A/N: Happy New Year, everyone! Thanks for reading, as always, and I hope you enjoy. :D

Syndicate

By Tanya Lilac

Chapter Five – Henge

12:15 October 30. Konoha Headquarters, Tokyo.

Like he had promised, Sasuke was waiting for her when she returned.

"Shall we go, Inoue-san?"

Name: Inoue Miyako

She smiled. "Un. Where's the hairdresser?"

Age: 24

Occupation: Library Assistant (resigned)

"Not far." He held out his arm and she took it as the lift doors opened. She waved good bye to Hibi and stepped in.

Immediate Relations: None

"What else are you doing today, Sasuke-kun?"

"After you get your hair done, we're going to the station."

Next of Kin: Maito Gai. Relation: Legal Guardian. Occupation: Martial Arts teacher

"But," she turned to face him, batting her eyelashes. "What are you doing tonight, after I leave?"

He smirked. "I have a date."

A mock gasp, and an excited squeal. This was, in fact, quite an event. She'd known that Sasuke had always preferred to lead a solitary life. But dates were rare events that she heard about from Ino – to hear it from the man himself... was just another reminder that she was leaving Tokyo. He would never have told her in advance, but just waited for her to hear it from Ino.

The doors slid open and they stepped out into another level. There were makeup rooms and hair dressers on both sides of the narrow corridor it had opened onto – it could have belonged to a movie studio.

"Do I know her?"

A significant look, and a slight hesitation. "No."

Interests: To be created at agent's discretion.

A woman waved at her from down the hall, tapping her foot with impatience. "Miyako-san, this way please." Her name tag read, 'Aiko'. When Miyako was finally seated in the swivel chair, her hair doused in the solution and rolled up in curlers in the machine, and Sasuke settled in with a book, Aiko left them alone, her eyes passing with disapproval over the Uchiha.

"What is she like, this person?" She asked.

"Very bright. Intelligent. A bit silly."

"Is she pretty?" Miyako asked, picking up a magazine.

"I think so," Sasuke replied absent-mindedly as he turned the page. "Hey… do you remember when we first met?"

"At the… market, right?" She didn't need to say much else.

"I mean, after that. When you knew who I was."

"So … the camp."

Sasuke knew why she was hesitant – for her, Konoha's summer program held memories of long days spent with Team Gai, and then in later years, more specifically Neji after a particular incident.

"Don't think about him." Sasuke said, finally closing his book. "I don't want you to, not after..."

The façade dropped and she looked up at him with a sad smile. "Everyone knew about yesterday, right? I'm always the last to find out, I suppose…"

"Don't talk to me about him," he said quietly, his hand gripping his book tightly. "Everything else I can handle, but-"

"What are you talking about, Sasuke-kun?" Her voice had taken on a high, breathy tone that echoed one of a high schooler. Another avoidance, like always, she thought guiltily. Someone else's emotions were something she'd come to appreciate properly after years of being a spy (despite being surprised by Neji's, so long ago). They were malleable at times, but impenetrable as a fortress at others – she knew she'd been skirting around this kind of situation for the past year, but now that she'd actually seen Neji in the flesh... well, either way, it wasn't going to be a problem for much longer. "I think sitting here is very boring for you. Why don't you go and –"

"I'm fine, Inoue-san," Sasuke interrupted curtly.

"Sasuke-kun!" She said plaintively, as if injured. "How many times do I have to tell you? Call me Miya." She grinned, and he had to smile back as she held up two fingers, signifying victory.


15:10 October 30. Konoha Headquarters (Hair and Makeup department 2), Tokyo.

She had to admire him. As Tenten, and as Miyako. With the former, there had been boundaries on their relationship. Agents had to follow some kind of protocol when dealing with one another – one couldn't go asking personal questions in case of interrogation situations. If there was the smallest chance of a personal identification beyond the professional sphere, it spelled danger for everyone. With the latter, the only boundaries they had between them were those defined by social convention.

"Favourite movie? What have I watched recently… I liked The Sky Crawlers," Miyako said thoughtfully over her coffee. Sasuke arched an eyebrow at her.

"Really? I thought you would have liked something like Five Centimetres per Second. Or Hana and Alice."

"I liked them, too, but … The Sky Crawlers was more interesting." She paused again. "But I also liked The Longest Night in Shanghai."

"Never heard of it." He cocked his head to the side.

"It's about a famous Japanese makeup artist who goes to help out at the Shanghai Music Awards… and then he gets hit by a taxi driver while walking around at night. They end up spending the evening stuck together… thinking about their lives. I thought it was very interesting."

"A female taxi driver?"

Miyako laughed. "Yes."

"And a male make-up artist?"

A nod.

Sasuke rolled his eyes, and Miyako knew he was thinking about how sentimental girls could be. "So… what are your hobbies?"

"Ummm…" That was actually a hard question. She hadn't been on an honest date since… well, a long time. She hadn't honestly introduced herself to anyone since first entering the company, either. Even then, everyone had to keep some kind of secret to themselves."Swimming, reading, listening to music, watching movies… normal things. You?"

"I like to cook."

"What kinds of things?" She asked, genuinely interested.

"Everything. When you come home, I'll cook you dinner."

A lie. Probably. If this mission was a success, and she returned… this kind of thing would never be allowed to happen. You were with Neji for a long time, though, a voice in the back of her head said smugly. Is it that you don't want to be with him?

Miyako shook her head to clear her thoughts, and cleared her throat before answering carefully, "That sounds lovely, Sasuke-kun." A heavy moment passed, and she smiled, setting her coffee down on the table. She looked up at the clock. Within a few more minutes, Aiko would hopefully return to take her head out of the awkward contraption. "So… next question."

"Your first love."

She smiled. "Nee, Sasuke-kun! That's sly. You tell me yours first."

