Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto!

Perennial Love

Chapter Four: Quarrelling Certainty

Shizune:

Yawning, I rubbed my eyes as sunlight illuminated the tightly closed curtains and I rolled over, away from the light. Pulling the comforter up higher, I rested my cheek on Kabuto's limp hand and his face twitched in his sleep. Smiling softly, I kissed his hand and my eyes travelled up his arm to his face. He had a gentle calmness that I lost myself in when I looked at him, his silver hair strewn across the pillow. There was just something about Kabuto that awakened my affections and I reflected often on the times our paths had crossed, the look of hatred as he dodged my poison mist, the satisfied smirk when his kunai grazed me. Our lethal fights, while we truly intended to kill one another. Kabuto and I were only growing closer, and though there was doubt, I was positive if time would allow it, I would grow to love him more deeply than I'd loved anyone.

His wounds were nearly healed and aside from the sensitive spots where his rib bones were still fusing together, he was almost completely restored to his full health.

"Kabuto? Are you awake?" I whispered, poking his cheek and he swatted me away.

"No," he grumbled, his eyes still closed and I frowned.

"I think you are," I smiled and I wiggled a finger into the crevice of his neck.

Kabuto let out a small laugh, squirming away from me and I realized I was on to something. Poking him again, I tickled his neck with more vigour and he burst into laughter, unearthing his hand from under my cheek.

"Look what I've discovered, the invincible Kabuto is ticklish," I said smugly and slowly, his dark eyes opened.

"You haven't discovered anything. Please, my ribs are killing me. Now, what is it?" he yawned, glancing down at me with a sly smile.

"How are you feeling?" I asked him innocently and he stroked the top of my head as if I were a small pet.

"Nearly pain free, thanks to you," he murmured, all traces of annoyance disappearing and his gaze locked onto mine. "I see you're still in those cute little Cotten pyjamas," he stated, looking me up and down and I pulled the blankets up over my head, embarrassed.

"How's your dear friend, Genma?" he asked, his face suddenly breaking out into a grin and I smirked, pulling the covers down again.

Sitting up, I passed him his glasses and stretched my arms above my head before collapsing beside him on the bed.

"He's great," I replied, containing my laughter and he stroked my hair again, his fingers combing the brunette strands.

Exactly four days had passed since Genma had been literally thrown out of my house and in my opinion, things were much better considering he started avoiding me like the plague. The following day when I had arrived at work, he was chatting with Kotetsu and Izumo in the hallway and he grimaced when he saw me approaching.

"She's crazy," I heard him whisper to the confused men and I had to stop myself from jumping up and down like a fiend.

My situation with Kabuto however, was difficult to define and I still didn't if we were friends, enemies or something more. He was everything I had ever wanted in a companion. Handsome, kind, with a great sense of humour. Was that why Orochimaru found him so useful? Was that why he made such a good spy? Such a good imposter? I just couldn't understand how someone who was so gentle, so understanding, could support that disgusting creature. Unless his entire personality truly was a lie, but something inside of me knew this couldn't be the case or begged it not to be. I wanted to ask him, I wanted to know, why he would choose such a life but, what would it possibly accomplish?

"Shizune, what's the matter? What are you thinking about?" Kabuto asked, noticing my faraway expression and I jumped suddenly.

"It's nothing, I lied and his brows furrowed.

"Shizune..." He trailed off, doubting my honesty and I cursed inwardly. Lying had never been my strong suit and it clearly still needed work.

"Well, I just...why Orochimaru?" I whispered and I wanted to kick myself for sounding so weak. Kabuto's expression didn't change, as if he had been waiting for me to ask this question for some time, but he swallowed hard.

"It's hard to understand," he said and I ignored his aggressive tone. It was quick and snappy, like he was trying to intimidate me off the subject, but I wasn't budging. I deserved at the very least to know, I needed answers, even if they weren't the ones I wanted to hear.

"Why?" I repeated stiffly and Kabuto sighed, giving in.

"He's a great man," he stated and I frowned, feeling a nauseous, disgusted feeling settle in the pit of my being.

"Great? He deserves to die, Kabuto. Do you have any idea how much blood is on his hands?" I yelled, but Kabuto didn't appear shaken in the least.

