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Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Behind the Porcelain Mask

Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto or any of its characters and make no money from this. Masashi Kishimoto does.


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"Kakashi-senpai, please be careful with the cake... I put a lot of effort into baking it!" A lively Sakura warned as they walked, hands full with various foods all prepared for Sai's birthday.



"Don't worry, Sakura. I got i-" The young woman watched in horror as her ex-sensei tripped over the tiniest pebble, falling down ungraciously with said cake. The fruit of her labor landed on the ground with a heartwrenching splat.



The silver-haired jonin lay flat on the ground for a few seconds, staring wide-eyed towards his still out-stretched arms at the mess he had just created. Much to his surprise, his female companion burst out laughing. The unexpected reaction only filled him
with a sense of impending doom. There was no way the feisty kunoichi was taking this with such humor.



"Kakashi-senpai, you're incredible. How can you be so amazing in battle, yet such a klutz in everyday life?" Her smooth voice inquired, a look of pure awe etched into her pretty features.



"If I was to be so amazing all the time, I'd die of exertion." He joked as he got back to his feet, dusting his shirt off as he stood. If he was getting off the hook so easily, he could suffer a little humiliation.



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Part One
Hiding Behind a Porcelain Mask



Chapter One:
Meet Suzuka



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The Hokage's office held such a different feel at night. Moonlight bounced off the walls, basking the whole room in a gloomy bluish glow that made the it appear abandoned. The utter silence that currently reigned was a stark contrast to the hectic life that filled the building whilst the busy hours of the day. The middle of the night was no time to be bustling around, granting the privacy that was required for the meeting of three particular people. Two ninja adorning the dark-hued clothes and armor that made the ANBU uniform stood before the desk of their leader, mysterious faces hidden by white porcelain masks. The busty blonde sat on the edge of the large desk, holding herself straight with the aid of her hands firmly planted on the solid surface that supported her.



The man on the right was easily recognizable, whether it be by the dog design painted on his mask, the messy silver hair sticking out above of it, or the prominent slouch in his posture. The Copy Nin was impossible to miss or mistake for someone else, his reputation far too great to conceal his identity without modifying his whole appearance and mannerisms. However, the woman who stood at his side was the complete opposite. Everything about the girl presented anonymity, from her average height and body similar to any other ninja's, to her standard black hair that reached her shoulders.



"Tokumei-san." Tsunade called out, her tone commanding respect and demanding the male's full attention.



"Yes, Hokage-sama?" The tall man replied, bowing to the older woman.



"I introduce to you Suzuka-san. For your next missions, she will be under your command." The Hokage instructed with a voice strict and devoid of any emotion, the perfect example of a fine shinobi.



The two ANBU members spun on their heels to face each other before their bodies bent in a polite bow, perfectly in time with one another. The younger woman watched her new teammate carefully, examining him from head to toe discreetly. His behavior and stance exuded none of his usual aloofness or laziness, instead projecting an image of intimidating coolness.



"Tokumei-san." The junior of the room greeted first.



"Suzuka-san." The deep baritone voice of her comrade replied casually as he straightened up. She imitated him a few seconds later, indicating the high level of respect she held for the man before her. Her snake-like mask faced his as they remained motionless, awaiting their Hokage's order.



"I will summon you both later this week for the mission briefing. You're dismissed." The blonde's voice broke the silence as she pushed herself away from her seat, waving the two off with a flick of her wrist.



"Yes, Hokage-sama." The masked pair emitted in unision before exiting the room soundlessly, disappearing by the time their superior had turned around.
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The city lights shone brightly, illuminating the immense buildings that overpopulated this business-driven land. The stars and moon were pratically invisible, hidden away behind either a cement tower or the polluted smoke that hung in the air, thickening as it gathered in the sky. Such a scenery was nonexistent in the Fire Country, instead surrounded by nature and its army of lush, thick forests. Silence was so easy to find back there, back home, whilst in this foreign world, noise was in the foreground. The streets of Warabi were filled with people, all ambling towards unknown destinations, most likely for an evening of leisure after a long day of hard work.



Amidst the overbearing amount of activity livening up the city, a few touches from Mother Nature nonetheless graced the sight with tiny brushes of autumn colors, falling in the forms of dead, red or yellow-colored leaves that were swiped away from the occasional tree planted by the sidewalk. As if to assert her presence, the wind blew its icy breath onto the mob of bypassers, cruelly reminding those who had decided to forego a warm coat that winter would be settling in within the next few weeks.



Suzuka's own face stung as the cold air cooled her skin further, tinting her round cheeks a vivid shade of red. Her hair framed her face and blocked her sight as another strong gust assaulted them, causing the young woman to shiver and emit a small whimper of complaint. How she regretted not bringing that thick, warm knee-length coat that she kept for winter months back at home.



"Are you cold?" The baritone voice of her partner asked, never slowing his brisk pace to turn and glimpse at her. A glance at him let the shorter girl know that her companion was entirely focused on their task, his eyes never leaving their target. Every time her gaze landed on those onyx orbs, the female ANBU was surprised to see identical eyes, expecting to be met with a black and red set instead.



