Chapter 1: Here and Gone
"And your first thought was, I should keep her?" Sasuke asked incredulously after hearing Suigetsu's ridiculous story. It was their day off so everyone had gone their separate ways to eat, bathe, shop, or whatever they wanted to do. Suigetsu had wandered off to a hot spring and found himself in a strange situation as the new caretaker of a young girl.
"She was obviously abandoned," he protested. "What was I supposed to do?"
"Leave her!" Sasuke growled. "She'll only slow us down."
"Can you really say no to this face?" Suigetsu asked innocently, holding up the girl to his leader.
She was dressed in a t-shirt with a teddy bear on its front and her blonde hair reached her hips. Part of her hair was tied up into two buns, one on either side of her head. Her huge, childish eyes were a honey brown color that peered out from behind her bangs. The girl suddenly held out her arm with two fingers up in a peace sign and grinned.
"Please take care of me!" she said enthusiastically.
"No." Sasuke's answer was without hesitation as he scrunched his nose up in annoyance.
Suigetsu pulled the girl in and hugged her, leaning his cheek on hers. "Please?" they both begged in unison.
His leader's face turned into one of horror. "Don't get so close to her," he snapped. "That's practically child molestation."
The water ninja blinked. Sasuke's voice had a hint of something like… concern? He cared about the girl? Well, of course, it was natural for anyone to worry about a young child, but he didn't know if Sasuke was capable of such a thing anymore. "You take her, then," Suigetsu suggested slyly. "If you think I shouldn't watch over her, maybe you…"
"Hell no," he said flatly.
"What's going on here?" Karin asked, pushing her way through a thicket of thorny bushes to their camp. She hissed at the thorns that cut her thighs and arms, but froze instantly when she set her eyes upon the girl.
"She's mine," Suigetsu asserted instantly.
Karin snorted. "What are you talking about? I bet you stole her off the street. You should give her back to her parents," she reprimanded.
"Parents?" the girl repeated in confusion, tilting her head.
Suigetsu and Karin exchanged a glance. He placed the little girl on the ground and the two adults crouched in front of her. "What's your name?" Karin asked first.
"Maya-chan, where are your parents?"
Maya shook her head. "Not here."
"See," Suigetsu grinned triumphantly. "I found her in the hot spring. The owner said she didn't see anyone go in with kids, so the girl was probably lost. But Maya-chan told me to take her home."
"Didn't she mean her home?" Karin retorted skeptically.
Maya shook her head vigorously. "No! I felt his strength," she told them earnestly, turning her eyes to Sasuke. The Uchiha boy stared at her out of the corner of his eye, not amused. "I could smell his strength on Suigetsu."
"A type of tracker?" Karin wondered aloud.
None of them could understand what Maya meant, but she just stood there pulling on her teddy bear t-shirt and smiling innocently as if what she said made perfect sense. Sasuke pretended to be uninterested, but quietly kept his distance and listened to them continue asking her questions.
"Are you an orphan, then?"
The water ninja cast a glance at Karin, then asked, "Are they dead?"
"No." She stared him in the eyes, almost making him uneasy. "I just want to stay with you. Can I?"
"Come on, Sasuke," Karin called to him, standing up. She brushed off her knees and went to confront him. "It's not like she has anywhere to go. And maybe that 'smelling your strength' deal is some sort of tracking that she's not aware of yet. She might be useful."
"She's a child," Sasuke said without taking his eyes off the fire he was starting. "She will slow us down no matter what."
A small pop sounded and suddenly a puff of smoke appeared where Maya had been. Karin's eyes went huge. "Sui, what did you do?" she shouted, rushing over.
Suigetsu was coughing and backing up, yelling back, "I didn't do anything! She was watching you guys talk and then this!"
Unable to control his curiosity, Sasuke turned around and blew the smoke away, revealing a small squirrel-like animal crawling out from Maya's teddy bear shirt. It chattered for a second and then Maya's voice came from its mouth.
"See?" the squirrel exclaimed. "I won't slow you down! Please, take me with you."
For the first time in a while, Sasuke was surprised, but he didn't let it show. He looked down at her in contempt. "Why are you willing to go so far?"
