The following is fictional and does not in anyway relate to canon events
Bekkah stood in her room gazing out the window. Ashbeak sat atop her shoulder, nibbling at some dried fruit she had given him.
Bekkah sighed. “So here we go again, do I ever get a rest?” she wondered.
She turned to look at herself in the mirror. Same as always, black pants and a Kouen black dress shirt with the fire-phoenix emblem and white around the collar. Black gloves with the finger-tips cut off to allow for her talons, one glove netted to her elbow. Her hair, blonde like a Kouen, had grown a bit since she last checked, and her fringe dyed black. Bekkah had just received a gift from Ash a month earlier, a traditional Kouen headband, with red fabric and the bird wing symbol, she had tied it around her arm, as was tradition for Kouen. Her eyes a deep glowing golden, face lined from eye to cheek with bold red stripes, the tears of the phoenix face paint as the Kouens call it.
She subconsciously reached a hand to her throat to grasp at the crystal pendant her father had given her, her fingers caressing its uneven surface.
The voice broke through her thoughts, she turned to see Ash standing in the doorway green eyes a light with curiosity and perhaps concern?
“Are you ready yet?”
Bekkah nodded, “Yes Ash, sorry, I was just distracted by thought.” She said hurriedly.
Ash raised an eyebrow, “should I be concerned?” he said with a sudden softness. He came over to where Bekkah was standing and placed a hand on her shoulder.
“When you have something on your mind, I know it isn’t good.” He said
Bekkah tried to ignore this, she knew he was trying to pry into the nightmare she had had the other night, but she wasn’t ready to delve back into the burnt and barren landscape that haunted her dream, the visions of the bird gods, gods at war. Bekkah shivered, Ash felt this.
“Bekkah? Tell me honestly . . . are you ready for this?”
This time Bekkah turned to him.
“Ready for what?” she said softly, a hidden growl edging at the back of her throat. She knew what was coming.
Ash hesitated, feeling the sudden anger beginning to radiate from his cousin.
“Ready for this mission. . . you suffered badly from the last. . . not physically Bekkah, but . . .” Ash rubbed the back of his neck, avoiding Bekkah’s piercing eyes.
“Mentally?” Bekkah finished for him.
Ash looked down at his hand resting on her shoulder.
“I fear for you Bekkah.” He said, his grip tightening slightly.
‘I fear what you may become, if he takes over.”
“He is what saved my life when I faced the betrayer of the Kouens.” She hissed closing her eyes.
“Because of him I still live.”
“And because of him, you cannot be the person I know you long to be.” Ash said in the same hushed tone. “I do not wish to blaspheme, or disrespect that that is the great Tori, but I fear for your safety on every mission we go, I have seen too many times you lost in his grasp.” Ash said his voice cracking. He turned away from Bekkah, biting his bottom lip.
“You’re all I have left of your father.” He said bluntly. “I made a promise to myself I would always protect you.”
Bekkah opened her eyes, the anger dissipating into a deep sadness.
She felt ashamed at herself, she knew all along Ash only cared, so why had she allowed herself to feel anger at him?
“Ash, I’m sorry.” She sighed.
‘I guess I haven’t been myself since the fight with Harker, I always wonder, did she live?”
“Bekkah. . .” Ash started but Bekkah cut him off.
“I was too cowardly to deliver the final blow Ash.” She said clenching her fists.
She turned to him, her eyes flashing fiercely. “I couldn’t do it!”
Ash was silent for a few seconds, he watched his distraught cousin as she bowed her head, anger radiating from her body like heat from a hot coal. “So, she may live, Bekkah that is the least of my concerns, what matters is here and now.” Ash finally said looping an arm around her shoulder.
“Let’s just get this mission out of the way ey? Don’t you think this is excited Bekkah? The Clan Skiah! We may be the first of the other clans of Sky to locate them! It’s been years since a member of Skiah had been sighted!”
Bekkah allowed a small smile to cross her lips. “I guess it is pretty exciting, but there is also the fact that we will be straying into Washi territory, a dangerous thing to be doing in these times.” She said with that blatant honesty.
