Been a while, huh? Well, I am still working on other stories, just haven't had much time for updates. Anyway! This story started as a series of drabbles (still viewable as LaO:KU Ficlets) and then I decided to actually write the damn thing right. There are multiple and changing pairings, a few final pairings in my mind, a healthy dose of crack, one important OC, and shameless futzing around. I make no apologies. But hopefully you enjoy what you see.
Oh yeah, and for people who don't know me, there will be PLENTY OF SLASH.At some point, anyway.
Edit: Oh jeez, line breaks fixed!
What have you done now?
The Konoha PD had a rather nice building. Konoha took care of her officers. At least, certain noble families did since the building had been paid for in full by donations from the Aburame clan and various supplies there in by the Sarutobis, or more specifically their elder Hiruzen. He had very high hopes for peace on their streets and was extremely vocal about it for a man who'd stepped away from politics after retiring from mayor.
The majestic building rose six stories with three basement levels. It had been crafted lovingly from cut stone with an art deco feel in the decorative borders to windows and edgings. White stone set off the green and blue, set-in decorations, and above the grand, two door entrance, an inscription had been lovingly hand carved.
Inside was no less great. Cement floors had been carefully stained and painted with calming patterns. At the entrance, a tiled mosaic of the KPD symbol shined out from the floor and was mirrored on the ceiling, perfectly in line with its twin. A busy secretary sat behind a handsome wooden desk, ready to receive visitors between phone calls. Carefully framed photographs of police chiefs and officers of note lined the wall behind her between the elevator and another door. The levels above were no less pretty, fitted with similarly painted concrete floors, window embellishments, and carefully designed floor plans suited to each level's specialty. Even the basement levels had been tended to with a loving care to keep them as bright and beautiful as the above floors.
The building was a paragon of grace and beauty.
The KPD were most decidedly not.
It was barely ten in the morning when the first bout of boisterous yelling cut through the quiet morning. Neighboring businesses had gotten used to the noise ages ago and got back to work after a simple roll of their eyes. They didn't even bother noting the crash of something being thrown through a window or its subsequent smash into the pavement below, or even the enraged scream that followed.
Even the content, "NOOOO! MY JACKALOPE!" was not enough to rouse their suspicions. To be honest, they had heard worse.
Namikaze Naruto came running out of the precinct and fell to his knees beside the wreck of taxidermy on the sidewalk. He drew the pieces to him as if they were parts of a precious child and his utter devastation was heartfelt. Had this been anyone else, the event might have been pitiable. But right on schedule, Naruto's loss turning into a raging anger.
"Sasuke, you bastard! I'll kill you for this!" Naruto snarled. He cradled the ruined jackalope and ran back inside. Screams and yelling followed in his wake, and most of it was from him. When he got back to level two, Sasuke did not show proper chastisement and it took four officers to pull the two of them out of the resulting fight.
Any other precinct would call for disciplinary action. The KPD called this Tuesday.
To be fair, Sasuke was in a terrible mood and it was all Shikamaru's fault. And that of whoever had convinced Shikamaru that it would be a good idea to transfer to narcotics, leaving Sasuke without a partner, and Chief Minato's for letting it happen. And then it was Minato's fault againfor deciding he needed a new partner when Sasuke was quite adamant that he could do the job on his own. Minato disagreed.
He could so, damn it.
So when he'd seen the piece of mashed up dead animals standing proudly on Naruto's desk, his offended sensibilities had no recourse but to share.
"What the hell is that?" he'd asked and when Naruto proudly explained, Sasuke felt the intense need to rid himself of such an abomination. So, when Naruto's attention wavered as Sakura and her short skirt took it (and if Sasuke was honest with himself, he'd have to admit that she looked... The skirt was adequate in making her legs seem... She wasn't ugly,) Sasuke picked up the horrible thing and chucked it.
The jackalope sailed across the room with surprising accuracy for such a strange shape. It zoomed past a mail carrier, over the heads of three officers, past a few lamps, and finally hit the absolute center of one pristine window that promptly shattered to pieces. It was a beautiful thing. Sasuke allowed himself a moment of pride to admire his work.
When Naruto stormed back inside, screaming bloody murder, Sasuke enjoyed the fight that ensued. It got his blood pumping and burned off a bit of energy. And he got to sock Naruto in his idiotic face, which was always a good thing.
From the doorway to his office, Chief Minato looked upon them with a resigned expression on his face, but he left it to his wife to snarl at their son. Detective Kushina took no mercy and dragged Naruto off by his ear to talk. The translation was something ugly.
This, of course, left Sasuke to deal with the situation of his new partner. The guy was supposed to show up at noon at his desk. Sasuke glanced to the clock above Minato's door. He had plenty of time to dread his arrival.
The guy's name was Hyuuga Hinata. Sasuke hadn't bothered to read the rest. Hyuuga was enough to make his skin crawl. No doubt, this guy was some kind of plant. No way would a Hyuuga willingly lower himself to doing something as plebeian as police work. None of this smelled right. He wondered if Minato had assigned this greenhorn to him on purpose because he figured if anyone could sort out a mole, it was Sasuke. His intuition was top notch.
