Characters: Yamato, Kakashi, ANBU

Prompt: Yamato and Kakashi face off with rock-paper-scissors (or jan-ken-pon, whatever). Either over something extremely serious or something extremely ridiculous would be awesome.

Rating: PG

Warnings: None

Jan Ken Pon

The ANBU team of four sprinted quietly through the night. They had set out a long time before sundown, and it was nearing morning already when Inu, the captain of the team, signaled for a halt. They had left the huge, sturdy trees of Hi no Kuni hours ago, so they couldn't cluster together on a branch. Instead, they hid in the shadows of the rocky mountain area, always in easy sight of each other and covering all 360 degrees of their surroundings.

20 miles to target, Inu-taichou signed with large, slow motions that were designed to be read even in the abysmal lighting before dawn.

Cat, the new recruit on the team, had to squint a bit through the darkness, but he thought that 20 miles to target was what Inu-taichou had signed - because 2 men in tango didn't make much sense.

To be honest, he was quite glad that Inu-taichou had decided to stop here – not least of all because Yamato, the boy-man behind the mask of Cat, was sorely out of breath.

The mission briefing with the guy from Intel had given many details as to the target's location, the level of protection, and the client's preferred way for the target to leave this mortal coil: A rich merchant in the outskirts of Lightening country was supposed to be killed out on an open street by some random loon with a knife.

What the briefing hadn't mentioned though, was how the tasks were to be distributed amongst their team. And Inu-taichou had conveniently forgotten to mention that, too. Perhaps the other three had been together for so long that such discussions weren't necessary anymore. Perhaps Inu-taichou had forgotten that, instead of seasoned, experienced, and kind of deadish Hare, it was now young and insecure Cat with them.

Not that Yamato would ever call himself 'young' or 'insecure', but being fifteen and on his first ANBU mission – on probation at that – his nerves were quite highly strung at the moment.

Alright, to be honest he had no idea how he fit into the hopefully existing assault plan. Should he ask what he was supposed to do? But he was ANBU now, and an ANBU surely would be able to infer his role from the briefing and the team composition. He couldn't afford to show even more weakness than his less-than-stellar physical condition (just how much did the others train that a non-stop run of more than twelve hours didn't have them flop onto the ground like stranded fish out of water?). It all depended on how well he did on this mission and the missions during the next three months, whether he was going to become a full-time ANBU or not.

On the other hand – was this set-up designed so that he was supposed to ask, and had already failed that test because of not saying anything? Or was he thinking too much into things?

Thankfully, Inu-taichou took that decision out of his hands by continuing to sign as exaggeratedly as he had before. Yamato did a brief double-take at the nose sabotage, which turned out to be Rat sabotage on second thought. It was going to be Rat's task to create a convenient distraction, like blowing up a couple of buildings or such. Tiger got handed the perimeter task, making sure their retreat was covered and such. That left the more... personal distracting of the bodyguards and the actual kill for Inu-taichou and Yamato. And that was where Inu-taichou stopped signing, and instead held out a closed fist towards Yamato.

Yamato thought furiously what in the world that meant – it wasn't the closed fist of a 'stop all actions immediately and watch for the origin of the suspicious sound/movement/something I just heard'. It also wasn't the closed fist of 'careful, Iwa-nin in close proximity'. It seemed more like a 'let's bump fists' gesture. And that so didn't make any sense, because ANBU didn't bump fists.

Inu-taichou cocked his head and shook his fist slightly, apparently trying to get a reaction out of Yamato.

From the corner of his eye, Yamato could see Rat's shaking shoulders, clearly a sign of amusement. So he knew what was going on. And Inu-taichou kept holding out his closed fist, as if they had all time in the world. Which they did have quite a bit of, seeing that the target wasn't expected at the market before noon. But they ought to be in place quite a bit earlier to blend into the crowds and do some reconnaissance of the general layout of the streets in case the shit hit the fan. Tiger seemed to know what was going on as well, and Yamato the only one who had no clue. Had he missed some important part of ANBU etiquette? Was this some test of how green and new he was? Or some hidden code of sign language?

Finally, Tiger rolled his eyes so obviously that Yamato realized the movement for what it was even behind the anonymous ANBU mask in the dark of the night.

Rock, Paper, Scissors, Tiger signed.

It took Yamato three repetitions and nearly a minute to understand that this really was what Tiger had signed, and that it wasn't some kind of hidden code for 'approaching Iwa-shinobi with important documents and unusual weaponry'. He looked back to Inu-taichou, incredulous. Inu-taichou was still waiting patiently with his fist outstretched.

Did taichou honestly want to decide their jobs via a game of janken? What did the winner get? To kill the target, or to get out of killing the target?

Yamato was quite a bit scandalized to discover that Inu-taichou, who he had thought a very professional soldier, took such an... undignified approach to such a serious topic as mission success and killing. But everyone obviously expected Yamato to comply, so he held out his fist, too - slowly and with reluctance. He was ANBU, for heaven's sake, and ANBU didn't play children's games. Or so he had thought until now.

