Chapter Five

-X-

For a ninja, appearances were often misleading, deceiving, and led to unpleasant women who remained best avoided. But not even Kakashi Hatake was totally immune to women.

Especially if they happen to be his new favorite author.

However, it couldn't be denied that she had the exact same lip shape as was described in vivid detail in one of his favorite books, and one of the last Jiraiya had written, which led him to be a tad more social than the bare minimum required.

She was sitting on a bench in one of the public parks, a bag by her side. She had been there for a while, her skin flushed from the sun. She looked so comfortable that he couldn't help relax a bit himself. Every day for the last week he had found himself here, sometimes to read, but often to just observe the landlord.

There weren't many people who could enjoy reading on a hot summer day looking like the world had done no wrong to them. It was easy to remember why accepted becoming the Hokage, seeing citizens so peaceful.

The Sixth Hokage didn't often get out, but he couldn't help but sneak away when he recognized Mihoko. He wasn't sure how she would take to being approached by him, so he did what all nervous new Hokage's do to size up potential beaus;

Espionage.

He got in disguise and rented her apartment.

-X-

Sukea and Mihoko were walking in the woods, enjoying the bright morning, not a cloud in the bright sunshine that occasionally pierced through the thick foliage. Their hands weren't twisted together, but their occasional brushing didn't go unnoticed or unwanted. They were both taking turns passing a book as they walked, a ridiculous amount of maneuvering to keep up the silly game, including suppressed chuckling.

"How contemporary! But I'm having a hard time imagining that an elite Shinobi have much interest in forming a romantic relationship while on a mission." Mihoko pursed her lips at the plot of the book; a rather racy novel about a forbidden romance between a member of the Black Op's and his assassination target.

"Mah, Mih-chan." She pouted at the nickname. "Do you really think Shinobi don't want normal relationships?" She gave him a sly grin, giving the book back. He tucked it away in the small brown pack on his back. He hadn't forgone his green jacket, scarf, or lazy slouching posture and she wondered if he was hot. She had dressed down, wearing a tank top and shorts. He had visibly followed her leg line up and down and she put her shoes on, and it filled her with womanly gratification.

"I would imagine," She said thoughtfully. "Except that they didn't choose an easy path to have relationships." He gave a thoughtful nod, standing next to her, brushing a leaf off her shoulder. His fingers lingered on her arm, a bit longer than necessary, but Mihoko only blushed a little.

"So do you think they shouldn't look for love?" He inferred voice light, but with a rather serious feeling permeating the air.

She paused at his tone, as it seemed to hold more weight then she could guess at. Sukea seemed mysterious in that way. Sometimes he asked questions that felt like he was testing her, and it unnerved her a little. She paused, thinking of an answer.

A blonde kid came to mind.

"Hey, old woman! I'm gonna be the Hokage! Believe it!"

"Naruto-kun, you'll be lucky to be the coat hanger in the Hokage's office."

"Nuh-uh, one day, I'll be Hokage, then you'll be forced to respect me!"

She had seen that boy grow, kick butt and become a literal powerhouse of a ninja. But that growth had come with great loss. Both had experienced the sharp pain of losing their beloved mentor, an event that made her seriously reconsider attaching herself so deeply to another person.

For a moment a wistful expression jumped across her face. Sukea noted it, giving her a playful poke. She returned the gesture, but couldn't help feeling outmatched. With it grew the warmth, the reminder that there were good times worth enduring for.

Sukea was way too appealing to shove off.

She had never met another guy who could make her laugh, sigh, and forget to do her work when he was around. So much so that her editor had started coming over regularly, to make sure she got work done. Ichiei was as clever as a fox and had already weaseled out of her that her tenant had been happily dropping by often. He threatened to visit the said tenant himself if she didn't have a few chapters ready for him by the end of the next week.

And she didn't, with only tomorrow left. But for once in her life, she didn't care. They had planned to go to the shrine and she was going to go.

But she still had to answer his question. They had stopped walking.