"Who would know better than I? It doesn't make him any less great. You don't understand what kind of person he is,"

"You're wrong, I know exactly what kind of person he is. He's despicable, lower than dirt," I interrupted and he smiled sadly at me.

"That's not it, Shizune," he answered and I glared up at him, arms crossed against my loose t-shirt. "My association with Orochimaru is far more complicated than you would think. It isn't simply for the power or importance, its difficult to explain and I'm not sure you want the truth," Kabuto said, his black eyes peering into mine, searching for anything.

I needed to know who Kabuto really was, I just wanted to hear something.

"Please, I deserve to know," I replied simply and he sat up, his face giving away his uneasiness.

"When I was a reckless teen, spying for numerous people, Orochimaru seemed like a man I could rely on, but he was more than that. He was honest to me, he spoke to me like an equal and I was intrigued by the incredible amount of potential power he held. He took me under his wing and I served him to the best of my ability. We built a binding trust," he said and I looked away, sitting up.

Could Orochimaru really mean something to him? I knew he was persuasive, but honesty was not an attribute I would put under his name.

"We supported each other, protected each other. Even now it's still the same. I don't see him the same way you do, I see all of him, you only see half. I know he's power hungry and I know he's evil but honestly, how can you say I'm any different?" Kabuto asked and I paled, my hands beginning to tremble.

"Don't say that," I whispered hoarsely and Kabuto smiled at me again.

"Why not? I'm not a good person. Shizune, you know this. I've done some horrible things, killed innocent people and for what? When you see so much death and take many lives, it begins to mean nothing. I'm a manipulator, it's what I'm best at," Kabuto laughed bitterly.

"No," I said, shaking my head fiercely, "I don't believe it," Kabuto rolled his eyes and reached for my hand.

"Don't," I hissed, snatching my it away and I climbed out of the bed, pacing at the foot.

I had been hiding from this truth four two weeks now. I knew he was all of those things and much more, but my heart ached from hearing it spoken aloud. Was he tricking me with his seemingly pure intentions so that I wouldn't turn him into Tsunade? Did I mean anything to him? The questions pained me more than any wound I had received and my eyes filled with tears. The truth always hurt, but this was unbearable.

"Shizune, you knew this already," Kabuto protested softly and I wiped my eyes with the back of hand, embarrassed.

"I know, okay? I just hate hearing it," I shouted back, still pacing and I ran a hand through my hair.

Kabuto threw the covers off and sat cross legged on the bed, blue cotton pants, rumpled from sleep. He tucked a strand of silver hair behind his ear and I caught his guilty expression.

"What is it?" I asked, stopping suddenly and he opened his mouth to speak, closing it again almost instantly, as though the words had escaped him.

"Will you sit with me?" he asked gently holding out his hand and shooting him a look, I reluctantly placed my hand in his.

Sitting down beside him, I dropped his hand, sensing his grave news and dangled my legs over the side of the bed. He looked hurt as I turned partially away from him, but he must have been satisfied with my current position because he opened his mouth to continue.

"Shizune, please don't be angry with me. We both knew this was coming," he started. "I've already stayed here longer than I should have. I'm nearly healed and I think very soon I should go," Kabuto looked over at me, his face conveying worry and I didn't respond.

"It's not that I wish to leave, you must know this," he continued and I scoffed at him, my anger hiding the overwhelming rush of pain.

"You're going back to him, aren't you?" I spat out my words like venom and he sighed heavily.

"I have no choice. As long as I'm alive, he'll continue to search for me. There is no escape but death, from what I've signed myself up for,"

"I just thought you'd want something different for yourself. If you want something bad enough, any dream is possible. I thought we-" I cut myself off, willing my tears not to fall and I felt like a fool.

Kabuto was right, I had been avoiding this for days now, but he couldn't just leave me, he wouldn't. Of all the people, I had to fall for him. After saving myself the trouble, after all these years, I had to fall this low, falter in my hardened ways for even a second and that's all it was. A second of weakness and he had been there, his arms open to care for me as I had cared for him. What was I doing? Could I have embraced a worse person? Had I not learned the hard way and watched first hand, the sufferings of Tsunade after Dan had been killed? Kabuto could never truly love me, there would never be a safe place for us. He could stay here and die by the hands of the Anbu or he could return to Orochimaru and continue to serve him. Living out his days by the snake's side, his eyes downcast as he thought on the nights without me and eventually dying in battle to a ninja with greater skill than his own.