Sasuke smirked. "You're not getting out of that one easily."

"Let's see… there was a boy who lived at the orphanage," Miyako began. "And he was always picked on because his hair was a funny colour."

Orphans, it was statistically proven (apparently), made amazing secret agents. They had little to lose. Very little, in Tenten's case. She'd been too wrapped up in work and study to really make many friends in university. She hadn't really stood out in high school, and people hadn't paid much attention to her – she was the orphan girl everyone had picked on, anyway. She'd even once thought about the young Uchiha heir whose family had been assassinated, and wondered if he was lonely. Nothing much had changed. She had few friends and couldn't talk to anyone outside of work. In short, she was the model orphan, the complete opposite of Sasuke in many ways.

"And…?"

"That was it. I confessed to him once, on Valentines' Day. He never talked to me again." She paused, and smiled. "But that may have been because he was adopted." They broke into laughter for some inexplicable reason, and for not the first time, Miyako felt something pang painfully in her chest. She didn't like it – she knew what it was. Regret, to be leaving Tokyo now, of all times.

"That's not a good story."

She smiled and finished off the last of her coffee. "No, it isn't."

They fell silent and the tell tale click of stilettos against wooden floors heralded Aiko's return. They fell silent once more, and Aiko worked as briskly as she could, as if she couldn't wait to leave.


17:45 October 30, Tokyo Station, Marunouchi, Tokyo.

They were waiting around outside as they munched on bread – the stuff all university students were made of – from a convenience store. Miyako's hair fell in artificial ringlets, framing her face. They still smelled a bit like the treatments Aiko had put in her hair, and she wrinkled her nose in distaste.

"I think it suits you," Sasuke said, pushing his sunglasses up for a moment as if to assess her appearance. She didn't look a bit out of place.

"I think it makes me look a bit vain," Miyako sighed, slipping her sunglasses on. They both avoided talking about anything sensitive, but then she had a striking thought. "Hey, why are you here?"

The Uchiha pulled a face. "That's a stupid question. Why is anyone here?"

Miyako refrained from rolling her eyes. The people she associated with did tend to give incredibly idiotic answers to common sense questions. "I mean," she clarified, taking another bite out of the bread roll, "isn't it protocol for you to not be here to send me off?"

He shrugged. "It's just…"

Tenten cocked her head to the side and walked over towards him, her boots clacking against the pavement. "Why did you ask me this morning if I still liked apples?"

Sasuke shuffled around a bit, and finally met her eyes coolly. He was very practised at hiding his emotions, after all. "It doesn't matter anymore. Conversation filler. I get a kick out of making you squirm, remember?"

"I don't remember any Uchiha Sasuke being like that," Miyako replied, turning away and shaking her head. A tabloid magazine shouted at her from the corner of her eye, beginning with the words, 'Hyuuga Neji and-'

"Tenten?"

"Hmm?"

She turned to face Sasuke instinctively, and realised she'd been tricked as he smirked. "You're not ready."

Miyako took off her sunglasses and slipped them into her pocket so she could massage her temples. "I'm not focusing today…" she sighed. No sooner had the words left her mouth, Sasuke grabbed her wrist and pulled her into his arms, his lips finding hers with an almost disconcerting ease. Her eyes widened with surprise before sliding shut, and she could almost imagine … Amidst kissing him back, for some unknown reason, and her hands snaking up his back to reach habitually for long tresses that weren't there, she realised that he had been watching her for the past few years, but she had always been waiting for someone else's shadow. Tenten guiltily ran her fingers through his black locks and Sasuke pulled away, leaving her speechless and her eyes shadowed and downcast.

"I'm not asking for anything," he said quietly, pressing his forehead against hers. "I won't be a burden. For the past two years… no one else has expected more of myself than you. To everyone else, I'm still the traitor, but to you… I'm just like everyone else, but always in someone else's shadow. And I don't need that again. Not now, not ever." He pulled her close again, wrapping his arms around her and breathing in the scent of her hair. "You were right. What I want and what I've done... So, Tenten…"

Sasuke didn't need to finish the sentence, and Tenten smiled sadly, even though he couldn't see. This needed to be goodbye, for some time at least. Luckily, neither of them had a choice.

"Thank you," she whispered. She pulled away, and giggled a bit. "I don't know, maybe you can pull a Calico and redeem yourself while I'm gone."

He scoffed, dark eyes shining. "Ridiculous." He paused and took a deep breath, letting go of her hands. "You'll miss your train, Miya."

Miyako shook her head and took another step back, towards the entrance. "Yeah. Thanks for seeing me off, Sasuke-kun."

"… I'll see you around, then." Sasuke raised a hand.

"Yeah. Until next time," she waved.

"It might be… sooner than you think. Good luck."

She could only smile in response and turned around slowly before disappearing into the shadows of the train station. It wasn't until the doors were out of sight that she saw something that made her blood run cold. The different magazines and newspapers, at a news stand. All were sold out, but each cover remained in its place.

Exclusive Photos! Hyuuga Neji and His Mysterious Lover.

The 'Perfect Woman' for Hyuuga Neji?

Weekend Gossip Special: Hyuuga Neji and his Secret Girlfriend?

Photos taken from behind her, so her face was obscured – even hidden from the mirrors. There were a series of photos - their goodbye, in snapshots. Holding hands. A shared smile. His fingers running through her hair. A passionate kiss… and an aloof and familiar farewell. It was the final straw.

Without so much as a second glance, Miyako hurried to her platform, weaving throughout the ever-shifting crowds. There was a new feeling in her chest, bubbling up from within, until it spread to her fingertips and her scalp, and she knew it for what it was.

It was a mask, a complete transformation – a henge. Tenten was gone. She had to vanish.

It was joy, to be leaving Tokyo.