This story is a hardcore Anko x Orochimaru character study. Yes, they are a "couple" in this one… whatever that implies. :P But it's mostly about how Orochimaru was the overwhelming, omnipresent power in Anko's first years as a kunoichi, but then he abandoned her out of the clear blue sky. And how that affected her life. I don't own either of these characters or their lovely Naruto anime-verse, but please enjoy! -SR
Anko couldn't tell you exactly when she realized that Orochimaru was her first everything. He was her first friend. Her first teacher. Her first kiss. Her first lover. Her first break-up.
Almost as long as she could remember, he had been there pushing her beyond what she knew and into realms unseen. Each experience stood out uniquely in some kind of bittersweet tandem of memory. It was only too easy to be absorbed by the memories and taken away to more brilliant, innocent places…
Anko sat on a bench by herself, chewing absentmindedly on an empty dango stick and watching the sun go down. She could have been training, but she had already trained all day long. She didn't really like to stay out once it got dark, and she had overestimated when the sun was going to set. Her face was still pink from the day's efforts, and she dabbed at her sweaty brow every so often with a spare napkin.
"May I sit down?" a voice asked.
Anko looked up, and to her surprise, an adult stood above her. He wasn't an ancient adult, though – maybe late thirties. It was hard to tell with all the long hair, but his jounin vest definitely made him look pretty young.
"Sure, mister," Anko replied, sliding over to give him some space. "I'm out of dango, though. Now I'm just watching the sun set."
The stranger chuckled – a refined, deep sound.
"I'm not hungry. I just hated to see a pretty young lady like you sitting out here all alone."
Anko, at ten years old, couldn't remember ever having been called a 'lady.' But coming from this handsome stranger, she thought she might be able to adjust to it.
"It's almost time," she told him. "I can put my hand against the horizon, and it covers up all of the sun that shows. So it won't be long now."
The stranger watched her for a moment or two, appearing almost transfixed. It wasn't the first time the two had passed in the streets, but it looked almost as though he could be seeing her in a new light.
"It's time!" the girl cried a minute or two later. "I count down from ten. Care to help me, sir?"
"Naturally," the stranger replied. "Let's begin."
Anko had been staying with her sensei for a mere three months, but she could already tell that her skills were making dramatic leaps and bounds. She could throw a kunai with more deft accuracy and run faster – not to mention more quietly and stealthily – than she ever had before. When confronted with an opponent, she didn't feel her heart start to pound and the instinct to flee set in; her anxiety was replaced with a fierce confidence – a feeling of superiority.
But success came with a price.
Each night when she finally collapsed on her mattress, her body ached all over. From her neck and shoulders to her calloused, stinging feet, she could feel the strain each of the day's tough maneuvers had left on her body.
More powerful yet, she could hear her teacher's words of admonition echo in her ears.
"Anko, that effort was sub-par at best. Take two more laps and see if your accuracy increases any."
"Anko, you disappoint me. For the amount of promise as you show as a student, your motivation has been terribly lacking today."
Each one carried its own sting – its own spark of motivation to do better, run faster, try harder. Though they deflated her ego and at times made her want to scream and cry and pummel the ground insisting that she simply couldn't do the amount of work he demanded at the level of expertise upon which he insisted, she knew that would not be acceptable.
And besides, she had no true desire to say any such thing to her sensei, because he was the first one.
The first one who had ever asked for better than she offered right off the bat. The first one for whom raw talent was no excuse for a lack of effort. Just because she could put a chuunin-grade spin on a shuriken on her first try as a genin was no excuse for not immediately practicing hard enough to achieve jounin-level skill. Good and better were never enough – there was no acceptable reason for not being the best.
And Anko knew that he was so tough and caused her so much pain because he cared so deeply. If she had been just another clumsy genin, he would not have wasted so much time cursing her and berating her until she improved. She knew that he had plenty of better things to do either way.
But he was her sensei – and that was reason enough for him to work every day to make her better than the best she could be.
Living alongside Orochimaru had become second-nature. Though her peers often raised eyebrows and whispered as they watched the two go home together following a long day of training, fourteen-year-old Anko didn't care. She didn't have anyplace better to go. And in fact, she couldn't imagine any place better to go.
Her sensi was an accommodating housemate. Though he demanded nothing but the best on the training field, as soon as they crossed the threshold of their home, he became nothing more than a concerned friend. He could always find the time to dress her wounds after a long day and massage her shoulders to help her fall asleep more easily.
