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it's just not in the cards

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"Why did you tell him?!" demands Kimimaro, rounding on Tayuya, eyes flashing. Tayuya stands her ground, not backing up even a little under her leader's furious gaze.

"I had to," she snaps back, her voice taut and shivering, tight as a wire. "You can't go out like this."

"So what does it matter if I die?" snarls Kimimaro. "You go on without me, I've served my purpose."

"All we want is to keep you safe," pleads Tayuya. "Kimimaro, please."

"All I want is to die in Orochimaru's service!" screams Kimimaro, slamming Tayuya to the floor, and she flinches, closing her eyes. He's made threats, sure, but this is the closest he's ever come to hurting any of his teammates.

Seconds pass and no blow comes, so Tayuya opens her eyes to see Kimimaro blinking away tears, gritting his teeth. He's brimming over with raw emotion and Tayuya carefully wraps an arm around him, pulls him close, feels him shiver against her chest.

"I'm sorry," she whispers.

"Why can't I just have this one thing?" Kimimaro breathes into Tayuya's shoulder, and she shakes her head helplessly.

"You aren't meant to go out like this," she says- coughing up blood from a fight against himself rather than the wild, exhilarating rush of a battle.

"I know," says Kimimaro, but it doesn't make it hurt any less.

"This way you get one last battle," says Tayuya, and it sounds so final when she says it like that. One last battle, huh.

"I know," repeats Kimimaro, "but I wanted it to be with you. All of you."

"That's not in the cards, Kimi," says Tayuya with a laugh that hurts her somewhere in her chest. Kimimaro laughs, too, and then they're both crying, sobbing into each other's shoulders until they can't breathe and their teammates are there, crying as well, four not-quite-human disasters pressing as close as they can to their leader, their center, their sun.

Kimimaro.

"Call me when you need me," whispers Kimimaro through the lump in his throat. "I'll be there."

"I'll try not to die before you get there," says Tayuya, and the five of them laugh together until it's time and Kimimaro leaves and the sound of laughter fades into an ugly silence that presses on Tayuya's heart.

---

"I guess it just wasn't in the cards," Kimimaro whispers to himself as his heart skips a beat and he starts to falter.

They called when they needed him, and he answered.