Ash nodded in agreement. “We’ve faced them before, we’ll face them again.” He said giving her a playful tap on the shoulder.
“And were almost killed.” Bekkah said slyly.
Ash sighed and shook his head. “Can you ever be satisfied?” he sneered playfully.
Bekkah shrugged. “It depends on the circumstances.”
Ash shook his head again. “Let’s just go, we need to meet at the main gate for the rest of the party, it is to be split into two remember?”
Bekkah nodded. “Yes Ash.” She put a hand up to her shoulder where Ashbeak sat, Ashbeak chirruped and nibbled at her hand playfully.
Ash watched her intently for a few seconds, his green eyes scanning her features for any signs of emotion, but her face remained blank and unreadable as always.
“Well.” He finally started. “Come on.”
The sand trio stood waiting by the gate, Gaara’s gaze was fixed at the road ahead, his eyes gave nothing away to the thoughts running through the red head. Kankuro stood restlessly beside, moving from foot to foot as if he couldn’t stand to be still.
“What’s taking them so long?” he finally broke the silence, the irritation quite distinct in his rusty voice.
His sister turned to him, a bored and slightly frustrated look on her face. “It’s the Leaf Village Kankuro, they’re always a bit slack around here.” She sneered.
Kankuro made a low growling noise.
“Well they’re wasting our time!” he said kicking at a stone on the ground.
Gaara’s cold raspy voice broke through Kankuro’s cloud of frustration.
The red head turned his turquoise gaze to the Puppet Master.
“We need the Kouens. They are the only ones who can locate Skiah, and without Skiah, my village is in danger.” He said his voice soft and yet the finality was enough to make anyone’s skin crawl.
Kankuro shifted uncomfortably, but nodded his head.
“Fine, I’ll be patient.” He muttered, turning his gaze away from Gaara’s and resuming to kick the rock at his feet.
“Who else is going with us?” Temari said changing the subject.
“Surely there must be others, it’s not like these Kouens are anything special.”
“The Sensei of the girl selected a few who volunteered freely, they were not randomly chosen.” Gaara answered monotonelessly
“Should we be worried?” Kankuro snorted. “It’s not like these Leaf Shinobi are anything special either.”
“They will suffice.” Gaara growled.
Kankuro made a small noise that seemed to say “We will see.”
Bekkah and Ash strode through the winding streets of the Village, heading toward the main gate. Not a word had passed between them since leaving the housing area in which Bekkah lived.
“Who is accompanying us?” Bekkah said breaking the silence.
Ash kept his fast pace, but his eyes lit up with a slight curiosity.
“I’m not sure.” He answered. “All I recall is your Sensei said he would be asking shinobi to volunteer.”
Bekkah felt a little jolt run through her body.
“Volunteers?” she said smoothly.
Ash raised an eyebrow.
“What about it?” he said slowly, his eyes narrowing.
Bekkah shrugged, turning away from him. Ash glanced at her through the corner of his eyes but left it there.
“Ash, Bekkah.” The voice broke through the two Kouens thoughts.
They turned to see Lara Hyuuga approaching, followed closely by Naruto Uzumaki, Shino Aburame and Kiba Inuzuka.
“Hey Bekkah!” Kiba said running up to her and giving her a tight hug.
Bekkah smiled, pushing him off playfully. “You act like you haven’t seen me in years.” She said with a laugh.
Kiba rubbed the back of his neck smiling. “Hey sorry I care.” he laughed, Akamaru barked atop his head, Ashbeak responded with a sharp caw.
“Why are all you here?” Ash said breaking the silence between the rest of the group.
Lara raised an eyebrow. “Isn’t it obvious Kouen, we are to accompany you.” She said simply.
Ash looked around the group and leaned in close to Lara.
“No Uchiha?” he hissed almost too eagerly.
Lara almost laughed. “As far as I know.” She said eyes darting to Bekkah, but she was still too engrossed with her conversation with her half-brother to hear what was being said.
“Good, he is the last thing I need distracting my cousin.” Ash growled his dislike for the Uchiha boy seemingly unchanged despite the fact Sasuke had greatly assisted in the fight against Harker and her hell hounds.
