Disclaimer: Not mine. Loosely based off the movie The Lives of Others. Good movie. Also not mine.

The Lives of Others

You have often felt that your life merely consists of the fragments of the lives you watch. You have no life of your own--no friends, no family, no job other than making other people's secrets yours. Their lives become your own. Living vicariously, you heard it defined once.

You watch people, and it's always been enough of a life for you.

Your position in Orochimaru's secret police is ideal. You had refused the position of captain, but still remain one of Orochimaru's favorite operatives, allowing you to choose whichever cases you want.

You get to watch a lot of people, ever since the takeover of Konoha.

It's just another case file, at first. The disgruntled messenger who had delivered it said that Orochimaru wanted you to cover the case personally. He didn't give a reason.

So you open it. A pretty girl with black hair. Former Konoha shinobi, assistant to the former Hokage. Likely to commit conspiracy. 24 hour audio/video surveillance, place of residence. Bodyguards, none.

On the bottom, there's a handwritten note you can only assume is from Orochimaru. Start immediately. A/V at 9.15 a.m. Underneath that is an address and a team number.

You yawn and look at your watch. 8.50. Pulling yourself out of your chair, you leave your office. As you walk down the hallway, you see no one. When you go down to the garage, you find the A/V team already in a bus.

You yawn again, pull open the door, and sit shotgun.

You pull up across the street just as she's leaving the house. You watch her. She walks with her head down. An air of worry follows in her wake. Her body is hunched, almost defeated-looking.

You wonder how Orochimaru thinks someone like her has the strength to rebel against them.

Then, suddenly, she looks up and glances across the street at the gray van. It's only for a second, but the fire and hatred in her eyes is unmistakable. You're taken aback by the force of her stare.

And then it's gone, and so is she, rounding the corner and disappearing entirely.

It's the last time she will look at you for a very long time.

The A/V team unloads from the van, picks the lock on her small house, and walks in. They have exactly twenty minutes to bug the light switches with microphones, tap the phone, and place a video camera above the entrance. You start a stopwatch and proceed to look around.

You can almost feel her hatred for their regime coursing throughout the house. Her hitai-ate is hanging from the wall in her bedroom, since it's been outlawed to wear them. An ANBU mask lies on a shelf in the living room. In small, subtle places everywhere the Konoha leaf emblem appears. It's not loud, or even that noticeable, but it's almost as if her defiance towards Orochimaru runs like lifeblood through the house.

She's interesting, you'll give her that.

After exactly twenty minutes, you click the stopwatch again, and the A/V team exits promptly, locks the door, and gets back in the van. As you leave, you double-check the surrounding houses to make sure the timing was right, that there was no one home anywhere near.

No one answers their door, so you climb back into the passenger seat and motion for them to drive.

At exactly 7.00 PM, you walk into the observation room that's been labeled "10067". It looks the same as all the other ones--a small television monitor that shows the outside of her house, a telephone receiver with several buttons next to it, a switchboard labeled with different rooms, and a set of headphones. Unlike other operatives, Orochimaru doesn't require you to file formal reports about your cases. He trusts that you'd report anything of interest directly to him.

You sit down at the chair, put on the headphones, and look at the monitor, waiting for her to return. It says in her case file that she usually gets home around 7.05 PM. You flip the switch that says "Main Hallway" and sit there, eagerly anticipating her arrival. This is your favorite part about watching people; the first time you put on the headphones. To you, it feels like diving into a pool of water for the first time, completely immersing yourself in someone else's life.

At 7.04 PM, you see her walk up to the door on the monitor. She sighs and unlocks it, and the noise she makes when she puts her bag down on the floor inside is picked up by the microphone in the light switch a few feet away. You can't see her anymore, but you can hear everything. When she flips on the light, the volume of the click makes you wince.

You hear her walk down the hall, and you flip the switch that says "Kitchen". You can't hear her. You flip the switch that says "Bedroom", and now you can hear her moving around, the rustling of fabric indicating that she is undressing. A few minutes later, you hear a shower start.

She still hasn't said anything, and you figure she won't be too talkative in the shower, so you don't flip the switch that says "Bathroom". You wait, listening to the white noise in her bedroom.

People don't often realize that silence has a distinct sound to it.

At 7.15, the shower stops, and you hear her walk back into the bedroom. She doesn't say anything, but you hear clothes rustling again as she puts on pajamas.

The phone rings.

You pull the headphones off one of your ears. Looking at the telephone receiver, you press the blinking button that says "Incoming - House", and put the receiver up to your ear.

"Hello?" you hear her say, and you're surprised at how loud her voice sounds after all that silence.

"Hey!" says the voice on the other end of the line. It's female, loud, and it makes you wince. "It's Anko--hey, listen, a bunch of us are getting together tomorrow after work for drinks and stuff, you wanna come?"