I closed my eyes and breathed in deeply, my thoughts returning to the impossible. A safe place, where we could love without the rain of reality pouring down upon us. Kabuto, his glasses shining in the sunlight, hand in mine, looking forward to another day.

"We never had a fighting chance, Shizune. This couldn't be, it just...isn't possible. No matter hard I wish for it," Kabuto's shaky voice cut through me thoughts like a knife and I stared at him with a new fury.

"You wish for it? Your tricks are pathetic. You did this on purpose, you made me...made me..."

"Made you what?"

"Made me want something better! You gave me hope for the future, you made a fool out of me," I shouted, my face flushed with anger and I knew my sharpened words were aimed equally at myself.

"Go then, if that's what you truly want! Call Tsunade here, call the Anbu! Cut me down," he yelled angrily, the hurt cracking his voice and a look of horror crossed my face.

"I could never...I couldn't," I knew the inevitable onslaught of tears were fast approaching and I stood up, removing myself from his view.

Slamming the door behind me, I balked at the idea of Kabuto witnessing any more of my tears, my weakness. Standing in the living room, I buried my face in my hands, sobbing as quietly as I could. If I could allow myself this release now, I would be stronger for it later.

Strong arms enveloped me from behind and I gasped in surprise, my eyes shooting open. I hadn't even heard the door open, I was so lost in my own foolishness. I could feel his breath on my ear, his heartbeat quickening behind me, arms tightening and silver hair spilled over my shoulder.

"Shizune...please, don't cry alone," he whispered, his voice strangled.

Turning me around in his arms, he held me close, his dark eyes shining behind the thin lens and they never left my face. Leaning forward, he rested his forehead on mine and I closed my eyes, taking in his comfort.

"Kabuto..." I whispered but, he stopped me with a finger on my lips and I felt my cheeks flush red in embarrassment.

"Just let me hold you," he said softly, and there was a sadness in his voice that made me wrap my arms around his waist and pull him closer.

I wanted to comfort him, to hold him close, until our situation didn't seem so hopeless. His body shook slightly against mine and I could feel his nervousness. Bringing his hands up, he gripped my face in his hands and brought my lips to his, stopping when I was only a breath away. I felt like putty in his hands and when I didn't protest, he pulled me closer. Closing my eyes, I felt a soft pressure on my lips and a burning sensation spread across my body like wildfire. His mouth was gentle against mine, but his hands held my face tightly, as though afraid I would pull away in disgust at any moment. His breath was sweet and I wrapped my fingers in his long silver hair, relishing in the silkiness of it. Breaking away too soon, he brought his lips to my ear, dropping his arms around my waist and I felt his breathing quicken.

"I'm sorry Shizune. I-I don't want to leave you, please know that," he murmured, his voice trembling and I held back tears of relief.

I knew this didn't change anything, I knew his impending departure was inevitable but, the idea of our relationship being a lie was too much. He wanted me to know that he felt something for me, that he truly hated returning to that putrid creature.

"When I'm around you, I feel like I've been given a second chance. I feel something other than anger for the first time in a long time. I can't stop thinking about you," Kabuto said and my blood froze.

Tilting my face towards his, I eyed him in shock, but his expression never faltered and I bit my lip nervously.

"In another life, I'll find you," Tear brimmed lashes fluttered closed and I smiled, my head against his pounding chest.

Tsunade:

The sun was to set in only a few short hours and I sighed wearily. Playful shadows danced across bare walls and I continued scrawling my signature on endless paperwork for who even knew what. The life of a hokage was not nearly as exciting one would think it was. Glancing over at Shizune, who appeared to be doodling quietly, I held in another disappointed sigh. Dismissing her with a wave of my hand, she calmly gathered her belongings and exited with a contained grin.

"Have a good evening," Shizune bowed enthusiastically and I mustered a halfhearted smile and a nod of my head.