That soothed his pride a little. He still wasn't happy about this, but the thought that Minato had faith in him was nice enough. Sasuke pulled out his cell phone and checked the time. Still a little while. He fiddled with the phone, pulling up a few text messages. His brother hadn't sent anything in a few days but Sasuke wasn't worried. Itachi rarely contacted him. He'd been living deep undercover for years now, almost since Sasuke joined the police academy. Blending was his talent. Sasuke preferred to face things head on.
"A-ah, excuse me…" came a quiet, unsure voice at the front of his desk.
"The chief is over there," he answered without looking up, lifting a hand to point.
There was a pause and he heard the woman shift a little before she spoke up again, "A-actually, I'm looking for Uchiha S-Sasuke...?"
Sasuke glanced up. Before him was a slip of a woman with rather obvious... assets. Curvy was an understatement. Her clothing was modest enough and her long hair had been pulled up with a utilitarian clip, out of sight and out of mind. She quickly dropped her eyes as soon as he looked at her and shifted uneasily in place. It took Sasuke a moment to realize she didn't have a visitor pass on her.
"You found him," Sasuke replied and narrowed his eyes as he gave her a closer look over. Dark hair, pale skin, wide violet eyes... With a sinking dread, he realized who she was.
"I'm H-Hyuuga Hinata," she blurted out, bowing low from the waist. "P-Pleased to meet you! I look forward to working with you!"
For a few moments, Sasuke pondered storming into Minato's office and making a fuss. Because he could tell just from this that Hyuuga Hinata was not a suitable partner for him. But he held back.
"Straighten up already," Sasuke grumbled and wasn't amused when Hinata snapped straight up again, nearly at attention even if she still wouldn't look him in the eye. Gritting his teeth, he managed the social grace to tell her, "It's nice to meet you, Hyuuga-san."
She seemed to realize there was very little truth to that, but didn't wilt any further, which gave her a few points of Sasuke's favor. She was still woefully under qualified to be his partner, he was sure. The stutter and the way she carried herself... Almost like she was expecting a strike at any moment. If it weren't for the characteristic eyes, he wouldn't even think she was Hyuuga!
The two of them chatted a bit. Rather, Sasuke asked brusque questions that meant nothing and she stuttered out answers that meant even less. How this fool had graduated from the academy was a total mystery. Unless the Hyuuga bought her way through. It was possible. She seemed wholly unsuited... And especially so for hiskind of work. Sasuke's usual cases weren't for the faint of heart.
Damn you, Shikamaru!
God, but she was pathetic. Could someone fake this level of pathetic? He hadn't thought the Hyuuga could produce anything but mobsters and businessmen, which were usually the same thing. The stutter, the way she wouldn't meet his eyes, played with her fingers… No one was this browbeaten.
As soon as the initial greeting was over, Sasuke made a b-line for the Chief's office. He didn't even bother knocking but he didn't slam the door when he shut it after him.
"What the hell is this?" he growled out, waving vaguely towards the door but Minato knew what he was talking about and sighed a little.
"Sasuke, calm down."
"I am calm," Sasuke snapped back, then added, "Calm and pissed."
Minato glanced heavenward. Then he grew quite stern. "Look, Sasuke, you know how the Hyuuga are. I couldn't risk putting her with Naruto. I love my son, but observant he is not."
Sasuke snorted. He'd not heard that kind of understatement in a long time.
"If Hinata is a plant, I need someone with her that will notice it and act accordingly," Minato went on with patience. "I can't send her away. She enrolled and passed the exams legitimately. As far as I can tell, she's not hiding anything either. But you'll be on guard for any wrong doing. This could be an elaborate plot, but I doubt it. And if she is a plant and under qualified, I can send her for retraining or fire her out right. But she has to make that move and youneed to notice it."
Huh. So that's how it was. Sasuke shrugged a little. "Even if she's genuine, her cousins could try to press their agenda onto her."
"Exactly," Minato murmured, nodding. "I like Hinata. She's shy, no two ways about that, but there's something strong inside her. If she's legitimate, I think you can bring that out of her."
Sasuke wasn't so sure and it showed on his face. But he still gave a sharp nod, accepting it.
"Good. Now get back out there and make sure she didn't just hack your computer."
While he seriously doubted Hinata had the stones to do that, Sasuke still quickly left and got back to his desk to deal with his new… partner. For however long she lasted.
He figured maybe a week, if not just a single hour.
Konoha had never been the safest place around, but it was nothing like Suna. It had a certain brand of criminal element easy to handle in the small doses they administered. The reason for this had nothing to do with the citizens or their law enforcement teams; it had everything to do with the delicate balance of a dozen or so old families and the connections between them. Konoha had been built on the old families and their rule was so ingrained within the inner workings of the city that it was difficult to suss out where they ended and the actual elected government began. The old families liked the status quo.
An upstart gang called the Fox Corps did not.
At first, the Fox Corps had been merely a distraction. They were small fry, more into robbery and posturing than anything legitimately dangerous. Something to roll one's eyes at but never take seriously. Except that the lunatics took that leniency a year ago and ran with it, jerking up territory as if they had an army behind them. In their wake, they left piles of flesh and blood to mark their declarations of war. The Fox Corps was ugly and undisciplined and really needed a good, hard slap in the face.
