Chapter One

-X-

Mihoko may have outdone the crazy in her life- starting with her new tenant.

Dire was too urgent a word of how Mihoko felt as she straightened her kimono before answering the knocks from the old wood door of her apartment. Before he stood the agent who had gotten in contact with her around an hour after she had put the apartment above her home for rent.

An older woman stepped through the updated entrance, her hand sticking out as if to force her professionalism on her.

"I am madam Junari. And you are Okimasa-san?" She nodded, pulling her hair to settle behind her shoulder.

"Yes, please, come in Junari-san." Junari nodded, clearly used to trapezing through homes.

"I can see the place is well cleaned. How many tenants do you have?" The entrance of the home had a staircase, leading to the top apartment she was trying to lease, as well as her own apartment closed off by a door behind her.

"I live here alone," She said, pointing to the first door, "The other one is a dual residence, but I haven't found tenants yet." It was an easy way of saying two well-off people should be able to afford it. Or one wealthy person could as well. It was a good townhouse for a merchant or a consulate member from another country.

"Let's go see it then." She was clipped as if rushed. However, the way she touched the guardrail to the top apartment, to see if it was dusty, made Mihoko wonder if the women's urgent demand to see the place was really critical or if she was a taskmaster.

While Mihoko's own apartment was averagely clean, somewhat tidy, for her potential tenant she had scrubbed the place top to bottom, polishing appliances and knobs, and checking every utility. So when she keyed open the door, letting the Junari inside, it was sparkling.

The place was gleaming, highlighting the new installment of additions, including security features, a furnished kitchen and living room as well as a heating, cooling and all the modern amenities. By all accounts, it should scream expensive.

But she wanted a tenant who could afford to treat her house well.

Still, butterflies filled her stomach as the woman inspected every square inch, asking intrusive questions as well as strange ones, such as How do you personally feel about animals, and what's a good night out for you consist of? Questions about her, and not necessarily about the place. A lot about herself, and if she enjoys gossip.

Her answers were curt, courteous, and to the point. No.

"I need a quiet tenant or two, not a family, and as long as I don't hear incessant barking, and they are cleaned up after I don't care about dogs."

"What about shinobi?" She frowned.

"I'm looking for a quiet person who doesn't feel the need to destroy the place." The agent looked alarmed as if Mihoko had declared she hated puppy's, her bony hands clutching the clipboard she was using. "But as long as they don't throw those knife things into the floor or punch the drywall it should be fine."

"My clients would do no such thing!" She asserted smartly as if Mihoko had been referring to her children. But she wouldn't apologize for saying it, because ninja did tend to wreak their homes.

"Of course not." She lied, avoiding the argument. "I'm just looking for a mature adult."

A nitpicking hour later, and a tray of prudently staged cookie bowl later, Mihoko had no idea what the woman thought of who her client was.

"So it's the entire top floor?" The older agent said sharply, taking a bite of the treat, "With that one entrance." As if she was somehow lying.

"Yes." Mihoko replied, repeating, "With the one entrance."

"And does the main residence connect in any way?" Mihoko nodded but led her prospective tenant's client to the gleaming duel door, opening it to reveal another door behind it.

"A staircase. Both doors would have to be open, and as I live on the other side there should be no problem."

She nodded, her sharp brown-gray hair not deviating from its tight bun.

` "Good. My client has a need for solitude and quiet near the town center." Mihoko nodded, as the home, she had bought and restored fit that profile. After all, there would be plenty of single older merchants or retired whatever's that should want a space like hers. She was surprised that someone else hadn't jumped at the exclusive wreck of land near the Hokage's building to build on before she did. Not that it mattered to her, but it had been the closest place to the publishing offices and press, and she could be a little nitpicky at who she worked with.

She had recently come into money when she took on rebuilding the site while still writing, and sort of overdid it on her dream place. It had been an old bookstore, and she loved it immediately, despite the tattered remains and ruined brick exterior. It was far too big for one person, so she knew that she'd probably need two renters on the second floor. Or one wealthy one.

Apparently, Junari knew a deal when she saw one, and as they descend she made up her mind. The apartment realtor opened her checkbook, looking pleased with herself.

"I can tell he'll approve. What's the deposit?"

Mihoko paused in her own doorway.

"Him?"

"Yes, he's a professional photographer named Sukea. He usually travels but needs a place to stay when he's in town."

Perfect.

Mihoko raised her eyebrow but gave a forced smile.

"Great, let me get my notes and I can tell you."