You mark down the event on the pad of paper next to you.

"Yeah, sure," she responds. "Where?"

"Not sure yet," Anko says, "I'll let you know where and when at work tomorrow."

"Okay," she responds. "See you tomorrow, then."

"You okay?" Anko asks, the volume of her voice dropping slightly.

"Yeah," she responds. "Yeah, I'm fine. See you tomorrow, okay?"

"All right, see you then."

The line goes dead.

You put the receiver back on the hook and pull on the headphones again, although you know you won't hear anything. She's not one of those that talks to herself. Comfortable with--perhaps even grateful for--the silence.

As you hear her rummage through the kitchen, you check in her file when she gets out from work. 6.45 PM. You'll have to follow her from there to see where she's going with her friends.

You settle into the chair and prepare for a long night of complete silence. You didn't bring anything to do--you like listening to the silence as much as you like listening to the noise. It gives the world you're immersing yourself in a more three-dimensional quality. You'll probably fall asleep around the same time as she does, and wake up with her alarm in the morning. It's just the way you work, when you're on cases.

After you hear the rustling of sheets, indicating that she's gotten into bed, you lean back and wait for sleep to overtake you.

After a few minutes of this, though, you realize that she hasn't fallen asleep yet. Her breathing isn't the calm, regular breathing of a sleeping person--it's irregular, almost jagged, with sharp intakes and whimpering exhales.

It takes you about thirty seconds to realize she's crying.

You don't hear people cry very much. There isn't much room in the lives of shinobi for crying, or even that much sentimentality, and shinobi are the people you watch the most. It's the strangest feeling for you, to listen to someone cry, and for the first time you feel incredibly awkward with the headphones on, so you take them off. You readjust to the silence around you, and blink, confused, at the desk in front of you.

You tell yourself you're being ridiculous, and put the headphones back on.

She's still crying. You take them off.

You spend the next fifteen minutes like this--putting the headphones back on every few minutes, to check if she's stopped crying yet. Finally, you put the headphones on again, and it's silent. You listen to her breathing for a few minutes. It's become slow and regular, and you know she's finally fallen asleep.

Relieved, you lean back in your chair and drift off.

At 6.45 PM, you're outside her office building.

She works at the hospital, but all the buildings where the Konoha shinobi work have been combined--easier to keep them all in check. You're standing across the street in a doorway when you see her exit with a couple of people who look to be around her age. The others are talking, a couple are even laughing, but she still walks with her head down, and only speaks when spoken to. You notice that one of the men with chin-length brown hair is paying special attention to her, and you feel the strangest urge to punch him in the face.

You follow them down the street for a while, until they reach an ordinary-looking bar. They stand outside talking for a while. You've already resolved to not follow them in--you think one of them may have caught a glimpse of you in the doorway before, and you don't need to look any more suspicious. You've noticed, though, that she never really smiles--she does with her mouth, but not with her eyes.

You leave as soon as the fellow with brown hair slings his arm around her neck.

You're back in the observation room when you see her approach the house on the monitor. You put the headphones back on and flick the "Main Hallway" switch--and then you notice that she's not alone. The man with brown hair is with her, and he follows her inside. She doesn't look too happy about this. You remind yourself on the pad of paper to find out who he is.

"Genma," you hear her say as the door closes, "I'm tired."

Well, scratch that last. You write down Genma instead.

"Come on," you hear him say. "We're just talking."

"There's nothing to talk about," she sighs, and you hear her walk off into another room. You flip the switch that says "Kitchen". You guessed right--you hear her moving something around on a counter.

"That's no reason to kick me out," you hear him say. He followed her into the kitchen.

"Genma, you know as well as I do that you don't want to 'just talk'. I'm tired, and I don't want to sleep with you. Please, just leave."

"Christ, baby, you're supposed to be my girlfriend--"

"I'm not," she says loudly, cutting him off. You jump at the sudden increase in volume. "your girlfriend, Genma. Please go."

The urge to punch this Genma in the face is rising in you again.

"Fine," he says, but you can tell he's grinning. "If I go now, promise me you'll consider becoming my real girlfriend."

"If it'll make you leave, fine. I'll consider it."

"All right, then. See you tomorrow," he calls, and in the distance you hear the front door close.

Unconsciously, you unclench your fist.

The rest of the night passes in relative silence, except for the twenty minutes you have to take your headphones off, because she's crying again.

It's been three months, and nothing has happened.

You still don't understand why Orochimaru thought she might be likely to rebel against them. She hates them, of that you're certain, but she seems to know how useless it would be to try and stop them.

But the operation hasn't been called off yet, and you have no problem with that, because you've become rather attached to her.

Nothing in her life has changed much. She accepted Genma's offer of becoming his girlfriend--something that annoyed you far more than you'd like to admit. You tried to ignore it, at first, but the few times they'd slept together you had to take your headphones off, and admit to yourself that there are some things you just don't want to listen to.

