold skin. Dyed black and red into his hair. She thought he might have been a blond under it.

She hadn't known him before. Didn't know if his clothes were new like hers had been.

At least he was probably as gay as he seemed.

The pity was that, she didn't see any less of Kisame.

His damn sleep patterns meant that neither she nor Junpei were neglected. Not that they could break up with him without approval.

She imagined going to them, saying, no, she couldn't do this, but she always thought of that stupid girl whose blush she'd reported, and the way that girl was gone.

Might be a coincidence.

But a lot of shinobi... Their reasons to fight...

The person you fought to honor didn't have to be alive.

Junpei nodded in agreement and pointed out, if nothing else, Kisame wasn't much of a sadist.

Mai'd laughed until she'd been weeping in agreement.

****

Kisame was going to be gone for a while.

He didn't want either of them to worry. She, at least, pretended to fret while Junpei feign that his lack of concern was normal male bravado and not hope and actual lack of concern.

Then they made a mistake.

They didn't go home.

Well. They went to Mia's home.

Did some math. Decided. He'd be gone a month minimum. So they could go off the damn pills for a few days at least. They didn't tell their superiors.

And maybe this would have been alright, she thought, a few days later.

Except, it was funny, it was like a haze coming off. And it didn't take a mastermind to realize why.

Junpei kicked in her door, on the fifth day.

"You're not really upset, the drugs are just wearing off," Mia said from the couch.

She was watching an opera on mute. On repeat. She probably looked. Bad. It was the middle of summer, she hadn't bothered with any fans, or even opening a window. She was sweat drenched and probably resembled a leek not-very-fresh out of the steamer.

He might not have heard her words but he stopped at the sight of her.

Mia felt her pajama's stuck to her skin when she gestured. "This one's got a happy ending. He likes the ones with happy endings." She snorted, and it almost turned into a sob but that was clamped down hard.

Junpei sat down. Hard. Looked at her. "Whore."

"Hold up that mirror, see how you look in it. Least your not gonna get onna these," she kicked a scroll on the floor in Junpei's general direction. Well. Used her foot to gesture to the thing.

He picked it up, ignored all the indicators that this was for her eyes only, that she should have destroyed the thing after reading it.

"Little blue sharp toothed bastard babies," she said, eyes still glued on the screen. "Bet my pills are making me fertile now. They won't refill the others when I run out. I'll have a litter. Is that what they call fish babies?"

"Fry. You'll have a school of fry," he said, coldly. "Y'know some sharks eat each other in the womb. Mommy shark'll have five little nasties in her and only one comes out, fat and happy."

She choked on the idea.

"At least you didn't have someone you were planning on spawning with," he added. "You know how this village is, they make you take a year off when you hit seventeen and pretty much expect least one baby in that time,"

"I'm not, seventeen! I'm fourteen! And it's not like you were planning on kids."

"Well, I wasn't gonna carry 'em but... Someday. If we lived long enough," and when Junpei wasn't acting his face could twist dangerous and ugly. "You were just hoping you'd get someone to come along and mate you-"

And Mia realized the we encompassed a fourth person, one she didn't know.

The sudden, waste. Her future, his present, was suddenly rather a lot. For what? Because, because why?

She threw a punch because suddenly the emotions were there, and Kisame wasn't there to hit and cuss and confess too but Junpei was good enough. He hit her back, and for a moment they both stood, tasting their own blood.

"I hate you," he said, eyes dark. "You whore, dragging me into this, cause you couldn't do it alone,"

"I just told them he liked boys! I was hoping he'd be queer and I could just, hand him off entirely! I could do it alone but I rather it be someone else!" She spat blood at him.

He hit her again.

"I hate you."

"I hate you more," and the truth was automatic, like the smile, and the slash with the knife.

Truth hurts.

I could have used a flare, she thought, as she felt the red under her slowly cool.

I still could.

She could see the window.

Her left arm wasn't hurt that badly.

Kikimo with her round blushing face.

Yeah. A flare. And then ANBU, then T&I, no, T&T asking why she'd halted her pills, asking why she'd killed Junpei and somehow 'he started it' which hadn't worked when she was a fresh little genin wasn't going to work now.

Her breath gurgled.

Had to be that rib she's smashed, going down on the coffee table.

Explaining why violence had led to sex, had led to violence would be even harder.

She felt for a flare anyway, some part of her still having survival on the brain. Maybe that. What'd they call it? The lizard brain. The one that told you that there were things out there, bigger than you, and your fight or flight response did have two settings no matter what they taught in school.

She pulled the flare out, looked at it.

