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it's our time now (if you want it to be)

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Karui’s heartbeat is getting faster with every passing mile, and Omoi would be worried about pending heart attacks if there was any space in his brain to worry about anything right now.

“Come on, come on,” Karui mutters, and she hauls his arm over her shoulders a little more. “If you zone out on me, Omoi, I'm going to throw you in a river and leave you there, and I’ll tell Samui you tripped because you were worrying about nothing, and she’ll believe me—”

“Do you ever stop talking,” Omoi complains, but he doesn’t mean it. There's a ringing in his ears that almost blocks out her voice, and it’s only the constant stream of beratement that’s keeping him from tripping headfirst into a zone right now.

Karui makes a noise that could be relief or exasperation. “Fine, then you talk. Listen to this: as soon as we get to a village I'm going to walk up to the first handsome ninja I see and kiss him on the mouth.”

It takes about three seconds for that statement to register, and then Omoi groans in dismay. “But what if you kiss the Headman’s son?” he says plaintively. “What if he’s already spoken for and his fiancé takes offence? What if they're bigger than you? What if he takes offence? What if you start a war? What if you duel his fiancé for his hand and one of you sets off an exploding tag in the wrong place and causes an earthquake, and—”

A flash of light makes his words tangle on his tongue, and he jerks, wrenching around. Sight spins up, suddenly too sharp, to high, and he sucks in a pained breath and recoils, slapping his hands over his eyes. There’s no escaping, though, not totally—as soon as his vision goes dark sound becomes agony, too much, too loud, each breath and heartbeat a drum-strike in his ears. His knees buckle, and Omoi hits the ground hard, can't breathe through the cacophony, the swimming darkness.

A hand grips his shoulder, drags him up without mercy even as Omoi gasps a protest, and Karui hauls him back, spins in front of him. The light off the blade of her katana is like a blow, but there's something in Omoi's head that screams protect in a voice he can't ignore, and he reaches up, grabs her arm, feels the sudden rock-steadiness as she braces herself. Omoi gets a foot under himself, leaps, and there's another heartbeat coming, slow-steady metronome beat. He catches it, turns, kicks out hard where it’s going to be, and feels his sandal connect.

Karui's breath is vicious satisfaction, and she spins past him, sword flashing out in a blur too quick to see. Lunges, rising, and the attacker swings to meet her, a short tantō redirecting her blow. He twists, and Omoi smells ash on his breath just in time to shout, “Katon!”

Karui twists out of the way of the jutsu, drives an elbow into the other nin’s ribs and darts back, and Omoi takes her place, stabbing from the other side. There's a blur, an explosion of whirling leaves, and the nin is suddenly gone. Omoi curses, falls back, and there's a blurred heartbeat behind them, then to their left, then above—

He stumbles, and Karui catches him with a hiss of frustration, wrapping her free arm around his waist and hauling him back to mostly upright. “No, no, no, not now, Omoi,” she growls. “I'm going to punch you, you pessimistic idiot!”

“He’ll probably stab you while you’re busy with that,” Omoi gets out, even though it’s strangled, even though the sunlight through the branches is dappling the ground and he keeps almost getting caught by the pattern of it. “And then B will rap at your funeral, and the Raikage will try to make him stop, and—”

“Damn it, Omoi, half of your personality is entirely unnecessary,” Karui hisses, and her back hits the trunk of a tree. She dumps Omoi on the ground beside her, stepping in front of him again, and Omoi winces at the brilliance of her katana, tears his eyes away and right to the swaying dapples of sunlight on the ground. It’s like he’s falling into them, like they're expanding to fill the world, and his breath hitches. He can feel Karui falter, feel a touch, but every other sense is fading out, sight rising to fill the void. Shadows and light are all he can see, in perfect detail right down to the drops of dew beading each blade of grass—

A high-pitched whistle shatters through his head like breaking glass, and Omoi yelps, recoils. Hands catch him before he can collide with the tree, but not Karui's. He knows the smell of her, and this is something different, sharper, like leaves and wind with an undertone of scorching flame. Omoi breathes it in, shakes his head hard and presses a hand to his eyes, and there's a quiet sound in his ear.

“Sorry,” an unfamiliar voice says. “I know that was loud, I'm really sorry, but you’ve got your sight dialed up and you need to bring it down.”

There's an undercurrent to the voice, something rhythmic, something that coils around Omoi's chest and makes his next breath come easier. He groans, but his head is still swimming and it’s easier to obey, to open his eyes just a crack and concentrate on letting his sight slip back down to something in the normal range. There's a headache pulsing in the back of his skull, the result of a mild zone, but it’s enough to distract him, to pull his attention away from darts of shadow and dewdrops on grass.

“There you go,” the voice says, and the hand on Omoi's shoulder loosens. “Okay, how’s the rest?”

“Awful,” Omoi mutters, but he drops his hand, lets his eyes slide further open. “I'm going to be the first Sentinel to zone out on dewdrops and then B will be so ashamed of me he’ll shave his head and move to Kusa.”

A laugh, bright and startled, and the strange nin they were just fighting sits back on his heels. He’s tall, a little older, with dark eyes and curly hair that looks soft, and there's a sense around him, something soothing. Omoi's seen it weaponized before, seen Guides drive people into insanity with their presence, but this is pure Guide trying to help a Sentinel. Warm, Omoi thinks in relief, and lets himself slump.

“We’ve been running for two weeks now,” Karui says, and she crouches down on Omoi's other side, mouth a tight line. Her sword is still bared, ready to drive into the Guide’s ribs, but her attention is on Omoi, too. “Iwa caught us over the border, and when we escaped they sent out trackers to bring us back.”

