Chapter Eight—Never Say Goodbye

The funeral was held at the ravine's crest. The Nin that had known her gathered there in a private sort of gathering, all fashioning black clothing and grief-ridden faces. They all lined up and, one by one, tossed a single purple flower into the dark pit and said their goodbyes. Tears streamed down a few cheeks, matching the mood of the still rainy sky.

As Tsunade, the last of the line, approached the edge of the abyss, she held out Anko's blood soaked coat, with her purple flower tucked into the collar, and tossed it into the darkness. She muttered a few goodbyes and apologies, fought back tears with all her might, and turned away from the scene of the death.

Soon after that, everyone departed. Even Kurenai, Kakashi, and Tsunade. No need to stay and be gloomy. There was work to be done, and she was only one Nin. Tsunade kept telling herself this, hoping that it would ease her grief, but it did not. It only added to it.

The last person to depart, however, was the one that vanished from a nearby tree, having seen what he needed to see.

Orochimaru lay in his bed, his eyes covered by his arm. He was trying desperately to control his breathing. He swallowed a few times and bit his lip to cut through the fog that was unwelcome in his mind. Why was he taking this so hard? Why did he care enough about her to feel…grief? He did not like this feeling.

A knock sounded on the door. "My lord? Are you alright? You've been in there for almost two days now…" Kimimaro asked from the other side of the door.

"I'm aware, Kimimaro," the snake replied, his voice hoarse. "Leave me be, please."

There was a silence, and then, "Yes, my lord." Footsteps indicated the boy's departure.

Orochimaru sighed heavily into the shadows in his room. "Why…?" he whispered to himself, clenching his jaw. "Why…do I feel this way…?" He shouldn't care that she was gone. He should feel nothing at all. Hell, he'd tried to kill her before. Why should he care that she was dead now?

He outwardly flinched at that word. How could she be so careless? He had taught her better than that. She should have been able to handle that snake…even with her chakra gone. She was so stupid sometimes. If she was here right now, he would scold her…

But she wasn't here. Nor would she ever be.

He lowered his arm as a solitary tear slid slowly down his cheek of its own accord. He swallowed a lump in his throat. His usually cold and black heart ached. It was the first feeling it had had in it in so long.

Now that he thought about it, she was the only thing that could ever make his heart truly feel anything. Glee, humour, sadness, sympathy, anger… love? Had he loved her? No, impossible. He could never…

Orochimaru felt the faint flicker of presence in his room, but he ignored it.

How could he love her? She was half his age, and she obviously hated him. Well…at least, she should. He had been nothing but mean to her all her life, except small little moments of rare kindness. But that couldn't have been enough to make her love him, could it have been?

He felt the faint presence approaching him slowly, but he ignored it.

Surely not. If she had still been alive, she would have eventually come and seek to kill him, despite how she had asked him to kiss her in the forest. It had probably just been a moment of uncontrollable lust reduced to a simple kiss. That was it. There was no way she would ever love a man like him, even if she were still alive…

A warm finger ran across his cheek and wiped away the single tear. "You shouldn't cry, snaky… It doesn't suit you…"

Orochimaru opened his eyes and sat up straight in his bed, staring at the person in disbelief. "It can't be…" he breathed. "Anko…?"

"That's my name…" she answered with a weak goofy smile on her lips; a smile that he was afraid he would never see again. She was soaking wet, her loose hair dripping on her muddy mesh and ruined tan skirt. She was shivering. Her face was streaked with mud and a cut spread across her cheek.

"I…I thought you were… But you fell into a… How?" he whispered, unable to believe what he was seeing.

"It was a trick," she answered in a small voice. "I staged it."

He couldn't believe what he was hearing. Without saying another word, he grabbed the blanket off his bed and draped it around the girl's shivering shoulders.

Anko smiled weakly and hugged it tightly around her. "Thank you."

"Why…" he started to ask, but was cut off by her finger against his lips.

"Not now…please…" she whispered. "I need to rest for a little while, alright…?" She sat down on his bed with a heavy sigh and closed her eyes. She looked exhausted.

They sat in silence for an unbelievably long time. Orochimaru listened as the girl's breathing slowly calmed and she became warm again. Subconsciously, she leaned her head against his shoulder and sighed contentedly. He ignored the fact that he was getting wet and tried to swallow the fact that she was alive. Though, part of him was conscious of her warmth against his cold skin.

"Why did you stage your own death…?" he asked after the silence had become too unbearable.

"Because…I needed to get away from everything, and it was an easy way out…" she admitted after a second of hesitation. "Tsunade was hounding me with work that I couldn't handle anymore, and I didn't want to be a traitor by leaving the village… And I also wanted to get away from you."

"But…how did you…?" he dared to ask.