Their suppers were usually humble – miso soup and rice and the like – but she didn't subsist on the food itself. She found her nourishment in the words of encouragement that finally fell like a cool rain after a day of exhausting effort with nothing but caustic remarks in return. Once they were united at the table, he finally took the opportunity to share everything she had done right.
"You fought very gracefully today, Anko – and you know how I feel about coordination. There is no use fighting at all if you come across as haphazard."
"Though I have said many times that injury is no excuse as far as your opponent is concerned – and therefore shouldn't be an excuse to me, either – I must admit that your speed today was excellent taking into account that sprained ankle of yours."
She would always reply with a heartfelt "Thank you, sensei," and he would nod and return to dinner.
But one night, he didn't nod.
His comment had been something to effect of "Your form was excellent today." She hardly remembered what the compliment had been… the words themselves had faded into practical oblivion in light of what was to follow.
Anko had simply replied in the usual way, but it did strike her as odd that once she had, Orochimaru put down his chopsticks and continued to give her that same deep, meaningful look.
"I mean that, Anko-san."
If his fervor had seemed odd, his use of that particular honorific was even stranger. She was lucky to get a 'chan' from him, and that was only when she was sick or had triumphed in a difficult fight and made him unusually proud.
"You flatter me, Orochimaru-sensei," she had murmured in return.
However, the words had barely left her mouth when she felt something warm and tender close around her lips.
He had kissed her.
Her sensei had kissed her.
The kiss lasted long enough that she realized what was going on and had time to return the gesture before he pulled away. She was clumsy at first, but learned quickly. By the time he turned his head and suggested that she go on to bed so he could clean the kitchen, she had managed to trace the outline of his lips with her tongue and brush her own lower lip across his cheek.
She was left desperate for more, but was not rewarded with any more physical contact until another year had passed.
Anko hated thunderstorms. Even at fifteen – physically a woman in every sense of the word – she maintained a childlike loathing and fear for lightning and the cataclysmic crashes that always followed.
At ten years of age, she had become accustomed to sleeping in her sensei's room on nights when it stormed. About the time she heard the first rumble in the distance, she would gather her blankets and tiptoe across the hall into the chamber where he slept, tugging anxiously on his sleeve to awaken him.
"Is it time for another storm, child?" he would always ask. When she nodded, he would give her an indulgent expression – one that was almost a smile – and pat the sheets beside him. She would eagerly crawl into his larger bed, and without fail, she would fall back asleep almost immediately. The bluish flashes of light and loud booms – just as visible from his widow and audible shaking his room as they had been in her own – ceased to carry any weight. Feeling him breathe in and out at her side was enough peace and protection to overcome anything.
As she aged, however, Anko became more reluctant to disturb her teacher. She began to feel foolish fearing something as harmless as a storm, and took to barricading herself in her own room whenever the cloudy skies resurrected her old fears. She had gotten to the point where she could stand to be alone during a storm, but sleep was still out of the question.
One or two sleepless nights had never been enough to cause a problem, but one night, that changed.
Anko was to leave with her sensei for the Land of the Sea early in the morning, and at about midnight the night before, a wind from the north brought with it a nasty storm. Though she was eager to depart, Anko couldn't escape the fact that travel always exhausted her. She was concerned enough as it was about staying alert and quick-witted enough to safely make the long hike through all the woods in the Fire Country, but a sleepless night could have been enough to ruin the entire trip.
So with a sigh, she had swallowed her pride and made the familiar walk across the hall into her sensei's room. Her white cotton nightdress swished around her knees in the draft, and she subconsciously pulled her arms closer in. Storms, as a rule, often tended to bring cold air with them as well as rain, lightning, and noise.
When Orochimaru awoke to Anko standing in his doorway, his expression was one of concern.
"Is something wrong, Anko?" he had demanded automatically. After all, it had been years since she had ventured across the hallway during the night.
"It's not," she replied quickly. "Well, not really. It's just that I…"
Anko was interrupted by a crash of thunder that made her shudder.
Orochimaru still looked slightly bemused, but he slid aside to make room for her beside him. Since it had been so long, she had forgotten her own blanket. He noticed its absence immediately.
"No need to be ashamed, Anko," he had said, holding up the corner of his own red satin sheet. Biting her lip and staring at the ground, Anko scurried over and slid in beside him before the next clap of thunder had time to rattle their small house.
"You're so tense," he had said silkily, brushing a lock of hair back from her shoulder.
She nodded, swallowing tears.
"I hate storms," she whispered. "I hate them."
