Disclaimer: If Naruto belonged to me, I wouldn't be tearing my hair out at the way it's going.
A/N: Written in haste and perhaps might not entirely make sense... I like Anko, and I've been meaning to write something about her for a long time. I apologise if there are some things which might not be entirely like the anime/manga but I couldn't find the episode where she remembers her past... so all this is based on a faulty memory. I hope you enjoy!
It's not the first time someone's called her a monster, especially when she's grinning maniacally and licking the blood on her lips before slitting her enemy's throat. Like she gives a flying fuck of what people think. She's honed her ability of scaring people shitless down to a fine art and she doesn't care what they call her if it means that they stay out of her way.
Well duh. What do they expect her to be? She's Anko, not Kurenai or Shizune. She's loud and rude and sharp as nails, a bitch and proud of it, as she tells anyone who'll listen to her when she's drunk and laughing hysterically before someone – usually Ibiki or Izumo – drag her back to her apartment before she cracks.
They're so stupid that they think she'd be hurt when they call her that, but the truth is she wants to be a monster. They wouldn't expect that, oh no. But hell, they say monsters can't love, and if monsters can't love, then they can't be hurt can they? Monsters don't cry their eyes out when they're betrayed, they don't wake up at night wondering about the what ifs and whys of it all, monsters don't…
They don't even know what a real monster is. She does. She's been trained by a monster for fuck's sake, a monster who took what was already twisted and dark inside her and brought it to the fore, bending her until she almost broke and then tossed her away like trash.
If her mother was alive, she'd wonder where she went wrong. That petite, frail woman, whose only ambition was to have a home and a family, wept when her only child – tomboyish, stubborn Anko – told her that she was going to be a kunoichi.
Why are you doing this to me, Anko? Is this the way you want to repay me after all I've done for you? Why, Anko, why?
Why indeed. Because Anko never was one of those girly girls, thinking about pretty dolls and dresses and fawning over boys. Because Anko never wanted to be the kind of woman her mother was, wide-eyed and pretty, easy tears always on tap and utterly useless. Anko faced up to life, her mother feared it. So it was irony that Anko, who courted danger assiduously was still alive, whereas her mother, who had never ventured outside Konoha's walls was dead, leaving Anko to face the monsters alone.
Ah yes, those monsters. There were plenty of them to be faced, but it was really the first monster that was the most dangerous, even now, even at the end. Because it was Orochimaru who gave her hope, Orochimaru who told her she could be everything she wanted to be, who filled her with something indefinable and who tore out her soul when he left her behind.
She still remembers when she saw him the first time, when she was a grubby little girl, anger and frustration bubbling dangerously close to the surface, only a year away from becoming genin. Loud, obstinate and quick to take offense, her main flaw was her inability to work in a team, and her teachers had nearly despaired of her, so frequently had she got into fights with her classmates and the older pupils. She had been warned not to enter into any more scrapes on pain of suspension, and possibly expulsion, and she'd tried to keep her temper in check. But then, on that hot summer afternoon they had taunted her, mocked her, driven her with her back to the wall and she retaliated. She had wanted to kill them.
She had run them to the dust, biting, clawing, scratching and doing anything, anything, breaking all the rules of fair fighting just so she would win. When they had run away, crying, promising to tell on her, and she had stood there, panting and bruised still too elated at her win to think of the consequences, she had seen him, leaning on the wall, shading his eyes from the glaring sun, and looking straight at her.
Terror. That would have been the reasonable response to seeing an older shinobi, one who would report her to her teachers. But Anko was simply mesmerised by the look of this strange man, with his white skin and long black her and eyes which seemed to see right through her. And when he came towards her and cupped her chin in his hand, lifting her face to meet his gaze, she didn't shy away or bite or scratch like she would have done with anyone else.
You've got determination. I like that.
Determination. What others saw as madness or sheer bloody-mindedness he call determination. She stared at him as he smiled and she knew that she was courting danger. She was hooked.
I'll be thrown out of school because of this.
The words tumbled out unbidden and she was mortified at how pathetic she sounded, afraid of being expelled instead of being strong and defiant.
Is that so? I'd rather you weren't… I've been looking for someone like you for a long time.
Words. He was beyond a master of words. She didn't know the ways of monsters then, that friendless child who yearned for someone to love, too naïve and trusting for all her supposed cunning. When he'd laughed lightly and walked away after that, she stared at his retreating back, a wish to follow him gnawing at her insides.
