by Nezuko, Prince of Rats

This is a work of derivative fiction based on the manga "Naruto" by Kishimoto Masashi. The characters and the world in which they live are the property of Kishimoto-sensei.

Set in the Moonlight on Masks timeline. MoM is available at moonlit(underscore)anbu(dot)livejournal(dot)com

For Kilerkki, who asked for romance

There are moments in a man's life when he is tempted to do what he knows is wrong. As a child they come often and are resisted rarely. But usually people around him correct him, or punish him, or the action itself has its own built in punishment, like touching a hot stove, and he learns. He learns when and when not to give in to his temptations. When it is self-indulgence, when it is merely a bad idea and when it is sure to doom him with consequences he will regret.

Hayate, like any man, has had his share of temptations. As a toddler he gleefully cut the pages from a book because he had just learned to use scissors. He has a scar across the palm of his left hand from the time, when he was seven, that he picked up that shiny, lovely, much-too-heavy-for-him sword of his father's. The one with the broken hand guard. The same sword, with tsuba replaced, that he uses now with grace and precision.

At ten he told the secret he'd been sworn to keep, that Aiko liked Tetsuo, and lost Aiko's friendship forever. He learned that the rules of ninja life applied even when you weren't in uniform, and that one carelessly placed word could bring the whole world crashing down around you.

When he was a genin there was a mission with his team, with strict orders from their jounin-sensei not to eat any food the merchant they were guarding offered them. But Hayate was so hungry, and sensei was out of sight, and what harm could one apple do? He was three days in the hospital recovering from the poison, and he learned a mighty lesson about trust.

As a chuunin, at sixteen, Hayate learned that no matter how desperate a man might be for sex, his own hand was always a better choice than the heavily made-up women who populated the bars where the shinobi hung out.

At nineteen he joined ANBU. He was fairly sure that experience had taught him all he needed to know about resisting temptation by that point, but on a mission with Ryuuhei and Sadao and Mamoru, he learned what was probably the hardest lesson of all: he gave into the temptation to ignore his uneasy feelings about a situation, because his teammates had all assured him that they sensed no danger. When it was all over, when he held Mamoru's lifeless head in his lap and ripped off the red and white mask, he could see the terror of his friend's last moments forever frozen on his dead face.

So now, at twenty-one, and an ANBU squad commander, Hayate was well versed in resisting temptation. He trusted his intuition over his senses, when his intuition was urging him to caution. He still made mistakes, because he was human, but most of his errors did not carry such dire consequences. He knew when he was taking a gamble. He weighed his decisions carefully.

Which was why, every time he looked at the rookie he now had in his command, he told himself not to see her as a woman. He told himself not to see her lustrous waterfall of purple hair, or the curve of her hips in her tight-fitting uniform. He told himself not to look at the swell of her breasts, or the soft curve of her cheek, or her big, captivating eyes. Not to notice the way the scent of her made him shiver. Not to think of her chakra warm like velvet against his skin.

And yet.

It was harder and harder not to think of Yuugao, early in the morning, when in the shower with a soapy hand, Hayate tried to purge the desire from himself. It was harder and harder not to notice the way she seemed to watch him, the way she said his name, the way she stood just a little too close.

It was, Hayate could tell, a bad, bad idea. It was temptation that would surely doom him to worse ruin than any he had ever faced. And he had learned, bitterly learned, that there are some lines you just don't cross. Some temptations that you just don't give in to. So when she asked him to take an afternoon, one cold November day, and work with her on her sword techniques, he was prepared to resist her.

What he wasn't prepared for, was the moment when, breathless and laughing, chilled to the bone and shivering, he looked into her eyes, and she into his, and without another word, he kissed her.