It infuriates you that, even the nights Genma is there, she still cries when she thinks no one is listening.

In fact, becoming Genma's girlfriend hasn't really made her any happier, as far as you can tell--which makes you pleased and angry at the same time. You figure she must not actually like him that much, or there's something else that's bothering her.

You think you might know what that is.

A couple of nights a week, you've noticed that a black, slightly beaten-up car drops her off at her house. It's not Genma's, you've checked--he doesn't own a car. You haven't been able to get a good glimpse at the license plate, but as soon as you do, you're planning on having a chat with whoever owns it.

Because you've noticed that the nights the car drops her off, those are the nights she cries the most.

About a week later, when you watch the car drop her off across the street from her house, you get a look at the license plate.

It drives underneath a streetlamp, briefly illuminating the plate on the back. You hurriedly write it down before it drives off again. You wait for a couple of minutes to make sure she gets in the door, then you take the headphones off and exit the observation room, taking the license plate number and her picture with you.

Ten minutes and a computer search later, you find out it belongs to another operative. You don't know him personally, but his rank and address are listed on his driver's license. By rank, he's your subordinate, even though he's two or three years older than you are.

You write down his address and decide to pay him a visit.

He doesn't exactly live in the higher end of town--his apartment is smaller than hers, and in a remarkable state of disarray. You survey the room with distaste before he walks out of his bedroom.

"What the--" he exclaims when he sees you. "What the hell are you doing in here?"

You don't waste time with introductions--instead you grab him by the throat and slam him against the wall. He's obviously no shinobi--instead of trying to knee you in the crotch, he just flails around like a dying fish. It would be funny, if you weren't so furious.

Taking her picture out of your pocket, you shove it in his face. "What do you have to do with her?"

"Her?" he sputters, and you realize that he can't really talk. You loosen your grip on his throat a bit, and he gasps for air. "What, that chick from the hospital?"

"Yes," you say icily, and clench your hand warningly.

"Whoa, whoa, let go of me!" he chokes, and you loosen your grip again, still glaring. "What do you care? You her boyfriend or something?"

"No," you say, and take your I.D. card out of your pocket. "See this rank? It means I ask the questions."

"Okay, okay," he mutters. "We have an…agreement worked out."

"Don't fuck with me," you hiss.

"Fine!" he yelps as your grip tightens. "I told her if she didn't sleep with me, her…her friends would start disappearing."

You're confused for a moment. "What on earth makes you think you have the authority to order executions?"

"I don't," he says, then grins. "But she doesn't know that, does she?"

Right now, you're contemplating exactly how you want to kill him.

"What?" he says at the look on your face. "She has a nice ass."

You decide that slitting his throat will do just fine.

After you clean up the blood and dispose of the body, you're careful to cover up your tracks. People disappear all the time, but you have to make it look like just that--a disappearance. No blood. No tracks. No evidence.

Nothing leading back to you.

After you're satisfied with your work, you walk back to the building. You check your watch--the whole affair has taken less than an hour. No one will have missed you.

You practically run back into the observation room and put on the headphones as fast as you can. You flip the switch that says "Bedroom" and realize that she's crying, harder than last night.

Unconsciously, your fists clench and you lean forward, forgetting where you are. You don't quite realize it, but you're whispering to her-- "don't worry, he's gone, he's gone."

A minute later, you snap out of your reverie, and realize that she can't hear you.

It's been three more months, and you spend more time listening to her life than you do out in your own.

Not that you have much to go back to. All your life is her life, and you have no problem with that. Day after day, you can feel yourself slowly but surely sinking into her, into everything she is.

You're not sure if you'll be able to pull yourself out, and strangely, you're okay with that.

Even though you took care of the scumbag who was raping her, she still cries sometimes--not every night, but enough that you feel a strange need to hold her, to tell her it's going to be all right, that you'll protect her.

But she already has someone to do that.

She's still together with Genma--more out of necessity than affection, you assume. But then again, you are insanely jealous of him, which might bias your opinion slightly. Still, she only seems slightly happier, and you're sure that's your doing, not his.

Well, at least you like to think that.

He's over again tonight, and you're forcing yourself to keep the headphones on as various acts of intimacy ensue. It's your own personal form of self-torture--your way of punishing yourself for wanting something you can never have.

You've been a shinobi since you were a child, but this is by far the hardest thing you've ever had to do. You find yourself desperately trying to think of anything but the noises coming out of the headphones, but find that you can't, because you want more than anything for that to be you, not Genma.

It's not the first time you've hated the fact that you're nothing more than a voyeur.

After a few more minutes, you decide you can't stand it anymore. You throw off the headphones and storm out of the observation room, determined to get as far away as possible from her.

You find yourself in the slums, awkwardly requesting that it preferably be a girl with black hair.

