Under Pressure

I have never been a very firm believer in fate. It has always seemed strange to me that one man, woman or child can walk through their entire life on a predetermined path with no real say in which direction it may go, or which hurdles they may have to jump along the way in order to reach that end. Perhaps it's just my optimism speaking but I like to think of life as being a little more spontaneous than that.

It's thoughts like these my mother often warns will be the death of me someday, 'too much thought can drive a sane man mad and a mad man sane' she says. I can just hear her now sighing in that loveable exasperated way of hers, the faint smell of peppermint paddies and red roses wafting it's way toward me in a homely refined way only an experienced mother could achieve. The smells are what I miss most when I'm away from home on mission's in the wilderness or foreign land's. Whether it's the familiar odor of my mother and father, the strange intermingling of different smells in the bustling city at peak business time or in the festival season, of Ichiraku's tantalizing ramen stand and all the well acquainted shinobi that occupied it's seats in the summer breeze. Even the distinctive floral scent of my longest and best friend. I missed them all equally, perhaps more then I missed the actual people.

So instead of yearning for return to my place of birth and all that comes with it I occupy my mind with musings of the universe and beyond, of green ladybugs and contradictory houses made of glass. Sometimes I like to imagine the reaction's of those I hold dearest to my current surroundings and situation because for a moment I can pretend they are standing right beside me. Bob, my disturbingly attractive psychiatrist, would probably say that these were the coping mechanisms I had created as a result of being on a lengthy mission, and as much as I loathed admitting it, he would probably be correct in saying so. I had been gone for a grand total of 6 years now, old man Hokage had seen fit to send me away not 2 days after I landed the biggest promotion of my Kunoichi carrier as an ANBU black op. And now after so many years my mission had finally reached a successful conclusion. Now at age 25, when it feels more then ever as though it has been a lifetime since I have seen home, I was not even a day from the outskirts of Konoha.

Thankfully Kami was favoring my return on this occasion with dazzling blue skies and not so much as a cloud in sight, it was perfect conditions to take in the sights and sounds of the forest and I fully intended to do so! Having been gone for 6 years now I'll be damned if I am going to race home like some overly zealous Genin, I am going stroll casually through those gates with so much style they'll be writing books about it for years to come.

"YEAH!" I cried striking my best impression of Maito Guy's 'good guy' pose, god damn I miss that spazzy green leprechaun and his Beatles hair cut. Apparently my violent outburst had really only managed to scare away a few unsuspecting birds and a very confused rabbit but I was satisfied. "You're all just jealous anyway" I muttered continuing on my journey.

It is difficult to express how good it was to feel the familiar fresh green grass in between my bare toes and bandaged feet, the dew from the night previous clinging to them with every step. I was overcome with a heavy sense of nostalgia as the wind crept softly through my white locks bringing with it the sweet scent of morning and the tell tale sounds of a forest awakening. Birds chirped and sang their songs as the leaves rustled about in the breeze and all creatures small and large began the day anew. I often wondered if most people noticed these simple pleasures in life, as a Kunoichi my senses were far more aware of the surroundings and I could not imagine it any other way, it would feel as though the lights had suddenly been dimmed. As I watched the path in front of me with the careful attentiveness granted to an anbu I began to watch the trees sway out of the corner of my eye and followed the path of the animals within.

Slowly a smile crept across my masked face and both in celebration of my return and for want of feeling the wind upon my face I felt the strange tiger shaped mask was no longer necessary to my mission. Removing it I instead placed it to the right side of my head and revealed my features to the world once more. Ordinarily I am an average girl to look at with an average height, average features and average Kunoichi build, but my mother had always claimed since I was a child that my quirkiness was what made me eye catching. After extensive research and many hours contemplating the word 'ordinary' I have come to the conclusion my dear mother has yet to accept my flat refusal to wear shoes in any circumstance. In my opinion it's like taking candy from a baby; all to easy to do but in the long run all you are doing is robbing yourself of the many sensations bare-footedness can encompass. The world would be a better place if we all took a little time to appreciate the ground we walk on.