The atmosphere of 'finally' was nearly palpable.

Inu-taichou and Yamato shook their fists, and even though Yamato had never played janken before, he was at least familiar with the rules. His execution of the theoretical knowledge left something to be desired (he couldn't quite remember anything on the fly but the closed fist, and he doubted a 'ram' sign was acceptable for scissors), so he clearly lost to Inu-taichou's paper. Expecting the farce to be over now, he was uncomfortably surprised by round two and three; apparently Inu-taichou was aiming for best three out of five. Or he wanted to see how often he could beat Yamato, because Yamato had yet to trump over Inu-taichou's choice.

Honestly, it was getting ridiculous with the way Inu-taichou seemed to predict his every move (and Yamato had considerably expanded his repertoire by copying the missing signs from his captain's responses – even if he still didn't like using scissors). Sometime between the seventh and eighth consecutive loss for Yamato though, Inu seemeed to take pity on him and stopped the inane games. With a slow shake of his head, Inu-taichou signed for Yamato to play the loon and kill the target, whereas he would run interference with the bodyguards. Yamato got the feeling that he had disappointed his captain, but he didn't know how. Surely it couldn't be because he had lost seven times at jankenpon?

No explanation was given. Instead, Inu took off and finally – finally – they were on their way again, still under the cover of darkness and as if the brief interlude had never happened.

The mission went off without a hitch, even if Yamato nearly did a double-take at seeing Inu-taichou henged into a voluptuous dark-haired beauty flirting with the bodyguards. A corn mill exploded spectacularly five seconds after Yamato had stabbed the target in the chest, and in the ensuing mayhem and chaos, Inu and Cat managed to rendezvous with Rat and Tiger and flee without a trace.

Five hours later, safely back behind the borders of Hi no Kuni and getting ready to spend the night beneath a couple of hastily spanned tarps two hundred and forty miles from Konoha, Inu-taichou finally broke the silence they had kept for the past day.

"You need to work on your reaction time, rookie."

Yamato froze while setting a couple of traps. He had thought he had performed his role quite well as a mad loon running around with a knife and randomly stabbing people. And they hadn't even been pursued by enemy shinobi or been in any real fight by ninja standards.

"What do you mean, taichou?" he finally asked without looking up. He was still on probation, after all, and a bad report from Inu-taichou could destroy his chance of ever becoming a full-time ANBU member.

Inu-taichou clinically ticked off on his fingers. "Your recovery time from unexpected events is far too long, and even then you react in an uncoordinated and half-hearted fashion. You let such things derail you far too much, and your acting on the fly frankly sucks. So does your knowledge of common social behavior. That is why I didn't give you the job of distracting the bodyguards."

Not expecting such devastating criticism, Yamato stiffened and had to hold himself back from snapping something quite uncouth. Probation and all that jazz. He deliberately recalled that Inu-taichou was one of the best and longest-serving ANBU currently active and hadn't seemed particularly malicious towards him so far. Even though his opinion of the captain had taken quite a nose-dive with that game earlier that day, Yamato told himself that he was still not quite ready to believe Inu-taichou was saying these things merely out of spite. Especially since he couldn't deny that there was a grain of truth to taichou's words. Having been raised in Orochimaru's labs after all hadn't done much for his social skills.

He breathed in and out a couple of times to make sure his voice didn't waver. Then he met his captain's eyes – well, the eye holes of the white mask – straight and square. "What gave you that impression, taichou?"

"Rock, paper, scissors."

Yamato nearly choked on his spit. "Is that because I lost at a game?" That you are going to throw me out of ANBU, he continued silently.

"Not because you lost, but because of how you lost. First off, it took you quite a long time to react at all to the unusual situation. Then secondly, when you chose to play along, your improvisation on the fly was quite amateurish. It was very obvious that you don't know the game very well, and your acting was poor and lack-luster. And third, if you have to copy your opponent's moves, at least do it right. Scissors goes like this," Inu-taichou held out his fist where he extended the index and middle fingers, separated in a slight V and pointed towards Yamato.

Well, Yamato told himself, at least now he'd be able to play janken when they threw him out of ANBU. And anyway, he hadn't been that far off by pointing a one-handed ram sign at his captain. The only thing he had missed out on was the spread fingers.

Thankfully, Inu-taichou saved Yamato from having to answer or respond in any kind, by walking away and giving a lazy wave over his shoulder. His hand was still locked in the 'scissors'-position. "Next time, I expect you to win at least one set."

An hour later, Yamato was still giddy that Inu-taichou had mentioned a Next Time. The next weeks, he religiously worked on his acting and social skills, and eventually he even saw a marked improvement. However, it wasn't until several months later at the end of his probation time – and the corresponding unmasking of the team – that he realized the true value of the speech: he had gotten advice on copying from the Copy-Nin himself.

The only thing he had yet to achieve was win a single game of janken against the sharingan master.