Lara nodded in agreement.
“He is not in his right mind as it is.” She said.
“I saw him this morning; he was very distraught, seemed very distracted.” She didn’t mention the feather he was twirling softly between his fingers.
Ash snorted. “What a shame.” He said with cruel sarcasm.
“Hey are you guys coming!?” The voice broke through the two scheming shinobis.
Naruto was waving at them frantically; he and the rest of the group were already back on track, heading towards the main gate. Ash and Lara exchanged a quick look before starting after them.
Bekkah was still going over the members of the group in her mind. Someone was missing; someone she had thought would volunteer in a heartbeat.
She felt a small twang of disappointment. Where was Sasuke?
Three figures came into view as the group approached the main gate, it took Bekkah mere seconds to focus her eagle-like gaze on the group and determine who it was.
The Sand trio had been waiting patiently for a while now it seemed.
Ash was first to speak as the group neared the Sand siblings.
“We are sorry for our lateness, it could not be helped.”
“I don’t see why.” Kankuro muttered, but silenced after a dark look from Gaara.
Gaara’s eyes locked with Ash’s, Ash met his gaze unflinchingly.
“It was a minor inconvenience.” He rasped.
He broke the gaze and turned to the other members of the group, regarding them with cold turquoise eyes.
“You are one short.” He finally said, eyes skimming over the group once more.
“As far as I’m concerned, we are only the ones who volunteered.” Lara said coldly, her eyes narrowing with distrust.
Gaara turned to her, his eyes blank, yet fierce, but Lara was used to locking eyes with an opponent, she glared back, her own pupiless eyes just as fierce.
“You are one short.” Gaara repeated.
“And we will not leave until he arrives.”
“He?” Ash sneered, “How do you know the sex of the other so called member of our party?”
Gaara didn’t turn to him; he instead rested his penetrating gaze on Bekkah.
“Because I know he will come.” He said more to her than to anyone else.
Bekkah was taken aback; she opened her mouth to speak but hesitated, unsure of what to say. The boys gaze lingered on her momentarily; she saw something flash behind his eyes, understanding? Distrust?
“Who else could possibly be coming?” Kiba growled, his canine teeth glinting in the fading sunlight.
“As long as it’s not that little punk I ran into the other day.” Kankuro muttered, smothering a yawn. His eyes behind the purple paint suddenly grew wide, blazing with rage.
“You have got to be kidding me!” he snarled his eyes darting over the shoulders of the group to the forest beyond the gate.
The group turned their gazes to the forests edge, intent on seeing who or what had set the Puppet Master in such a mood.
Approaching the group, head held up high, a strut in his walk was Sasuke Uchiha, his face was as arrogant as always, but Lara could see the pain was still evident behind his black piercing eyes.
Bekkah looked up, her golden eyes on the Uchiha boy, she felt Ash groan beside him, and several groans from Kiba respond.
Sasuke watched the expressions on the shinobis change as he approached, not one seemed at all pleased to see him, except Bekkah. Sasuke felt his legs grow weak as his gaze rested on the Kouen girl. He felt that familiar pain stab at his chest and his softened gaze hardened. He saw her tilt her head in that show of bird like curiosity at his sudden change in demeanour. He felt his gaze soften once more and he inwardly sighed. Why did she have to be so beautiful?
“So this is our last group member.” Ash said bluntly as Sasuke came to a stop.
“Got a problem Ash?” Sasuke sneered folding his arms over his chest.
“Only if you make it one Uchiha” Ash hissed.
Sasuke shot him a smug unflinching smirk.
“We’ll see about that.” He scoffed.
“Alright Sasuke we know you don’t like us, and frankly, we do not overly enjoy your company, so let’s just keep this civil.” Lara interjected her voice calm and passive.
Sasuke glanced at her, and she saw his face flush slightly with embarrassment.
He obviously still remembered their slight confrontation this morning.
“Fine.” He answered turning his back to her.
“Great the punk is with us now.” Kankuro sneered walking straight up to Sasuke, a malicious grin on his painted face.
