“It won’t work,” said Kakashi.
“Of course it will work. Everyone likes puppies.” Katsuko hung upside down from the ceiling of Team Six’s office, anchored to the plaster with chakra-limned feet.
“They’re not puppies,” Kakashi told her. “They’re ninja hounds.”
“They didn’t just pop out of their mamas fully grown,” Katsuko said. “They started out as puppies. When my friend Naota was learning to summon falcons he kept getting fledglings. Obviously they have babies in the Summoning Dimension.”
Kakashi gave her a long, slow, dead-eyed stare. It didn’t seem to register.
“So summon some puppies,” she told him, speaking slowly like she thought he was a little slow on the uptake.
“It’s an abuse of power.”
“You’re an abuse of power.”
This was ridiculous and there was real work to do. He should shut this down, but somehow the words came out anyway. “That doesn’t even make sense, Ueno.”
“You have power,” she said. “The power to make taichou feel better. With puppies. And you’re refusing to use it. That’s definitely an abuse of power.”
“Taichou will feel better if we finish this paperwork and turn it in,” Kakashi informed her.
“And the lieutenant,” Katsuko continued, as if Kakashi hadn’t said a word. “You could make taichou and the lieutenant happy, with puppies. But you won’t. You know why?”
Kakashi turned purposefully back to his desk and picked up a pen.
“Because you think you’re better then them for not getting hurt.”
“That’s what you told Nara-taichou.”
Outrage was not a helpful emotion. “I did no such—”
“You told him you thought they should have let you handle the infiltration on your own.”
Kakashi was getting a migraine. Obito, that traitor, was agreeing with Katsuko about this? He shoved back from the desk, grabbed the stack of reports he’d been working on and looked her in the (ridiculous, upsidedown) face. “I’m taking these to the hospital to get taichou and the lieutenant’s signatures.”
Katsuko’s arched eyebrow was a strangely accurate mimicry of Genma’s trademarked skewering-you-with-skepticism look. She waited until he reached the door before she said, “You should bring them puppies.”
The hospital was its usual self-contained efficiency—quiet except for the subtle sense of urgency that seemed to seep from the walls themselves. Kakashi tugged his mask higher on his nose to filter out the scents of living and dying, and didn’t look at the faces he passed. Anxious civilians, purposeful medics, stoic-faced ninja doing their best to embody Rule 25.
Ryouma was just coming out of the door to the ward where Genma and Raidou were supposed to be when Kakashi got to their floor. He waved a lazy smile at Kakashi and beckoned him to follow, leading the way to the ‘family lounge’. It was, mercifully, empty.
“Taichou’s sleeping,” Ryouma said, shutting the door. “And they were about to do something undignified to the lieutenant, so they kicked me out.” He grinned and scrubbed a hand through his hair. “You here to relieve me? I don’t think they really need babysitting, but you know. They took the hits for us on this one. Seems like it’s only fair if we keep them company.
“Are they… Okay?” Kakashi asked.
“Medics said they’ll both be mission-fit in a week,” Ryouma said. “Raidou’s knee looks like he’s got a watermelon stuffed under the bandages, but I heard one of the docs tell Genma he did a good job stabilizing it in the field.”
Kakashi sat down on one of the yellowish leatherette-covered couches with a relieved sigh. He dumped the paperwork on the coffee table in front of him and leaned back.
“Were you worried?” Ryouma asked, coming to sit next to Kakashi. “I told you they were both stable.”
“I wasn’t worried,” Kakashi said. Why would he worry? Or feel responsible? Or think it was his fault that his teammates were even in a position to get hurt in the first place?
His eye throbbed with Obito’s opinions. And Minato’s. ‘One in five ANBU teams don’t survive their first year intact, Kakashi. Don’t let yours be one of them.’
“You’re a crappy liar,” Ryouma told him. “The world’s crappiest, in fact.”
Kakashi reached for the paperwork. “These need your initials before I give them to taichou, I’ll show you where.”
“You also suck at deflection.”
“Tousaki, can you please, just this once, not be an ass?”
“They’re fine,” Ryouma said, looking at him with far too much understanding. “Raidou’s a little bummed about having to take a week off training, and Genma’s second guessing every medic who comes near them, but they’re fine.”
“Ueno said I should summon puppies to cheer them up,” said Kakashi.
Ryouma’s face lit up. “You should. Can you do that? Everyone loves puppies.”
Raidou woke up from vaguely pleasant and highly drugged dreams to a sensation of movement. Warmth and movement. And a chorus of soft, squeaky sighs. There was definitely something in his bed with him. He jerked the covers back with one hand and stared.
Five sharp-eared little faces peered up at him, almost fox-like but—no. These were definitely dogs. Puppies, in fact. They all had ridiculously oversized collars around their necks, each sporting a curved metal plate etched with Konoha’s leaf.
“Hatake came by,” Genma said from the next bed over. “He left some paperwork that needs our signatures.”
Two of the puppies licked inquisitively at Raidou’s hand, and a third butted its tiny, fuzzy head against him. He petted them almost by reflex.
“Why the dogs?” he asked.
“Something to do with Tousaki and Ueno and abuse of power,” Genma said. “I—don’t really get it either, but he was insistent.” He shrugged and lifted the blanket covering his own body to reveal a pair of black pups curled up at his side.
“Huh,” Raidou said, because he couldn’t think of anything more clever.
“I made sure he put them on your good side,” said Genma, “so they can’t hurt your leg.” A snake of IV tubing wriggled between the pole and his hand as he scritched one of the puppy’s ears.
“Huh,” Raidou said again.
“Yeah,” Genma agreed. “It’s kind of sweet. Weird, but sweet. He didn’t stay long, but he said he’d be back to pick them up in an hour. And he hopes you feel better.”
“He’s a good kid underneath it all,” Raidou said, stroking baby-fine plush and letting tiny milk teeth gnaw at his fingers. “Weird reaction to us getting hurt, but…” He grinned. “Everyone likes puppies.”