Digression aside her comments may also have something to do with the huge brightly colored tattoo that had mysteriously grown to cover my entire right arm depicting such legendary, life defining heroes as; Mickey Mouse, Tigger, Spongebob Squarepants and Pocahontas, just to name a few. Having faked my ID at the age of 9 and bribed an unsuspecting tattoo artist with imaginary affair pictures in order to attain said body art, I may very well still be grounded by the time I make my triumphant return home. It is mainly due to this that I have chosen over the years to display my wonderful work of art at every opportunity and on the rare occasions such as now when I am permitted to wear the appropriate ANBU uniform have consistently worn no more than a black singlet underneath the compulsory white armor for optimal effect. If im doing the time I at least expect the crime to be remembered in all its glory, my only regret is that the highly unimaginative aforementioned uniform constricts full arm exposure with further seemingly useless white armor. Old man Hokage, having predicted such a dilemma and being perfectly aware he could not achieve both, had given me a choice upon appointment. Either go without wearing shoes and wear pants of a supremely more comfortable nature than what was on offer or ditch the excessive defensive punk rock accessory in favor of a portable Disney channel promo. Obviously I chose the first option, a coin told me to do it. So rather than sport the ordinary ANBU look I am privileged to be the only professional blood thirsty maniac walking around in a pair of lovely (and very comfortable) Aladdin style black pants which end at my knees where the bandaging and rainbow colored ribbon begin.

The final point of contention regarding my 'quirky' appearance, according to my mother, concerns my hair. Many years ago I had the absolute pleasure of meeting a real life Zebra, immediately I came to the conclusion Kami had created said animals for my very own amusement and so the very next day I ventured to the local hairdresser. Arguments ensued and after a particularly gruesome threat of bodily harm I finally had as close to my way as was possible without maiming several stubborn civilians. At the heavy insistence of said individuals I had agreed to keep my side fringe and accompanying frontal hair at the length of my hips. At the even greater insistence of myself, however, the back section of my hair now adopts an organizational mess of gradual shortness, at its most extreme point no longer than 2 inches. My greatest achievement in said venture however resides in the front, wherein my Zebra inspiration takes form in large black stripes, contrasting starkly with the pearly white natural color it now sporadically houses, even more so with my ever bright and even whiter pupil-less eyes.

Now you might be wondering at this point if I belong to the most ancient, noble and frankly frustrating Hyuuga Clan. The answer to which is most definitely no. The color of my eyes is thankfully attributed neither to my mother or my fathers genetic traits but rather to the tampering of one Oreo cookie, otherwise known as Oruchimaru. You see, I never wanted to be a ninja. As a child, it was my fondest ambition to one day become a professional homeless person, eventually I would have enough capital to open my own begging business that would lead into a global empire of sorts. However none of these dreams were given the chance to grow into fruition. In fact not long after they came into being I made the mistake of accusing a certain legendary Sannin of being the infamous cookie monster in disguise. In hindsight the proclamation in itself wouldn't have been so bad had I not insisted on following Oreo cookie around like a bad smell for months on end just so he could show me how he likes to eat his nickname-sake. Apparently he got so frustrated with me that the moment a mythical, one of a kind vile of highly dangerous dragons blood came to his attention, Oruchimaru knew just the person to test it's effects on. Looking back on it he probably hoped for some sort of long and gruesome death to store in his memory bank for recall on a rainy day. Sadly for him I somehow lived and upon discovery in the cookie monsters uber evil lair was sent away for years of training in how to manipulate the dragon chakra and abilities for which now flow through me thicker than blood. Several years later I was thoughtful enough to send an apology card conveying my deepest sympathies on yet another epic failure in the life and times of a cookie monster. I received an envelope of anthrax in return for my efforts, it's the little things that let me know how much he cares.