"No, not at all." Suzuka fibbed, unable to keep her teeth from chattering after she spoke. Henges were not necessary here, as ninja were pratically unheard of, but the tall man beside her preferred to hide the odd eye anyway. It was understandable, really. It warded off any undesirable questions from strangers.



Navy bue eyes watched with mild surprise and curiosity as the silver-haired ninja removed his jacket, revealing the oversized white woollen sweater hidden underneath. A shy smile curved her plump lips as she realized just what he was about to do. Her partner certainly wasn't overheating under the few layers he wore, but he would still offer her his coat. What a gentleman he was. Not that it was so shocking; the Copy Ninja was renowned for taking good care of his teammates.



"Here." The older man muttered as his arm stretched towards her to hand over the warm jacket. He finally turned to throw her a funny look, as if to question the hesitance she exhibited towards his generous gesture.



"You'll be cold." The dark-haired ANBU protested as her hand swatted his arm away in refusal. The male cast her a suspicious glance, his lips pursing visibly even through the mask.



"Take it. I came prepared." It was hard for Suzuka to tell if her squad leader was repimanding her or simply assuring that the cold wouldn't get to him. The tone in his voice could be mistaken as either, though too serious to be mocking.



"Thanks." The woman finally mumbled as she grabbed the coat from him, quickly slipping into it. A soft sigh escaped feminine lips, chapped from the cold, as she hugged the new garment tightly to her body, happy to find that Kakashi's warmth was still trapped in the dull-colored jacket. Her small expression of gratitude was barely acknowledged by him, a quick hum being his only response as his attention shifted towards the blonde woman they were following.



Their mission was incredibly simple, almost too much so to be given to ANBU agents. Suzuka had briefly wondered about the reason of this assignment, though her uncertainties were quickly discarded since she wasn't to question the motives of her leader without good reason. Being part of this dark organization meant that you had to keep your mouth shut and obey orders without any doubt, after all.



The individual that they were tailing was in no way exceptional at first glance, if not for her outstanding beauty. Nothing about her profile indicated that the woman possessed any extraordinary skills or assets. The only valuable attribute that could be pinned to her was being the daugther of a business tycoon, the CEO of one of the biggest companies situated in Warabi. Large businesses weren't uncommon in this part of the globe, but this particular one dominated a great part of the city, rivaled only by a handful.



Much to both of the ninjas' disappointment, their target took a sharp turn to enter a sky-high apartment complex, disappearing behind the doors as they shut closed behind her. Even though the two-man team had expected this, their hopes had been set on wrapping up this mission quickly by uncovering some dirt on the green-eyed beauty right on the first evening. That was immediately forgotten when the woman retreated to her father's home, without a doubt to head to bed since it was already quite late.



"What do we do?" Suzuka questioned when Tokumei halted his rapid steps, slipping his gloved hands into his pockets as he slouched further. His brows were knit together in quiet frustration, his eyes fixed on the ground as he evaluated their options.



"We'll turn in for the night. I doubt she'll come back out today." Her leader ordered as he spun on his heels to head back the way they came, towards the hotel that would house them for the duration of their stay in Big Money City. His subordinate followed him without a sound, silently grateful for the promise of a warm and comfy bed.



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Back at the hotel room, Suzuka removed her shoes quietly to change into the slippers the hotel provided for their guests before heading inside to sit at the couch facing the lone window. Their current bedroom was nothing fancy, the bare minimum in fact. The double-sized bed and couch were the only furniture provided. A closet and tiny bathroom were also attached to the room, thankfully. The only advantage that the dark-haired woman could find to this pathetic place was the view that the window offered. It was nothing extraordinary for the standards of this city since, even while being on the fourteeth floor, most of their sight was blocked by the neighbouring building, but to be at such a great height was uncommon for her.



When her partner came out of the bathroom, the female ANBU quickly stood and turned towards him, extending her arms out to return his jacket. The man walked lazily towards her, stopping barely inches away from her hands. He was easily a foot taller than her, forcing him to tilt his head down to gaze at her. The younger woman shifted uncomfortably under his scrutiny, a little self-conscious as to why he would take so long to just retrieve his own coat.



"T-Thank you, Tokumei-san." Her high-pitched voice blurted out when his hand reached out to take the garment from her. She bowed quickly, using this short moment to regain her composure before she straightened up.



"No problem, Suzuka-chan." Her superior replied cheerfully, his trademark happy eye-crease in place. Suzuka-chan? Where had that come from? "Don't call me Tokumei-san, it's far too formal." He added as he turned around to go hang his coat in the closet.



The short-haired woman was rooted to the spot for a little while, staring at her teammate with eyes widened from surprise. Broken from her trance when he threw her an odd look, she hurried to her travel bag to rummage in it mindlessly, only trying to rid herself of the uneasiness that had settled in her lower stomach.



"Are you okay, Suzuka-chan?" Her comrade inquired as he sat down on the bed, body twisted so he could still have a good view of her face.