“Back down Puppet Master, or I will make you.” Sasuke hissed dangerously.
Kankuro laughed. “Oh yeah? Will you now punk?”
Sasuke clenched his fists. “Yes, I will.” He growled.
“Sasuke. . .” Bekkah said warningly, but he ignored her soft words.
“Kankuro stop pestering the kids.” Temari sighed, inspecting her finger nails.
Kiba, Shino and Naruto kept their eyes intently on Sasuke, watching eagerly to see what would happen next, Lara and Ash however seemed bored and un-phased by either shinobi. Gaara watched the scene blankly, his face giving nothing away.
“You know what, I’m sick of your lack of respect to your betters.” Kankuro said taking one of the bundles from his back.
“Kankuro!” Temari said, now seemingly concerned.
“It’s time someone taught you a lesson!”
Quick as a flash the bundle exploded and a clanking contraption flew straight at Sasuke, taking him off guard.
It was a puppet, and it was flying straight towards Sasuke, controlled by blue chakra strings attached to the hands of the Puppet Master. The Puppets arm opened to reveal a deadly looking blade.
“Kankuro stop!” Temari cried
Sasuke leapt backwards, attempting to avoid the blade, he felt his foot slip beneath him and in seconds he was on the ground.
The other shinobi stood stunned it had all happened so quickly.
“Heh, too easy!” Kankuro sneered turning the Puppet toward Sasuke once more its blade aiming for his chest.
“Time to learn some respect!”
There was a sudden burst of chakra, and a clang as metal hit something close to the same substance
The dust cleared to reveal Bekkah with her talons outstretched, blocking the blade from Sasuke.
“Enough!” she snarled, her eyes flashing dangerously from gold to red.
Sasuke opened his mouth to speak, gathering himself up from the dirt.
Kankuro’s mouth was agape in astonishment.
“You moved so quickly.” Was all he managed to say, his puppet hung lifelessly on its chakra strings.
“This is not the way to start a cooperative mission.” She said, hurling the puppet to the ground with a flick of her wrist.
“Yes Kankuro, enough!” Temari snarled, slapping her brother in the back of the head.
“He started it.” Kankuro whined pointing to Sasuke.
Sasuke glared at Kankuro with such venom with such dripping hatred, it felt as if the area around the boy had sunk into a deep oblivion.
“I do not care who started it, I’ve ended it.” Bekkah said lifting her head proudly. The wings on her back retreated as did her talons.
She turned to the rest of the group.
“Thanks for the help it was much appreciated!” she hissed.
Kiba, Shino and Naruto backed away sheepishly.
“You know how it is; don’t want to get in the middle of petty scraps.” Kiba said rubbing the back of his neck.
Bekkah made a loud humph and turned to Sasuke, who had retreated into silence, his back turned on the group.
Gaara, who had been watching the scene silently from the sidelines, suddenly spoke.
“Good it would seem we are all here now.”
The shinobi all turned to him (except for Sasuke who could not be persuaded to do so), now focused on their task ahead.
“As you know there will be two groups, one will travel to the wind country and to my village, the other deep into the Lightning Country.”
“Alright! An adventure!” Naruto cried joyously.
“Settle down Uzumaki!” Ash growled folding his arms huffily.
Gaara ignored Naruto and went on.
“The two Kouens will be travelling to the Lightning Country, with them I have decided for the Hyuuga girl and Uchiha boy to go with them.”
“What?” Both Ash and Lara said at the same time.
Gaara regarded their distaste curiously. “It seemed logical.” He said a smile almost etching across his thin lips.
Kankuro laughed behind him. “Sucks for your group.” He sneered.
“Oh Kankuro.” Gaara started turning to his older brother.
“You will be going with them.”
“WHAT!?” This time is was Sasuke who had spoken, ignoring Bekkah’s restraining hand he turned to Gaara.
“Why would you purposely send that idiot along with a group that I have suddenly been assigned to?” he snarled.
Gaara didn’t turn him, he was too intent at observing his brothers steaming figure.
“That is my reason.” He said. “And it will not be overruled. Now I suggest we get a move on we have already been delayed enough as it is.”