As I continued to walk through the forest my over attentive senses began to prickle warmly telling me that there were 5 people 1 mile ahead, 4 Konoha shinobi and 1 civilian if their chakra signatures were anything to go by, but that didn't seem to be all, there was something else in the air, something malevolent. I'm talking worse than a Hannah Montana marathon on a Sunday night evil. Frowning slightly I grudgingly returned my mask to the business position and continued walking forward at a casual pace, hey it's not like every anbu has to be super cool and secretive anyway, I can be the exception. Slowly my eyes registered a pool of water to the right of the path, resisting the urge to chuckle at the stupidity of whoever it was concealed in there I decided the only way to make this situation more amusing would be to see if the approaching shinobi, who were obviously the target of these, at best Chunin level pups, picked up on it. So rather then do the decent thing and deal with them right then and there I instead opted for plan b; leaping into the nearest tree for coverage and concealing my chakra. Now all that was left to do was wait and watch the show, not 10 minutes passed before I began to hear loud voices.

"IM GONNA KICK YOUR ASS OLD MAN" I winced slightly at the volume of this proclamation, this kid has no grasp of the concept silence, or any other attribute required to become a shinobi. I like him already.

"Naruto please stop threatening the client" now this voice was immediately familiar. An evil grin began to take hostage of my facial features as i watched the group come into view. Who would've thought that lazy, porn-reading baka would get his own team, what on earth was the Hokage smoking in his pipe when he came up with that? Surely the excessive therapy costs would out weigh any of the potential learning experiences the eccentric scarecrow felt best to bestow on his young pupils? Kakashi-sensai does have a nice ring to it, but still, I had been living next door and socializing with the man for 5 years before I left and if there was one thing I had learnt from the experience it's that Kakashi Hatake is in a word; strange, lovable yes, but strange also.

As the group grew closer it became more and more apparent as to why the Hokage had to decided to condemn 3 innocent children to the mental scaring that would undoubtedly be inflicted in the coming years. In the lead was the kid I assumed had been so loud before if the bright Orange jump suit was any indication that is, how he planned to hide in that thing I will never know but I had to admire his style. Regardless he was a recognizable child; the source of the villager's misguided hatred and container of the 9 tailed fox, this had to be Naruto Uzumaki and the emo kid walking next to him with the smug expression had to be the Uchiha brat, Sasuke I think his name is. I hadn't been in the village for the Uchiha massacre but I had heard about it almost immediately as I was alerted to be on the lookout for Itachi Uchiha should he enter the land of waves. Not that I would have done anything, I liked weasel boy, he has a cool name and that makes him ok in my books.

Walking behind dumb and dumber was the familiar scarecrow I had so forcefully befriended (no kidding, I once broke into his house and ate all of his food just so he would have to eat out with Asuma, Genma, Anko and i) so many years ago with his head buried in the latest edition of Icha Icha. Many years ago I made a vague attempt to read one of those books, I fainted. Next to the scarecrow zombie was both the only unfamiliar member of the group and the only female, although looking her up and down I came to the conclusion she was far to cliché for my liking, when they come back from their mission I am making it my personal vendetta to stamp that innocent airy look out of her!

Walking in the middle of the Konoha team was an old man I somewhat vaguely recognized as the bridge builder causing so much fuss in the land of waves, this was curious indeed. If he was commissioning Shinobi for the safety of his bridge it should be an A rank mission not a C rank with Genin's. Gato won't stop till he's dead, the puddle pansies are just the beginning! I concluded at this point that he must be one of the poor villagers, unable to afford an A rank but still, deceiving the Hokage is no way to go about winning friends and influencing people. Plus this posses quite the dilemma for me. I could either rat the old man out and they would all go home before anything bad happened since they weren't far from Konoha and the old man along with several innocent villagers will die, leave it and send them all to their deaths or go with them and save not only the Genin but the wave country from further turmoil. It's going to be a tough call.