Which explained some of why Uchiha Shisui was lingering absently outside of the Sannin Research Facility. He checked his watch, then continued stoically standing by as if all of this was some great inconvenience to him. He was easy to spot in a crowd, for the Uchiha blood rang loudly in him: black eyes, spiky black hair, and deathly pale skin. Shisui didn't seem to care. If anything, he only made it more obvious by the pitch black clothing he wore and the red fan skillfully embroidered on the back of his shirt. The red fan was dangerous. Most would not look upon it, much less try to start something with it.
The Foxes had killed two of his clan that week before the Uchiha even realized the men were gone. In a way, the Uchiha admired that kind of courage and skill. But that wasn't going to stop them from mounting every Fox's head on a stick along Main street.
However, the Uchiha were methodical. There was no sense cutting off limbs before they'd gotten the head of the operation. Thus, again, the reason why Shisui was waiting.
Just as he thought perhaps the white eyed demons might not show, an outrageously obvious black car rolled to a stop in front of the facility, all sleek lines and non-verbal threat. The men that stepped out of it were suited old style in solemn, black yukata but the bulges at the smalls of their backs were all new style weaponry. Shisui almost smiled. It was that kind of dichotomy that amused him, but the best part was the serious, no-nonsense looks on their faces. White eyes always looked like the weight of the world was on their shoulders.
As the grunts moved out of the way, one drew open the back door and the guy Shisui was actually here for made his overly dramatic appearance. Hyuuga Neji preferred suits to yukata when he could help it, all tailor cut to the slender shape of his body. His hair was perfect, hanging behind him in a low tail that should have looked offhand but never did, nor did the bandana he wore over his forehead to cover some childhood injury.
As Neji approached, Shisui pushed off the wall and gave him a nod of greeting. There was no handshake, for both knew the treaty between their families was weak at best and trust had never been part of it. The reason for the treaty had been simply to stave off mutual destruction, not to foster goodwill. Shisui fell in step behind Neji as the Hyuuga went inside. Two of the goons followed, but the remainders posted themselves outside the door. Good little sentries, good little soldiers.
The receptionist sat up straight and tall as Neji passed her, eyes wide and face drained of blood. That she knew him on sight didn't surprise Shisui - the Hyuuga never did anything quietly - and he didn't have to wonder what it was about Neji that frightened her. The guy was about as cuddly as a porcupine and half as genial. Shisui almost smiled at her but he'd been told that his smile was as unnerving as death, so he didn't and kept following Neji instead.
They made their way through sterile white halls at a quick pace. Neji ignored every offshoot and closed door until he got just where he meant to be. Door B209 had no special markings and looked as average as ever, but they'd had to descend into the second basement level to reach it and key through three different electronic locks and an elevator with a secret panel. Shisui thought about being impressed. But he'd seen the unpublished, full floor plan for this place years ago.
"You know, some people knock."
Shisui glanced past Neji's shoulder into the lab, following the direction of a silky voice he didn't like at all. The room seemed fairly average with science... things all around. Bottles and shelves and equipment that did who knew what. A large examination table sat rooted to the center of the room with metal clamps for the hands and feet of whoever had the misfortune of finding themselves down there. The pungent aroma of fear and death. Perfectly normal.
"Skip the pleasantries," Neji said curtly and on the far side of the examination table, the good doctor muttered something sounding very much like what pleasantries.
"There is something to be said for patience," he grumbled as he went over to one of the shelves and removed a stoppered bottle of something clear. "Your father was never so pushy."
"My father was never involved," Neji ground back, completely unamused. "Now, Orochimaru."
The doctor sighed dramatically and then came back around to hand the bottle over. Shisui took that moment to examine him and he found himself a little unnerved. The overall impression was a snake, and not just because of the guy's inane makeup choices or his long, straight hair. This was the kind of guy that would sell out his own mother after he'd cut her from face to crotch and used her entrails as a boa, if it suited him to do so. Too sneaky and underhanded to be a shark, though. Shisui was that kind of guy too, but that didn't mean he liked his own kind.
Shisui tuned out the two's babbling as he centered on that innocuous little bottle. It wasn't labeled. Even crazy paranoid ninjas labeled their things. The lack of it bothered him absently. Still, once Neji tucked it into his jacket for some semblance of hiding just who it was meant for and led them out, Shisui didn't give the lab - or the good doctor - a second look.
"I can't wait to kill him," Neji muttered when the front door closed behind them and his entourage had surrounded him. Shisui agreed and it took everything he had not to comment on it. He was in public, after all, and the Uchiha maintained their public appearance to all ends.
"Hyuuga," Shisui reminded and Neji curled his lip before he tore the bottle from his jacket and shoved it against Shisui's chest without looking. He caught it, barely, and slipped it into one of his pockets.
Neji went on to his car and slid in. Once the door shut, he glanced through the tinted glass but the Uchiha was already gone.
It was a sign of strength Sasuke didn't know she had that Hinata did not wretch at the sight of it. Every other rookie he'd known had the first time. Instead, Hinata had the audacity to give it a long, hard look, her mouth set in a firm line, and then begin carefully measuring out how wide the main pile was and the smaller ones along it for photographing when forensics got there.
Which just added points in the pot for Hinata being a Hyuuga spy because no one handled their first Fox Corps victim well. Not when he could see a bare eye ball sitting in the pile of person-slop between half a finger and a piece of what he thought might be intestine.