He turned to Naruto, Shino and Kiba.
“You three, come with Temari and I.”
The three shinobi hesitated, glancing at Ash, Bekkah, Lara and Sasuke, before striding after Temari. Kiba turned and waved to his half-sister, his look seemed to say “Be safe, take care.” Bekkah raised a hand to reassure him she would be fine.
Gaara turned to Ash once more.
“Do you duty Kouen, ensure your clans safety.” With that he followed Temari and the three Leaf Shinobi.
Once they were out of sight, Ash turned to the remaining group.
“Now listen here.” He started his focus on Kankuro and Sasuke.
“You two had better learn to work together, I know you do not like each other, not one bit, but that is no excuse for immaturity and petty squabbles, you got that!”
Sasuke regarded Ash with his arrogant smile.
“Whatever you say Ash, you have my word.” He sneered.
Kankuro glowered at the Kouen, but knowing he was severely out matched he sighed and nodded.
“This isn’t some game, this is a dangerous mission, and the lives of many are at stake.” Lara said quietly. “So we must put our difference aside, for the greater good of all.”
Ash nodded. “Well said Hyuuga, I can see I’ll like working with you.”
“Let’s move out, we have a long way to go.” Lara said, acknowledging Ash’s comment with a small smirk.
The group set off at a steady pace, taking one last look at the fading image of the Leaf Village high wall as it became engulfed by the tree studded horizon.
Suddenly it felt as if a weight had been lifted from Bekkah’s shoulders, she felt free, the feel of the soft breeze through her hair, the smell of the leaves mixed with the sweet scent of some sort of flowering plant.
She felt Sasuke beside her sigh in relief as if leaving the village had eased some part of his mind.
Even Ash seemed in high spirits now as they ventured further into the thickening forest. Kankuro remained at the back of the group, keeping to himself preferring to remain in silent solitude.
Ashbeak flew on ahead, wheeling and diving through the treetops, with Sparky, the yellow heron close behind, chirruping bossily at the little black fire-eagle.
“Do you have an indication on how long it will take to reach the Lightning Country?” Lara Hyuuga broke the quaint silence, speaking directly to Ash.
“If we can keep a good pace, a week or less.” He answered, rolling his shoulders and stretching out his arms.
“You want to fly?” Lara queried, her eyes narrowing slightly.
Ash grinned sheepishly.
“Kouens prefer to be on the wing rather than walking.” He admitted with a small sigh.
“It’s just an inbuilt thing.”
Lara nodded. “There is much about your clan I do not know, and parts that I do, Bekkah has been very informative in certain instances, but then again I am not one to openly delve into another’s thoughts, unless they provoke me.” She said flashing a smile.
Ash shook his head with a slight chuckle. It was ironic as Lara Hyuuga used the thoughts and emotions of her enemies as a weapon against them.
“Your clan is one of much interest.” She said thoughtfully “I wonder if Skiah will be the same.” Ash just nodded.
The day seemed to pass without a fuss, Sasuke and Kankuro kept their distance from each other, Lara and Ash discussed more facts about the clans of Sky, and Bekkah silently trudged beside. Not much had been said between her and Sasuke since they left the village both had seemed to have retreated into an awkward silence. Why was that? Bekkah felt a deep sadness growing inside her once more; she glanced at the Uchiha boy, only to see he was already gazing at her. He noticed her eyes on him and he quickly looked away.
“The sun has almost set; let’s stop here for the night.” Ash said breaking through the young Kouens thoughts.
Bekkah observed her surroundings; Ash had led the group into a small yet safe clearing. She could hear a stream bubbling nearby, and the comforting sound of owls hooting in the distance.
“Good choice” Lara said mildly examining the area.
“It’ll do.” Kankuro snorted, dropping his load and taking a seat on the soft ground.
Ash groaned and fell to a sitting position, his back against the trunk of a tree.
“Much deserved rest” he muttered with a yawn. “We need to make sure we keep our energy up, so I suggest you all try to get a goodnights rest.” He said, smothering another yawn.
Bekkah sighed taking a spot on the grass close to a cluster of small ferns.