As they drew closer to my position I saw Kakashi's eyes briefly flicker toward the puddle pansies affirming that he knew of their existence, excellent, this means less work for me. Although my hopes were quickly dashed as the fight began in truth, I watched kakashi's clone disperse without so much as a grimace, Naruto's reaction though was what forced me come out of hiding. The idiot had frozen in the middle of a bloodthirsty battle with 2 mediocre pansies! What a noob…..literally! With a huge sigh of disappointment I sprang down from my comfortable branch and ignoring the startled cries of Genin and civilian alike turned to the enemy.

"Good day puddle pansies, how may I help you?" I asked in my most polite voice. Behind me I heard Naruto gasp in surprise while his fellow newbie ninja's just stood silently flabbergasted at my cheeky behavior in the face of battle.

"We are going to kill the bridge builder and anyone who stands in our way," replied the one to the left in an obvious manor, although it was quite muffled through the horrendously over-sized gas mask, I wonder why he wears it?

"Keep out of the way and we might even forgive you for that comment and let you see under the masks" continued the other pansy in what I'm assuming he thought was a seductive voice.

"Wow, wait half time!" I called in my best ref impersonation, "are you seriously trying to seduce me, like right now when we are about to fight with lots of dangerous pointy objects intended to kill one another?, " I asked seriously

"…yes?"

"Oh kami, how do I put this? You see; you might have missed it while you were busy trying to kill a couple of 12 year olds, a defenseless old man and a scarecrow but this mask…..it's kind of a big deal, it means I'm better then you, heck were I to loose a finger one day, that would even be more superior to either of you. And for future reference the gas masks make it look as though one of you has some serious bowel issues, it's not attractive". By this point I could hear the three children and old man trying and failing to contain their appropriately condescending laughter. In front of me the puddle pansies looked madder than a Harry Potter fan being told the ending of book 7 before they've had a chance to read it. In other words; pissed off. Almost immediately they came flying toward me with their crazy chains and even crazier head gear. This could only mean one thing: it's time to tango!

When you have been a lot of fights over the years everything seems to move in slow motion. As I watched the lethal chains coming toward me I somersaulted into the air and out of range, landing behind the twins I managed to get the upper hand with my quick anbu reflexes and grabbed both of them by the back, tossing them high into the air. Using several kunai attached by string to 2 other main kunai in my hands I manipulated the chains into winding themselves around their owners in mid air and used the main ones to force the puddle pansies to collide before crashing in a heap of unconsciousness to the ground. To a bystander the whole thing would have taken less then 5 seconds.

"Well that was disappointing, I expected more from you puddle pansies!" I yelled kicking the men angrily much to the surprise of present company.

"You shouldn't kick a man while he's down Amalie" replied Kakashi emerging from the forest to stand next to me, the very image of good health. Immediately my reflexes seized and I blinked rather stupidly, it had been 6 years since anyone had called me by my name, I don't know why but I simply had not expected it.

"What the hell Kakashi! You've had 6 years to formulate a witty, dare I say it, sarcastic greating and all you came up with was 'don't kick a man while he's down'?" came my eventual indigent reply.

"I think it worked with the circumstances" said Kakashi lazily "besides I've had better things to do with my time than think about what I might say to you when I saw you next" he continued patting his beloved orange book.

"Kakashi-sensai!" cried pinkette behind me. Finally I decided to turn my attention toward my eager audience who were all… staring at me like I was some exotic animal from a distant universe, friggin ingrates.

"Sorry I didn't come to save you guys sooner, I just didn't expect Naruto to freeze up like that and then Amalie seemed to handle things fine" replied Kakashi calmly

"Your anbu" stated Sasuke ignoring his sensei's apparent return from the dead.

"I AM?" I cried in surprise, taking my mask off to stare it like I had never seen it before "holy shit, when did that happen? Old man Hokage has GOT to stop smoking so much pot!"

"How do you know my name?" he asked suspiciously once again displaying his remarkable ability to ignore childish antics.