As much as she'd like to give him a generic answer, or even lie, she didn't want too. Not because he vaguely told her he was sort of shinobi once, and he did work fairly extensively with them, so perhaps would see through her, but because she could see them continuing. She did want to see him every day, wanted to play with his dogs, pick his mind, and see him work. Everything he said fascinated her!

But it would have to be a relationship based on honesty.

"I think, a Shinobi should absolutely seek those people that would enrich their lives. Because the people who are willing to defend the Village are precious and deserve good things." She lifted her hand to her heart. "They know pain, and so likely know how valuable a relationship can be. I'd hang onto to someone like that."

He was staring at her so intently that her face went bright red. She was relieved to see his smile widen, and a wave of success filled her to the brim.

"What would you do if you had a job you were the only one capable of doing... but you didn't want to do it?" His serious turn of question caught her off guard.

"Job? Like... a bad job?" Was he thinking of switching careers? He shrugged, putting a hand up.

"More like an overbearing job. People always need you, can't travel as much..." Ah, one of those jobs. One that required responsibility. Sukea didn't seem like the type of man to go searching out something like that, but what did she know? It struck her that... she really didn't know much about him yet. Basic things, like his favorite food, what color he liked and his favorite type of book was clear, but what about him? Friends, family, jobs?

It didn't seem like the right time to bring it up.

"I guess, for me, it would depend on what I'd get in return."

"Hm?" He winked and she shook her head.

"It's not always money. I started writing to... evade my rather pretentious family who had marital aspirations for me." He nodded, looking pleased she had. "So I guess... what would the job give you? Security? Money? A new start?"

He stopped suddenly, so quietly she almost didn't catch it. She turned, sunlight hitting her hair.

"Would you be disappointed if it included Shinobi?"

She turned towards him, sensing that strangely intense aura she couldn't pinpoint. This was one of those testing questions he occasionally sprung on her.

"Only if they left holes in my walls." She said firmly.

He broke into chuckles.

"Ma, Mih-chan. You really are one of a kind. Most people think that the Shinobi are sort of scary." He chuckled and she sighed at his tease.

"I guess I'm a bit naive about them. All the ones I've met have been good." He shrugged, and they started walking again. "I mean, the old man sage helped me become independent, and to him, I'll always be grateful. I'll miss that pervy old man."

Sukea nodded, looking as though he knew exactly as she felt. Perhaps one day he would even tell her. He was still a mystery, that one.

She reached into her pocket, pulling out the two sticks of candy she had hidden. She didn't know where his dogs were, but for once, she could treat Sukea directly without incurring their wrath. And boy did they have wrath if she played favorites.

Sukea took one, a mischievous look coming over his face. "Oh, I'm grateful for him as well. I've always wanted to be a wealthy women's sugar baby."

Her cheeks went bright red.

Oh my, she may keep this one.

-X-

"As the Sixth Hokage, I would assume you'd know it is inappropriate to take a side trip to visit a Fire Lord to collect a personal debt. We're not the mob" The Fifth Hokage looked sharply to the masked man before her, tired of trying to 'council' him.

He didn't look at her, just sighing dreamily, face in hand.

"The path of life sometimes leads us to unfamiliar places."

She rolled over eyes, ignoring the foggy answer.

"Not to mention tasking the ANBU to watch over that harmless villager woman while you're out on missions. Kakashi, they're shinobi, not babysitters !" Tsunade said sharply, folding her arms like the magnificent woman she was. "It's time to man up, and take this job seriously!"

"I have to make sure all threats are neutralized if I want to stay focused."

"The only instructions you gave were, very specifically, I quote 'keep good-looking men away from my landlord'."

He sighed, leaning back in the chair and kicking his legs up, looking out the window. Hapless paperwork fluttered to the ground, lonely and ignored.

"I stand by my statement." It was another vague answer, and she ignored it.

"We can't waste any manpower doing something that pointless- You need to focus, on what's here and now." Another sigh, with him, dreamily looking out the window. She lifted his photography book, to make her point. "No more distractions. No more replacing yourself with dogs, no more flat-out disappearing. Leave the woman alone." Kakashi stiffened. "Focus on the Land of Lightning and that new contraption there."