"Cinnamon, licorice, peppermint...," Mihoko muttered, writing in the small notebook next to the fresh lemonade, ignoring the rest of the bustling world outside the shop. The sun shone brilliantly through the wooden slats, the paper pulled out of her way, and the villagers passed through the thoroughfare, ignored. She tapped her pen.

A chair creaked next to her, causing her to flicker her eyes up. "Don't bother me now Etsuko-chan, I almost have this one done."

Where most people might take offense Etsuko Tanaka would not. Surely she was one of the kindest people alive, if not a character. Intensely awkward and loud, until someone knew her very well, she had been adopted into the group quickly. "Hey, Mih-chan. I heard the new Hokage is a big fan of The Masked Man." She said a bit snarkily. "Ironic really."

"That's nice."

"You're not even interested!"

"No." Despite her words, she was actually in a good mood. She had deposited the landlord's check and was now clear to pay her mortgage for a while. But she knew better than to feed that particular beast.

"Ha. How are the groundbreaking recipes coming? Is Konoha healed yet?" Mihoko grinned at the change in topic. If she didn't love the girl, she might have killed her for talking so much. For a secretly bashful kid, she could be seriously obnoxious. Fine, she wasn't getting anywhere anyhow.

"This isn't for the Daily Dish. Grandmother has demanded that us forgotten cousins contribute a bit more to the family. She thinks we can match the Honi Family through sheer willpower."

"That's bold."

She looked down again, not bothering with an answer.

In a village famous for its ninja it would be easy to presume that all its inhabitants would possess some sort of secret skill or talent that would make them an asset. This isn't true at all. Forgotten underneath the tiers of ninja who had acclaimed notoriety were numerous fellow citizens following less deadly careers. From bakers to bouquet makers there are numerous jobs to be filled, and among these nonmilitary folks was... Mihoko.

Like most of the commoners, she wasn't a ninja or doing anything important really. She was a footnote in the story of someone most important. With no desire to fight, a less inclination to even disagree with most people She blended into the backdrop of the Land of Fire.

Which, in retrospect, probably wasn't as peaceful a place as she wanted. But as most of her life was focused here there it was home.

She wrote. From articles to magazines to books, that's how she spent her days. She did go to a book club, and occasionally people recognized her name in the local newspaper. Oh, and once she caught one of the Three Legendary Sannin in the bathhouse but that happened enough not to be actual noteworthy news.

Unremarkable, truly.

"Want to see that new movie? I heard it's based on the supposedly true story of Madara Uchiha and Sayuriama Senju. The critics think it's total bs but it has a huge following with the teenage girls. Total fodder for your books." Etsuko suggested, trying to break the depression forming around her.

"No, I've got three chapters to write for my current book tonight or my editor will kill me. I'll be up all night between her gran and her work. Besides, the new roommate is moving into the top of the house and I need to be there to greet him."

"Oh, I want to meet him too."

She stood, her hair brushing down her shoulders as she collected her things and flipped her notebook shut. Etsuko stood as well, placing her hands on the chair thoughtfully.

"No, apparently he's a private individual."

"Too bad. We could go out later. Kurani Sarutobi invited me to go out for dinner." She shook her head dolefully, desperately wanting to go, wondering how Etsuko got such an interesting invite. She didn't know many shinobi personally and liked to keep it that way. Every time she met one it was way too much excitement.

"The one with the kid right. How did you swing that?" She asked curiously.

"My brother, of course. Kenji that bastard." Etsuko was a daycare worker but she had plenty of relatives here, including a brother that worked as a shinobi. He was pretty decent as well. "He said she approached him to invite us both."

"Neat. I wonder if she likes Kenji-kun."

"No way."

"Hm."

"You could come and meet some men."

"No."

It was just unlucky that the matriarch of her own family would sooner disown her than admit that one of her granddaughters was working. Especially working for something unrefined and common as a newspaper.

The women in her family didn't work, they married.

This included three older sisters, several cousins, aunts, and a niece, who were all married to ministers of the Fire Daimyo, officials of the State, and wealthy men who could afford them. They were wealthy, lived in large houses, gossiped, and were generally miserable.

She didn't really want that.

As they walked out Konoha lay in front of us like a giant tangle of puzzles, colorful and a mix of traditional and new. It had grown substantially since the end of the Fourth Great Shinobi War, and there were people moving in daily, visitors, and old residents who thronged the streets.