"Same way I know Naruto's, Tazuna's and that pink haired chick's…..hey wait isn't Tazuna your client, oh yeah that's right, your on a mission! Why are you asking me useless questions when you should be asking the puddle pansies and Captain retardo over there why the heck you just got attacked by crazies?" I replied pointing to Tazuna aka captain retardo. Kakashi sighed next to me.

"you could at least pretend to be nice to them" he scolded as he dragged the pansies over to lean against a tree. It was at this point that I began to drift of, interrogations bored the heck out of me and there were much more interesting things to pay attention to anyway….like that squirrel, haha I shall call him George and he shall be mine! Hey there's Gregory the snake, run squirrel, run! OH NOES Greg ate George! Stupid snake, this is all Oreo cookies fault! I am writing a strongly worded letter of complaint the moment I get home! My train of thought was interrupted however when one certain annoying orange ninja started yelling in my ear.

"AMALIE!" he shouted bringing me back to reality. Apparently at some point I had decided to kill Gregory because there was a suspiciously familiar snake with a bulge in it's stomach being strangled in my hand presently.

"Amalie, put the snake down," commanded Kakashi, the rest of the members of team Kakashi plus captain retardo and the puddle pansies were looking at me like I was crazy.

"Oh all right then" I conceded throwing the snake into the trees, "but you haven't seen the last of me Greg! I will avenge George one way or another, and next time there wont be witnesses!" I shouted in his general direction

"It's times like these I can understand why the Hokage insists you see a Psychiatrist once a week," said Kakashi leaning against the nearest tree

"Whatever Bowienator," I retaliated with supreme excellence, his hair was just to easy to poke fun at, "so have you guys decided to continue with the mission and whatnot?"

"You weren't listening?" asked Sakura in disbelief

"…why would I do a silly thing like that, it sounds far too much like effort to me," I replied pulling out a cup of tea from mid air and taking a sip, "it needs sugar!" ten cubes later and I was drinking the tea quite happily much to the dismay of my companions, "hey anyone noticed Naruto's bleeding?" i suddenly asked noticing the blonde's hand for the first time.

"Where did she-" started Sakura only to be cut off rudely by Kakashi

"It's best not to ask Sakura" he replied calmly, "and yes we will be continuing with the mission, unless of course you know of some reason why we should not?"

"What gives you that crazy idea?" I asked innocently

"You just spent the last 6 years undercover in the land of waves, if you know something, now is the time to say instead of sending us into a battle we aren't prepared for" replied Kakashi seriously, I could see Tazuna beginning to sweat at the revelation of my previous position.

"I have nothing to say Hatake," I said in an equally serious tone as I threw my empty cup behind me, those with particularly good eyesight would have seen it smack straight into a suspiciously familiar snake. "and anything I might say would have been discovered on an s rank mission and is strictly classified, even to you" I continued throwing the teaspoon in the same direction and ignoring Sasuke's raised eyebrow, "however, if it will make you feel better about the whole situation I will volunteer to accompany your team for the duration of the mission," yeah that's right I can be serious.

"That's not very reassuring, but I guess we have no choice but to accept for now" said Kakashi seemingly to himself, Tazuna breathed a sigh of relief.

"Hey no need to sound so enthusiastic, im only giving up another month or so of my valuable time when im literally hours away from coming home for the first time in 6 years, no biggy" I complained aloud.

Kakashi just nodded and gave the signal to leave.

"YES, thankyou Amalie-sensai!" cried Naruto happily racing of in the lead

"Baka, slow down" scolded Sasuke following after

"DON'T CALL ME BAKA TEME!"

"Sasuke!" cried Sakura running after the boys.

"STOP YELLING, I'M UNDER ALOT OF PREASURE TRYING NOT TO SMACK YOU" deciding to add my two cents worth, and so after 10 seconds of awkward silence and staring in my general direction the group began to move back along the track I had just come. 'You owe me one' I mouthed at Tazuna as I moved to stand next to Kakashi

"Hey what about us?" but the puddle pansies cry went unheard.