You hate places like this; a dozen or so of them had sprung up after the takeover, servicing almost exclusively operatives and the drunk, pissed-off, ex-Leaf nins. But it's the only place you can think of that could possibly stop you from punching in your wall all night long. Still, it's horribly embarrassing, and you're grateful that at least you don't see anyone you know standing around.

She tries to tell you her name, but you don't really care--for tonight, all you need her to be is her.

It works, for a while, and for a while you're actually happy, or at least less angry. It's dark, and her hair is black, so if you don't look too closely she could almost pass as her.

Of course, the illusion breaks as soon as you realize that you can't hold her, or fall asleep next to her, because your time's up in five minutes, and it's a busy night.

You're embarrassed as you walk out, but at least you've calmed down enough to walk back to the observation room. Once you get inside, you hesitate before putting on the headphones--what if they're still at it?--but then you realize it's been at least three hours since you left, and that they must be asleep by now.

You cautiously slip the headphones back on, and all you can hear is her breathing.

You listen to that until you fall asleep.

It's been four more months.

They're shutting down the case because of lack of suspicious activity.

And you've fallen in love with her.

You can't really imagine what life's going to be like when the equipment gets shut off at 8.00 PM tonight. You suppose you'll be assigned to another case, but you're going to request that you only do field work. No more listening. You can't bear the thought of having to immerse yourself within the lake of someone else's life, when you've fallen so deeply in love with hers.

Because that's the only explanation for the pain you feel, the terrifying feeling of emptiness, that ripping feeling in your heart. You've only felt this once before--years and years ago, when your mother died and you became the "use-as-you-wish" child. You vaguely remember the empty feeling, but it's nothing compared to the earth-shattering force that's suspending all thought, all motion, all feeling within your body. You love her, you love her, and you know this, even though you're not quite sure of anything else anymore. You love her.

You love her.

And now you have no idea what to do with yourself.

She's broken up with Genma, and she doesn't cry at night anymore, which makes you feel a little better, that at least she's happy. But you really don't know what you're going to do without her.

You love her.

Damn it. You love her.

You're walking down the street, because you really have no idea what to do with yourself.

It's been three days since they terminated the operation, and you've requested to be taken off of casework for a while, because you don't really think you can handle it. So you've been walking. You must have circled the village about twenty times, since you haven't slept, or actually stopped for anything. You're not sure if you can sleep without the white noise of her apartment in the background, and you don't want to find out what dreams your mind has in store for you.

But the real reason you've been walking for three days straight is you've been looking for her.

You haven't seen her yet, and you've purposely been avoiding her house and the hospital, because you don't really want to admit to yourself quite yet that you're nothing without her. But still, you hope, even though you don't want to.

And then, you see her. She's walking into a small bakery.

Your first instinct is to run away.

Your second instinct is to run to her.

Your third instinct is to ignore your first and second instincts, and just follow her in.

So you do, your heart pounding in your ears, your stomach feeling uncomfortably nauseous. This is closer than you've been to her, well, ever, and you realize that there are lots of things you don't know about her, like how she smells like cinnamon and vanilla, or how the corners of her eyes crinkle when she's thinking about something--like she's doing now, looking at the food display--and, god, you want so badly to reach out and touch her.

So you do, thinking you can pass it off as an accidental brush with your hand, but you linger on her arm a second too long, and she turns around, and looks at you for the very first time.

"Hi," you blurt out, because you've really no idea what else to say, or if you should even say anything, and god, her eyes are gorgeous close-up.

"Do I know you?" she says, and you can detect the irritation in her voice.

You suddenly realize that she doesn't have the faintest idea who you are.

Of course, you always knew that, it just hadn't quite registered in your mind yet. You had fallen so deeply into her life that you hadn't stopped to think that, all this time, she hadn't known you existed at all.

And suddenly, you realize that, no matter how much you want to, you can never be a part of her life. Even though you love her, you love her more than you'll ever love anyone else, there's no way she can possibly understand how you heard her when she cried, how you saved her, how she saved you, and how, for the past ten months, she's been the center of your universe.

You love her, but she doesn't know who you are. And that's how it is, and that's how it always has to be, because your life only consists of the pieces of the lives of others, and all you can do is watch.

She can't ever love you back, because you don't really exist.

"No," you finally respond, your voice cracking. "No, I guess you don't."

You turn, then, and walk out of the store. And you don't really know where you're going, and you don't know what you're going to do, but you know that, even now, she is forgetting you. That by the time Shizune walks into the hospital, you'll be nothing but a distant memory.

Because you don't exist.

Not anymore. Not without her.


A/N: Holy fcking shit. That took me, like, five straight hours to write. Not even kidding. So anyway. I know it's long, but I didn't want to split it into chapters. Whatever. Love it, hate it? Review it. Oh, and watch the movie. Peace out.