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Head in the dust, feet in the fire

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Yugito has been warned about the Inuzukas. Of course she has—she’s a kunoichi from Kumo; a jinchuriki from Kumo, and her village has taken from Konoha many times, in both the near and distant past—and the Inuzuka’s are the best trackers in the elemental nations.

 

Even worse; she’s been warned by Matatabi—warned about the spirit-touched clan of humans with spirit-dogs who have forgotten their roots.

 

So encountering one—well, encountering one has Matatabi rising in her head, protective, her tail puffed up like the cat she is. The nin-dogs (there’s three, huge and bristling) by her opponent’s side snarl in return, their hackles rising, and Yugito feels her heart speed up, a fear-reaction accelerated by the way Matatabi’s power curls around her.

 

(She only does this when she’s really worried; when their opponent is something or someone that Matatabi knows Yugito can’t beat by herself. This—this is worrying—it’s not often that Matatabi does this, not often that she believes, without a doubt, that Yugito will need her power to overcome their opponent.

 

Usually when this happens, it’s a missing-nin of the Akatsuki variety. Having Matatabi react like this for a Konoha nin…

 

It worries her.)

 

The Inuzuka sniffs at the air, crinkles her nose, frowns. “You smell like cat,” she announces. Yugito frowns, still careful, but the Inuzuka isn’t trying to attack—she’s just sniffing the air, cautiously curious, a hand down to block her dogs. “And spirit,” she decides eventually, looks at Yugito like she’s the most interesting person to exist right now.

 

“What do you want?” Yugito asks, wary, the low rumble of Matatabi’s anger twined around her own voice. The Inuzuka shrugs, crouching down as she ruffles one of her dog’s fur. When she grins, her clan markings shift, and sharp teeth peek out from behind her lips.

 

“I’m curious,” she says, “You’re cute,” Yugito chokes, feeling Matatabi’s confusion mix in with her own, but the Inuzuka ignores her, continuing, “and you smell like spirit. Like my clan does.” She tilts her head, sniffs again, says, “Actually, no—you smell like Kiba’s friend.” Then she wrinkles her nose, adds, “But he smells like fox, not cat,” and Matatabi breathes, slow and perfectly, utterly controlled.

 

“Fox,” Yugito says, blunt—ignoring the ‘cute’ comment, because that doesn’t matter, Yugito, you’re a Jounin of Kumo and you have no time for this —because she knows, she learnt all she could about every other Bijuu and this girl is essentially saying that she’s under the protection of not just dog-spirits, but the Kyuubi no Kitsune as well.

 

“Yeah, fox,” the Inuzuka girl says, tilts her head in the same way a confused dog would—and Yugito refuses to think about how cute it is (surprisingly so, for a deadly girl in a leather jacket with three huge dogs at her side, all just as dangerous as their master)—before she adds, “is there something wrong with that?”

 

Yes, Yugito wants to say, it means you’re likely far more powerful than me, it means I have no chance of getting out of this alive because you’re from Konoha and I’m from Kumo, it means that even if I do win, somehow, Kurama will hunt me down and kill me for daring to harm one under his protection. Yugito wants to say a lot of things, but what comes out instead is, “You smell like fox too, and I think I’d prefer you to smell like cat.”

 

Yugito feels her face burn red, even as Matatabi cackles in the back of her head, drawing her power back.

 

You two are doing fine, she says, an amused purr, I think you’re more interested in hitting on each other than attacking each other.

 

Yugito whines quietly in return, but her attention is quickly brought back to the Inuzuka girl, as she throws her head back and laughs, bright and beautiful.

 

You’re smitten, kitten, Matatabi purrs, amusement ringing through her voice. Yugito ignores her as best she can, keeping her focus on the cheerful, toothy grin of the Inuzuka she’s apparently not going to have to fight.

 

“Inuzuka Hana,” the girl says, then gestures to her ninken as she says, “These are the Haimaru brothers.” She holds out a hand to shake, still smiling, and Yugito can’t decide if she wants Hana to stop smiling, or if she wants her to never stop. She takes Hana’s offered hand, wondering at the feel of calluses along her own, and offers her own smile to match.

 

“Nii Yugito,” she says, then she lets Matatabi’s chakra leak from her pores in a glow of blue fire, knows her eyes are shining, catlike, lit an otherworldly blue to match the chakra colouring the air around her, and she says, “This is Matatabi.”

 

“Woah,” Hana says, smirks, elongated canines peeking out from behind her lips, “that’s hot.” Yugito starts, feels herself start to blush again and tries to pull away, but Hana’s still gripping her hand—tight enough to hold her there, but not enough to hurt.

 

“Thank you?” she says, unsure, still bright red. Matatabi is no help—the cat-demon is curled up in the depths of Yugito’s mind, laughing and laughing and laughing, lighter than Yugito’s heard her in a while.

 

This dog-lady might be good for you, Matatabi says, having finally caught her breath enough to speak, see if she’ll come back to Kumo.

 

What if she won’t? Yugito asks, worried—because she likes this girl; likes the way her clan markings shift as she smiles, likes the way her teeth poke out from under her lips and how her voice sounds when she laughs, but she’s only known her for a few minutes. This—whatever it is—has formed too fast; at least, it has on Yugito’s side.

 

It’s—it’s almost scary, feeling this, knowing that it could oh-so-easily be torn from her.

 

(This is the first time Yugito can remember that someone’s treated her as a person, instead of a weaponized container or a hero.)

 

Then you go with her, back to Konoha, Matatabi replies, simply. You’d get to meet Kurama, then!

 

But—but Kumo? Yugito protests, although she finds it doesn’t have as much weight as she’d expected.

 

Kumo isn’t home. Kumo is where she’s a ninja and a container and a weapon, a shinobi above anything else, with— with nowhere, really—to relax. No time to relax. Hana, though…

 

Hana isn’t home quite yet, but when Yugito looks up from where she’s running her hand through the rough fur at one of the Haimaru brothers’ necks, she thinks that maybe she could be.