He let it lie for right then. They had a job to do and while Hinata took over the part of it Sasuke thought he'd be relegated to (and almost morbidly hoped for,) Sasuke was left talking down the man that had found the victim. He was notably shaken, the way Hinata shouldhave acted, and his eyes kept sliding over to the pile before jerking back with nausea. He was barely coherent and then started babbling about someone in the apartment complex bringing home her creepy boyfriend and maybe he did it! Sasuke doubted that, but he'd follow up on the lead.
Well, they would. He gave a nod to the main forensics guy, who glanced his way in answer before moving to the scene. The forensics team worked like a well oiled machine, few words and fewer complications, because Aburame Shino would have it no other way. Hinata left (what could loosely be called) the body and returned to Sasuke's side. At least she looked pale, paler than usual anyway. The witness stood up straighter with one look in her pale eyes. The Hyuuga Effect, something Sasuke had seen a few times and it burned inside how much he envied it. Must have been helpful to come from a family of scumbags that were too public to ignore.
They dismissed the guy, who rushed back to his apartment, and then checked with Shino to see if they were needed. Which they weren't and Sasuke also envied the way Shino could be a catty bitch without actually being rude in the least. Shaking his head, Sasuke went on up to the neighbor the guy had pointed out. The girl was out but her "creepy" boyfriend answered - turned out to just be one of those every day goth guys - and gave a statement. They hit a few more residents, then headed on to the car, leaving Shino's group to handle the scene.
"You took that well," Sasuke muttered half way back to the station. He spotted Hinata glancing at him from the corner of his eye. "Strong stomach."
"I-I've seen it before."
"Didn't think Foxes patrolled the Hyuuga district."
Hinata was silent a few moments, then she heaved out a soft sigh and curled her hands in her lap. Just as Sasuke thought to prod her, she murmured out, "You're not very good at interrogation, U-Uchiha-san. What do you w-want to know?"
Sasuke thought about trying to pull a feint but doubted he'd manage. He wasn't his brother.
"I want to know how far your family influences you," Sasuke said finally, throwing art to the wind. "Chief Minato thinks you might be legit, but no rookie handles a pile like that well the first time. Or even the second. Yougo and help the damned forensics team. I don't know what your plan is, but -"
"To find my own way!" Hinata shouted and then crumpled as if the loud sound of her own voice scared her. She swallowed thickly, eyes dropping to her hands, and repeated more quietly, "I w-want to find my own way of life."
Sasuke didn't know what to think of that. It sounded like something that idiot Naruto would say. So he just made a noise of acknowledgement and put his attention on driving. He didn't say another word until he'd parked and they were heading for the front door. He took the handle then paused and frowned.
"I still don't trust you," he told her brusquely but Hinata only nodded her understanding.
"I-I'll prove myself," she promised and even if her voice was shaky and timid, her eyes were resolved. Sasuke wondered about her for a moment. Then he decided he'd just have to find out later.
Naruto wished he'd never heard of this case. It rubbed him wrong, the whole feel of the thing, and he thought longingly to the case his buddy Lee had just gotten assigned. Nice, easy gang related gig just waiting to get busted wide open with a well placed 'this is the police, open up'before the ass kicking began..
But no. Instead, he got the poisoning case and it wasn't interesting at all because obviously, someone just had a beef with this girl. The girl wasn't dead (which is a good thing, of course) and it wasn't a serial kind of thing (but maybe it was!) and mostly he was just really bored. The girl was a secretary for some tiny business (he'd been told but he forgot already. Thankfully, his new partner took notes) and not even an important one.
The only reason he and his partner had been called was the nature of the toxin. The girl wasn't the victim of food or some mundane kind of metal poisoning. No, she'd managed to get herself bitten by some huge snake that didn't even exist, as far as the hospital was concerned. But, again, weirdness, and the doctors hadn't found a bite mark. So, the theory was that someone got the imaginary snake venom into the girl's food somehow. Which meant it was a crime. But still a really crappy one.
Naruto figured it was another secretary for some jealousy thing, like maybe the girl was banging the boss. But he'd already met the guy and, well, he couldn't see how anyone could sleep with him period, much less for just a promotion in a tiny, five person operation.
"That was the hospital," Chouji murmured as he got off the phone. He had an absent tone to his voice, the kind Naruto tended not to bother listening to, even if the guy was a lot bigger than he was and could probably smash Naruto under his foot. Not that Naruto really believed that, of course. He was really too busy listening to the sound of how awesome he was. "Miss Izayoi is being released tomorrow afternoon to her family. Think we should put a patrol on the house?"
Naruto rolled his eyes. "Yeah, that's exactly how I want to spend my weekend. Except not."
The new guy paused, giving him a weird look Naruto couldn't really decipher but it looked a lot like his dad's when he strained under the awesome in Naruto's reports. So, he puffed out his chest and stared right back, unashamed. Beaming, even. After a moment, Chouji glanced skyward and just shook his head.
"Okay. So. Do we go interview the other employees now?"
Naruto didn't want to but he'd gotten used to that part of his job. It was better than the paperwork, which he wholeheartedly planned to foist on his newbie partner..
It was while they interviewed the third secretary, right under the big boss man, that Naruto noticed something. Anytime the police were involved, he expected a certain amount of nervousness. That was just par for the course. No one liked thinking someone knew what they were hiding. But the three secretaries (including the poisoned one), the accountant, and even the boss were terrified. It was easy to see the way they went white as Naruto or Chouji called each of them over for a chat. And then their words? Even weirder. He'd never heard people be more careful in his life. As soon as they'd dismissed the last woman, Naruto turned on Chouji with his voice low.
