dedication: to les, on her birthday. happy twenty-third, nugget.
notes: don't look at me it's a prESENT OKAY
notes2: idk son this was supposed to be… not what it turned out being oops
title: watching with eagle eyes
summary: This war is going to cost us. — Rei, Sasuke.
The Hikawa jinja was a safe haven in the middle of a war zone, and everyone knew it.
It was a large jinja—large as many in the capital, though it was not affiliated with any particular god. The shrine maidens of the place prayed to a sacred fire, burning in the hearth red as the torii gates that guarded its entrance.
Hino Rei was one such maiden.
She was the granddaughter of the shrine's head priest, and she was, perhaps, the most devoted of the dedicates. The Hikawa jinja had been her home since she'd been a child, and it was the only home she'd ever known.
Her father was a lord, but Rei didn't like him very much.
And so she passed her days sweeping the shrine grounds and tending the fire, dry wood crackling when she lobbed another log into the inferno to feed the hungry flames. She did not want for much. There was always food and shelter, and even when the sky bled red, the jinja was safe. Sometimes wounded soldiers passed through, and Rei buried more bodies when they died on the beds she'd made for them.
Outside, the war raged on.
It was white outside, that day.
The wind bit icy through her haori, slipping beneath her collar and sliding down her spine to pool at the small of her back. It chilled her all the way into her soul—that should have warned her, really, that deep lingering cold and the way it wouldn't leave. Rei was a fire girl, of hearth and flame; she should have known that no good would come from getting out of bed that day.
But there were chores to do and Rei was nothing if not consistent. So she got up and went to tend the fire, fingers rough as she heaved logs onto the embers. The Sacred Fire must not go out, no matter what was happening in the background of its existence. So it was that after tending the Fire and eating something that could be considered breakfast, Rei took her broom and headed out into the cold whiteness of the day to sweep away the leaves that littered the jinja's entrance.
And that was when she found him.
He was crumpled at the top of the steps up to the shrine, face-up, blood on his hands shining black underneath the white sky. His attire was dark, as was his hair, and there was a long katana clattered on the ground to his right.
Travelling ronin, Rei thought idly. Wounded, likely dying.
If he lived to see tomorrow's sunrise, she'd be surprised.
But regardless, she had her oaths.
"Phobos, Deimos! Go get Yuki and Grandfather, there's another one!" She paused, and eyed him for another moment. "And he's in bad shape. We need to hurry if we don't want him to bleed out."
Her crows screamed their accolades into the sky, and took off. Rei knelt down next to the ronin.
"Hello? Can you hear me?" she asked, quietly, touched his shoulder.
He groaned, which was more of an answer than she expected.
"It's alright," she said. "You're safe now."
He didn't make a sound this time, but Rei knew that likely he couldn't. She'd seen men in shape worse than this, but not by much. There was a line of blood down his chin, and she wiped it away, unthinking.
His eyes snapped open.
"Don't touch me," he growled and coughed, coughed.
Rei barely managed to keep the sneer from her expression. "You've got blood on your face. I don't think you can sit up without help."
"I don't need help," he said, voice still low and furious. "Let go."
"Fine," Rei said, and relinquished her grip. "Don't get mad at me when you choke on your own blood and die. I don't like hauntings."
But whatever he was about to say was cut off. Just then, the other shrine maiden and Rei's grandfather came running, dragging white swaddling cloth and something to help drag him inside.
"This is going to hurt," Rei said, with not a little bit of smug satisfaction.
He made only a choked-off aborted noise as they lifted him, the kind a person makes when they've a knife in their gut and they're trying to keep breathing through the pain, and nothing else. Rei watched, but did not help—they would need her strength later, when it came to searing his wounds closed. No one else but her would have the fortitude for it. It was a messy job.
Her grandfather looked at her for one long moment, his moustache twitching.
"Come inside when you're ready," he said, at last.
"Yes, Grandfather," Rei said, head bowed.
She stood slowly, after they had gone. There was dirt on her knees from where she'd been kneeling by his side. What an idiot, refusing help. He was going to die without it.
Rei brushed the dirt away.
Even if she couldn't save him, she had to try.
She drew a deep breath in through her nose, and headed inside.
"I've done all I can," Rei sighed, a long time later. "We'll see how he is in the morning."
He had a fever, because of course he did. She'd expected that, but still—he couldn't naturally be this pale, could he?
"Go to bed," she told Yuki softly. "I'll keep watch."
"Yuki-chan," Rei said, stern, "go. You need to rest, you've done all you can."
The girl dipped her head in acquiescence. She gathered her things, and the last of the medical supplies, and went. Rei watched her with eagle eyes until the door to the healing room closed, and she was sure the other girl was gone.
The things she had to say were not meant for anyone else's ears.
"If you live, I'm going to kick you out of the jinja myself. It's funny—" she paused, looked down at him, "—because you're not really here right now, are you? The dream-gods have you, and you can't hear me."
He shifted a little, then quieted. Rei watched him carefully before speaking again.
"I don't even know your name. You do have one, correct?"
"I suppose it doesn't matter. I would pray for your safe return, but I don't care that much," Rei's lips quirked as she said it, fingers hovering over the curve of his cheekbone. "Do you have someone who loves you? What's like that?"
"You're—kind of a—brat—"
"So you are awake. Huh. I figured as much. Here, drink this, I promise it won't kill you. You've already done enough dying, tonight." His lips were cracked to bleeding. He'd lost a lot of blood, and Rei held a cup of lukewarm water to his lips.
"Uchiha Sasuke," he said, ragged.
"Don't talk, you'll hurt yourself," Rei said, and tipped the cup again so that his mouth was occupied and she had a moment to think.
The Uchiha family was from the far South, three weeks journey on foot from the jinja.
"You're far from home," she said, at last.
"Don't have a home," he said.
She didn't want to argue with that.
"You're amazed I'm awake," he said. It wasn't a question.
Rei inclined her head. "Given how badly you were wounded, I'm honestly amazed you're alive. You shouldn't be, just so you know."
"I can't die yet. There's someone I have to kill."
She looked at him for a time, violet eyes glinting in the firelight, wearing her long dark hair around her like a cloak. Her hands stayed folded in her lap, and her breathing was measured, meditative.
"Don't lose yourself to it, Uchiha-san. Killing takes the soul out of you," she said, softly. "I've seen better men lose themselves for less."
"I don't have a choice," he said. His hair was as dark as hers, ink across the pillow. "I need to."
"It's not my place to stop you," she said, lips pulling up into a smirk. "But don't say I didn't tell you so."
"I won't," he said, staring at the ceiling. "He killed someone I love."
"Ah," Rei said. "Revenge."
She could understand revenge.
He inclined his said, but didn't deign to say anything more. They stayed in silence for a few minutes, Rei on her knees and Sasuke in his bed, and very carefully did not touch.
"I'm going to go to bed," Rei said, much later, though she couldn't have said how much time had passed. "Goodnight, Sasuke-san."
"I never got your name," he said.
Rei was already at the door. She turned to look back at him, hand on the frame. "I didn't give it."
He stared at her, gaze bold.
"It's Rei," she said.
"Just Rei?" he asked.
"Just Rei," she repeated. "Get some rest. You'll need it."
He closed his eyes.
And Rei walked away.
In the morning, she didn't have to check to know that he had left. Yuki came running into her room screaming about the trail of blood out of the jinja and down the steps—Uchiha Sasuke was gone, and there was nothing anyone could do to bring him back.
Honestly, she couldn't say that she was all that surprised.