“That would explain all your senses being screwy,” the Guide says, and he reaches out again, slow and deliberate, letting Omoi see the motion. “Is it all right if I help you bring things back to baseline?”

“Please,” Omoi says, because he’s wearing a Konoha hitai-ate, and as far as Omoi knows A hasn’t managed to piss off Konoha in the last couple of months, so it’s probably safe enough. He still glances at Karui, and she nods once, amber eyes flinty, grip tightening on her sword; she won't let anything happen.

The Guide’s gaze flickers to Karui, then down to her sword, then over to Omoi again. “I'm not going to do anything,” he promises peaceably. “Pinky swear.”

Omoi snorts, but he doesn’t move as the Guide’s hand settles on his shoulder again. It’s a warm touch, and a knot of tension in Omoi's chest unwinds. He breathes out, feels it shudder through him, and the Guide’s presence is as tangible as his touch. The part of Omoi's brain that’s been straining itself to pick up any trace of their pursuers, to hear unfamiliar heartbeats or catch the rock-dust and clay scent of the Explosion Corps member after them, gradually eases back, and it’s like removing a vice from a limb, or wiggling free of a bear trap. Pure relief, and Omoi sighs, slumps forward.

The Guide catches him, lets Omoi lean against his chest and presses his fingertips to the nape of Omoi's neck. “Better?” he asks, laughing a little. “I don’t even know how you were functioning like that. I've never met a Sentinel with every single sense going haywire.”

Omoi hadn’t been aware that it was that bad, but as his senses drop back to normal, it’s startling to suddenly be able to touch without a trace of pain, to realize that he shouldn’t hear the scraping of tree branches in the breeze half a mile away. The world shrinks, becoming smaller, and Omoi is impossibly grateful for the change.

“Thank you,” he says into the Guide’s flak jacket. “I would definitely give you a lollipop if Iwa hadn’t taken all of mine.”

The Guide laughs again, sits back, but Omoi doesn’t want to let go. He reaches out on instinct, and the Guide doesn’t hesitate to grab his hand and pull him in, until Omoi is sprawled against his chest like a lazy cat.

“You're lucky you came this way and didn’t make for the Kusa border,” he says, and when his fingers press into Omoi's hair Omoi decides he’d be happy to stay right here, in the tangle of warmth that is the Guide’s presence, for the rest of forever. It’s too warm and comfortable to think, and he likes it. “There are twice as many Iwa patrols through Kusa as normal right now. Konoha couldn’t figure out why, but I guess they were looking for you two.”

Omoi grimaces. Of course Iwa is looking for them. They're Killer B’s students, and Iwa apparently thinks that’s more than enough leverage against A to get him to agree to a new trade deal. Because they're stupid, Omoi assumes; it’s far more likely that A would just have told B where they were, and then B would have gotten Yugito and they would have wrecked Iwa together. Maybe even with the jinchuuriki who left Iwa, since Omoi is pretty sure B knows both of them. Iwa would have been turned into a smoking crater, and Omoi and Karui would probably have died in the chaos, blown to pieces, and—

“You're really tense,” the Guide says, sounding worried. “Is there something wrong? Is one of your senses bothering you? I can tone back the aura thing if it will help.”

Karui snorts. “That’s just Omoi,” she says dryly, and Omoi makes a rude gesture at her over his shoulder. She scoffs and smacks him in the shoulder, though not nearly as hard as she could. “Are we close to Konoha? We haven’t been able to find a single familiar landmark in days, but we couldn’t stop, either.”

“You're right outside the walls,” the Guide says, and tips his head to the west. “It’s about ten minutes from here. If Iwa wants you, I think I can safely say that Konoha doesn’t want Iwa to get you, so you’re welcome in the village if you want.”

Village. It sounds like a synonym for heaven after two weeks on the run, eating whatever they could scrounge and sleeping on the ground in scattered moments. Omoi hasn’t had a bath beyond a dip in the river to throw off the trackers since Iwa caught them, and he makes an enraptured sound at the very idea of it.

“What he said,” Karui agrees, snickering. She rises to her feet, sheathes her sword, and offers, “I'm Karui. That puddle of Sentinel used to be Omoi.”

Omoi scoffs at her, but he reluctantly picks his head up, only to have the Guide wrap an arm around his waist and pull them both up, staying close enough that Omoi doesn’t have to lose the near-perfect calm of his presence. “I'm Uchiha Shisui,” he says. “I didn’t think Kumo let its Sentinels go on missions across the border.”

Usually A wouldn’t, but Omoi's always tied himself to people more than place, like most Sentinels. It’s hard to worry about that, though, with something else to worry about right in front of him. He jerks his head up, catches Karui's expression going slack with shock, and only manages not to fall over because Shisui's hold is firm enough to keep him on his feet.

“The Hokage candidate?” he demands, bewildered.

Shisui blinks, and now that Omoi is looking for it, that’s definitely the Uchiha fan crest on his sleeve, with Konoha's leaf superimposed over it. “I didn’t realize the news had gotten out,” he says. “But yeah, that’s me.” He grins a little, and it’s bright and handsome and makes Omoi's heartbeat kind of stutter in his chest, because Omoi is stupid. “So when I say you're welcome in Konoha, you're definitely welcome.”

A Guide as Hokage candidate. A powerful Guide as Hokage candidate. Omoi swallows, because there's already a Shisui-shaped imprint in his senses, and that’s—probably definitely not a good thing. But then Shisui smiles at him, and it’s hard to remember why.

Karui looks at Omoi, looks at Shisui, and snorts, folding her arms over her chest. “I guess I'm not going to be the one starting a war or a duel,” she says, and Omoi makes a very emphatic rude gesture in her direction.