"That seem weird to you?"
Without hesitation, Chouji responded, "The way they were heaping praise on Miss Izayoi or how they're all about to throw up?"
Instantly, Naruto decided he liked Chouji after all. He barely had time to think about that before the accountant slipped away from her desk and approached them. She was still completely frazzled but there was an odd determination on her face as she got way too close for Naruto's comfort.
"Hey, I know this is weird," she said and yeah, it was, especially when she started running her hand down Naruto's arm, "but when you have time later... Maybe you could call me? We could catch a bite to eat."
Chouji didn't laugh but Naruto felt mortified anyway. Because the chick was somewhere around forty or, if he stopped squinting at her, closer to fifty, with her black hair graying out and face wrinkling. "Uh. I mean. This is kind of-"
"I can be a really good time," she added, like it was some kind of bonus. And Naruto almost died as he felt her slip her hand into his back pocket and squeeze. She smiled, tight and fugitive and completely at odds with what she was saying, then turned and headed back to her desk. "If you get bored."
"Yeah. Uh. Totally." As soon as she was out of earshot, Naruto jerked around and hissed out, "Go, go, go!"
He didn't stop until they were in the car and then he gave a full body shudder that had Chouji snickering. Naruto shot him a dirty look but when he noticed the accountant looking at them through the window, he blanched and sped the hell out of there.
"What the hell," he grumbled to himself.
"I'll just make sure to let you lead interviews with the forty plus crowd." Chouji, that bastard. Naruto didn't like him anymore after all.
"One word and I will murder you, swear to everything."
Chouji just snickered again and Naruto thought about throttling him anyway. Instead, he threw safe driving to the wind and scrounged through his pocket like it was possible to wipe off the touch he could still feel. Except he felt something there, a slip of paper about half the size of his palm. Oh god. She left her number.He ripped the paper slip out to throw in Chouji's stupid face. Which just got Chouji laughing for real while Naruto glowered.
"Do you even remember her name?" Chouji teased as he futzed with the paper slip.
"She'll be crushed." And then Chouji got very still and quiet beside him. Naruto didn't notice at first, not until he got bored and realized why.
"Are you alive over there?"
"Stop the car."
"Stop the car."
Naruto almost skidded to a stop right in the middle of Main street from the harried sound of his partner's voice. He managed just barely to curb the urge and instead rolled into a side street to park in front of some clothing store.
"What is it?"
Chouji held out the slip of paper, his expression solemn. On it in hasty black pen were six lines in two columns. Whiskers.
"This is a trap," Minato muttered immediately when Chouji handed him the whiskered paper.
"Dude, I'm telling you, something seriously weird is going down here and those guys are totally part of it," Naruto retorted but Minato pinned him with a hard look.
"In the six years since they appeared, the Fox Corps has never deviated from their MO. Not once, even when they started really hedging territory. Why do you think they'd start now?"
Naruto had to admit, his dad had a point. Chouji, though, looked thoughtful as he fished in a bag of chips.
"It could be a sign that they're involved even if they weren't directly responsible," he murmured. "There have been a lot of turf incidents lately."
"That doesn't make me feel better." Minato ground his palm into one eyes and peered at the woman's cryptic message again. "Either way, poisoning isn't their style. They like wood chippers pretty exclusively... Chouji, where'd you say this place was?"
"Off Main, near-" He stopped and glanced at Naruto, who perked up at the same time.
"Right at the edge of the Inuzuka district!"
"Find Kiba. See if his relatives have seen anything weird lately," Minato ordered, waving a dismissing hand. Naruto leapt to the door but Chouji trailed behind only to pause there and glance back.
"...You seem to know the Foxes pretty well, sir," he observed after he'd swallowed the chip he'd been working on. Minato steepled his hands and offered a faint, self-deprecating smile.
"That's a nice way of putting it. I have a... unique history with them. The DA says I'm obsessed."
Not that that mattered. Most of the old guys had something that kept them up at night... Chouji thought about trying to find out more, but decided better of it and went after his partner instead.
Inuzuka Kiba was leaned back in his chair, arms folded behind his head and feet on his desk when Chouji spotted him. He had one brow lifted, head nodding every few seconds as Naruto recounted his utter mortification at the handsy accountant - who seemed handsier than Chouji remembered - and seemed to be waiting for the point of this story with a bored look on his face. Of course, his lips split into a wide, toothy grin when Naruto got to when the accountant goosed him and he interrupted the blond with a loud laugh.
"Such a ladies man," he chuckled out and Naruto death glared him but no one was all that impressed.
"Shut up," Naruto sniffed, folding his arms over his chest moodily. "I should file for sexual harassment."
"Guys," Chouji interrupted with a shake of his head. "Officer Inuzuka, has there been any unusual activity in your home district?"
"I was getting to that."
Kiba looked like he doubted Naruto but shrugged to Chouji instead of commenting on it. "Not that I know of. Which side?"
"East, along Main."
"I'll ask around." Kiba rolled out of his chair, all animal grace and smoothness. Chouji kind of envied that and admired it. He even envied the devil-may-care grin on Kiba's face as the guy adjusted his jacket. "My sister's place is over there. If anything's up, she's got a whiff of it."