There was no nagging, no protesting and it had been that way for some time, approximately two weeks now to be precise. To think I hadn't noticed, as she clearly did, was beyond foolish. Had I not raised her? Taken her in as my apprentice after Dan...? My thoughts cut off there, I couldn't think about Dan, not today, not after what was happening with his niece.

It hadn't taken very long for me to discover she was hiding something. Her hands constantly shaking, her teeth clenched in worry and her need to leave as early as possible were all strong indicators. At first it seemed as though her guilt would break her small body. She was constantly forgetful, her mind elsewhere as a forgotten Tonton paced at the office alone all night. It wasn't just the Tonton incident either, in her state of anxiety she had misplaced numerous items, including a file folder filled with building permits and my new pen. I had wanted to say something, ask her if everything was alright and I had, only to be assured everything was just fine and that she was only tired. As if that were even close to the truth.

Recently however, though still eager to leave as soon as she could without "arousing suspicions", her skin had a new glow, a renewed life present in the flush of her cheeks. Dark eyes, seemingly alive for the first time, she hummed under her breath like a girl in love. Love. If it had been any other woman, that is what I would have pegged as immediately, demanding the name of the lucky man. But Shizune? Although I had pushed for it with many eligible men, most notably Genma whom I had told shameless lies of her love for him, she had always explicitly stated that she wasn't interested. It appeared now, however, that love had found her, though she wasn't looking. Still, her guilt had been unexplained and I was determined to weasel the truth out of her, one way or another.

Flipping a blonde pigtail over my shoulder, my eyes narrowed dangerously, recalling yesterday afternoon. Her strange behaviour had revealed itself, much faster than I expected it to, with Shizune herself admitting the truth. My first reaction was doubt, but as she continued to speak, I had look away in both rage and betrayal.

While ranking a large list of missions that had just come in, Shizune had fallen asleep and after a quick sip of sake, I went to wake her. It seemed like a shame, her face so serene, but though I hated to admit it, with Shizune leaving early so often, less work was being accomplished and the piles of paper on my desk had climbed to monstrous heights. Placing a hand on her shoulder, Shizune stirred and breathed in deeply through her nose.

"Don't go," she murmured breathlessly and I stared down at her in amusement, allowing her to carry on.

"Don't go...I'm-" she turned her face away from me and I listened intently.

"I love..." Shizune whispered, piquing my interest and I rubbed my palms together, a devilish grin forming on my face.

So Shizune had found a man after all? How delicious of a topic to tease her mercilessly on. A wonderful feeling surged through me and I struggled to contain my joy. It all made sense to me now and I moved to wake her.

"Kabu...to," she finished and chills ran down my back.

I would recognize that name and the man behind it anywhere. Freezing, the sequence of events that had occurred clicked in my head and I gasped aloud. Her guilt, her anxious behaviour with the incredible turn around. How she smiled all the time, was eager to return home and blushed when left alone with her thoughts, staring dreamily off into space. It could have just been a dream, a rare coincidence, Shizune would never betray me so utterly. Would she? Something in my gut told me to trust my instincts and I wanted to kick myself. How could I let something like this occur right under my nose?

"No," I decided fiercely, my temper flaring, this was her problem, her fault. I couldn't protect her from what she'd so foolishly done.

Closing my eyes, I returned from the memory and gritted my teeth hard. As to why I had yet to act, I wanted to be absolutely certain. Even if the time did come where I was, I had no idea as to how I should deal with it, Shizune's happiness weighing heavily on my mind. She was a changed woman, focusing for once, on her own dreams and desires. How I could I break her now, if what I suspected was truly occurring and Kabuto did indeed dwell in her heart. Had he seduced her when her guard was down? Had he been hurt and seemingly helpless? How other way was there for her to be fooled into love with a man known for his trickery, let alone invite him into her home or wherever he was lurking. Although, that would be the safest place for him, especially if he was vulnerable from an injury. If he was spotted anywhere near the village, the Anbu squad would be called and he would be killed instantly. Pinching the bridge of my nose in frustration, I had to hear the truth before condemning them. I needed answers and I decided to corner Shizune tomorrow.