"I've never met anyone with your scent," Maya sighed happily. "I want to stay close to you." She vanished for a second, reappearing on his shoulder, burrowing her nose into his neck. "Please."
Sasuke picked her off his shoulder and if she were a dirty rag. "If you become a burden, I won't hesitate to kill you." With that, he dropped her to the ground, and she changed back into herself with a satisfied smile on her face.
"Maya-chan!" Karin shrieked, attacking her with the teddy bear t-shirt. "Don't let that pervert see you naked!"
"Who?" She blinked at Karin's flustered face, a little dazed. Being so close to Sasuke, his strength had overpowered her senses. Maya's mind was in a fog and Karin's panic barely got through to her. The older woman sighed, pushing her black bangs back.
"Never mind. Just come sleep with me for tonight. As soon as Jugo gets back, we're going on the move again."
"Oh." Maya got to her feet. "He's in the market, looking for food. Maybe you should go help him."
How could a child who was ten at most know something like that? She'd have to have the byakugan to let her see something like that, but her honey brown eyes were nothing like a Hyuga's. That coupled with the strange things she'd already said…
"What are you?" The words left Karin's mouth before she had a chance to think them over. She clapped her hands over her mouth, ready to apologize, but Maya just gave her a look.
"A demon," she answered simply with a twinkle in her eyes.
About an hour later, Jugo returned with a bag of bread rolls with several in his arms, one in his mouth, and another in his hand. The three of them gathered around a fire all gave him a long stare, to which he replied with a muffled, "What? I was hungry."
"Maya and I made onigiri," said Karin. "Those rolls are dry in comparison to the delicious food we made."
"…I like bread rolls," Jugo responded resolutely.
Suigetsu chuckled, but Karin just shrugged and moved closer to Sasuke, using the excuse of making room for Jugo to sit in a way that allowed her to be right up against him. The Uchiha hardly seemed to realize what had happened, being lost in thought.
"What's with him?" Jugo muttered under his breath to Suigetsu.
The water ninja made a face. "I picked up a strange girl," he said quietly. "It turns out, she's a demon with an affinity for Sasuke's scent."
Jugo raised an eyebrow. "His scent?"
He shrugged. "Supposedly she can smell strength. She really likes his, I guess."
Suigetsu's expression was almost pouty, making Jugo believe that he was jealous of the girl's attraction to Sasuke. What the large man was more surprised about was Karin's passiveness. She seemed rather docile, calmly sitting next to Sasuke without sneaking glances at him.
"What is she like?" Jugo asked, referring to the girl. Suigetsu jerked a thumb over his shoulder to a lump behind the log they were sitting on. He twisted around but couldn't see very much. He looked back at the water ninja, confused. "It's a pile of blankets."
He shook his head. "She's under them."
Jugo's eyes widened. "That small?"
Suigetsu met his gaze. "Maya is a child," he explained. "Probably younger than most academy students."
"A demon, huh…"
Karin suddenly stood up and put her hands on her hips, facing the three men she travelled with. Only Sasuke didn't look up, but she didn't care, as long as he listened. "We're going to take her with us until we can find someone to trust her with," she announced. "That's the best course of action. Even if she is a demon, Maya is a child. And we can't just drop her on someone's doorstep. Agreed?"
"Well," the water ninja started, "I would really like to keep her, but I guess you're right."
Jugo just shrugged.
Sasuke remained silent, fingers laced together and face hidden. Then after a few moments, he said, "No."
Shock played out on everyone's faces.
"What?" Karin gasped in a shrill voice.
He sent a glare her way. "A demon child who can transform, sense abilities, and is already a loyal follower—we can't just toss it away."
A quick twitch of Suigetsu's eyebrow let Karin know he was just as appalled at hearing him talk about Maya as if she was an object. Jugo was still uncertain on the issue since he hadn't even met the girl yet, but he felt something unnatural in the way Sasuke spoke. Normally people would want to protect young children, but he seemed to be thinking of how she could help him in his quest for revenge.
Karin felt a pang of guilt that she was keeping another of Maya's skills from her leader. The girl had sensed Jugo's position and actions without ever having met him before. Maya probably didn't even realize that these were not normal things, and there might even be more, but if Karin went along with Sasuke, there was no telling how he'd use the demon girl. As much as she loved him, some protective, motherly side kept her mouth shut.
