Medium-rare

The two things Nomura looked forward to most when coming home from deployment were seeing his beautiful wife and taking a nice hot shower. So, after he walked in the door and embraced his wife, he made a beeline to the bathroom for a shower that was two months overdue.

Standing under the showerhead and letting the warm water wash over him, he let out a breath and relaxed his shoulders. The last time he relaxed like this was right before he walked out the front gates to start his deployment to the Land of Grass.

The deployment was supposed to be for only one month. A brutal and decisive assault on the Leaf's front lines. The hidden Stone had gambled everything on this offensive. After the first month, everything was going according to plan. His stone battalion tore through the Leaf's advance bases, like an unstoppable mudslide rolling downhill. But then they hit the main defensive line and progress slowed. Two weeks of grinding them down. Two weeks of clearing out trenches and tunnels, one by one, yard by yard they drove them out. They were about to break through the last defensive line, but then he showed up.

It's started off as a myth, stories told around campfires of a man appearing out of thin air. Eventually, the myths gained momentum and reports started surfacing of a man with yellow hair that would suddenly appear in the middle of their formations. In the middle of a barracks in the dead of night. The only evidence was always a single ninja left alive, covered in the blood of his comrades.

Eventually, command was able to get a name and description from one of these traumatized survivors. Minato Namikaze. A jonin from the leaf with yellow hair and blue eyes.

Like all squad leaders, they gave him a drawing and added it to his team's bingo books. The man looked completely unassuming. A young man of average height and build. Some women on his squad even described him as pretty.

This all changed when Stone pushed forward for their final devastating assault on the Leaf's last line of defense. They had amassed all their troops under the dim light of the new moon. All in an effort to stay hidden from the Leaf's scouts. In the morning, they pushed forward. Everything appeared to go as planned. But then the kunai started to fall.

Three-pronged kunai with some sort of seal rained down around them. Their forces quickly reacted and erected mud walls to block most of the falling kunai. Noticing none of the kunai exploded or emitted any chakra from the seals, they pushed forward and ignored them.

Then the screams started. Terribly gut-wrenching screams from every direction. From ninja in front, behind, and right next to him. Blood-curdling screeches of men and women in agony and confusion. Cries from ninja with dead loved ones in their arms only to be cut short by a kunai to the back of the head.

Eventually, Nomura caught glimpses of yellow and green popping in and out between his comrades. A brief flash of light gleamed off bright yellow hair, followed shortly by one of his friends collapsing to the earth in a puddle of their own blood.

It felt like hours passed by as he huddled against a rock structure with several of his teammates before the retreat signal reached his ears. But all the reports stated only minutes passed from the time the first kunai fell to their retreat.

They still didn't have an accurate count of the dead. Nomura had lost fifty percent of his team. He heard other teams were completely wiped out.

Nomura sighed and grabbed the soap from the shelf. About time he scrubbed off some of this grime. His wife was making his favorite meal tonight and from the smell wafting into the bathroom, he could tell it was almost done.

Scrubbing a stubborn patch of grime on his thigh, he noticed a weird pattern begin to emerge as the dirt washed away. It almost looked like writing or a tattoo. Nomura scrubbed harder, washing away the last bit of dirt to reveal a seal. The same seal he saw in his dreams every night since the offensive. The seal on all those kunai that served as harbingers of his arrival.

The blood drained from his face as his heart raced in panic.

Suddenly, he felt a sharp pain across his neck and was knocked against the wall. Collapsing to the floor of the tub, he thrashed, trying to get a grip on the side of the tub, but kept slipping on a thick slimy substance. He opened his eyes to see blood. Blood everywhere. On his chest, mixing with the water flowing towards the drain, splattered across the new tiles he had placed on the wall not even three months ago.

Near his bare feet, he saw two more wearing blue ninja sandals. As he traced his gaze up legs clothed in blue pants, he made out the all too familiar green flak jacket worn by leaf ninja. He scrambled back until his head hit the tile wall at the far end of his bathtub.

Wincing in pain, Nomura raised his head to see the identity of the intruder. Blonde hair and sapphire-blue eyes stared emotionlessly down at him.

Minato Namikaze. The Yellow Flash.

He tried to scream, but blood bubbled and coagulated in his throat. He brought one of his hands to his neck only to feel the familiar warm consistency of blood and a deep gash running across the length of his throat.

He watched as Minato slowly reached behind him and grabbed the shower faucet.

Squeak. Squeak.

The faucet rang out as he twisted it to shut off the flow of water that was raining down on his yellow hair.

