I don't own much, and what I do own isn't much- but my imagination is free. Ergo, the characters don't belong to me- the plot and ideas do. X


It was her eyes that had been bugging him.

Yes, she had fought with all the grace and intent of the professional shinobi he had seen and met in all his travels, all the trained killers…Her fighting style was crisp and seemed to be long practiced, and this one oto-nin had caught his attention, because of her eyes.

Dead or hollow, disgusted or despairing; Naruto could tell there was something more to the woman his teammates had chosen to fight. Sakura had been downed easily, but she had only been knocked unconscious by a precise blow to the neck. And Sasuke was furiously engaging the enemy that Naruto could tell wanted to die.

And so he looked around.

All the other sound nin had been utterly devoted to their leader, because he had been the one to give them the opportunity to become strong, manipulated them because of circumstance and greed.

But although she had a very fitting taijutsu for the sound shinobi to use, it seemed as if…somehow…she wasn't really trying to hurt them.

And her eyes…

Naruto once again spared the woman a glance, taking in the dead and hollow and despairing eyes, daring her to show some enjoyment and belie his thoughts.

But if Naruto was anything...he was a pretty good judge of character.

So he looked through the gathered sound shinobi, and finally found the one he was looking for. One taller and lanky man was standing off to one side; and although he had no obvious remnants of fights- be they muscle or scars- he was watching with the insane glee that Naruto had come to expect from those who truly enjoyed killing.

So that was who he attacked.

Naruto figured that he was one of the enemies anyway, and another down was for the best. Fighting this one seemed to be all instinct, as he put up no real fight; but Naruto's suspicions were proved correct when his opponent called out a whistling note and the female fighter that had caught his attention swerved abruptly away from her fight with Sasuke and came to guard this weak shinobi.

'She's being controlled.'

So he did all he could to avoid her blows and avoid hitting her, and only managed to get in one hit to her five against him- all the rest were blocked mutually. He couldn't help the stray thought of admiration that even though she wasn't giving her all in the fight- she was still good enough to land a hit on him.

So he pulled back to his failsafe and shouted out his technique. "Kage bunshin no jutsu!" It was amidst the mass of confusion between one weak controller and one halfhearted fighter that Naruto broke the lanky ninja's arm.

Two of his clones disappeared.

The other arm was broken

Another two disappeared.

Legs were stabbed strategically in the thigh, kunai sticking up like morbid flags of victory.

Three more bunshin were eliminated.

Naruto grinned as he delivered the death blow himself, knocking his jaw lose and causing blood to spurt from nose and ears due to the two simultaneous hits he served.

...some time passes, as usual...

Naruto laughed with shock and glee as he caught Iruka in the face with a stray spoonful of flour, he had just been baking with Kagome, and his teacher had entered at the wrong time. The female ninja blushed and reverted back to her more subdued personality in the presence of another.

Naruto frowned worriedly as he looked at her and she quickly cleaned up their mess and checked the pastries in the oven, he hadn't yet figured out how to set her at ease around others, and he hadn't yet figured out why he was at ease around him- of all people.

So he grinned sheepishly and scratched his head at Iruka-sensei, and let Kagome rush quietly from the room to disappear from all senses.

He knew she wasn't far.

"Ne? Iruka-sensei! What brings you here?"

...more time passes...

Naruto looked back as Iruka did, spotting an unsure and blushing Kagome holding a basket of those pastries she liked to make for him- Iruka was confused. Naruto could tell, and Naruto could tell just as easily that Kagome hadn't meant to interfere.

"I…I was wondering if you two would like something." Her soft voice broke into Naruto's musings and he grinned unabashedly at her. Her answering smile was hesitant but there.

"Are those what I think they are?" Her eyes smiled at him and she offered up the basket for him to grab. He did so gladly, watching faintly as she turned with a nod to reenter the house from the porch door.

"Won't you join us?" Iruka's soft spoken question startled her into turning with wide blue eyes and she blushed once more.

"I- I didn't want to intrude." Her face looked to the side and Naruto looked between his two favorite adults before he grinned impishly and happily. "Nah! We would love your company- Kagome-chan." His attempt at a dashing and suave voice failed as his grin intruded with the meant to be somber sentence.

She smiled.

Iruka relaxed into his lounging position and gave a curious glance to the basket as Naruto snatched up a pastry with a small grin and Iruka helped the female shinobi up out of respect and manners. Naruto rolled his eyes but helped her seat herself down beside them with a hand and a grin as she folded her legs under her daintily.

And as he looked in between the two who ate with him he couldn't think of any other place he wanted to be- especially, he thought with a manic grin as he eyed the basket and Kagome laughed at his expression, since she had brought up some of these beloved pastries.

His eyes lit up even more when he spotted the hidden thermos of hot cocoa underneath the sugary bounty.

Certainly no other place could compare!

...time passes again...

Naruto looked up – even forgetting the piercing pain of his bleeding and broken leg – just to watch her. He'd known she could fight. He'd known that she could move with grace and skill and intent.

And now he was finally seeing it.

Grace and beauty; and deadly killer intent. Nothing like when he had first seen her…her dance to the sound of death.

She had been controlled but unwilling, her taijutsu showing the halfhearted effort just to appease her master- and now, now someone would pay.

Naruto's head snapped to the despairing sound of her chosen enemy- someone who'd dared to attack him while she was in the vicinity. And from the looks of it was just beginning to understand the ramifications of his actions. The aggressor was met with a furious fist that twirled before hitting him again in a critical area, and Kagome seemed to dance and move around him. Blows were given and none were received as her ever present bells now made little ringing noises to accompany her movements as she swerved and twirled around the falling shinobi without getting hit.

And he couldn't help it.