"You're saying you want to use her?" Suigetsu clarified, a challenging tone to his voice. "Whatever you say about her powers, she's still not even at genin level."
Sasuke shot him a look. "Levels mean nothing when it comes to power," he said firmly.
"If she's helpful, what's the problem with keeping her?" Jugo interjected, honestly confused about his teammates' hesitance. They had joined Sasuke in the first place because they admired his power and he helped them get stronger, as well. Except for Karin; she probably just wanted to be with him. Which made her objection even stranger.
Biting her lip, Karin looked away. They were both right. Sasuke knew more about child prodigies than the rest of them. He probably understood that power like hers was best put to use before anyone else could use it. "She is extremely useful," she grudgingly admitted.
Their leader nodded. "As long as we test it out over the next few days and it doesn't slow us down, we'll keep it." He purposefully looked at Suigetsu. "Just like you wanted." With that, he stood up and walked off somewhere to sleep.
In his wake, he left an annoyed Suigetsu, a guilty Karin, and a clueless Jugo.
Morning snuck up on Suigetsu, as he was the last to wake up. The rest were nearly finished packing what few belongings they had, mostly weapons and scrolls. Nothing sentimental. With a groan, the water ninja pulled himself upright, feeling an unexpected movement by his feet. Curled up against his leg was a lump of blankets. For a second, he wondered when he'd become such a fitful sleeper, but then two blonde buns popped out, followed by a head covered in hair.
He stifled a laugh at the messy look Maya had acquired in her sleep, almost dying of the cuteness as she rubbed her eyes and yawned.
"Where…?" the demon child mumbled sleepily, twisting her head around slowly. She caught sight of Sasuke's back and her eyes lit up, evoking an unknown feeling in Suigetsu.
"You're here, with me," he suddenly found himself saying. "We decided that it would be alright for you to travel with us if you lend us your skills and don't slow us down."
"Mm," she mumbled, yawning again. "That's okay, I just want to be near him."
Maya didn't have to point out who she was talking about because they already knew who she liked the most. Overhearing them, Karin also felt a pang of jealousy, but for a different reason. That girl may be a harmless child; however, she was a demon child, and could not be trusted around her Sasuke.
In a puff of smoke, Maya had turned herself into the squirrel-like creature again and scurried across the camp, up Sasuke's leg, and buried herself in his sash, where she sighed and closed her eyes. The Uchiha stared in disgust for a moment before choosing to ignore her. He turned to the others and said, "We're leaving."
They ran in silence for a while until Maya started chattering in that squirrely voice. The others couldn't hear, but Sasuke slowed down a bit, then stopped completely and threw a kunai over his shoulder. The tag on it allowed him to appear where it had been thrown which was a tree where an unknown ninja was hiding. Suigetsu stumbled at the sudden actions of his leader, but he briefly saw Sasuke kill a man before returning to their side.
He had a hint of a smirk on his lips.
"What was that?" Jugo inquired.
"The demon girl sensed someone following us," he replied shortly.
So you kill him? Suigetsu thought, deadpanning.
"Was that necessary?" Karin wondered, voicing her teammate's thoughts. But the glower that Sasuke gave her was enough to clamp her mouth shut. Jugo ran in the area between Sasuke and his other two teammates who had unintentionally started running side by side. They sent each other distasteful looks but they knew that there was something more pressing to discuss.
The true reason they were concerned for the demon child was because of the person they were setting out to find.
With Maya's attachment to Sasuke and ability to transform, it was possible that she'd head into battle with him, and something in the both of them cringed at the idea of that adorable little girl being killed, demon or not. But they didn't have time to think about her much. As soon as they approached the next town, Sasuke ordered them to go search for information on Itachi and disappeared. It took them a moment to realize that he still had Maya in his robes.
"Did he just…?" Karin blinked in the direction he'd gone.
Suigetsu shrugged. "She'll be safe with him, probably," he reasoned. "Anyway, forget that. Let's enjoy this!" A sly grin appeared on his face. He loved asking people about Itachi, especially if they didn't feel like talking. The three ninjas spread out.
