"Genma? Do you want to dance?"

Genma's gaze drifted over the redhead standing by his side. They'd been friends for a while since her arrival in the village. He knew he felt more for her and he also knew she wasn't ready for more which is why her invitation to dance caught him off guard. She was skittish when it came to being close to someone. He knew why, she'd shared her story with him several weeks ago. It had taken her ages to open up to anyone, even Tsunade, the only one she'd known when she'd arrived in Konoha, hadn't been told the whole story. He wondered where this sudden request had come from. Pulling himself out of his reverie he smiled at her, "Are you sure, Emi?"

"I'm sure."

XXX

Genma was standing in Tsunade's office when Kotetsu and Izumo came to the door, which was uncharacteristically open today, with a woman. "Hokage-sama?" Kotetsu asked carefully, it was wise not to disturb her when she was busy. The redhead watched the Hokage with interest.

Tsunade looked up, "What Kotetsu?" Then shock spread across her face. "Emi? What the hell? What are you doing here?"

The redhead stepped forward. "I need to ask a favor of you Tsuna."

Tsuna? Genma thought, she had a nickname?

"If I can help you, Emi, you know I will." Tsunade's gaze softened. "What brings you here?"

Genma watched her as she looked around the room noting all its occupants.

"Kotetsu, Izumo, thank you. You can return to the gate now." Tsunade said. They looked disappointed as they left, closing the door behind them. "Emi. This is Genma, he's one of my most trusted guards and an elite assassin. You can trust him too."

Genma felt her look over at him and returned her gaze. She was a little shorter than him, her red hair seemed to dissolve into flames as it flowed over her shoulders and down her back ending just a few inches above her waist. She had a pretty face, not pretty in the way that would stop you in the street, rather in the way that made you just want to look at her and watch for a smile, but she didn't seem to be in the mood for a smile today. She moved like a kunoichi, smooth and graceful but she was a little too plump to be one. Genma surreptitiously gave her a once over, he liked his woman a little on the curvy side and she was just his type. Her clothing didn't give him any idea of where she'd come from either, she was wearing black linen slacks that shifted around her legs pleasantly and a wrap style silk shirt printed with butterflies with a black shirt underneath it.

She shifted and looked away from him without saying anything. "Tsuna, I need a place to stay." Her shoulders slumped a bit and she looked as if she might cry.

"Emi, of course." Lady Tsunade reached into her drawer. "Sake? You look like you could use a drink."

"No thanks." She let out a ragged breath. "I'm not broke but I need quiet. And no questions."

"I understand." Tsunade smiled. "Genma, let me introduce you to Emi. She and I have been friends for many years."

Genma almost swallowed his senbon, this woman was the same age as his Hokage? "Nice to meet you Emi-san." He smiled while he maneuvered his senbon into a safer place in his mouth.

She smiled back at him but didn't greet him.

"I spent some of my time away from the village teaching to earn money, Emi was one of my favorite students."

Genma silently sighed in relief, that made her younger then. "You're very lucky to have been taught by the most talented kunoichi I've ever served with."

"Compliments like that will not get you a raise or a promotion, Genma." Lady Tsunade chuckled.

"Of course not Mi'lady. I'm simply speaking the truth."

She shook her head and sighed and then turned back to Emi. "Did you want to stay at the Konoha Inn? Or something more...permanent?"

"The Inn will be fine for now. I don't know if I'll be staying." Her voice shook a little when she spoke.

"I can provide you with some low rank missions, if you need money?" Lady Tsunade offered.

"That won't be necessary." Emi smiled at her old mentor but there was more to her expression, almost a sadness that betrayed her threatening to escape and make her cry. "But thank you, Tsuna. I just need a place to call home for a while."

The Hokage turned to Genma. "Genma, will you escort Emi to the Inn and make sure she gets settled?" She looked back at Emi. "I'd do it myself but I have a million things to do and Shizune will have me drawn and quartered if I don't get them done."

"I understand." She looked happy for the briefest moment. "Shizune's still with you? I look forward to seeing her." Then she turned to Genma, "Shall we go?"

Genma offered her his arm as any gentleman would but she simply ignored it. She had a bag in the hallway outside the office and she lifted it onto her shoulder as they headed to the door and outside. He thought she might have gasped a bit when she lifted it but he couldn't be sure.

The walk to the Inn was a quiet one. Genma sensed that she just wanted to be left alone. When they got to the Inn he led her inside and stayed with her as she registered. Once she had her key she turned to him, exhaustion and something he couldn't quite put a name to, loneliness perhaps, showed in her eyes. "Thank you for the escort. And the quiet. I appreciate it more than you could know." She turned as if to go find her room.

"I was thinking of having barbecue if you wanted to join me? No questions, no conversation if you don't want it. Just food, you must be hungry." He watched her, she looked like she could use a friend.

"I am hungry." She looked like she was going to turn him down when suddenly she smiled. "Just let me leave my stuff in my room."

XXX

She sat across from him at the barbecue place, they'd eaten and were sipping tea after filling their stomachs with more barbecue than either of them should have. They'd spoken briefly as they'd ordered and then a few words during dinner but nothing important. Things like "pass the salt" and "did you want that last piece?" It didn't bother him. Genma was used to silence, not threatened by it. The check came and Genma put some money on the table, she looked up at him as if to protest. "My treat tonight, yours next time." He smiled around his senbon.

"Thank you." Her voice was small but confident.

"Ready to go home?" He asked. "I'm in no hurry but you look tired."

"I am. I.." she faltered and then exhaled quietly. "I am." She rose with him from her seat, flipping her long hair over her shoulder as she did and they turned to leave.

As he walked her back to the Inn he watched her from the corner of his eye. She looked frightened but not in a hunted way. She looked as if she'd lost everything and couldn't figure out what to do next. "Hey. I know it's none of my business but you look like you could use a friend. I'm usually up at the tower every day. Even if you just want to sit quietly and not be alone. I don't mind."

She looked up at him with the slightest smile forming at the corner of her mouth, and a hint of gratitude in her eyes. "Thank you Genma. I appreciate it."