"Yes, of course, Tokumei-taichou." The girl replied, pushing herself back into a normal state of mind. Why she was embarrassed around the Copy Nin was a mystery to her in the first place. Although, the unusual way that she had to act around him might have been responsible for it.



"Does it make you uncomfortable that I call you Suzuka-chan?" His deep voice asked after a liittle hesitation, clearly perplexed by her sudden shyness.



"No, not at all. I was just surprised to hear someone like you say that." Suzuka answered truthfully as she pulled an oversized t-shirt from her bag.



"Really? Why?" His question caught his female partner offguard, causing her to frown as she wondered what to tell him. Saying that it was because he'd never called her that before wouldn't make sense at all.



"You have quite the reputation of being aloof, how is it not shocking that you address me in such a friendly manner?" The midnight-haired woman retorted as she pivoted so only her hindside was visible to the man. Her slim fingers slipped under the hem of her shirt before tugging it up, removing it lazily and dropping it on the bed behind her. The night t-shirt was put on in just the same manner after she had removed her bra, causing a content sigh to escape her lips. This particular shirt was definitely her favorite, it was just so comfy.



"I'm not made of ice, contrary to popular belief." The Copy Nin teased behind her, making the young woman feel his eyes on her. A timid blush heated her cheeks, reminding her that she wasn't well acquainted with Tokumei. A mischievous smirk made its way on her lips as a plan formulated in her quick mind, deciding to test her teammate a little. This was a golden opportunity that she couldn't miss, especially after what he had just said.



"Are you made of stone then, Tokumei-taichou?" Suzuka retorted as she turned to face him, her hands pushing her long skirt down her thighs to reveal black panties, though her long top pratically covered them entirely.



"Not quite, but maybe of wood, Suzuka-chan." He quickly threw back, his intimidating gaze locked on her eyes. Even if his own eyes never lowered to take a glimpse at her naked legs, Suzuka knew better than to think he hadn't realized what she was doing.



"Interesting." She joked, biting the inside of her cheek as she grabbed a pair of loose-fitting shorts from her pack and slipped into them, never breaking visual contact with the silver-haired man.



"I'd tell you that you must be made of sugar, but that would sound corny. I'm anything but corny." His playful tone made the girl want to giggle. His words were even funnier when paired with his current appearance. It was easy to tell a handsome smile was hidden underneath his mask, but the most priceless detail was that his Sharingan eye was closed, mimicking a lasting wink.



"I'm afraid that saying that makes you doubly corny." His teammate deadpanned, giving him the funniest look she could muster.



The next sound he emitted surprised her quite a bit. The famous Copy Nin laughed, wholeheartedly, even. That was quite a rarity and it made her feel special for a moment. It certainly wasn't common for anybody to hear the stoic man laugh.



"We should go to sleep." He suggested after a few seconds, getting off the bed. "I'll take the couch."



Suzuka observed him as he stripped off his top half layers until he was down to the dark blue undershirt she was used to, the one that was skin-tight and connected to his mask. This reminded the young woman that there was another detail to add to Kakashi's amazing traits list. The man never seemed to age. Even at the age of forty, he appeared easily fifteen years younger.



"We can share the bed, Tokumei-taichou. It doesn't make me uncomfortable." His female comrade offered gently as she climbed on it, tugging at the covers so they rested above her belly button.



"Oh? I didn't think you were that kind of woman." The older man teased, giving her a wink as he sat on the couch, facing her. "I'm fine with the couch, really."



"Suit yourself." She let out as she stretched out on the bed to occupy most of it, an exaggerated moan of comfort coming out of her just to make him conscious of what he was missing out on.



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The next day was much more clement. The strong winds had died down and the cloud-blanketed sky cleared, giving place for the sun to shine unhindered. Whilst the temperature was barely any warmer, the lack of movement in the air made it more bearable. On the ground lay a thick carpet of crinkled leaves that had fallen during the night, leaving the branches of the tall trees nearly bare. Each step created a pleasant scrunching sound as innocent walkers trudged through them, blissfully oblivious to the events occuring all around them. The park was a relaxing break from the rest of the city, too overwhelming with its masses and constant noise.



The two ninja strolled seemingly without aim around the greenery, one hand locked in the other's as any young couple in love might do. The whole environment was unfamiliar to them, preventing them from feeling at ease though any bypasser could have sworn they were just another pair of young adults enjoying the calm. What the usual civilian could not see was that this easy going couple was trained in cold-blooded assassination and undercover spying; and currently watching a woman several meters ahead of them.



Every now and then, Suzuka would steal a glance at Tokumei when he was looking elsewhere, secretly observing his appearance in the casual scenery. Today again, he had preferred a henge over an eye patch of some sort, even his mask was replaced by an ultramarine scarf. If the darker shades of blue weren't his favorite, the woman wouldn't know which color he might prefer. He was always wearing it. Even his ear muffs were of the same hue. Her attention shifted towards their connected hands, to the way his gloved one kept hers warm and even made her feel an ounce of disappointment that so little of their skin touched.



