The Reluctant Hokage
Part 15: The Snake Charmer
Anko likes to make men squirm. She knows it's not the best sign of good mental health, but there's something thrilling about putting someone in an awkward position and watching them twitch. It's so easy to get most guys to trip all over themselves, because all she has to do is be outrageous. No one really knows how to respond to a woman who isn't only comfortable with her sexuality, but revels in it. She's not a traditional kunoichi, but she's one of the best at what she does.
It's why she's a special jounin, so she's not surprised when she is selected to be one of the proctors at the chuunin exam. It's a compliment to her unique skill set. She gladly accepts the mission, thinking of the fun she'll have watching the young upstarts try to show how strong they are. She doesn't want to watch any of them die, and will do her best to keep them alive, but she does want to be a part of popping some overblown egos.
It takes her less than a day to become horribly bored with the prep work required.
No one told her there would be so much paperwork involved. Anko sits in the Hokage tower as Izumo lectures about the steps needed to take to reserve the proper training ground, cover liability for injuries and deaths, the cultural taboos of the other hidden villages, yada yada yada...
She knows her eyes are glazing over, and he's less than halfway through the agenda. Ibiki and Hayate are both paying careful attention and taking notes like the good, prepared jounin they are, but Anko's leg is twitching because she can't wait to get out of here. She's not stupid enough to think the paperwork doesn't matter, but she does think Izumo's pedantic methods are a bit of overkill. He's already given her the to-do checklist, which is more than enough instruction. There's no reason to sit around and blabber at her about what she already knows.
It's a long two hours before the meeting finally ends, and Anko is loaded up with paperwork and forms she she needs to complete in triplicate by the end of the week. She shoves it all into a sealed scroll, since there's no way she wants to stumble through the village with her hands full of requisition forms.
Since she's at the Tower anyway, she decides she might as well pop by to visit with Godaime. He won't be pleased to see her, but there's something about Itachi that she really, really likes and she's never cared about what kind of welcome she's going to get.
"Is he in?" she asks cheerfully, smiling at the man who is serving as Itachi's current receptionist. He's one of the office chuunin whose name Anko hasn't bothered to learn. He's happy as a paperpusher, which makes him a very boring soul.
The man swallows, not sure how to answer. There's ANBU lurking around the office, but they're not going to help him out since no one wants to get between Mitarashi Anko and what she wants. Protecting the Hokage from assassination is one thing; protecting Itachi from a "friendly" visit from one of the village's most renowned "eccentrics" is another entirely.
Anko gives him a grin, and breezes on by before the man is able to recover and make an attempt to get in her way. Sometimes she'll spend hours playing with Itachi's staff, but today she doesn't feel like those games.
As expected, she finds him elbow-deep in paperwork. The office is cleaner than it used to be during Sandaime's reign, but Itachi's recent mission created a pile-up he's still trying to sort through. Aside from death and taxes, life's other certainty is humanity's incessant need to document death and taxes.
"Do you have a report for me?" Itachi asks, not bothering with pleasantries. He doesn't even bother to look at her, and Anko knows he's hoping she leaves as soon as possible. He's trying not to engage.
"Sure do, captain," she says cheerfully lifting a hand to give him a jaunty salute. "I'm suffering from a case of boredom, and immediate action is required from the Hokage before it becomes a terminal condition."
"Terminal for someone else," he replies in a monotone voice without raising his head from the scroll he was currently writing on.
"Exactly! I require entertainment," she purrs, shifting her jacket back to offer a better view of her breasts in the casually seductive way that works so well on most men of her acquaintance.
Unfortunately, Itachi isn't able to appreciate the sight since his eyes are not on her. "If you're really bored, I'm sure there's a mission I can assign you."
"I'm already assigned. Remember the chuunin exam?" she replies, before giving him a pout. "Seriously, captain, let's blow this joint for a couple hours. The work will still be here when you get back."
He opens his mouth to object, but they've been through this argument before, and she knows how to cut to the chase.
"Think dango," she says, and she knows she's won.
The Hokage has few weaknesses, but prime among them is his sweet tooth. It's a good thing the other villages haven't discovered some kind of confectionery jutsu, because Itachi would lose, lose, lose if they were dangling sweets in front of him.
They don't exactly "blow the joint" because Itachi's sense of responsibility makes him tidy his desk and speak to the chuunin to let them know how to contact him in case of emergency. Anko glares at the man, hoping to make clear that any interruption will be less than appreciated, so the man better be sure something is really an emergency, or else.
It takes them less than ten minutes to get to their favorite teashop. Instead of going over the roofs, they walk down the main street. The villagers stand and watch as he goes past, and a couple point, but no one approaches, which is Anko's fault. If Itachi was by himself, he would be swamped by people who wanted casual encounters with this village leader. Anko knows her reputation is royally fucked up, because this is a village full of killers who most people pass by without a second thought.
Itachi doesn't mind being seen in public with her. She's not naïve enough to think he's not aware of what people say about her, so it matters that he ignores it.
For places she frequents, like the teashop, the staff and fellow regulars have learned to ignore her horrible reputation. The server merely smiles and shows them to the small room in the back that's reserved for VIPs, before scurrying off to get tea and plenty of dango. They sit on the pillows on the floor, waiting for the server to bring the first round.
Itachi is one of the quietest people she knows, so it falls to her to begin the conversation. Never one to be delicate, she goes for the kill. "Is it true Kakashi's put your brother's team up for the exam?"