"I know you do," he said. "We all have our own fears to overcome. But tomorrow is a big day, and you need to rest. Try to remain still – you're here, and nothing can harm you."
Anko had just begun to relax when she felt a strange sensation – a creeping up her spine. She was so preoccupied with that, it took her a moment to establish that her sensei's hand had somehow found a place on her inner thigh.
It took her even longer to realize that this contact was what was causing the shivering feeling.
"How does that feel, Anko?" he had asked softly, his breath warm and damp in her ear.
She bit her lip, unable to find the words.
"Is it a good feeling?"
Anko nodded her head quickly, honest despite her conflicting emotions. Feeling her response, he laughed softly and moved his hand an inch or two upwards.
"You are a beautiful lady, Anko," the feathery voice had continued. "I know you've seen the way the others stare at you when you walk through town. I've certainly observed it."
Anko's breath had caught in her throat. She could feel her heart hammering in her chest, and the tiny hairs on the back of her neck stood on end. She had to suppress the urge to cry out – from what, she did not know. Though the sensation, on the whole, was incredibly stifling and physically uncomfortable, she realized that she didn't want it to end.
Many times, she had caught herself intently watching the sinews in Orochimaru's arms and chest expanding and contracting as he removed his vest. She had even had glimpses of thoughts about him – particularly recently. Different thoughts, at that. The kind that made her shudder and bite her lip and vow to think about more honorable things.
But she hadn't wanted to think about more honorable things.
She had wanted to think about what lay under the layers of vests and shirts and pants and bandages – and she'd wanted him to wonder the same kinds of things about her.
Evidently, she realized with a shiver, he had.
"Have you seen the boys watch you?" Orochimaru hissed.
"Yes," Anko replied, her voice quiet and her words forced.
"I don't want you to think about them," Orochimaru said sternly, pausing his hand in a place that made his student clench fistfuls of the sheet.
"Don't stop," she whined, sliding backwards so that her back rested against his bare chest.
"But I need you to listen," he contradicted. "You see, we're doing this because you must understand something. They can look at you and they can think about you, but they will not have you as I have you. Because you are mine."
She knew what he was saying… but she didn't care. She didn't need to hear him say all of that. She had always known that every bit of it was true. He was wasting both of their time, and she did not have the patience for it. How could he even think that she would doubt something so obvious? She was his. That was obvious in the same way that the sky was blue and kunai hurt when you ran your tongue across the blade.
"Then make me yours," Anko growled, growing more and more impatient.
He chuckled – a sound that echoed triumph and power.
"My dear Anko… that has been my intention from the beginning. And there are only two more bridges that separate us from the oneness of which we have both dreamt. One of those will be crossed tonight."
Determined to end the useless words, Anko rolled over and seized his lips. She would experience some pain at what was to follow; she was a virgin, and they both knew it. But it only made sense, after all – no other man could have taken her when she belonged so much to him. And after the act that was to follow, she was certain that neither of them could ever feel a moment of doubt.
When Anko awoke on the beach, it was to confusion and pain.
But more pain than confusion. And it wasn't a lack of confusion that made this the case. She didn't have answers to any of her questions, so confusion naturally abounded.
But the pain went much, much deeper regardless.
Probably because it was both physical and mental. The mental was a bit hard to think about, she had to admit, because the physical was so incredibly overwhelming. It began in her shoulder and radiated outwards, tightening her veins and stiffening her limbs like some kind of poison. Even her mind seemed to operate more slowly. Light burned her eyes and every time she tried to move, she got dizzier and felt sicker to her stomach.
She was glad it was a cloudy day, because for some reason, she was waking up outside with no roof to protect her. When she managed to shift any part of her body, she heard a crunch that she imagined – or at least hoped – was caused by sand beneath her and not any movement of fractured bones or torn ligaments.
When she finally managed to open her eyes without her head throbbing, she could make out wisps of gray clouds above her head.
She groaned and flexed her fingers.
She realized instantly that each memory she could drudge up regarding the last few days was suddenly of the utmost value. But when she attempted to dig through the fog in her mind, she was met with roadblock after roadblock. Everything was fuzzy – if it was there at all, which she was seriously beginning to doubt. But she simply didn't have time for anything like that! Somehow, in some way, she had to figure out what had happened. She had to find Orochimaru-sensei. He couldn't be far – he would never leave her alone for too long, especially if she were in such incredible pain.
And in such a strange, lonely place.