"That scarf looks lovely on you, Tokumei-kun." Suzuka complimented coyly, a glimmer of playfulness sparkling in her eyes. If there was a time where she could mess with the great Copy Nin without him having the ability to get back at her, it was now. And she was going to use it. Plus, she wouldn't mind the distraction. What little skin contact they had was disturbing to her, above all because of how she appreciated it.



"I'm glad you like it, Suzuka-chan." Tokumei replied as he flashed her what she assumed to be a beaming smile. With the dark cloth hiding the lower half of his face, the girl had to rely on pure instinct to differentiate the similar expressions of his eyes.



"Let me treat you to a can of hot chocolate." The taller man offered as he pulled her around a corner suddenly, stopping when they'd reached a vending machine. Once the initial shock of being dragged around wore off, the female ANBU could see from the corner of her eye that their target had sat down on a bench, allowing her to understand that the drink was only an excuse to sit down. "Here you go."



"Thank you." The young woman let out quietly as she took the can he handed to her. Kakashi was actually paying for her? Surely, two stars were colliding together somewhere in the universe...



A hiss brought her out of her stunned state and she looked for the source of the sound, only to discover it was from her teammate himself. He'd nicked one of his fingers while reaching inside the machine to swipe a can of green tea. Of course. The Copy Nin wasn't above larceny when it came to skimp out on the bill.



"Tokumei-kun!" Suzuka gasped as she hauled him away from the metal box. "What are you doing?!" She growled at him, hands fisting at her sides as she watched him pop the container open as if it was rightfully his.



"Twenty ryo is far too expensive for a cup of tea." Kakashi complained before taking her hand in his again and leading her to a bench not too far from their location.



"B-But that's pratically the cheapest in all of..." His teammate protested as she followed him clumsily, tripping over her feet a couple of times in the short distance that they walked. A streak of disgust swept through her at she realized just how cheap the idiot was. Everybody could afford tea. In fact, everybody paid for their tea.



"Then I don't make enough." The statement made her jaw go slack. The Copy Nin was affirming that his income was too low? The man had completed over a thousand and five-hundred missions, for christ's sake.



"You've probably completed the highest amount of jobs in all the city..." The black-haired woman seethed, anger barely kept in check yet still careful about her choice of words. "I'm sure you're a millionaire."



"Stop analysing my finances and focus on what we came here for." Her partner chatised as he leaned back in his seat, casually wrapping an arm around her shoulders like she wasn't about to rip his head off. The bastard even had the nerve to question her abilities. The Hokage hadn't accepted her in ANBU for nothing, her skills were most likely almost on par with his own.



"I am paying attention. A man sat with her twenty-three seconds ago." The female whispered furiously while she scooted closer to her undercover boyfriend. This was the last time she posed as someone's girlfriend in a mission. The outcome was never great, there was always a situation that went downhill and fast.



"Did you even notice who-" Before he could finish his sentence, his comrade snuggled up to him and cut him off.



"The son of their main competitor, Sugawara Ichiro. I came prepared." The woman snapped at the silver-haired man, even though their position suggested they were getting along just fine. The fact that his body stiffened when she pressed up against him didn't go unnoticed by her. That was an interesting reaction, to say the least. Taking a mental note, she promised to investigate this later on when they weren't out in the open and surrounded by strangers.



"Then stop bitching, you're attracting their attention." As if to make his point clearer, or one up her in their little battle as she assumed, he closed the distance between them. Before she could react, he had lowered his scarf just enough for his lips to press against hers in a careful kiss.



Repressing the urge to scream, Suzuka played along. Her mind reeled as she tried to come to terms with believing that this was actually happening. Her partner had silenced her with a kiss that she couldn't refuse without blowing their cover. The asshole. She wouldn't make a scene. No, she was not a blushing virgin anymore. When her so-called lover increased the pressure, she snaked her arms around his neck. His lips moved against hers with ease, capturing her lower one between his while he cradled her head with one hand. At the first tingle that tickled her senses when Kakashi's tongue darted out to lick her captive flesh, Suzuka pulled away immediately.



"Tokumei-kun..." The dark-haired woman breathed out, her voice deceivingly bashful. "We shouldn't be kissing like this in public..."



"Then why don't we go home so we can..." Her stomach sank as she processed the words, praying for him to be joking. If it was a joke, he was going too far. The girl grit her teeth as her captain leaned forward to brush his lips against her ear, sending shivers down her spine. "The target is getting information on the competitor through his son. We've got what we wanted."



"Let's go then." The flush on her cheeks was certainly real. It wasn't often that a man flustered her, not since she'd been twenty, but Kakashi seemed to know just what strings to pull in order to make her react.



He got up without any hesitation, grasping her hand as they walked towards their hotel room. As they walked, Suzuka forced her erratic heartbeat back into its regular pace, refusing to admit even to herself that her captain was far too good a kisser. Hopefully, the situation would be forgotten once they returned to the privacy of their temporary home and this little moment would be quickly forgotten.



