The last time Asuma saw Konohgakure it was in the late throes of summer when it was half empty, active and even semi retired shinobi off to help with the harvest, some jōnin taking their last bit of freedom before the new genin were assigned. Now it was barely spring and Konoha looked like the sleeping giant it was. It bristled with shinobi of every rank, each one almost visibly armed to the teeth, so much so the walls looked like they were being patrolled by angry porcupines more than anything. As such, it's not much of a surprise when Asuma is stopped a solid thirty feet from the gate, which is sealed shut.
“State your name a business,” a chūnin with bandages across his nose demands. He and his partner, another male chūnin, are tense as a wire trap ready to spring, distrust obvious across their faces. Of course, it's only been three days since the attack.
“Sarutobi Asuma,” he says, “jōnin and member of the Guardian Twelve. I've got a month's leave to help rebuild and repay my respects.” He keeps his voice even, no hint of his annoyance despite his exhaustion. He knows they have a good reason for this – but Konoha was betrayed from the inside, not one man walking down a muddy road.
His name, however, causes an immediate shift, some mixture of surprise, mild panic and even deeper suspicion. “Sarutobi,” Bandages mutters to his partner, barely within Asuma's hearing, “shit man.” His partner seems calmer of the two, less visibly agitated.
“Sarutobi-san,” he calls down, “please wait here while we get someone who can verify your story.” He visibly pauses before leaning down a bit more to be better heard, “and uh, did you want an umbrella or something?”
Despite everything, the fact he's almost asleep on his feet, his worry and the grief attempting to break through the wall around his emotions, grins. “I don't think it will do much good,” he said. He was soaked to the bone already, after all. The rain had started about six hours after he left the capitol, and hadn't stopped in the day and a half since. He had, for the first little bit, been using a carefully place fūton to keep dry but it hadn't really been worth the chakra expenditure.
Not-Bandages gives a nervous chuckle at the answer and disappears without another word, leaving Bandages to peer nervously down at Asuma. It makes the jōnin feel like a ticking time bomb, if bombs had feelings that is. Not-Bandages, whose apparent lack of real humour has earned him the name Chuckles, reappears less than a full minute later with a familliar if very sodden silver-haired jōnin next to him.
“A greeting from the Copy Nin himself,” Asuma says once they're within talking range, voice purposefully mild, “I've really gone up in the world it seems.”
Kakashi's body shifts in a way that offers the suggestion of a grin beneath his mask, a real one not that stupid eye-thing he's perfected over the years. “There just weren't any other bastards unlucky enough to recall your ugly mug, Asuma,” Kakashi says. From...