"I got the idea from an inchworm," she said with a tiny smile. "I asked Kurenai and Kakashi to help me fool Tsunade, and they agreed. I promised that I would come back to see them once in a while. Then I had to think of some way to simulate blood on my coat for more effect, and what better to do that than the real thing?"

"You injured yourself?" the snake asked in a hushed voice, still unable to grasp this.

Anko nodded.


"On my side…"

He reached down with one of his hands and lifted the edge of her mesh. A large blood stained bandage wrapped around her waist. He raised an eyebrow.

"Anyway, the Anko that Tsunade had seen fall into the ravine was a clone of myself. I had it commit suicide. And the snake was a good friend of mine that agreed to help me in my plan. I figured that I could still hang out in the Forest of Death and maybe be The Ghost of Anko or something and scare some little brats…"

Orochimaru nodded his head slowly. It was all making sense to him. Well, almost all. "There's something I still don't get…" he said, looking at the floor. "You said you did it partly to get away from me…and yet here you are. Why?"

She also looked at the floor. "Well, I was hiding in a cave about five miles outside of Amegakure, right beside where you had…kissed me…and I was remembering the whole thing… I started to think to myself, 'Why do I feel like this?' My heart ached at the actual reality of leaving you. When I realized that I was actually going to be free… I couldn't stand the thought of never seeing you again…no matter what you did to me… Then I wracked my brain for some logical explanation, and I could only come up with one that sounded insane. But the more I thought about it, the more sense it made…" she brought her legs up to her chest and wrapped her arms around them "…I still love you."

The snake was speechless. The silence that he left behind stretched between them like a great ocean. He was alone with his thoughts. She loved him? She actually loved him? How could he believe this? A few minutes ago, she had been dead, or so he thought. And now she was alive and she loved him? Impossible. Absolutely impossible. This all had to be a dream. It had to be. He was dreaming that she was alive because he was grieving. That's it. There was no way she would love him in truth…

Anko reached over and caressed his cheek with her warm and wet fingers, bringing him back to reality. She had a serene look in her eyes as she stroked his cheek, and she could feel her heartbeat picking up.

In a moment, she had her lips pressed to his. The kiss was hers this time; orchestrated and unspoken by her alone. Her hands cupped the side of his face and she leaned against him, her cold mesh pressed into his skin.

Slowly, he began to kiss her back. His arms wrapped tightly around her waist, and they were warm for once in his life, apparently taking in her warmth and making his own. He slipped his tongue into her mouth and ran it along the soft inside of her lips. He pulled her into a loving embrace, and held her tightly.

It was then that he realized that this was not a dream. She was really here, and she really loved him. She was warm and cold against his skin. Her lips tasted so good. Her hair was in disarray. Her bruised skin was soft to the touch. There was breath in her lungs and a heartbeat in her chest. She was alive, and she loved him.

Gently, he pushed her back against his pillow until she was on her back and he was leaning over her. He unfolded her legs, taking care to run his fingers up and down her damp and cold skin. His lust was taking over himself again…but this time he had no intention of taking control of it.

Anko dug her fingernails deeply into the cloth and flesh on his back. The same urge was taking over her as well, and she too had no intention of holding back any longer.

Before long, the snake had her completely naked, and she had him completely naked. Their clothes lay in a pile on the floor next to the bed.

Orochimaru's hands traced tingling patterns all over the girl's skin. He ran his fingers down her cheek and neck, across her breasts, over her stomach, and up her inner thighs. He had released her lips and was now chewing gently on the base of her neck.

Anko was blushing furiously, both from embarrassment and heat. She braced the back of his head with her one hand and gently pushed it so that his teeth nicked her skin. Her other hand scratched down his back, almost drawing blood, and causing a sadistic-born moan to escape the snake's lips.

He sank his fangs deep into her flesh after his moan, and a vicious form of pleasure coursed through Anko's entire body, making her shiver in desire. She arched her back to bring herself to press against his chest and wrapped her arms tightly around him as if she was going to fall.

Orochimaru let her blood fill his mouth, completely intoxicated by her taste. He ran a hand down her thigh, dragging his sharp nails through her skin. He was carefully avoiding the wound on her side. It was a deep gash, and he didn't want her dying in reality.

After a few minutes of touching and exploring and caressing, he spread her legs gently and kissed her lips again. With a quick thrust, and a scream of ecstasy, the night began.

Outside, the rain was pouring heavily, illuminating the still full moon. A cold breeze whipped through the trees, whispering a foreign language to nature and soothing all that was ill in the darkness. The stars twinkled brightly in the black sky, shining with an unearthly glee that reached across the night.

As the man passionately embraced the girl, he leaned his mouth near her ear and whispered one thing; one phrase that sold his heart and that finally believed that she was alive and well, and moaning his name; a phrase that had defied him for years; a phrase that would keep her with him forever.

"Aishite imasu, watashi-no osanago1…"

1 'Aishite imasu, watashi-no osanago' translated means 'I love you, my little one' in Japanese.