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Sitting on the soft mattress of the bed, Suzuka stared at her feet. Kakashi was behind her on the couch, reading his beloved Icha Icha as if nothing had happened. In a way, it had been what she had wanted; to ignore the fact that he had kissed her when it was completely unnecessary for the mission. Yet, the dark-haired woman couldn't stop the resentment from swelling in her chest. The man had barely said a word to her since that moment, most likely sensing her anger. All that he had bothered to open his mouth for was to tell her that they'd be taking the first ship departing for Fire Country the following morning.



Throwing her partner a glance, the female ANBU was amazed, even if just for a second, that he still read the worn-out book. Jiraiya had died over a decade ago, taking the future of the Icha Icha series with him. What was so incredible about them to make the Copy Nin literally read them over a hundred times? Out of curiosity, the girl had picked up the dirty material and gave it a chance for a time, but she could not for the life of her find anything so special about them. The idea of simply asking him crossed her mind, though it was quickly wiped away. That would be throwing herself into the lion's den



"Tokumei-taichou?" The raven-haired girl called out after one too many minutes of tense silence. The captain gave no sign of acknowledgement and kept his nose buried in his favorite belonging.



With an exasperated sigh, the woman stood up and walked over to him, bending behind him so her head hovered over his. Still, he ignored her, apparently very relaxed. He was laying comfortably on his back, holding up the green book between two fingers whilst his other arm supported his neck. From where she stood, Suzuka could even make out a few lines off a page. Absent-mindedly, she read the words. As soon as she realized that her teammate was at a particularly juicy part she tore her eyes from the piece of paper, gritting her teeth. How could he read such junk around her?



"See something you like, Suzuka-chan?" Kakashi asked casually, not a hint of embarrassment in his smooth voice. She had long surpassed her shyness towards sexuality, but his behavior was just beyond her. She would be as red as a beet if she had to imitate his sordid habit.



"Don't suggest such things, Tokumei-taichou." The girl blurted out as she took a seat next to his thighs, careful to avoid any contact. When her gaze lingered on his person for too long, the male ANBU lowered his book to his chest so he could observe her as well.



"You want me to apologize, don't you?" Kakashi let out, tone soft and careful. That was quite the change from his previous cockiness. His companion only nodded her head slowly. "Fine. I'm sorry." His subordinate only blinked in surprise. Getting an apology from him couldn't possibly be that easy...



"Are you happy?" The Copy Nin inquired as he raised a hand to brush his fingers up her exposed arm. The gesture raised goosebumps on the skin he touched as she wondered how sincere his words had been.



"I guess." The young woman let out as she tucked a stray strand of hair behind her ear, averting her eyes from his. The building parallel to theirs seemed quite interesting right then.



"You're a beautiful woman, Suzuka-chan." Even though the compliment was flattering, it wasn't welcomed by its recipient. She swallowed the lump that formed in her throat as she stood up from the couch, their proximity too much for her to handle right at that moment as guilt seeped in.



"You should probably keep your mouth shut, Tokumei-taichou." Suzuka let out dangerously as she stepped closer to the window, peering down at the people walking by. He chuckled.



"You remind me of a friend of mine." The woman tensed at the words. She twirled around to lean against the glass, giving him a coy smile.



"Who would that be?" She inquired curiously, tilting her head to the side.



"Haruno Sakura. I assume you know who she is?" Tokumei answered as he picked up his book and resumed his reading.



"I do. Why would I remind me of her? We look nothing alike." Seeing that he wouldn't offer her his full attention, she traipsed to her bag that lay by the bed, rummaging through her belongings for something to occupy her.



"Maybe not in your appearance, but you're as bossy as she is." His teammate clenched her teeth at the statement, crushing a bag of jerky as she wrapped her fingers around it. Damn, she was looking forward to eating that one...



"You sound like you have a thing for her." The girl teased as she pulled a book of her own out before climbing on the bed.



"Are you asking this so you can go and report this to her?" The insecurity hidden behind his question wasn't missed by his companion.



"Of course not." She replied truthfully. That wouldn't be necessary, after all.



"I don't. " His reply was smooth and quick. He didn't trust her. There went a golden opportunity...



"Boo." The woman complained as she flipped her novel open to the page she had left it at. For a second, she had really believed he would give her some juicy gossip there.



"Doesn't mean I don't admire her every now and then." The male ANBU let out ever so innocently, surprising her. Her captain was attracted to his ex-student, then. How interesting.



"Isn't she your ex-student?" Suzuka wondered out loud, unable to see how this wouldn't appear as a dirty topic to most people.



"She was for a year, thirteen years ago. Does it even really count anymore?" From the corner of her eye, she caught a glimpse of the jonin looking out the window, his attention pulled away from Icha Icha.



"I guess not, but she's much younger than you." The woman replied warily, the fact that he seemed to be seeking approval from her was disturbing.



"How old are you? Twenty-five?" She hummed in response, preferring not to speak up. "Was that what bothered you so much about the kiss?" His head was turned to her now, watching for her reaction.



"No, it wasn't that..." She said, her tone strongly suggesting how uncomfortable the whole subject made her.