Chouji nodded, grateful, and then started badly when Kiba grabbed his arm. Fierce eyes pinned him fast.
"And by the way," he drawled out with a lazy kind of danger, "nobody but forensics uses surnames around here. And nobody but my Ma answers to ours, and only at council meetings. Get it?"
"Got it," Chouji replied, flushing a bit. Kiba let him go with a nod and sauntered off to do whatever it was fierce wild men did with their time. Huh. He didn't know if he was going to get used to this place.
Misinterpreting his look, Naruto just grinned and slapped his shoulder. "Don't feel too bad. Shino's the only one that calls him Inuzuka. They just have this weird one-upmanship thing going on. Some kind of rival-I-do-things-to-screw-with-you thing. I dunno. Something."
Considering that Chouji had already witnessed something similar between Naruto and that grumpy Uchiha guy, he supposed he got it. But it wasn't really any perceived animosity or chastisement that had gotten under Chouji's skin.
It was the simple fact that Kiba's grip had been strong and he had a nice face and Chouji had a thing for guys that were rough around the edges. He sighed softly and was, at least, grateful that his partner did not in any way resemble his type. One awkwardness escaped for another.
Pushing those kind of thoughts aside, Chouji sidestepped the whole issue with a well placed question. "Naruto... What's the deal with the chief and the Fox Corps?"
Immediately, Naruto sobered and not only looked his age, but suddenly ten years older, all quiet and drawn. It only lasted for a moment, but surprised Chouji enough that he wished he hadn't asked.
"It's..." Naruto being at a loss for words was one of the most horrifying things Chouji had ever seen.
"I shouldn't have asked-" he started, trying to salvage things.
"No, it's okay." Naruto stared off, scratching his cheek a bit. "I... Well, I had an older brother."
Chouji felt his chest cave in. He could read the past tense and what that meant even before Naruto continued.
"I was pretty young. Maybe six? Seven? I don't remember much," the blond muttered distractedly. "Just, my brother... Something went down between him and dad and he left. He was gone for a long time, years. And..."
"You don't have to-"
"Dad found him in Fox territory."
Chouji closed his eyes and took a slow, calming breath. He knew what that meant. And he understood why Chief Minato was so fanatic about getting them. For a moment, he floundered on what to do.
"You hungry?" he asked lamely. "There's a noodle place down the street."
Naruto instantly perked up and Chouji relaxed a bit. "Oh man. I could so go for some ramen right now!"
It might have been assuaging guilt that had Chouji paying for the meal.
When he'd first decided to follow his brother's footsteps and become a cop, Sasuke had imagined some fairly grandiose things, even though he'd been in the precinct almost as much as Itachi had and knew that most of the job was paper and foot work. He was still always disappointed when he got to that portion of the job.
While the forensics team tried to match up the pile's DNA with the known database and figure out if the woodchipper had been cause of death - Sasuke rather hoped the guy had already been dead - he was stuck with his idiot - maybe spy -partner trying to figure out what was so special about that place that the Foxes had to lay down a flag.
For the past year, the Foxes had been leaving their usual victims in specific spots. Ten of the last fifteen piles had been in the territory of some other gang, but no one controlled the Inuzuka district other than themselves and they were less a gang and more a force of nature. One did not step lightly into the tribe land. Not without getting their foot bitten off by the huge dogs that roamed the area like wolves and might have belonged to the residents but the clan was singularly cagey about the details. Despite the fact that the entire city was their jurisdiction, only Kiba ever took news in or out of the Inuzuka district without some harrowing story and possibly a few battle wounds to show for it. Kiba said it was because everyone else was weak. Sasuke liked to think it had more to do with the level of sanity and decorum the clan lacked.
The Foxes hadn't bothered trying to encroach there before. Sure, there were plenty of Inuzuka that had been spotted in the Corps, but that didn't mean anything. There were a few other old families in there too. But in six years, the Foxes had never taken a shot at the Inuzuka. Kiba said it was some kind of understanding they had since everyone knew going against one Inuzuka meant going against all of them. But this was a sign of changing times. He wondered if Kiba knew yet.
Hinata looked up before Sasuke sensed movement behind him, which grated his nerves, but at least it was Shino coming up to them and not some random fool. The quiet man gave a nod of greeting and then handed over a file.
"I found our victim's identity," he murmured, neutral as ever.
Sasuke wanted to say something crappy to him as he opened the file, but a soft gasp from Hinata got his attention first. He looked at her, saw her wide, sorrowful eyes, and then looked down. Staring back at him from the file was the mug shot of a white-eyed kid that couldn't have been more than sixteen when the picture was taken, some two years back.
"Yuuta," Hinata breathed and her voice was one of mourning even as her expression turned to something harder. For a moment, Sasuke believed that she'd actually passed the tests on her own merit and that she could be lethal if she wanted. But only for that one moment before the need for retribution, to avenge her fallen clansmen, faded back again. Not to the emotionless mask the Hyuuga favored, but her own soft, quiet countenance.
Sasuke turned back to the file. Hyuuga Yuuta had been in and out of custody several times over the last few years, but he'd only been brought up on charges the once. He'd been handpicked for the entourage of one Hyuuga Hiashi who, if memory served and it definitely did, was current head of the Hyuuga Foundation holdings.