Etsuko jauntily walked with her, stating she was walking home then, despite it being mid-day, and having a shift in an hour. She was likely also interested in passing the large building located a few blocks away, in hopes of seeing some ninja she had a crush on, but she definitely wanted to see the new tenant.

They didn't see any shinobi besides the usual guards by the Hokage's offices, Eskuto visibly deflated, putting her hands into the oversized smock she was wearing.

"I'll never get any attention at this rate." She said dully, short black hair waving like feathers around her face. "I have to marry a Shinobi better than Kenji or he'll always lord his skills over me."

"Your brother doesn't want you to marry a shinobi, he's just harassing you. But didn't that one dude ask you out? Toothpick dude." Etsuko grumbled, patting her hair down.

"Are you talking about Genma Shiranui?" She was so exacting in his name that Mihoko knew it was the right one. "I'm not going to date someone my brother likes."

"What did he do?"

"Nothing." She said way too quiet to not be suspicious. "I want a Shinobi I don't know. A sexy new guy."

"To make him jealous?" There was a pause.

"Of course not." Mihoko sighed, at the lie and Etsuko smiled, laughing again. "Don't you ever think it would be nice to have some mysterious sexy shinobi hold you in his arms and be all macho about you?" She visibly swooned, and Mihoko wondered if she should position herself just in case her friend tripped, not paying any attention. "You can marry my brother and save yourself the trouble."

She shrunk at the thought. "No. No way in hell. I'm grateful for Shinobi but I don't need to marry into one of those backward-thinking clans. I have my own backward thinking family, thankyouverymuch." She hadn't met said brother, but Etsuko didn't paint a nice picture of him anyway.

"They make pretty good money!" She whined.

"I earned my independence and don't need a guy getting offended over that." She sniffled but shrugged it off, used to the deflection of her hesitant comrade in love.

"Fine fine, have it your way, you reclusive hermit."

"I prefer to be called a wealthy, independent woman."

"Suck it you, language nerd."

As they approached her street Etsuko groaned, keeping straight while Mihoko turned. "Well, give me an update. I'll need something to cheer me up with the new ninja kid that was enrolled yesterday. From the look of it, he knows how to make paper bombs."

With a sharp hand wave, she left. She was not pitied, but both would greatly enjoy the stories she would have later. Etsuko was an excellent storyteller.

Mihoko kept up the pace to her own home, moving quickly up the street to her residence. It was on one of the most exclusive streets of Konoha, a fairly large building even boasting a small front yard that included a fence surrounding mossy grass. A deep navy door was firmly set in the center of the white-painted brick, glossy wooden beams making its curb appeal on par with the neighboring local: high-end apartments and a couple of zoned restaurants and bakeries.

God damn, she loved it.

Stone pavers clicked beneath her kitten heels as she stepped over them to the small porch, opening the door she had salvaged from a local thrift shop and painted herself. The home she had assembled was perfect, well constructed, but well adjusted, just like the grammar in her articles.

Home.

A whoosh of air escaped her as she was met with the back of a thick green cotton coat. She promptly took a step back, realizing she had almost walked straight into what must be her new tenant.

He turned around as he heard the door open, expecting her.

"Oh hello." She remarked politely, even though he was the awkward one standing in the doorway. He let her in, and she kicked off her shoes to join his before stepping up. The man stepped up as well. She finally got her first good look at her new boarder. He was a nice-looking guy, with ash brown ruffled hair and fair skin. Nothing special really, except for the purple stripes painted on his face. He had a cute beauty dot on his chin, next to his lips, but besides that was just a typical person. She gave a small smile at the sight. She had expected someone much older and who she'd want to avoid.

"Hi, you must be Sukea-san." He nodded cordially but didn't move. He seemed like an awkward guy, just standing there blankly. For some reason, his purple markings reminded her of someone, but she shrugged it off.

She smiled, moving past. "Did you get the key?"

"Yes."

He stood there, staring her down with that polite smile, and she began to feel a little strange. That was strange, maybe he was a creep. She didn't care, as long as he was a bill-paying one and kept his creep away from her. She didn't need to attract attention.

"Okay... Do you have any questions?"

"No."

"Need help moving?" She didn't see any bags and the place was furnished, but it was only polite to ask.

"No."

She nodded, turning and putting in her key. Mihoko turned it, walking in before realizing he was still there.

"Um... are you okay?" As if realizing what he was doing, the man finally replied, as if coming to some understanding.

"I hear you write." He said putting his hands in his pockets casually.

Uh ho.

Could he be... a fanboy?