"Okay." His baritone voice let out, effectively putting an end to the conversation.



The whole exchange left Suzuka unsure of what to think. Was it possible that the Copy Nin was enamored with his ex-student? His questions had felt thoroughly honest, an attempt to soothe insecurities he might have towards dating her. Or at least, sleeping with her. The girl assumed it was only normal for him to be attracted to a younger woman, in the peak of youth no less. Nonetheless, she couldn't fit the aloof image of her captain with a lovelorn version of him. He couldn't be like that. She'd never even heard about him having a girlfriend.



"By the way, I totally fooled you." Kakashi suddenly said, a victorious grin on his covered face that reflected all too well in his exposed eyes.



That asshole.



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Waves crashed loudly against the ship, causing the large structure to sway lightly with every new hit. The sea was a peculiar environment to the new ANBU. Being surrounded by such an immense body of water was both terrifying and pleasant, in Suzuka's opinion. The sound of the water rocking back and forth was a sweet melody to her ears, though the salty taste in the air wasn't as enjoyable as the peaceful ambiance created by the scenery before her eyes.



If only life was so simple. To sit on a piece of floating wood, lulled by the gentle movement of an entity infinitely bigger than you, warmed by the sun. To be entertained by the lazy difting of clouds, each shaped differently than the previous one. To leave your worries at the shore could be easy for the casual soul, for those who weren't worried by another being who accompanied them.



"Was it your first time going overseas?"An unmistakable baritone voice inquired.



"For a fact, yes." The female replied casually, not moving from her leaning position against the rail to look back at her partner. "It was."



"I see." Kakashi replied as he stood by her, hands buried in his pockets as always.



As talkative as ever, that Copy Nin.



In situations like these, Suzuka was at a loss for a reaction. Why her teammate approached her and started a conversation, only to let it die a mere few words later, was beyond her. Her answer fluctuated between a need to aggravate people to simply wanting company without the hassle of a vocal exchange.



"If you're not going to say anything more..." The woman mumbled into the hand that cupped her cheek. "Why did you bother saying anything at all?"



If you desired something, then you should ask for it.



"I thought you looked lonely." Her captain replied, his trademark smile in place.



The kunoichi huffed, a frown appearing on her delicate features. Prying an answer out of this man was always tedious.



"Such a charmer." She purred, throwing him a sideways glance.



"I try." The silver-haired ninja returned with a shrug of his shoulders.



This was common from the fine shinobi at her side. He appeared out of nowhere, interrupted your train of thought. All for what? To leave or become mute. A part of her believed that he did this for kicks, to test how much he could pester someone before they snapped.



Obviously, that unsuspicious person would not be viewed as the victim, but as the attacker. Kakashi was a master of this technique, amongst many others.



"If you want a woman's company," the girl began, "then maybe you should offer her a drink."



If she could earn a free beverage from him -- one paid for -- then she would have accomplished a feat on this boring trip.



"I'm afraid we've already used up all of our budget for the mission." The male ANBU announced as he turned to stare in the distance, expression unreadable to his subordinate due to the combination of his mask and hitai-ate.



"Then you're not worth my time." Suzuka growled, flicking her wrist to dismiss him.



After their enthusiastic exchange, the Copy Nin left his teammate to be her own company for the rest of the day. The seperation was perceived as a welcome break by the black-haired jonin. While she wouldn't quite describe her partner as a nuisance, he was definitely grating further on her nerves with every of his sarcastic comments.



Plopping down on the bottom of their bunk bed in their closet-sized cabin, the woman breathed out a heavy sigh. Crossing the sea was an amazing experience, one that she wouldn't forget any time soon. After a few hours though, there was little left to catch her attention. Her dear novels, sadly, had remained in her home, as had all of her personal belongings. All that she carried on this trip was food and ANBU clothes.



"Late night?" Suzuka called when Tokumei entered the room a couple of hours later.



"Not quite." He replied as he stripped off his clothes.



At the sight of his underwear, the female rolled on her mattress to face the wall. Hearing the rest of his garments fall to the floor, she bit the inside of her cheek. The kunoichi was aware that the action was most likely innocent, but she couldn't accept it as that. They were new partners. He couldn't be such at ease around her.



"What kept you occupied for so long?" The girl asked, curiosity getting the best of her. The evening had been so long to her, yet he had found enough distractions to keep him busy until nightfall.



"Just looking at the stars." The silver-haired jonin replied casually. "You should have stayed."



"Aren't stars the same no matter where you are?" She muttered off-handedly.



"Don't play stupid, Suzuka-chan." Kakashi chuckled as he climbed onto his bed, just above hers.



"Good night, Tokumei-taichou." The young woman sighed as she flipped the light switch off and ducked under her blanket to brood in peace.



"Ah, but..." The Copy Nin mumbled. "I thought we'd have some free time to chat."



Suzuka squealed as she felt her mattress dip under his weight and tore the covers away from her body to look at him, only to find him leaned over his bed, upside-down and sporting his happy eye crease.