"Yes," he says. "There's four rookie teams taking this exam."
She's very familiar with the backgrounds of everyone Konoha is sending, since part of the exam is to design tests that will give the village the best chance of success. The Chuunin Exams are a form of stealth warfare, after all. "Even though I doubt the newbies will be able to get past Ibiki, I want to go on the record stating that I won't show any mercy and I can't give him special treatment," she replies, unwilling to offer any platitude to Itachi, and knowing Itachi won't accept it if she tried. "He's going to be one of the prime targets as soon as his participation is announced."
"I know," Itachi says.
Anko wants to ask if Itachi thinks it might be a good idea to have Uchiha Sasuke postpone taking the exam by a year or ten. Everyone – especially those from outside of the village – will know he's the Hokage's younger brother. Unless Sasuke and his team are the best contenders, there's no way this can end well.
And she's heard about the other members of Kakashi's team. A part of her wonders if Kakashi is trying to kill the weak ones, just like her sensei had.
There's so many things she could say, but she bites her lip. People may believe what they want, but Anko doesn't do anything to deliberately hurt her friends. "Is he good enough?" she asks instead.
"Kakashi thinks he's ready," Itachi replies.
Kakashi is one of the most respected jounin in the village. He's also an idiot, and Anko has never been one to avoid honesty where it's important. "Kakashi made chuunin at six," Anko says. "He doesn't know anything about more typical shinobi skill levels."
"Neither would I," Itachi says.
It's the self-awareness that gets to Anko the most. Most extraordinary shinobi tend to think a more typical shinobi as lesser, but Itachi realizes the stark truth: it's the extraordinary shinobi that are the freaks. She's not the type to offer reassurance, and doesn't know what to say, since she's a freak, too.
Thankfully the server interrupts to deliver the first tray. There's double servings of dango for each of them, and an extra teapot along with the already filled cups. Anko grabs a stick of Mitarashi dango, and pulls one off with her teeth, thankful for the distraction. The sweet taste melts in her mouth, and she smiles at Itachi as she chews.
Itachi eats like a born aristocrat, his movements controlled and his manners flawless as he gracefully devours what's set in front of him. Anko would like to play with the emptied skewers, but he sets them aside neatly, and she strives to match him. She's not afraid of being rude, since Itachi wouldn't care, but she wants to behave like she's worthy of his company. It's about respect, and she enjoys the feeling of unspoken harmony.
Sometimes there is simply nothing to say, since there's nothing words can do. Sometimes simply being is enough.
She's not really his friend because Itachi has never been one for making friends, but she remembers being on his team, and how he'd cared for his subordinates. It makes her care in return, because killing together forms a bond unlike any Anko has ever known. She knows his cousin is supposedly his only friend, but hasn't really had a chance to talk to Shisui about him. Both of she and Shisui have frequent missions out of the village, and they never seem to be in the same place at the same time. She wonders if Itachi is scheduling that intentionally.
It takes them a good fifteen minutes to go through the food, and the waitress brings one more serving for each of them. Anko's stomach is full, and she feels tightness in her abdomen that reminds her that she's going to have to put in an extra hour of practice to pay for this indulgence. Keeping her sexy figure requires sacrifice.
By the time they've finished, Itachi's shoulders have relaxed. He's obviously still thinking about something – Itachi is never not thinking – but he seems a little less stressed, so Anko considers it a win.
There's nothing else she can do here, except make a grand exit.
After swallowing her last dango, she neatly sets the skewer down, and leans forward with her most engaging grin. "I need to go work on exam prep," she lies. "You're fine with taking care of the bill, aren't you?"
Before he can reply, she leans forward and kisses him, a peck square on the mouth. He could have avoided it if he wanted to, but Itachi literally has no idea what to do with her when she flirts with him, since both of them know she's not offering him any kind of threat and Itachi has the sexual awareness of a toddler. His default is to freeze and let her do what she wants.
She wishes she could slow down to enjoy the befuddled expression on his face, but she doesn't want him to have a chance to come up with an objection. "Thank you, captain!" she trills, before releasing a multicolored smoke bomb and heading out the window.
Anko is in a good mood as she starts to head home over Konoha's rooftops. There's no way the teashop is going to charge the Hokage for the meal (they never do), but she thinks the playful distraction will amuse Itachi after he gets over his annoyance. Few people bother to treat Itachi as a human anymore, and Anko thinks that's a pity.
Anko knows she's just a bit in love with him, and wishes he could be happy. She's loyal to him because he's the Hokage and her former captain, but unlike most of the village, she's taken the time to get to know him as a person rather than a figurehead. She knows that if asked, Itachi would give everything up for Konoha... with the possible exception of his brother.
And that uncertainty is why Itachi is not loved by the villagers. Anko, unlike most, is willing to take a chance on Itachi. The rest want proof that he cares as much about Konoha as Minato and Sandaime had, and will not turn them over to the Uchiha Clan.
The chuunin exam will be testing more than the genin this time around. It will also serve as a test for the Godaime to see where his true loyalties lie. Anko doesn't know if Itachi will be able to let Sasuke serve the village in the delicate pseudo-warfare that is the exam, or if Itachi will damn Konoha to keep Sasuke safe.
Anko isn't sure if she wants to know the answer. She's never had very good judgment when it comes to other people, and she doesn't want to have proof that she has once again foolishly given her loyalty away.