She shifted to her foot closest to her door, surprised to hear him ask so directly. The polite thing would have been to start a conversation, but she had been told her tenant was a busy, private man who didn't enjoy random conversations. Also, another thing bothered her. Just what was did she write that he liked. A nagging, troubling feeling filled her.

He couldn't possibly know...

Panicked, and unprepared she ended the conversation with the only exit she could think of without offending him too much.

"Yes, gottogobye." With that, she closed the door behind her, leaving her tenant who she wasn't quite sure what to think of.

She leaned back against the door, cursing herself. Some friendly (wealthy) guy who had probably just read one of her cooking articles in the paper happened to realize who his landlord was. He was just trying to be nice or something. Or he was a creep.

Probably just an awkward dude.

Mihoko almost banged her head on the door. Why was bad with cute guys asking about her work? Even her tenant, who was sort of frumpy and messy looking, managed to fluster her.

The following weeks were nothing different than how she had been living before, except she no longer had to clean the upstairs apartment. She was relieved after the first meeting with her tenant that he was just as reclusive as she previously been told.

Most of the time he was quiet, hardly any footsteps above her while she worked, and she never heard him on the stairs even though they were a bit squeaky from new parts rubbing together. The only time she even heard voices during that time was single when he seemed to have a few friends over and they got a bit rowdy.

The next day a note with one word appeared on her doorway.

Sorry.

He was ideal, tolerably thoughtful, and she felt terrible about blowing him off. Maybe she was a cynic when it came to real people.

Which is why she was standing outside his doorway; something she never hoped to do with a tenant. Thankfully it wasn't to demand rent or post an eviction, but she had a large plate of still-warm sugar cookies, cooking being something her grandmother burned into her granddaughters.

She wanted to apologize.

Hesitantly she raised a hand and knocked once.

The door swung open before she got a second knock, and she was surprised when she saw no one there. The apartment was cleanish, with a pleasant lived-in look, but there was no tenant.

There was a bark and she looked down. It was a dog. A tan dog with a white line down his muzzle, sunglasses, and a rather adorable blue outfit with a face on the back. A scarecrow face, as Etsuko would tell her. Apparently, with the new Hokage, it was popular with the kids to graffiti them places.

Weird. He must be a fan of the new kage.

The good boy wasn't pacing though, sitting demurely and staring her down. No growling, a good sign.

She smiled, wondering if her neighbor forgot to lock his door. She kneeled, hesitantly holding her hand over his little body. Awkwardly, and without thinking, she spoke to him, head tilted.

"Hi, little buddy. May I pet you, you good boy?" His voice was on the ridiculously cushy side, but she had a soft spot for dogs. The dog seemed to consider her proposition, tilting his head to allow her access. She reached, giving him a good scratch.

"If you let me have a cookie you can." He said frankly, letting her get one good pet in.

She paused, thought flying out of her head as the dog put a paw on the plate, lowering it to grab one. "Don't tell the boss, he is trying to keep us on a diet."

"Us?... Did you-"

"Don't think about it too much or you'll hurt your head. Are these for the boss?"

She blankly nodded, and he grabbed the entire platter with his mouth. He took it over to the table, rearing back to carefully place it on the table. Turning back he nudged the door with his mouth and she got the message, being dismissed.

"Thanks, kid. I'll let him know it was you." She had a lot of questions but none she knew how to say at that moment.

"Oh, thanks.

"Bye, lady."

The door softly closed behind her as took the stairs two at a time down. Pausing at her door she looked up again, shaking her head.

"What the hell?"

It was Thursday night at 6:30 pm that the group that was known as 'The Most Exclusive Book Club in Konoha' gathered. Started by Kyou Suki, a dessert baker in town who enjoyed talking about the nitty-gritty of plot and the technical definitions of onamonapias. It was her pet project she did for fun, and when she had spotted Mihoko asking about a croquembouche and pronouncing it correctly, she knew she had found a like-minded soul.

So Mihoko made her first friend in the city, right after purchasing her property. Meeting Etsuko there was another roll of the dice of change, but Kyou's crush on her brother was not. These three women, despite whether they were busy or not planned, met once a week to discuss their lives, and occasionally, books.

See, despite the name, it was mostly an excuse to gossip and stuff their faces.