"No!" She protested as she swatted his chest repeatedly. "I said good night."



"Boo." The male replied before retreating to his own private space. "Night."



_________________________________________________________________________________



The scent of fresh grass and the bark of trees floated in the air, carried by the faint breeze that blew every now and then. Strange, how so many memories could be intimately laced with a sense so easily overlooked. The whiff her nose had caught reminded Suzuka of moments too plentiful to name, yet still precise enough to unconsciously relive in the instant manner only the mind could accomplish. Of nights spent as a genin with her team, whispering hushed words and firmly believing their sensei was asleep instead of listening closely; or hours jumping from tree to tree either running after an unnamed target or building their stamina.



The crackling of their small campfire interrupted her thoughts, forcing her to return to reality. The night was chilly, even more so than in Warabi she had to admit. Her sleeping bag was truly a marvelous commodity right now. The small extra she had paid for it to be fit for lower temperatures was worth every ryo she had spent. As usual, the Copy Nin who sat across from her seemed unafflicated by a single worry, sitting lazily with aloofness drawn on his features.



"What are you thinking about?" Suzuka asked after swallowing a mouthful of water taken from her canteen.



"What makes you think I'm thinking about something?" Kakashi replied, not missing a beat. It was a wonder how he could be so deep in thought one second and jump into a conversation the next.



"Is the fire really that interesting then?" She chirped, annoyed by the smirk she could detect under that mask. Her previous question was in no way forgotten, but prying an answer from a Copy Nin that was unwilling to answer just might be an impossible challenge.



"What do you think?" Her captain deflected the question once more.



"I like it, but I get bored after thirty seconds." She replied casually, playing with a blade of grass she'd picked up.



"I see." He chuckled, throwing her a strange glance.



Silence returned, allowing the duo to relax for a while. Surprisingly enough, Kakashi was quite affectionate with her, more so than she had never known him to be with anyone else. To hope for him to take down a few of his walls and talk to her still seemed like too much to ask, though. That shouldn't have been surprising; she was a stranger to him.



After removing her ANBU mask from the back of her head, Suzuka dragged her fingers along the paint that decorated it, musing over its meaning. A snake. How an animal that described her so well could be so closely linked to one of the greatest sources of grief in her life remained a mystery to the girl. The man in question had been gone so long already, to emulate his voice in her mind could barely produce whispers anymore.



"Why a snake?" Kakashi asked,snapping the girl out of her reverie.



"Why a dog?" Suzuka returned smugly after a second of thought.



"Dogs are a man's best friends." He replied, eye creasing in a jovial smile. "So why a snake?"



"Snakes are dangerous." Her answer was blunt, only a glimpse of the true reason. It was almost comical how he would pry for the information he wanted, but was a master in evading questions.



"Tight lips, hm?" He even had the guts to comment on it. "That's a good trait for a ninja."



Another gap wedged itself into their dialogue. The mission was almost over, yet she had none of the answers she had come for were within her reach. The Copy Nin kept his barriers up at all times, like a fortress around himself. Sneaking past his defenses might not have been amongst her range of skills, no matter how deeply she hated to admit it.



"I heard you quit ANBU for well over a decade." Suzuka noted, words dipped in curiosity. "Why did you leave in the first place?"



"Wondering if you should be scared?" Kakashi chuckled, eyeing her from where he lay in his makeshift bed. "I got tired of it."



"Tired of it?" She repeated, rolling onto her stomach to lean on her arms. "How?"



"You'll see for yourself in a year or two." The way his eye never left her raised goosebumps on her skin, made the young woman wonder just what he saw in her.



"Fine." The girl mumbled, a pout on her lips. "Why did you return if you were bored with it then?"



"As curious as a cat, aren't you?" The smirk could be heard in his voice, without a doubt. "Why don't you tell me why you signed up? You don't seem to be the average ANBU."



"I joined to protect someone." Suzuka answered, purposefully ignoring his last comment even if it piqued her interest. "Stop throwing my questions back at me and answer now."



"Remember, curiosity killed the cat, Suzuka-chan." He sing-songed. Wait, Kakashi sing-songed? "How could you be protecting someone by signing up for this?"



"You must be one very fat, curious cat, Tokumei-taichou." His subornidate teased, barely resisting the urge to grin from ear to ear. Becoming the predator in his own mouse and cat game was quite thrilling.



"My dogs say I would be a a bloodhound if I was one of them." Kakashi mused, pressing a finger to his lips. "I'm certain you would be a border collie."



"Why that breed?" She inquired. Even if biting the bait he was dangling ever so obviously in front of her was infuriating, prodding relentlessly would never get her anywhere.



"It looks eager to please, cute and is obedient." Suzuka could see his cheeks lifting when he glanced at her suddenly tense form, giving away that he had a broad smile plastered on his face. "Yet, it is incredibly intelligent and needs to keep itself busy at all times."



"If you were thinking about teaching me tricks, you can forget about that." She groaned, covering her face with one hand. He'd complimented her, she almost felt lucky.