She could remember the few days before they left... she remembered spending the night in his room and waking up the next morning to the rich, musky smell of his pillowcase. The two of them must have departed sometime the following morning - she could almost remember leaving their little house with her pack on her back - but she couldn't remember where they had been headed. Or what they did when they got there. After they left the house, every memory she had became unclear and disjointed. She even wondered if she was just making them up to fill the time.
A droplet of rain hit Anko in the forehead, and she whimpered.
It was cold. Everywhere hurt. And her sensei was nowhere.
"Orochimaru-sensei," she called. Her first cry was weak, like someone who hadn't spoken for a very long time. So she tried again. The second time, her voice rang out clearer.
She paused, waiting for the telltale sounds of movement. Her sensei was stealthy and quiet, but her ears were good.
A few minutes passed, but there was still absolutely nothing. No sandals crunching on sand, no sounds of human breathing approaching. Anko resisted the urge to start crying in earnest as the pain and confusion and abandonment begin to sink in with more force even than before.
It had to be some kind of nightmare – she would wake up to the feeling of Orochimaru's breath on her neck and the sounds of rain pouring outside his window.
But… it couldn't be. There wouldn't be that much pain in a dream, she finally reasoned. She could hardly believe that there could be so much pain in real life.
"Orochimaru-sensei," she choked out finally, desperately.
To her shock, this last effort was met with a response.
"I hear someone – she might be down there!" a voice exclaimed.
It definitely wasn't his voice, but it was something.
Anko immediately, instinctively, jerked upwards into a sitting position. She was reminded instantly of her helplessness as the pain that came with moving shot through her body like a hundred thousand knives and her resistant limbs folded with the stiffness of a marionette. But she couldn't give in and cry out like she wanted to – she had no idea whose voices she was hearing. It could be the people who took away her Orochimaru-sensei.
And in that case, she would have to fight like she had never fought before… pain or no pain.
From a cliff over Anko's left shoulder, the voice called out again.
"She's right down here, boys! And alone, from the looks of it!"
By the time the man landed beside her, Anko was standing on shaky legs, a kunai bared. However, she dropped her weapon when she saw the person she faced. The animal mask combined with muted blacks and grays made it obvious: a member of Konoha's own ANBU Black Ops had landed on the beach beside her.
"Mitarashi Anko," he said softly. "Please allow my comrades and me to take you back to Konoha with us. The Hokage has many things he would like to discuss with you… and you appear as though you need medical treatment."
Anko had been so transfixed by both the man's appearance and his words, she had barely noticed the rest of his squad land in a circle around her.
He had said something… but his words meant nothing. It wasn't about what he wanted, it was about what she needed.
"Please, sir, can you take me back to my sensei?" she asked, her lip trembling.
A moment of silence passed.
"She seems to be in shock," one of the ANBU members pointed out, to nobody in particular.
Anko paused. She hadn't thought about that, but maybe she was in shock. The stiffness, the pain, the memory loss… that all seemed to add up. Kind of.
Either way, she didn't care.
Because as the ANBU squad leader picked her up gently and took off for the Village Hidden in the Leaves, a horrible, unspeakable truth began to set in:
Her sensei was gone, and he had left her behind with nothing but a confusing haze and an intense, awful pain by which to remember him. All the years of intense training, late night conversations, and mysterious errands had led to the moment in which she stood. The final day – the time of reckoning.
Somehow, though she did not have any idea how, she must have failed.
Things would never be as they had before.
Finally, as she listened to the rhythm of the ANBU squad's footsteps fall across the forest floor that separated the beach from her once-home of Konoha, she let the unimaginable happen:
She allowed a lone tear to slide down her cheek and land, soundlessly, on dry patch of ground that would soon be forever lost.
Whenever any of the memories surfaced, Anko would always shake her head and run off quickly to the training fields to otherwise occupy her mind. It was the only thing to do once they had sucked her in. She had established long ago that by dwelling on the past, she was only hurting herself. Because each recollection hurt plenty – in its own unique way. Even the happy ones left a bad taste in her mouth.
There was usually someone with whom she could spar, and that was really the only way to find relief. Her mind would quickly become computing, tactical. No room for emotion and pain when one concentrated on power – a lesson she had been taught, in no uncertain terms, by her once-beloved sensei. The memories would usually stay locked away after that, where they were supposed to be… at least until a thunderstorm billowed in the distance or a cool drop of rain hit her forehead. And then it would be right back to square one.
During those long, rainy hours, one question overcame her:
'If he was my first everything,' she would wonder, 'then why is he the last one I could ever imagine forgetting?'