"Soooooooo, may the meeting commence!" Kyou said enthusiastically, taking off her apron while flipping the open sign to closed. "On tonight's menu is are some old eclairs, a creme caramel, and some leftover pieces of baklava." Mihoko and Etsuko were around at the one table left down in the bakery, sitting on the padded vintage seats waiting for her. They admired the 'leftovers' that Kyou saved for their little meeting, bringing the tea and other snacks to even the contribution. A single copy of Mihoko's latest book was sitting in the middle, a romance called The Masked Man under the moniker Riku Sen. Kyou went to the windows, pulling down the blinds like as enjoyed doing nightly.

Etsuko smiled widely at the array of desserts, and even Mihoko couldn't help break into a grin at the treats.

"Oh wow, why the decadent spread tonight?" Etsuko said in wonder. Kyou redid her red hair into a bun, smirking.

"A little birdy told me that not only did Mihoko-chan get a new tenant to pad her pockets, but that her story is selling unusually well. Our Hokage was seen reading it and the sells have skyrocketed." Etsuko clapped her hands together in delight.

"Mih-chan, you didn't say anything! I guess you already knew the Hokage was a big fan!" Mihoko swiped an eclair, figuring she had earned it. If she had to listen to these two all night she might take the entire tray.

"Ichiei-san has a big mouth." She muttered, stuffing it in her own mouth. "Confidentiality is a thing. If it gets back to my granny I'm dead."

"Don't talk with your mouth full young lady," Kyou said sharply, but with humor in her chipper voice. She swatted Mihoko's hand away as she tried to take another. "We won't tell your noisy granny. If you don't."

They all laughed a sense of relief over that. Kyou had met Mihoko's grandmother, and while in her good graces thanks to her cooking skills, she was deemed unsuitable. Mihoko conveniently forgot to tell her her new address. And number.

"Spill the beans, hot stuff. Where did you get the know-how to write erotica like a porn star? Who's your boy toy?"

Fire filled Mihoko's face as her friends turned in on her. "It's not erotica. It's a romance I wrote as a favor!"

"No way! A hot kinky book for that old man?" Mihoko glared at her, grabbing another eclair she planned to toss at her.

Kyou shook a finger at her, swiping a treat as Mihoko tried to regain her dignity. "Don't what me- I read that and it was some hot shit. So there's either a boy or some serious inspiration."

"This is my job. It's not that hard to see and describe romance. The old man wanted me to do it, and I couldn't avoid it or the perv would come to haunt me in the shower." She said, sighing and sitting back into her chair, "I tell you both every week that I'm not interested in actually dating, and you both never listen." Her two friends were already talking over her again.

"Do you have a sequel your writing than? Your last book totally ended on a cliffhanger."

"Not yet." She sighed, finally cutting in with what actually what was on her mind. "I do have other... things on my mind. So, I think my new tenant has a dog."

"Oh, nice!"

"Okay? Speaking of a young eligible tenant-"

"A talking dog." Mihoko cut them both off and relished in seeing their faces reflect the confusion she had been mired in.

"Are you ok?"

"I'm not delusional Etsuko."

"Perhaps a tad overworked than."

"Kyou-chan. I'm serious. I went to go say sorry to my tenant and his dog opened the door and talked to me. Took all of the cookies I made, and one of my nice plates."

Etsuko put a finger to her lips, thinking, "Actually my brother has talked about how some ninja work with animals. I can as more if you want." She and Kyou nodded.

"Homework for you then. So besides a staring contest and a barking mad canine, how is the neighbor?"

Mihoko shrugged. "He's pretty much gone most the time."

"Boring. Well, dear Mih-Mih-chan, I guess we'll have to investigate further! Tonight I'm staying over to unravel the mystery!" Kyou declared enthusiastically, pounding a fist down and sending some caramel creme flying. Etsuko nodded, a sign she was in too.

"Don't just invite yourselves! You do remember you run a restaurant and work!"

"Oh, ya..."

"Fine, we'll plan for next week."

Mihoko rolled her eyes but smiled."Okay, but we will not bother the tenant or his dogs. He pays for privacy."

"Killjoy. Fine, we'll go bar hopping."

It seemed she and her Sukea were bound to play a game of chicken, and to her surprise, she was disappointed when he didn't respond or return her plate. Bad dog. She didn't even know if she dared go over there again to get her plate.

Between her newest deadline (Curse you Ichiei you brilliant, slave-driving, editor) and a general disposition to avoid unpleasant moments, it was nearly three days before another strange occurrence happened.

Sunday's were good days. One large reason that Mihoko decided on the plot of land she did was that it included a patch of grass and a small garden, and Sunday's she dragged her hammock out and set it up. Equipt with a large mug of tea and a book she let herself forget. It was warmer this time of year. So she wore a blue striped sundress and wrapped herself in a small blanket in her hammock.

