Winter Ship
written by A. E. Stover
this version was edited by Just Lovely.

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I drew two characters and a prompt out of an envelope and wrote… this. The prompt was "going to the beach in the winter." Couldn't have been more difficult to work something out of a simple prompt, seriously. It's probably the reason why this feels more like an epilogue than a beginning. Who knows?

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WINTER SHIP


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"I don't think we should see each other anymore."

"…"

"I care about you too much, and I… It's unhealthy for our mission. I can't prioritize you over our teammates. It's unethical, and not to mention completely unprofessional. I can't — I can't do this."

"…Alright."

"…? …Just like that…?"

"You're the medic. You… You know what's best for the team."

"Then... That's it, then. And—And no hard feelings. Right?"

"…Yeah, sure. No hard feelings…

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No feelings at all."

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The salty wind was like the edge of a steel blade, cutting into her face, her hair, her clothes. It stung her eyes, but she was determined to stare straight ahead of her, to find where the sky touched the water. She couldn't; the line was blurred by the bleak grey colors, as if someone had reached out with their thumb and rubbed it out. If she could reach her hand out too, maybe there was some way she could…

"Shizune, we've repaired our ship. We're taking it out again."

She turned and saw Genma waving at her. Behind him, Aoba was thanking the two fishermen who had helped them with their ship, and Raidou was drawing the water up to the shore with ninjutsu to pull the ship back onto sea.

"You look cold."

When Shizune turned back to Genma, he was standing closer to her. "I'm alright," she replied.

Genma was unconvinced. "You're shivering." He reached out and grabbed her wrist, lifting her hand up to her face. "Geez, this is like ice," he said, his lips twisting with disapproval. He shook her wrist and her hand shook along comically. "You should take care of yourself better. It's only been two days since the storm. You sure you're alright?"

Shizune laughed. "I'm fine," she insisted with a smile.

"You're the medic," Genma spoke nonchalantly with a shrug of his shoulders, as if he were giving up already. His hand left her wrist and closed around her hand. His hand was equally as cold, but before she could say anything someone interrupted:

"Hey, lovebirds!"

It was Raidou, his voice abrasive in her ears. She pulled her hand away and dipped her hands into the pockets of her flak jacket.

"We're gonna leave you two behind if you don't hurry up!"

Shizune looked down for a brief moment. She heard Genma sigh, but before he could say anything she stepped around him and was already walking towards their patched ship. She heard him fall into step behind her a moment later, and they reached their teammates in silence.

"The sky's clearing up," Raidou remarked with some cheer. "Hopefully it'll stay clear the rest of our way home."

"That'd be something," Genma agreed as he clanked up the wooden ramp to the ship.

"It's been raining for days," Aoba recalled with an anxious frown. "I was starting to think all that water would drag the ship down…"

"It could have been worse," Raidou pointed out, "we would've been in real trouble if our ship was caught in the storm any longer…"

"…Or stuck in the whirlpool," Genma added.

Aoba rubbed his face with his hand. "I hate sailing. Never doing it again."

"Quit complaining," Genma scowled, elbowing his friend in the ribs.

Their banter flowed freely, the cracks and insults tossed halfheartedly at one another, and sewed up tight with their laughter. It was the familial bonds they shared from being on the same team as genin years ago that she was seeing, and it reminded her of her own team, and even her family, and the way they'd all been lost, and all out on sea.

"Shizune," Aoba called to her from the ship, brow creasing together in concern. "You doing okay? You're not feeling sick again, are you?"

Shizune gave her teammate a sheepish look. "I'm fine," she answered, "I'm…" A hint of a grimace crept to her face. "I'm just watching the sky clear up."

Aoba's face alighted with some understanding, and he nodded. "You should come inside. It'll be bad for me if you get sick again." Immediately, he looked sheepish and tried to correct himself. "Uh, well, it'll be bad for all of us if you get sick, not just me. I'm just, uh… Well, you know. I'm not too hot on ships, or anything near water," he finished lamely, adjusting his shades awkwardly.

"Give Shizune some time to recover," Raidou cut in with a lazy grin. "Whirlpools aren't exactly fun to get caught in, you know." He thumped his friend on the back for encouragement. "You can tough it out, pansy. C'mon."

Aoba was not convinced. "B-But…! I get motion sickness on sea!"

"You're worse than Gai," Genma remarked with a teasing smirk.

"But I'm useless when I get like that! What if I get thrown overboard?"

Raidou threw his head back and laughed. "What're you worrying about? You got me, don't you?" Raidou laughed again, sounding suspiciously evil.

Aoba gave Raidou a sideglance. "That's what I'm afraid of," he mumbled miserably.

Genma patted the dark haired man on the head. "Don't worry, I got your back," he assured. He paused and jabbed Raidou in the ribs. "And if I can't get to you, this moron will. And we've got Shizune, so there's nothing to worry about. We're a team, so we always have each other's backs. When one of us can't get to you, there're two more who can. So quit worrying about it so much. It'll only make things worse."

Aoba regarded Genma silently for a moment, and glanced down at Shizune, who was surprisingly silent; though, it could be because she was still unwell — the incident had been just a few hours ago, after all. Then he turned to Raidou.

"See?" Aoba cried, grabbing hold of Genma by the arm and shaking him. "This is how you be supportive! You're a horrible friend!"

Raidou put on a bewildered look. "What? I was being supportive! I said I had your back, didn't I?"

"But you laughed! And it wasn't a good laugh, either!"

"Oh, so now you've got a problem with the way I laugh? Some friend you are," he retorted.

Genma sighed and pulled free from Aoba's grip. "Alright, you two. Kiss and make up over there, inside the cabin," he said, waving them away. "Go on, shoo."

The two squabbled and bickered as they entered the cabin of their ship, and they used to remind Shizune of her parents.

But now they reminded her of Genma and herself. She felt a corner of her mouth quirk upwards at the irony.

"I hope you're getting on board," she heard him say in his familiar drawl. "The trip wouldn't be the same without you."

Shizune laughed despite herself, and walked up the ramp to the ship.

Genma kicked the ramp off and called Aoba and Raidou back out to pull up the anchor and pitch the sails. Shizune watched the activity from the ship's port, and watched as the ship began to glide across the water, its movement making the waves lap gently against the sides.

Once the ship was moving, Aoba balled himself up in front of the cabin and Raidou snickered at his misfortune, though he offered his teammate the pills Shizune had recommended for him at the start of their mission.

Genma watched with amusement from the starboard bow, and his eyes soon rested on her face. There was an odd, detached look that she'd never seen on him before, as if he weren't seeing her as she leaned against the side of the ship, but her somewhere in the distant past, and she wondered how she should feel about that.

Before she could, Genma was standing before her, slowly bringing his hands to her shoulders, and looking down at her with a serious gaze.

The ship was suddenly silent, its rambunctious duo having mysteriously disappeared, and Shizune let Genma move closer and closer to her, until their lips finally touched in a chaste kiss.

She wondered how she should feel about all of this happening after what she'd told him in her fit of delirium brought on by the onset of hypothermia after she'd tried to find him when he'd been tossed overboard in the storm. There was a fear that flitted in her head that what she'd said would make things difficult between them, but that melted away when she realized the absolute ridiculousness of it all.

If there was any change in their relationship at all, she thought as she kissed him back, it didn't really matter.

Their ship was sailing all the same, gliding smoothly through the water as if it were silk.

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AUTHOR'S NOTES


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I don't know very much of Aoba, and what I know of Raidou doesn't even amount to half of my understanding Aoba, so forgive me if they seem to be a little… off here. OTL

Also! Did anyone catch any puns between the title and the story? ;D