"What I had in mind was a little different." He replied, tone too cheerful for her liking. "Showing you what a good alpha male is sounded more... pleasant."



Whether it was the husky voice, the choice of words, or his piercing gaze, something about what he had just told her sent shivers down her spine and tingles where she would prefer there were none. It may have been from years of wondering how loud he could make moan should he visit her bed, or even simply because he was a handsome man, but the reaction was nonetheless unwelcomed by the young woman. Bedding her captain was not in her plans; being seduced even less so.



"Too bad I'm not a submissive bitch." Suzuka hissed back, turning his back to him and zipping up her sleeping bag. The moon was already far too high in the sky, more than late enough to go to sleep.



_________________________________________________________________________________



Seeing the well-known carvings of the Hokage in the mountain still miles away lifted a weight from Suzuka's shoulders. To be close to Konoha never failed to dissipate her worries and anguish, replacing it by the comfort only home could bring. Feeling at ease was a luxury to be treasured by shinobi. Only there could they allow their guard to be dropped; to go have a drink, give in to pleasures far too distracting to be indulged in on missions. Only a fool would ambush a village with a military power as imposing as theirs.



Even if going on this mission had turned out to be useless, Kakashi had presented a side of him that she hadn't been acquainted with before. The book he always carried had never been an indicator of his behavior prior to then, since as far as she knew he rarely uttered words with an underlying innuendo. Those instances had always ended up being casual and friendly, either way. Somehow, he had shown sexual interest towards her. If said man wasn't besides her, Suzuka would have shuddered at the theory her mind had subjected her to. No one had ever known who his bed partners were, ever. Maybe he murdered them after the act so his secret would never be revealed?



Konoha had changed drastically in the past decade. Or at the very least, to her eyes. The view she had of it at twelve, or even fifteen, had become an entirely new one at twenty-six. The population had increased, even if not immensely. The academy seemed fuller than ever, certain parts of the village had grown denser and the number of patients brought to the hospital only seemed to climb. Whether it was an effect of becoming older or an increase that statistics could prove, she didn't know.



Or maybe having her own bunch of rugrats under her wing had wrung any patience out of her. The brats had taken more out of her than passing the ch√Ľnin test, for goodness' sake. This entitled her sensei to a whole new kind of respect for never losing his cool and trying to strangle them. Yet, deep down in the deepest recesses of her mind, she cared for Akemi, Hideki and Hajime like her own children. She had often wondered if her former teacher had felt the same attachment to them, though she doubted it. He lacked any kind of fatherly side.



Personally, taking care of someone was natural and an activity that filled the voids in her being. She could never go without fussing over a friend's well-being or nutrition. Maybe it was only to confirm her own abilities and be an authority figure, but it was fulfilling to make sure her loved ones were doing fine. The idea that they would all wither and die without her was certainly presumptious, but she liked to entertain it. It was similar to Tsunade and Shizune's relationship. Without the younger medic, the Hokage would be drunk every minute of the day. She was the only one able to steal and hide her mentor's sake effectively and the Fifth still spared her life by some miracle.



Just as they approached the gate, Kakashi reduced the distance between them, obviously preparing to say something. In a way, Suzuka only wanted to bolt and go hole up in her apartment; mourn the loss of time this mission had been and lounge in her comfortable bed to make up for the horrible bedding the ship and hotel had provided. Talking to her captain was the last thing she felt inclined to do right then.



"We're back home." Kakashi stated, his voice filled with the same relief that she had experienced earlier for being back home.



Suzuka hummed back, the corners of her lips curving up against her will. Hearing it made it even better, as if it became more real and tangible.



"You're not as talkative as before." He added after a glance in her way.



"I'm just impatient to be home." She replied with a brief wave of the hand.



"Nothing says welcome back more than warm sake." The older man let out as he stopped to face her. "Preferably shared."



Suzuka halted mid-step to twist and stare at him, surprise barely concealed. For several seconds, a single question replayed in her mind. Had the Copy Nin just invited her to have a drink with him? The man actually wanted company every now and then? Either the gods were smiling down upon her, or the devil himself was tempting her. Whichever it was, her boldness was in no way lacking to defy both of them.



"Is that an invitation?" Her eyebrow was raised as high as it could be, yet it did little to show how unexpected his offer was.



"If you'll take it as that, then yes." He said as he resumed his walk. "Go home and change. We'll meet at eight at Haruguchi's."



"Sure." What a golden opportunity to coax information out of him. Forcing an insane amount of alcohol down his thrown to loosen his tongue couldn't be as hard as taking down every of his defenses.



_________________________________________________________________________________



Next Chapter: Behind The Snake Mask



After one too many drinks from both sides, the situation gets out of hand and Suzuka is forced to reveal her true idendity to Kakashi. How will he takes the news of being deceived so cleverly? Getting answers from him will prove to be quite the challenge after this.



_________________________________________________________________________________



Suzuka - Bellflower



Tokumei - Anonymity



Warabi - It's an actual Japanese city. It has the highest population density.



Ryo - One ryo is worth 10 yen.



Chapter Two: Click Here







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