"Not the usual target," Sasuke commented quietly and didn't look at his partner.
"There's more," Shino prompted and Sasuke scanned over the report to distract himself from just how quiet Hinata was being.
"Snake venom?" Sasuke frowned. "Foxes don't use snake venom."
"They didn't before," is Shino's bland answer.
"Are you sure you didn't misread this?"
The look on Shino's face was muted and quiet but Sasuke still got the feeling that he was abruptly one step from being pummeled. Not that it frightened him at all but he didn't relish in the idea of edging into Shino and Kiba's hate group. He had enough trouble with that idiot Naruto.
"Thank you," he muttered dismissively. Shino waited a moment, as if to show that he only left on his own accord thank you very much, then went off without another word. Sasuke glanced to his hands and found them empty. He jerked his head up and... How the hell?!
Hinata was stone faced as she read over the file now in hergrasp- and Sasuke was going to learn that trick, mark his words. She flipped through the pages with a single minded determination and only after she was finished did she turn back to her glowering partner.
"I-it's very thorough," she murmured as her eyes dropped with their usual shyness. Sasuke took back the file to give his own go through.
The hoops Shino must have jumped through to get enough for a tox screen had to have been pretty gruesome, but it was thorough as Hinata said. Everything that could have come back in twenty four hours had and there'd been no drugs present that they knew to look for. Only a few strange blood readings had prompted Shino to go farther and then he'd figured out the venom. How, Sasuke was sure he didn't want to know. Maybe it had something to do with his habits off the clock. Who knew.
The venom set Sasuke on edge. Foxes were crazy, yeah, but notoriously predictable. At least in how and why they killed, if in nothing else. But this whole thing wasn't their style. This was bold in a whole different way and last he'd checked, the foxes didn't have a beef with the Hyuuga Foundation, except to pick off idiots who trailed too far out of their territory. Plus, it had been dropped right beside the Inuzuka... This was strange. Sasuke started to his feet.
"I'm going to find Kiba. You go to Hyuuga Hiashi and ask him about this." Hinata's face paled nearly transparent, and Sasuke almost groaned as he realized what he'd just asked, but it was necessary. "Whatever clan loyalties you have, they can't get in the way of your work."
"I-I know. I'll ask F-Father what he knows."
"Right." Sasuke stopped. He looked back to the woman trying vainly to melt into nothing and tried to make this new tidbit of information fit. Father? Hyuuga Hiashi's daughter. Oldest, since the younger one was still in school. This pathetic, stuttering, useless excuse for an officer was Hyuuga Hiashi's daughter, groomed from birth to take over the company and whatever sundry business he might be involved in underground. He didn't believe it. He just couldn't. In what world did that make sense?
Except it did, a little. I want to find my own way.Maybe it made a lot of sense. The same way Itachi had become a cop after they left home, to prove both to himself and to Sasuke that it was possible to escape the family legacy.
He still didn't trust her.
Not knowing what to say, Sasuke just let it be and headed to find one of the more wiley members of their team, hoping maybe Kiba might have some simple, un-world shattering insight to bestow upon him.
Uchiha Shisui didn't smoke. At least, that's what his family thought, but they thought a lot of things that weren't really true. Itachi was pretty sure they believed Shisui was the second coming of Christ. If they really knew what went on in his head, he wondered how many of them would fall over dead from shock.
When Itachi arrived in the park, he didn't stop at the bench Shisui had sat himself at with a cigarette in hand. He walked on by without looking and smiled at an old lady walking her fat bulldog before stopping a soccer ball from rolling into the street and tossing it back to the group of kids playing in the field. The kids were happy enough to get back into their game while Itachi wheeled his way slowly through the park. He made a stop at the public restrooms but didn't choose a stall.
It was as he washed his hands the second time that the door opened and Shisui came inside. He dropped the half finished cigarette into the sink Itachi was using and then leaned against the counter as if he owned the place, arms folded across his chest. Itachi ignored that. He was used to Shisui's posturing. Though he did find it a little odd that it only happened around him.
"You said you knew something," Itachi said when it was obvious Shisui wanted to be asked. And when Shisui's lips quirked at one side, he knew he was right.
"Maybe I do." Shisui pulled a lighter from his pants pocket and fiddled with it. With anyone else, that would be a bored, ADD moment but Itachi knew better. Everything about Shisui was deliberate. "That depends on whether you know the right question."
Itachi thought about what to say carefully. Dealing with Shisui required precision and care. He was very good at manipulating things to suit him. That was something the family didn't know either.
"The department has a case. We've found a body in Fox style but no whiskers-"
Shisui snorted. "They're much too full of themselves not to put their name on murders."
"True," Itachi admitted. But for someone else to use their trademark bothered him. He hadn't talked to Minato yet about what he'd heard but if the Chief didn't already suspect another culprit, he wasn't worthy of his post. He picked up the wet cigarette and threw it away. "Do you know anything about the murder?"
"I do." Shisui stretched his arms over his head, ruffling his short, somewhat curly hair. Itachi waited for an elaboration but it didn't come. He resisted the urge to grit his teeth.
"Who's behind it?"
"Someone only slightly less interesting than me." Shisui looked back to him with another little smirk. "Don't get involved. The family has an interest in these affairs."