She had already began to feel the effects of not having been on a mission for a while, she already felt fatigued by just a days’ worth of journey.
She lay back on the ground, and allowed her golden eyes to flicker to sleep. . .
Bekkah awoke with a start, it had only been a couple hours’ tops and yet the moon was now high in the sky. She glanced around at her companions, her luminescent eyes glowing brightly in the darkness. She saw Lara close by, breathing evenly, eyes tightly shut, Kankuro was nearby, his head resting on his bundles, hood pulled over his face which was at this time clean and without paint. Ash was still resting against the same tree, paint smudge by his hand which was resting gently on his cheek. Sparky and Ashbeak were curled up beside him, sleeping soundly.
Only one person was missing. Where was Sasuke?
Bekkah moved restlessly, she got to her feet and began to make her way to the stream which she could hear close by.
She reached the flowing water’s edge and looked down at her glowing reflection. Her eyes almost looked white with the luminescent glow they give off in the darkness, an inherited Kouen trait. She splashed a handful of the cool crystal water onto her face, and began wiping off the remnants of her Tears of the Phoenix face paint.
“What are you doing?” the voice broke through her tranquillity.
She turned her glowing eyes into the darkness and made out the figure of Sasuke.
“I couldn’t sleep.” She answered, still in a ridged startled position, a very bird-like trait.
Sasuke sighed. “Neither could I.”
He approached her at the water’s edge, his face dim in the moonlight. He sat beside the girl and watched as she continued to wipe the red paint from her eyes.
Bekkah felt his eyes on her, and that all familiar jolt passed between them.
Had things really changed that much in the last few days? She didn’t quite know anymore. Sasuke didn't take his eyes off the Sky Sage, he felt a pain in his chest once again, why didn't things work out how he wished they would?
Bekkah stopped what she was doing and stared out into the water. An owl hooted nearby, she closed her eyes and listened to the calming sound.
Sasuke’s eyes had never left the Sky Sage; he continued to gaze at her with his piercing black stare.
“You missed a spot.” He said softly.
Bekkah turned to him, her eyes alight. “Sorry?”
Sasuke smiled softly, “your face paint, you missed a spot, here, I’ll get it for you.” He said raising a hand, Bekkah recoiled slightly as his hand neared her cheek, Sasuke hesitated now unsure of himself, but ignoring the voice in his head that mocked and taunted him he continued to raise his hand to her face.
She felt his fingers touch the surface of her cheek and he began to wipe the remaining red stain from her face. The strokes of his fingertips became less practical and instead grew softer, Sasuke felt his face go hot and his chest grow tight, he continued to stroke the Sky Sages cheeks despite the fact he had rid her of the paint. His soft strokes became caresses and before he knew it, he had put his other hand on her other cheek and was holding her face softly between his fingertips. And she was letting him; there was no resistance from the girl at all.
Sasuke looked deeply into her startled golden glowing eyes; he saw no sadness, no regret, no fear.
Before Bekkah knew what was happening she was falling into his embrace
“Just stay here with me for this night” Sasuke whispered into her ear, his voice wavering. “Please, try to see things my way.”
He held her back slightly, feeling his face flushing furiously, he was breathing deeply now, his eyes drawing in her every feature as she gazed back at him, her expression still the same as before, not passive, not sad, just longing.
Bekkah felt her breath catch in her throat as Sasuke leaned in closer, she could hear him breathing deeply, almost feel the heat radiating off his flushed skin, she closed her eyes taking in every moment. She felt his lips come into contact with hers sending tingles shooting down every inch of her body, she felt the want and longing in his kiss. Sasuke tried to hold back but he couldn't; not now, not now he had her once more.
After what seemed like minutes he pulled away panting heavily, unsure of what he had just done. Sasuke suddenly felt self-conscious and embarrassed at himself, how could he let himself succumb to this? Not again, he only got hurt last time, what good could come out of this? But as his gaze lingered on the Sky Sage, on her beautiful golden eyes, her stunned, startled yet almost pleased expression, he felt his heart melt again and within seconds had wrapped his arms around her slim figure and was drawing her in for the second kiss.