She was protecting him, she had told him she didn't like to fight at all, and she was fighting for him. And despite the fact that she was fighting it was beautiful, so much like the move had been titled. After a long relaxing chat and still with some reluctance she had told him; the dance to the sound of death.

They were in their perch, above the apartment building and even above the rooftops of the surrounding shops and malls and stands…almost directly in view of the Hokage Mountain and the tower that signified the protection of the village. He had spotted her bells many an occasion, and had found he was curious of their origins and purpose.So he had to ask, and ask is what he did.

There was a pause.

"I grew up with the violence in my teen years, thrust into it when I turned fifteen and having to watch as most fights were over something stupid I'd done or said…I didn't want to fight, but it had all been my fault." Naruto guessed he could understand that… "So when the fighting was finally over, I took up dancing, deciding that I still needed the adrenaline rush but I wanted nothing to remind me of my past years." Her eyes closed softly and her head tilted, her breath hissing in as she scented the air like she was teaching him. "My adopted family found me, and then another fight was wrought. They decided to make my dance something deadly, as no one had done it before- it would be unbeatable." Her eyes opened and saddened, and Naruto knew it was only mourning the fact that they had turned her sanctuary into another war ground- she couldn't hate them for it. "I studied other katas, other taijutsu, until I became able to counter every pattern with my own dance, and they gifted me with my bells. They said that I needed the music of my movements to speak for me, since I rarely used my voice in front of many. Who would announce my war cry?" The smile that overcame her lips was wry and twisted, and Naruto didn't like it. "And my dance to the sound of death was born, and that was why some shinobi captured me. I had been sealed and passed along the generations for years, my mortality lost when I was bound for a weapon."

"They bound you for generations?" His voice was a quiet whisper, and she looked at him briefly before looking away, ashamed to meet his eyes.

"You were the first I have ever met to look underneath the underneath…I guess. All the others heard was my bells, and you heard my cry." The smile she now gifted him with made up for his confusion and her previous smile, and he shifted closer to her to snuggle up to her side, wondering exactly how long she had been crying for someone to listen. Crying alone…he could understand that.

But here she was now, fighting and yelling and glaring, and there was tears flowing down her cheeks. Naruto winced as he watched her do things she would never have wanted to do, and when she finally brought her opponent down with a whistling chop and his body landing in the dust with a dull thud he couldn't stop some tears from flowing down his cheeks.

She walked to him, hurriedly kneeling down to examine his injured leg and glancing up to his face to see if she put him into any undue pain. "I'm sorry." He cried out, watching her look up at him in surprise before she drew him into her arms. Shushing him and rubbing her hands through his hair, assuring him that all was fine. "But I made you fight! I'm sorry!"

He felt Kagome breathe out in relief against his cheek, and a watery laugh came and her power rushed over him and calmed him while healing his leg- or numbing it so he didn't feel the pain. "Naruto," her voice was a sigh and prayer in one and it soothed his ears- ringing with battle sounds and bells. "I don't like fighting for no reason, but when they threaten someone precious to me nothing will hold me back." The steely conviction in her voice gave him pause-and then he was sobbing and laughing and smiling and hugging.

And her laughter joined his and that was how the anbu and his friends found them.

------------------------------------

Iruka smiled at her, her eyes shifting away as she blushed and an amused and wry smile replaced the old one on his face. He tilted his head forward and regarded her from under heavy brows and over a scarred nose.

He had arrived at the tail end of her fight in defense of Naruto due to some civilian she would never raise his fist against- a rough and tumble group of drunkards who had thought themselves powerful enough to take a trained Shinobi like Naruto. And the blonde hadn't retaliated because that would make things worse…and it wasn't in him to do so.

But Kagome had.

She had been deadly and beautiful and …so caring for Naruto.

Iruka turned his head away from their embrace slightly in shame. He had been one of the many against her staying in Konoha, due to her history as a weapon of Oto. But Sasuke had, in his usual apathy, attempted to reassure them of her loyalty, and Naruto had been most vehement about her stay. And the academy teacher had been one of the few to protest the girl staying with Naruto- the council agreeing that since he rose to her defense he could be the one to put his life on the line with her under the same roof.

But she wasn't any of that.

He had seen her interact with Naruto and then simply clam up and disappear whenever someone else so much as caught sight of their blonde bundle of sunshine. Depiste many people attempting to talk to her she never whispered a word to them- and it caused them to be even more wary.

Iruka worked up his courage to glance back at the woman sobbing with relief and hugging the little hellion of the village.

Maybe she wasn't so open to them because they were simply waiting to judge her, waiting for her to say something wrong or indicate her true allegiance. Because Iruka had seen her laughing with the child, had seen her dote on him as if Naruto was her own son, he knew this had to be so.

He supposed he had to be the one to push aside their expectations and get to know the real woman- the woman who had opened up with Naruto and loved him and fought for him even though it was sure to get the council into a tizzy.

He cleared his throat and stepped forward with a smile and the hope that this would work out.

...yup, time passes...

Naruto twitched his nose and pushed open the door, ready to ask Kagome what she meant by feeling the purity of an opponent…

Naruto stopped whatever he was going to say and closed his mouth with a small smile, slowly pulling the door close to the jamb but open enough to let him see out of the crack from its partially open state. He could watch the both of them perfectly as he crouched closer to the floor to remain hidden.

Iruka leaned forwardly tenderly to push a strand of her hair out of her face, and she blushed and looked away and smiled while closing her eyes. Iruka smiled in response, and his eyes gentled and he tilted her chin up to kiss her, the previous conversation they had been softly holding (so as not to wake Naruto) forgotten as he surprised her and she only smiled when they pulled apart.

Naruto smiled too, only able to happily think one thing; "It's about damn time."


AN; This is an old oneshot I decided to finally post here- I had to distract myself from looming case studies and essays. XD Hope you enjoy it!