She'd live. Maybe. With Junpei dead. They'd make up a story. She'd be expected to lay in the hospital bed and lie a bit more. Really instill that sense of village loyalty and passion, and suddenly living seemed worth it just so she could take a shot at the poor blue moron and maybe tell him the truth before they shut off her life support.

Or she could die here. Blood loss. Shock. The hope that Kikimo wouldn't hold a grudge, and that at least one of the mist pantheon would look at her and go 'that was fucked up... come on in'.

Or there'd be nothing.

She tightened her other arm, in spite of the fact it was swollen and probably broken and... Junpei's body was still warm. Particularly across her stomach and thighs, soaking her with blood and viscera judging by the smell.

She wished she could write a note. A confession, really, or an accusation.

But she couldn't, couldn't reach. She had only two options. Hope for rescue with a flare, or let herself die.

Or option three, she thought, then swallowed. Option three was melodramatic. She didn't know if she was taking it from a opera or not.

Yes, well, at least it left little room to wonder what her final choice had been.

**********

Kisame'd quite liked the far edges of sand county. There was some interestingly spicy cuisine, for starters. He'd bought a cactus, and a few different earrings. Wide glass ones, for himself, blue green from the sun, gold for Mia, the type that dangled because she did like those types even if he thought she was going to loose an ear to that someday. Junpei was harder, he hadn't know the man as long, but between the cactus and the decorative cuff that had four different poison compartments...

But with the wind at his back and the sun half up the sky, he was feeling like it was a pretty good day. He was.

The smell hit him a hundred feet from the door and he was silently sliding off his travel pack, walking to silent glide in the space of a step.

At fifty feet her knew it was Mia's place with the blood smells.

By the time he got to the door, he knew it was her and Junpei, and that there was too much wrong to consider right now. Opening the door broke the seal, and rotting death stench slapped him. That and the flies.

He shifted fully away from human, going clinical and cold. There wasn't any clenching in his gut.

He did not vomit in the sink and carefully rinse it down the drain.

He didn't have to do it again when he found the half torn mission scroll.

He didn't break the door frame in her bathroom when he opened the medicine cabinet and pried the back off, found the collection of red pills.

The hair oil in the tall thing of brown glass pharmaceutical bottles. He didn't have to open it to smell the liquid inside.

It was dark, that was why his vision was blurring.

He put everything back, exactly like it should be. No. Not like it should be. Like it'd been when he walked in.

Then he went to his apartment. Spent a long time, standing just inside the door, before he showered. Changed.

Did his mission report.

Again, really. Mostly just rewrote it.

He'd get a few days off for grievance, he thought, not rinsing more vomit down the sink.

He could think about it then.

He walked down the street and ordered flowers. A lot of them. Delivered. Made reservations at the nice restaurant across the way while the flower-girl got his order together. Then went home and waited.

They didn't send ANBU. They sent the other six.

He didn't remember how that meeting went. At all. He knew that he'd left a few sizable dents in the walls. And the couch. And his fellow swords, and that one of them-- though the didn't know who-- stayed the night with him. And another spent the next day.

Junpei'd gone on a short mission, they told him, and must have gotten hit by one of those mindfuck jutsus. Had just gone crazy, Poor Mai'd killed him in self defense but had been too badly hurt.

They explained it very prettily. Kisame showed the right amount of rage at. Whatever village they blamed. It wasn't hard. Everything that felt brittle was starting to crack anyway.

He accepted the sleeping pills though. After the first night, because the nightmares were too crisp and perfect and he hadn't even know a flare could do that, if you put the end in your mouth.

Her death was the only thing about her he knew was real.

26A Fergus Street Guelph, ON N1H 5K6

11:48:07 PM) Momo: *intends ot write snippets and bits of their relation ship from the first date to the first dance first kiss first awkward time, sparring, him telling her he loves her, he saying it back and lying)
(11:57:08 PM) Momo: *sob*
(3/1/2008 12:03:31 AM) Drelfinya T: (poor girl)
(12:04:18 AM) Momo: she arranges the thing with the male tema mate caus eshe REALLY hopes he'll decide he's gay.
(12:04:26 AM) Momo: he doens't, dates them both, is very open with them
(12:04:32 AM) Momo: they resent him for it, and the village
(12:04:45 AM) Momo: the teamamte's on scent altering pills too
(12:05:00 AM) Drelfinya T: Poor Teammate.
(12:05:02 AM) Drelfinya T: T___T
(12:05:02 AM) Momo: male team mate blames mia. Mia hates self, hate kisame, hates the tema mate..
(12:05:11 AM) Momo: Murder suicide when Kisame's out on a mission.