Title: Being Anko
Author: Killaurey
Pairing/Characters: Anko/Orochimaru
Genres: Flashback/missing moment hybrid.
Summary: He helped make her, but what he'd made her wasn't all she was.
Notes: Written for the September Round of Naruto Flashfic on Livejournal. Unbeta'd.

Anko was more than what he'd made her. She was still the girl that loved dango. The girl that had been the loudest in her class, the one that would rather play-fight with the boys than learn how to sew. The one that managed to learn the tea ceremony the quickest because she'd been told that either she learned it, or she couldn't be a ninja. It had come as a surprise to discover that she actually liked performing the tea ceremony.

She was still the fastest at picking new things up. Whether it was poisons, kunai tricks, ways to use wire, all of it, she was good at. Taijutsu, she had to work at. But ninjutsu and genjutsu, well, both of those came to her with a facility that made her grin. Known as one of the quickest in her year - and, the war with Iwa was over now, but back then she'd had one of the best chances at surviving. She still liked wearing too little and dancing too much. Getting drunk and singing loudly (the bawdier the song, the better) was still something that she did.

Anko was also what he'd made her though.

That came from long memories of him training her. The way that he'd snapped and growled instructions at her, and the most she'd ever gotten from him when she'd done it all perfectly had been a faint smile (a smirk now, she thinks, older and wiser than the kid she'd been) and the order to do it again, but faster. She remembers the pain of his bite, the stunned shock as she'd tried to understand what he'd done to her. And then the pain that had welled up, driving her first to her knees and then unconscious.

She remembers waking up, the others all dead, and just sitting there staring at the corpses as he'd laughed for the first time in her presence and said that she'd been the only one strong enough to survive it.

She'd loved him for that.

But the blank staring eyes of the others who'd been with her made Anko want to hate him. If there'd been no doubt about her strength, then why had he needed to use them too? They'd been her age, or thereabouts, wasn't he even going to give them a funeral. What about their parents? She didn't have any, but Anko had watched these boys, and envied them their families. He'd just laughed, and led her away.

She heard him later, telling the Hokage, while she'd been half-asleep on her feet and feeling more than a little sick to her stomach but standing straight beside him, that the others had died in an ambush. A tragic accident.

Anko, to this day, didn't know why she'd held her tongue there. It hadn't been an accident.

After that, he'd dismissed her, calling her for the first time ever, a good girl. She hadn't slept that night, staring up in the sky, the bite throbbing, and as silent as a ghost. He showed up at her place at dawn, beckoning her out for practice. Not even giving her a day to recuperate, he'd pushed her to her limits, and past them, as frequently as he could. And she'd never been happier when he was slightly less scathing than normal--it meant that she'd pleased him, and after a few months the memories of those corpses of those who'd failed where she'd succeeded faded and the sense that it was wrong faded for the most part.

It was nearly a year after that, that she was dragged from her bed by ANBU interrogators to discover that her sensei had been forced to leave, and hadn't taken her with him. The tears she'd cried then had been of fury. If he had to leave then she wanted to go with him.

That bit of conditioning had taken years to work through and in time the betrayal of being left behind had turned to anger as she devoted her loyalties to the village. It wasn't easy.

He was still everywhere she went. He was in the high necked jacket she wore that hid his mark. The way that her eyes could go from being friendly (herself) to pure death (him) in an instant. In the way that she could summon snakes. How she had tried to push away her friends and struggle alone.

She knew it in the way that she could walk into a room and people would go silent. The way that people muttered about her when she went and did her shopping. Her paranoia, she could lay at his feet. The ability to stay awake for days on end. Her exhaustive knowledge of snake venoms. The pain that wracked her body when her will was weak and she still longed to go to him. He'd had a hand in making her what she was - but he wasn't all she was. So long as Anko could remember that then it would be alright.

It hadn't been him that had pulled her out of her funk, made her go out and laugh, came dancing with her, complained about the fact that explosion tags were up in price again. Her friends, Kurenai, Ibiki, Genma, Hayate... they'd pulled her out of her head, and made her remember herself. That was why, in a game of questions, one night while they were all slowly getting drunk at Asuma's place, she didn't flinch or run away when her paper came up asking who her first love had been.

"Orochimaru-sensei," she said simply and took a long swallow of sake. They didn't flinch, it was okay. They knew her better than the civilians that still flinched away from her like she was diseased.

He hadn't destroyed her. Fundamentally, she was still Anko.

"Pass the sake," Genma drawled, "you're hogging it."

She stuck her tongue out at him. "What if I am?"

They laughed, Genma lunging across the couch to try and grab it, while she held it just out of his reach. She was glad enough that their friendship kept his shadows away from her heart. Being Anko, after all, was all she could do.

But she did it with their help.