"I may need to reconsider this position."

Tsunade paused, finger in the air.

And Kakashi was seriously considering giving up his post as Hokage prematurely to taking up photography full-time. So close that he bought permanent hair dye, and had the address of the nearby tattoo artist pinned to his desk by a porcelain figurine of a dog Mihoko had given him.

Yes, you could say it was serious.

"So what you're telling me, Hatake Kakashi-" Tsunade said dangerously, "Is that you think you can reconsider being Hokage?!"

"Maa..."

" Your face is already on the cliff!" He shrugged, lifting a hand as if waving it off.

"It can be changed."

Her punch might have been more effective if he hadn't been using a shadow clone. Pakkun crawled out from under the desk, wearing the Hokage large red hat as Tsunade was restrained by Shizune.

"Hey, I was taking a nap there."

" Dog , where is the Hokage?!" The desk was crushed under her leg, and Pakkun made a quick exit. He didn't answer, racing out the window, and far away. Tsunade turned to Yamato, who was unaffected by the spectacle, almost as if he had expected it.

"Where is the Hokage!?"

He shrugged.

"With his girlfriend, I think."

Tsunade went stock still, and Shizue was in such shock she let go, putting her hands on her cheeks.

"WHAT?!"

" Girlfriend?"

.

.

.

Pakkun was already racing, when he saw Bisuke, who had already made it outside unseen.

"Geez, what did you do to the old woman?"

"Dunno. Got to get to the boss before she figures him out and ruins the jig. Momma-chan ain't too smart, but the old woman is bound to out him."

-X-

The short walk over, they returned to their home.

Mihoko's eyes slid to him as she knelt before her small garden, her thoughts whirling. Sukea had been sitting nearby, reading his book. But as she turned she noticed that Pakkun and Bisuke had appeared, and Sukea and were talking in low tones. After he nodded to them and they both raced off, gone in a second.

"Bad news?" She chuckled as his face grew pained, and he put a hand on the back of his head.

"Yes. I'm going on an assignment with some ninja. This afternoon." She was surprised how much it disappointed her. The longer they were together, the more she disliked him leaving. She turned back, trying not to seem too fazed. They weren't dating per se, they just enjoyed one another's company... a lot.

"Oh."

The news didn't startle her, but the timing was quicker than normal. He told her his contracts were erratic, and clients demanding and wanted to take smaller jobs. He hadn't been gone for more than a day.

It seemed strange for the Hokage to use him so frequently, but admittedly, she didn't know much about their relationship. Sukea himself was a difficult one to pin down.

"How long will it be?" At his cheeky smile, she amended her question. "What is it you'll be photographing?" He frowned, getting up and wandering over as he shut the book. The paper disappeared into his coat pocket.

"I'm sorry, I'd rather not endanger you." She raised her garden gloved hands to her face, feeling like an idiot.

"Oh, sorry, of course!"

He shook his head, laughing a bit. "It's not your fault." He crouched next to her, taking her hands and peeling the gloves off. "You should ask those questions. I feel bad we can't go to your mentor's shrine."

"It's alright, it'll keep." She blushed happily.

"It's too soon to be leaving, but I can't think of a way out of it." He admitted, setting the gloves on the wood outlining the garden.

She smiled. "I agree, but I'll be here when you get back." Sukea halted as if had just dawned on him.

"My dogs need a sitter." She blinked at the abrupt change. "I was hoping for more time to try and get to know you before I asked you to let my dogs stay over."

For a moment she felt stupid because of course, he wasn't going to tell her he was committed to her so soon. A frown came over her features, and he misinterpreted it. He raised his hands as if trying to convince a lion.

"I don't mean to overstep! They just like you so much they forget that they're encroaching, and I guess I did as well."

He looked so ashamed, it made her chuckle.

"It's not that, Sukea-kun, of course, they can. I just think it's too bad you can't stay over as well!" She laughed, but as she finished the sentence, her voice caught in her throat.

The way he was looking at her was something she had only ever thought existed in books. His eyes grew darker, almost black, dancing with some thought he found delicious. He was standing so still he looked like a statue, devouring her with his gaze.