"Hey, neighbor."

She jumped in shock, nearly swinging out of her hammock. Twisting she looked to the voice, seeing her elusive neighbor seated on the window frame in a position that made her heartbeat nervously.

He must have sensed her distress, as he leaned back into his room, smiling gently, hand raised.

"Sorry about that."

"Uh... No problem, pleasedon'tfall " She blurted stupidly, mentally berating her idiocy. To his credit, he took a step back inside.

"Do you mind if I bring my dogs down? They are jealous of you." She couldn't help give a nod at the question, curiosity peaked. Dogs?

"No, please. You are welcome down whenever you want." He nodded, turning and shutting the window. His dogs must have been desperate because she thought she heard a mob of little paws pounding down the stairs.

It turned out she wasn't that far off the mark as several dogs burst through the backyard, charging at her with enthusiasm. Anticipating their target she let her tea fly, holding on to the rope beneath her.

The first dog to jump into the swing was wrapped in white bandages, but that's all she saw as he jumped into her chest. They swung precariously in the rope basket, each additional dog adding momentum until the hammock finally gave way, it's metal legs leaving the ground.

Mihoko prepared herself to hit the ground, get clawed, and break the cup she had, and even when warm arms caught her she closed her eyes tightly.

"Sorry about that. They should know better." A bark responded to him, and she opened her eyes. Somehow Sukea had made it in time to catch her as she was slung from the hammock. The cozy seat was now filled with no less than eight dogs of every shape, size, and color. They filled it comically, an enormous bulldog whose jump caused her to eject was content at the bottom of the pile.

Embarrassment filled her as the man set her down on her feet, handing her back her tea.

How on earth?

"Thank you- I'm sure they were just... excited." He shook his head.

"No, don't excuse them. They'll take advantage of you if you let them." A small pug hopped to the top of the dogpile.

"No, we won't boss." He said gruffly, making her turn, pointing.

"You do talk! I thought I had gone mad!" She turned to Sukea, who had a hand behind his head, giving an awkward laugh.

"Uh, sorry. Normally they don't."

"That's a lie. Hey Lady, got any more of those cookies?" The tiny brown pug whose voice seemed to be too deep for his body started sniffing her. Sukea quickly bent down, grabbing the dog. There was a puff of smoke and he was gone.

Mihoko put her arms out as if trying to pause the scene. "Did you just magic your dog away?" Sukea stood up, a relative term as Mihoko realized he was slouching. He was still taller than her but didn't seem so this way.

"Ninjutsu." She paused, not sure how to convey the depth of her curiosity without seeming rude and overbearing.

"Oh. I wasn't aware you were a Shinobi." He shrugged, as if to say, not really.

"I know a few tricks. They're ninja dogs. I have a contract with them. They keep me safe when I travel."

"Oh."

They both went quiet as the dogs snuggled together, watching them interact.

She twined her fingers together and tilted her head to get a better look at the brunette casually standing next to her, hands in his pockets.

She had a choice. She could either slip back inside and let him be, or risk annoying him. But he stayed there, watching his dogs, not seeming to mind her. Thankfully he spoke first.

"Thank you for the cookies. I would have brought the plate back but Bull sat on it and, well, he's the big one."

Mihoko turned, looking the giant dog stretching her hammock into an unrecognizable lump, throat choking up. It was her fault, she should have known not to leave a plate-like that with a dog, even if he could talk.

"Oh." She said quietly, hoping her voice didn't betray how disappointed she was. Seems like Sukea let his dogs run all over him.

He caught on to her attitude, looking properly ashamed. "Where can I buy some more? I don't want to seem like a terrible neighbor." She turned, walking to the fence to distract the tears that unfortunately came up.

A little late for that. Maybe she should have said no to dogs. Conversely ninja. Or just ninja dogs.

"It's fine. They don't sell those here." She shifted so her hair fell over her face, stepping away as he turned towards her.

He raised an eyebrow, walking to lean on the fence by her.

"I insist." His tone was emphatic, and it made her panic.

"Ihavetogo." She said, and before he could get closer.

She shut the door behind her, not bothering with locking it. Grabbing the throw pillow on her old couch she fell face forward, letting it swallow her groan. She didn't hear him of his dogs leave, but later when she finally dared go out, she found her hammock, blanket, and cup neatly on her back porch.

Almost slobber-free. She gave a laugh.