Nomura observed in terror as Minato calmly raised his hand to his ear and pressed on a black radio device.

"I'm in." A calm baritone voice said.

As Nomura's vision faded to black, he watched Minato pull the shower curtains aside and step out of the shower.

He desperately tried to yell a warning to his wife, Fumaki. But nothing came out. The blood had already pooled in his throat and blocked his airways.

Then darkness.


Fumaki put the finishing touches on the steak dinner she had prepared for Nomura. He'd been gone for so long she wanted to surprise him with his favorite meal. She knew from reading the village newspaper that the offensive had not gone well. And one look at Nomura had confirmed this. He looked hollow and tired when he walked into their small two-bedroom apartment. But nothing a warm shower and a nice steak dinner couldn't solve.

Humming her favorite tune, she placed the two steaks on top of the oven to let them rest while she wiped her hands dry with a dishtowel. She then moved to grab a bottle of wine from their wine rack.

"Smells good." An unfamiliar voice rang out from the living room.

Nomura didn't tell her they were expecting guests.

"It's ribeye, Nomura's favorite." She said between hums as she poked her head around the kitchen corner to get a look at their guest.

A dripping wet man with blonde hair stood in the middle of their living room. In one hand, he held a picture frame depicting her and Nomura kissing during their wedding ceremony.

"What a beautiful picture. I can tell how much he loves you."

As she walked forward, she saw a puddle of water forming around his feet.

"Sorry about getting your floor wet. I got caught in an unexpected rain shower."

"Oh, it's fine, any friend of Nomura is welcome. Can I get you a drink? Maybe some wine?"

"No thanks, I won't be long."

"I'm sorry, but who are you? Nomura hasn't mentioned a friend like you before." She asked while walking up to the man.

"Were relatively new acquaintances. We met during the recent Grass offensive."

"Oh. What a horrible battle. The entire village has been talking about it since the initial news arrived. I'm glad he made a new friend though. At least some good has come out of it."

"How old were you when you two met?" the man asked as she stopped right next to him to join him in looking at the picture. She smiled as she remembered that perfect day. She'd never felt so beautiful in her life. When she put that dress on for the first time, it was like all her worries went away. It was a perfect match.

"Twelve. We met during the New Year's festival ten years ago. He proposed two years ago when he was promoted to chunin."

"How sweet. I'm actually thinking of proposing to my girlfriend soon."

Fumaki raised her hand to her mouth in surprise. A cheerful smile spread across her face.

"You should do it! In times of war, you shouldn't delay on the things that make you happy. Life can be fleeting. You never know when something could happen."

A silver and red glint in the man's right hand caught her eye. Tilting to the side to get a better look, she saw a three-pronged kunai grasped tightly in his hand. Crimson blood dripped off the downward point and mixed with the puddle of water at his feet.

She gasped and took a single step back. The man tore his gaze from the picture and looked into her eyes. Deep pools of sapphire-blue stared right through her.

"I agree. Life can be very fleeting."

Before she could utter a sound, the man's arm came up in a blur. She felt a brief sharp pain from the underside of her chin before darkness took her.


Minato bent down and gripped the handle of his kunai. He gave it a quick tug but sighed when the Kunai didn't budge. It was stuck in there good. Putting his foot on the woman's chest and pressing down, he yanked hard and freed the kunai from the woman's skull. He then grabbed the dishtowel still clutched between her hands.

"Thank you." He said politely to the dead woman on the floor. The towel will come in handy. He didn't like to store his kunai when there was still blood on them. They tend to stick to each other inside his kunai pouch if he doesn't clean them properly.

Minato stood and headed towards the front door but stopped when his stomach rumbled. Sniffing the air, he picked up the delicious smell of that ribeye.

It'd be a shame if it went to waste.

Walking over to the kitchen, he grabbed some silverware and one of the plates the women had prepared and walked over to the dining room. As he pulled out a chair, he remembered something.

Wine.

It would be rude to eat this meal without a nice glass of wine. Walking back to the kitchen, he grabbed one of the wine glasses on the counter and poured an acceptable amount from the bottle his host had so kindly opened.

Sitting back down, he raised his glass in a toast to the body on the floor.

"Thank you for this delicious meal and wonderful company."

Taking a sip, he sighed in contentment. Nothing like a well-aged cabernet. Putting the glass down, he grabbed his silverware and cut into the steak. Skewering a delicate piece with his fork, he marveled at his host's handiwork.

"Medium-rare. Just how I like it."


Authors Note:

Medium-rare is the correct way to cook your steak.

-V3X