When she'd gone back to school no one mentioned the fight to her, and her teachers seemed to behave differently towards her, almost... with more respect. When she graduated, and her teacher read out the teams they were assigned to and she heard that she would be Orochimaru-sama's pupil - she only she and no one else – Anko understood what perfect happiness was.
Adoration. There was no other word to describe what she felt for him. She was puzzled as to what he could have seen in her, why he had chosen her, so rough and uncouth, of all people, but really, she didn't care as long as she was with him, as long as he let drop a few words of praise and made her believe that she could be anything.
Twelve was a year of revelation. When she watched her sensei it was with different eyes and now, when she hears murmurs of his being a paedophile she hides her laughter. Anko remembers her old self too well, the lonely child who in a corner in her mind wanted to be used, who wanted desperately to feel the smoothness of his hands on her bare skin, to touch his glistening black hair, to listen to his mellow voice praising her. She can admit it now when she's alone and drunk that she would have given herself to him completely, body and soul. And yet he never touched her. They were master and pupil, a monster and his apprentice.
He was a harsh, strict and demanding master, but Anko – rebellious, headstrong Anko – flourished beneath his tutelage. His ways suited her, his techniques – all dangerous, all having repercussions if not performed correctly – fascinated her and thrilled her. When he was away on missions she trained furiously because she needed something to keep the aching loneliness at bay, because she wanted to see the look of appreciation in his eyes when she showed him her mastery of complicated moves.
All she did was for him alone, and he knew it. And that was why for years the thought of his having tossed her away like a broken toy tore at her, making her wonder why she had stopped being worthy, why he hadn't wanted her.
When she remembered that it was her that had turned away, refusing to follow any further… it soothed her wounded pride for a couple of days. But that was only one of the things she recalls, and the things which she doesn't tell anyone are those that she doesn't want to remember, that when he asked her softly if she would take the seal, for him, she had nodded mutely and barred her neck voluntarily, that she knew that he was wrong and twisted and dark, but wanted him to need her…
But she refused to follow him, which must have counted for something mustn't it?
But Anko, deft and quick liar though she is can't lie indefinitely to herself.
It wasn't only loyalty to Konoha which had made her turn away.
Oh yes, his experiments (though she had never really known the extent of them) sickened her, his ruthlessness made her wary of him, and his imminent betrayal of his village was something no true shinobi would stand for. But really, what it came down to, was jealousy.
Jealousy. Such a petty reason, really, but anyone will tell you that it can be the smallest grain of rice which tips the balance.
It was the way he looked at Kabuto, the intimacy between them which she could never hope to achieve. It was the recognition in the girl-child's mind – before Orochimaru erased her memories – that Kabuto was all that she yearned to be, that he came first, and the hopelessness of trying to compete.
It was her sensei who had betrayed her first, even before he had asked her gently if she would take the seal which might kill her, even before he had taken away her memories and left her to the gut-wrenching knowledge of having been left behind, bitterness eroding her soul.
That fierce, unhappy love which consumed her hadn't been enough. Her raw talent set at his disposal, lacked something essential. It was hatred and lust for power which he desired to see in her but couldn't, and the irony of it was that it was he who had turned all her passions onto himself.
She had not been good enough to keep his interest.
Anko knows that hers was the right decision. You can't trust monsters, and she knows that he would have used her again and again and then even killed if she outlived her usefulness. She knows that that is what monsters are like.
And yet, her own mind betrays her, when she's alone in the darkness she allows herself to believe that there was a reason why he kept her alive, a reason why he hadn't killed her at once. And even now, the belief that Orochimaru might have cared, even if a little bit binds her in a tenuous but unbreakable hold.
When she first hears that Orochimaru's dead, she smiles and then bites her lip to stop herself from saying anything. There's an indefinable feeling inside her and she's not even sure how to behave, what to say, what to think. The monster's dead and can hurt her no more, and she thinks that perhaps, she can really put the past behind her and move on. She's free.
But deep inside the recesses of her mind, unbidden fragments of memories resurface, and she remembers that she loved him once. And she wonders how life would have been had she had followed him when he offered, cast in her lot with him and been content with second place.
She'll never stop wondering.
Monsters never really die.
She'll never be free.
Thank you for reading - comments would be nice ;)