"Let her have tonight," I said to myself, continuing on with my paperwork.

Kabuto:

I heard every tick of the clock fastened to the wall behind me, as I attempted, fruitlessly to read the novel in front of me. My fingers fidgeted with the thin pages and I placed the book down, running a stressed hand through my hair. I couldn't get her out of my head, her voice, her laughter, her tears. The image of her smile resonated in my mind and those beautiful, hardened eyes, black as night. What had I gotten myself into? Things were so messy when emotions were involved and I promised myself many years ago that I wouldn't feel the useless things I now felt. Footsteps from down the hall and keys jingling in the lock, Shizune was home. I perked up without realizing, then scolded myself. Grabbing the novel, I quickly pretended to be engrossed, her entrance casual.

"Why are you reading that trashy thing?" Shizune asked, locking the door and she set a bag of what appeared to be clothing on the apartment floor.

"I was bored in here," I replied truthfully, "I'm getting a bit restless, to be honest,"

Shizune smiled brightly at me and reached for the bag she had dropped. Pulling out a Konaha jounin jacket, she held it up for me to see and I raised an eyebrow.

"What is that and why are you holding it like I'm going to be wearing it?" I asked with a smirk and she placed her hands on her hips, scowling in annoyance.

"Don't be that way. Your clothing was ruined and you've been lounging around in pajamas for days now. I thought maybe we could go out tonight," she suggested hesitantly. "I have pants too," she grinned, pulling them out of the bag.

"I can't-" I started, but she cut off me off.

"We can, just not into town. I thought we could have dinner in the forest. You know, before you go," she said, her eyes to the floor and my guilt came flooding back.

"You are leaving soon, aren't you?"

"Yes, I was thinking perhaps tomorrow. I'm sorry," I added, my words sounding cold and distant when said aloud.

"I figured," she confirmed softly and put the clothing on the coffee table in front of me. "Will you come?" She asked, peering down at me with those eyes and although, I didn't feel it was wide, I nodded, my head acting on its own.

Plopping down on the couch beside me, Shizune watched me silently and I returned her stare. We were past words, I knew she wanted me to stay with her and had this been different, I would have. However, we both knew there was no life for us in Konaha and it was all we could do to hold on to our emotions. Standing up, I grabbed the pile of clothing.

"It's getting dark, shouldn't we go?" I asked, but she shook her head.

"Dark is probably best,"

Shizune:

He ran beside me as we disappeared into the darkness of the forest, packed bento dinners in his arms. Silver hair tied back into a low ponytail flying behind him, I noticed it was longer than usual and I liked it. He glanced over at me, smirking when he noticed me staring and I looked away in embarrassment. My mind allowed me to pretend we were both ninjas of Konaha, his jacket rippling in the wind. Perhaps returning from a mission Tsunade had sent on or out for own enjoyment as we were. Lovers or friends, but together nonetheless, not torn apart by lines of loyalty. Kabuto stopped suddenly, his feet skidding on the dirt floor and I stopped with him, breathing hard.

"Are we far enough?" I asked and he shrugged.

We had been running for the last twenty five minutes or so and I looked around. Except for the light of the moon, it was pitch black, the sounds of forest echoing back at me. Laying out the large picnic blanket I had been carrying, I sat down, digging out three small tea light candles and a pack of matches from my pocket. As I lit them, Kabuto unpacked our dinners and passed me a pair of chopsticks.

"It feels good to run again, to be outside," he inhaled the sweet air and dug into my homemade dinner, something he never failed to enjoy. "This is delicious," he said, through a mouthful of avocado and my face felt hot.

"Thank you," I mumbled through my red cheeks and he laughed, noticing my discomfort.

We ate the remainder of the meal in silence, our faces illuminated by the flickering candlelight. Putting down his chopsticks, Kabuto cleared his throat .

"Have you considered leaving with me?" he asked cautiously and I stared at him in surprise.

"Out of the question," I snapped and he shrugged. "I could never betray Tsunade like that," I said coldly and he put a hand on mine.

"I know, I'm sorry. I felt I should voice all options," he said quietly and I knew his intentions were good.