Sukea was amazing to be with because underneath their solidly growing friendship was tension, a thick bubbling mass of something he was excellent at hiding, something that only came out when he wanted it to. This sexy, smoldering dark side, one that promised he had every muscle in his body trained specifically know how to take her.

Positively romance novel fodder and inspiration tingled her fingers.

With a deliberate stroke, he leaned in, brushing the dirt off her face. Suddenly her skin was on fire, something low in her stomach bubbling. His eyes became heavily lidded. A red flush fell across his face.

He leaned in. She followed suit.

Then he sighed, pausing, and turning to the back window. Slowly, trying not to break the magic, she did as well.

All of his dogs were lined up in her windows, their little doggie faces pressed against the window, leaving drool marks. Cheeky smiles were on all of their faces, but at getting caught they all hopped down, hiding.

Poorly, she thought.

He stepped back, his face red. Oh well.

"Nothing like an audience." She said joking, and as she laughed, and he redirected his lips, pressing them against her forehead.

Her laughing tapered off at the feel of his warm lips. Tingled erupted from the area, sending electricity down her spine. She was blushing again at the sweet act. Her face felt hot, and he stood up, hand out.

"I've got to go prepare, but I hope you'll be okay if I write to you."

She took it, the feelings pressing down on her chest. "Uh... yes... please. "

Then, with a finger dragging across her wrist he raised her up. "I guess can't kiss you goodbye without an audience, but mayhaps you'll kiss me hello."

Next thing she knew, he was halfway across the yard and she was left watching his thickly clothed back as he turned, raising a hand and winking goodbye.

Wait.

Kiss him hello?

What?!

Were they... was that... official ?

But he was gone before she could deal with her confusion, and there was pretty much no way she was asking his dogs, most who looked on with knowing smirks as she came in. Her cheeks got red.

The dogs, of course, saw their moment to harass.

"The Boss is such a coward," Akino stated, not even looking a little uncomfortable. "It's not like we already don't know."

She noticed they all had their gear off, and for some reason, she missed their headbands and little coats.

"Not one word, any of you. No running to Kyou-chan either!" She stated, trying to go to her bedroom for some alone time. They blocked her off.

"Nice try lady-chan, but she feeds us too." Guruko huffed, dancing around her feet. "No special privileges till you're the missus Hata-"

Uhei kicked him out of the way, somewhat playfully. Ms... Hata? Was that the elusive last name that Sukea teased her with?

"Not until you're his wife."

She raised an eyebrow, kneeling to pet the whimpering Guruko. Uhashi huffed as if laughing, rolling on her bed. He was twisting around in her sheets again!

"You're all reading into this wrong!" Her cheeks were burning again. It just wasn't fair, eight against one!

"You can play difficult because that's what the boss likes, but in the end just know you'll probably be having his litter soon," Akino said frankly like it was the most obvious thing in the world. "Besides, we know you can't resist us."

" Litter ?"

"Ya lady. Pups you know. We are going to need a new name to call you." The small pug who had called all the other ones to the window said almost cheerfully. Bull grumbled happily, already on her couch, sinking it in the middle. He didn't say much but didn't need to.

"Pakkun-kun! All you guys- dogs!"

" Ninkun." He corrected.

It just wasn't fair.

Later that day she found a large bundle of flowers on her stoop, as well as another card. This one just had the quickly scribbled image of a heart on it.

The other dogs were somewhere, one puffing off into nothing. It had taken three of the other dogs to convince her that was normal for a summons. Only the pug was there, a slightly calmer, more condescending presence than the rest.

Pakkun looked on approving as she put it on her mantle, adding water to the blue porcelain vase she had chosen, one of her father's works. He curled deeper into the blanket he pulled from her bed, burrowing into the couch.

"You're going to need a bigger flat, lady. It seems like he's serious." She turned, raising an eyebrow.

"Anything else, you bossy little ninkun? "

"Ya lady, I'm hungry." He pointed his nose up.

She reached for the bag of dog food that had appeared on her counter yesterday.