Itachi didn't outwardly react. But that told him something he really, really wished wasn't true. If the Uchiha were involved, people would die in droves. That was a guarantee. He raked a hand back through his hair.
"Hey," Shisui murmured, reaching over to grab his shoulder. It took everything he had not to flinch. "Don't worry so much. It's not like I'd let any of them touch you."
Which really didn't make him feel any better. Itachi was glad their past friendship meant something but he'd have rathered Shisui promise to keep the family out of police business and away from crime all together. Shisui would never do that, though. He did everything the clan told him to.
"We can't let it go," Itachi said, lifting his gaze to the other man's face. Shisui sighed quietly as the jokes bled away to something more tired.
"Yeah. I know."
The sound of someone retching was so what Haruno Sakura wanted to hear when she entered the ladies bathroom. She grimaced, looking skyward to get the strength not to comment even though she wanted to. At least it wasn't a true loss of stomach contents, more of a nervous dry-heaving by the sound. Sakura futzed about washing her hands as loudly as she could to broadcast her presence. The heaving ended and there were a few pathetic little coughs and sniffles. Sakura paused. That didn't sound like Ino-pig and the result of some bad shellfish. The faint hint of a voice was lighter, quieter. Sakura ran through the list of women she knew at the precinct (which was all of them, had to keep her enemies closer) and found herself lacking. The new girl with the huge tits, maybe?
Glancing down at her rather athleticbuild (Ino-pig be damned,) Sakura spared herself a moment of hatred before she stepped over to knock lightly.
"You okay in there?"
There was a little shuffling, a half-sob. "S-sorry. I'm sorry. I j-just need a m-moment."
Had to be the new girl. Nobody Sakura knew stuttered like that even when they were hiccuping. "Do you want to talk about it?"
"Y-you'll think it's f-f-funny," she sobbed back. Sakura rolled her eyes.
"Can't know that until you tell me."
The door opened a little. The new girl looked absolutely terrible (in that weird, movie star cute way Sakura never managed, damn it all.) Her face was streaked with tears (no makeup, Sakura noticed, and hated her a little more,) and reddened along her eyes and cheekbones. Elsewhere, her skin was the color of thin paper and she was trembling fiercely. Sakura kind of wanted to kick her or maybe just hug her and offer ice cream.
The new girl let herself be led to the sinks where she washed her face and didn't have the decency to look splotchy.
"There," Sakura murmured. "Now do you want to talk?"
The girl nodded and leaned back against the sink. She was still hiccuping every few breaths. "I-I saw a dead man today. In... In p-pieces. And I've s-seen it before, but it's d-different up close. And it w-was my cousin."
Sakura winced. Oh. Okay, well, she could understand crying about that. Not that she knew any of her cousins, but Sakura had empathy, even if most of the precinct didn't think so.
"I'm sorry. That's horrible," she managed because what did you say to that? "Foxes?"
"Y-yeah." Which meant slop. Jeez. Sakura knew the newbies got broken in quick but damn. She dropped an arm around the new girl's shoulders and gave her a gentle squeeze. The girl smiled weakly, but it dropped a second later as the trembling started again. "N-now I have to interrogate my f-father about it because Yuuta was w-working for him."
Sakura glanced her over. She was pretty good at reading people, especially other women (men were just stupid, except for her darling Sasuke, and sometimes he was stupid too, like how he never noticed how hard she'd been working on toning her legs for his enjoyment) so she picked up right away that thiswas what had finally broken the poor girl's composure.
"Let me guess. Strict kind of guy?" Paused because Sakura nearly slapped herself when she realized the girl's eyes, and how could she not have known?! "Hyuuga, right?"
The answer was a nervous little nod. Jeez. Guy must have been a total monster like the rest of the white-eyes she'd had the misfortune of dealing with. This one seemed singularly nice at least.
"Well," Sakura murmured, thinking back to her own experiences, "all you can really do is grow a backbone and stand up for yourself despite tradition."
The girl (she really needed to figure out her name) looked terrified at the very idea. And then depressed. And then very much defeated. Sakura sighed.
"Look, you're an adult. You're supposed to be looking after yourself and that means standing your ground," she explained, keeping as much of the scorn from having to teach this to a grown woman out of her voice. "And you're a police officer. No one is above the law, not even your family, and if you don't do your best to find the truth, even if its difficult, then you're not cut out for this job and you need to leave."
That might have been a little harsh. The girl stared at her for a few moments before dropping her gaze to her feet. She drew a shuddery breath and then straightened and Sakura was a little surprised that she only had about an inch on her and most of that was probably the puffiness of her pink hair.
"You're right," the girl said, her voice a little more sure, less wavering. "You're right. I have to do what's r-right for the case."
Sakura patted her shoulder. "That's the spirit."
"Then U-Uchiha will have to acknowledge me!"
"You go girl, that's-" Sakura stopped when she recognised Uchiha and then backpedaled. "Wait, no, no, no! What was that about Sasuke?!"
But the Hyuuga girl was already gone, set on her new path of self respect. Sakura glared after her. Damn it. More competition. Well, just as she said, she wasn't about to falter in her own convictions. Sakura would not lose. When Sasuke decided to actually pay attention to women, she'd make sure she was the one he looked at. And until then, she'd make for damn sure he couldn't ignore her just because he had new set of (really nice) tits to (not) look at.