On the outskirts of town, a disturbance woke Maya from her sleep. The heavy aroma of Sasuke all around her had relaxed her to the point where she had dozed off, but his movement had become so jerky that she was shaken awake. An unfamiliar voice, followed by several explosions, started giving her a headache. Sasuke's enemy had a pungent smell, but far worse was another scent, watching from somewhere nearby. It made her want to gag.
Maya poked her head out in order to get fresh air, but was immediately greeted by a cloud of rising dust. Her coughing notified Sasuke that she was finally up.
"Shit," she heard him growl through clenched teeth. "Stay out of this."
Unconcerned with his warning, Maya watched as he performed a genjutsu in order to trick his opponent into thinking he was killed. She watched the way his clay explosions worked, looking at the colors they made.
"Chidori," she muttered.
"What?" Sasuke hissed.
"Uh." Maya felt her fur heat up. If she were human, she would've been blushing. She hadn't meant to look so deep into him, but now that she'd spoken up and with danger coming their way, she started talking faster. "Use Chidori on yourself—it'll cancel out the wood!"
Without hesitation, Sasuke drove Chidori into his body as explosives attached to him and went off. They were canceled, allowing him to use another genjutsu. He appeared behind the blonde haired enemy and shoved a hand through his back. "Too slow," he panted, barely controlling his shaking. Maya could feel the slight tremors through his body and sensed his uneasiness. She wasn't sure of the reason, though, because she could also feel his confidence in the fight.
The man turned into clay—another explosive.
"Sasuke," Maya whimpered.
"It's fine," he said to her, and the shockwave of an explosive blocked all of her senses for a moment. She didn't know what was happening until he was on ground facing the blonde ninja.
"That's what I hate about you two! Those smug eyes! You think you're better than everyone else! Those eyes ignore the beauty of my creations!" the man was shouting when her surroundings became clear again. He huffed with the effort of his screaming.
"I could care less about all that," Sasuke replied. "Now tell me where Itachi is!"
Insulted, his eyes changed to fury. As he stood, the opponent ripped his shirt off to reveal black markings on his chest. They were like stiches that he pulled on and suddenly his chest opened. She could feel the quickening of Sasuke's heartbeat, but it wasn't from fear, just alertness. The man pulled something from his chest and grinned maniacally.
"My greatest creation… Self-destruction! The greatest art of all that will make scars this earth has never seen!" A breath as the black marking grew across his skin. "And you… will die! The blast will cover over ten kilometers. I'd like to see you try and escape! Now show me your fear! Cry like a child and drown in your despair, because my art… is a bang!"
The pressure in the air was building. She could feel its power smothering even Sasuke's warm scent, and in a fit of panic, Maya curled herself into a ball. Please get us out of here, she begged. Let's leave, Sasuke. I don't want to…
A strong force pulled them both backward and in a flash, they were compressed. It felt like they were being shot across the universe and once they crash-landed, they were unfolded. Without realizing it, Maya had transformed back into her human self and found that she was naked on the ground somewhere on the edges of the forest they were in moments ago.
"Sa…" She tried to say his name, but her voice didn't work properly. Sasuke's scent wasn't close enough—he had been sent somewhere else. The world was shimmering before her eyes, leaving her feeling not only exposed, but helpless as well.
"I want…" Before the sentence could be finished, she felt herself wrapped in warmth. A cloth had been draped over her and new voices came from too many directions. Her mind was too foggy, like when that explosive had come too close and blocked her senses for a bit. Strangely, she could taste the scents around her; they were almost like sunshine, but there was one that had a foul taste that sort of reminded her of someone.
Not of her own accord, Maya felt herself move towards the unusual scent. Her world cleared instantly and she found herself looking into the shocked blue eyes of a jinchuuriki.
"Oh," she smiled, touching his whiskers with her hand. "That's why I like you." Her world went black before she could add, But I like Sasuke better.
AN: The first few chapters will seem to move a little fast because I've squished a couple chapters together for the sake of more consistent length (because later on the chapters get longer and these were really short in comparison), but things do move fast when you're travelling with Sasuke Uchiha. ;P Please read on and let me know how it is. :D As a little sidenote, the title's origin is from this phrase: Real eyes realize real lies.