Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto. This story was written for fun, not profit.

Yet another crappy ten-minute character study. Blatant manga speculation and scenes from an ANBU team: Orochimaru, Uchiha Madara, and a certain Yellow Flash. Pay no attention to the medic-nin in the corner.

a good ninja

The reason Fudou Midori will never be a good ninja - the real reason, far beyond the sucky chakra control and the impatience and the crippling inability to keep her mouth shut - is that she hates to kill people.

Not that she can't, because she's done it before and will do it again (and again and again), but every single time she imagines what her enemy must have been like, what their hopes and dreams were. Her hands shake and her stomach does awful flips and she thinks she might cry or puke or both all at once. She's pretty sure good ninjas don't cry.

That's why some of the others scare her. Orochimaru, her strike team's leader, freaks her the hell out because he seems to enjoy a bit of casual slaughter - taking pride in his work, Danzou-sensei would say. And she's not sure if Uchiha's better or worse, since he moves with scary clockwork precision and has a blank face and a sharp sharp sword and doesn't feel anything, not at all.

Uzumaki kills when he has to, calm and unblinking and everywhere all at once with red splatters on his face, and then he just switches whatever-it-is off and grins at her and asks how she's holding up. This would be freakier than Orochimaru and Uchiha put together, except he doesn't go out of his way to stick a kunai in people and he smiles like the world's biggest dork.

Most of the time he gets smirked at and teased and slapped and told to shut up jerkface, she'll kick his ass when she becomes Hokage - and sometimes she tries that with Uchiha, but it's like teasing a fucking corpse. Maybe if she understood things better, she would realize that even crappy medic-nins have an instinct about who can and can't be saved.

Most of the time she's this smartass loudmouth ball of orange-clad ramen-eating sunshine, but she's not stupid, not in the way that really counts. She knows that one day she might look at Danzou-sensei as an enemy instead of her old genin-team leader. One day she might be trying to kill Orochimaru instead of just being creeped-out by him - and one day she might stop wondering where Uchiha's personality ran off to so she can die fighting him. That's just what ninjas do, even the bad ones with tears running down their cheeks and bile burning their throat.

Uzumaki's prepared to kill them all for the Leaf - but it wouldn't be personal, no matter how much he'd hate to do it. Plenty of people would slit a teammate's throat to save the village, but he'd slit his own if he thought he had to and wouldn't bat an eye about it, because he'd think it was normal.

(And one day she might grab onto his red-and-white sleeve with a bloody burned hand and tell him she'll never forgive him, never ever you fucking bastard, and he'll smile sadly and believe every word.)

Midori thinks that this is one reason she won't ever be a good ninja - aside from the fact that becoming one seems to require being batshit. It's always personal for her. She empathizes with the enemy and with the strangers from other teams who bleed to death under her bandages and salves and streams of curses. It's personal if she's laid eyes on an enemy or heard them shouting or maybe just thrown a few explosive tags in their general direction. She wants the people she cares about alive and whole and happy - and Midori cares about everyone.

A good ninja is a tool in one form or another. A good ninja looks at the big picture and the Leaf and doesn't take little things so damn close to heart. Secretly, that's why Midori isn't one - because she can't and won't change how she sees the world.

Very very secretly, she thinks that if this is what being a good ninja means, she'd rather be a bad one after all.