"Can we not discuss any of this now? I just want to be with you," I pleaded desperately and he pulled me down onto the blanket with him.

Staring up at the stars, we laid side by side, my head leaning in the crook of his shoulder. I played with his hands and fingers, bringing them to my lips. Kissing each of his fingertips, he didn't react, only stared up in silence, deep in thought.

"What are you thinking?" I asked, cradling his hand against my cheek and I couldn't help but be a little proud of my bold behaviour.

"When we're apart, stare up at the stars and remember this night. I promise I'll be doing the same, no matter where I am," he whispered and I came up on my elbow to face him.

"Don't think about that. It doesn't-" I started but he cut me off and flipped me onto my back, his body on top of mine.

Taking off his glasses, he placed them on the forest floor softly and our eyes locked, a sharp glint of sadness in his. Opening my mouth to speak, my words were muffled by his lips pressed hard against my own. Reluctantly, the hot feeling of my face burning up coming back, I kissed him back, my body trapped under his weight. Stroking my face, he kissed me passionately and I began to return his feelings with as much energy as I could muster. Loosening his ponytail, my fingers eagerly ran themselves through his silky chrome-coloured hair. Tossing the useless elastic band aside, his hair spilled over his shoulders and he kissed me harder, his lips mashing against mine almost painfully. Something wet dripped onto my cheeks and I realized he was crying, his body trembling slightly. Pulling away, I rubbed his tear-streaked face dry with my thumbs, he sat up away from me, embarrassed. Touching his arm lightly, I tried to comfort him but, he pulled away.

"What's wrong? Kabuto?" I asked softly and he didn't look at me.

"I-I'm sorry, I can't think of anything but my departure. I know you wanted tonight for us, but its just so-" his voice broke sounded strangled and small, so much hurt reflected. Lifting his chin, I smiled through tears of my own.

"Please, don't cry alone," I whispered and he turned to me, smiling at me through his damp eyes.

Pulling me to him, he embraced me fully, clutching the shoulders of my kimono.

"Why do you have to be so damn good?" he asked, laughing through his mourning and I squeezed him tightly.

"Why do you have to be so damn evil?" I quipped back and we laughed together, holding each other until it felt like we might become one.

Kabuto:

We stumbled in the dark through the open door of the balcony together, Shizune closing it with a bang and I threw the blanket and empty containers onto the ground. I walked forward, feeling my away around and cursed loudly, my shin throbbing painfully.

"Damn useless coffee table," I half shouted and Shizune giggled somewhere behind me.

Making my way into the utter darkness of the bedroom, I collapsed onto the bed, squirming out of the Konaha jacket. Kicking my shoes off sloppily, Shizune flung open one of the curtains,the light of the moon streaming over her face. Turning to face me, her outline illuminated, she slowly undid the binding of her kimono. Opening slightly, I could only lay there on my back in shock as she crawled onto the bed towards me silently. She was a woman transformed, the newfound confidence she now possessed overwhelming. Her face breathtaking, I met her lips and I could tell she was still a little uncomfortable despite her sudden confidence.

"Don't be embarassed, you're beautiful," I whispered in her ear and I could feel her smile, biting my lip playfully.

"You don't have to-" I started, but she smothered my voice with her graceful mouth, kissing me hard.

"Please, can't we have tonight? I don't want to have any regrets when this is over," she finished, placing my hand on her bare shoulder, the kimono slipping further down and my heartbeat sped up.

"I'm not a regret?" I asked curiously and she laid her head on my chest.

"Hardly. You're the kind of man I used to dream about,"

"Your idea of romance must be very skewed," I laughed and she smacked my arm.

"Shut up and kiss me before I get smart and kill you," she stated blankly and I eagerly complied.

Author's Note:

I'm back! I know…I'm sorry, there are no words…but, the important thing is I'm back and will continue to be back forever! Or a very long time…I don't even know if you guys are still waiting, it's been so long '^^

But, I'm still going to finish this as well as my other story and possible write more stories very soon! I really do apologize for this four year hiatus. I kind of fell out of anime and wouldn't you know it, Inuyasha lured me back in and once I remembered the good times…it was all over. I'll never leave you again anime! T.T

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