Akina had only just left Gai-san at the training fields and was now headed to her temporary apartment. She walked slowly, carefully, and kept her eyes open. Having grown up in a small village near the borders of Fire Country, Akina was not used to such a busy place.
Konoha was far larger than any village she had ever visited and it was easy to get lost here. It was also filled with shinobi, all of them moving so quickly and appearing so suddenly that they had startled her more than once. Despite having left her birth village, Akina was still a small-town girl at heart and this was far from what she was used to.
Still, she was grateful that after their… meeting… Kakashi-san and Gai-san had escorted her here, to Konoha. Though the large village gates and their guards were intimidating, they also ensured the safety of those inside. And, after what had happened to her on the way, it was quite possible that she needed that protection. A small shiver came over her at the memory and she quickly shook it off, instead focussing on the bright day and the lively village. She was safe here.
One of the masked shinobi appeared before her. She jumped slightly, surprised at the sudden appearance of the man. He stood still and silent before her, and she fought the urge to fidget under the man's intimidating countenance.
"Um… hi?" she tried, her voice only barely more than a whisper. The man behind the animal mask gave the barest inclination of his head before reaching out and grasping her arm.
Two of her agitated heartbeats later, she found herself outside of a large door. She blinked and waited while her heart re-learned its usual pace. A moment later the door opened and another masked ninja let her know, with the barest twitch of his hand that she was to enter.
Well, alright then.
Slightly nonplussed she entered the Hokage's office.
Whatever she had been expecting from a real-life Kage, the harsh, short-tempered blond woman wasn't it. Akina tried to answer the leader's questions truthfully and completely but the woman cutting her off with harsh challenges to her words made it a rather impossible conversation. In the end, the Godaime ordered her to be taken to someone called Morino for further questioning.
A bit baffled at the sudden situation and still rather intimidated by the woman's rough demeanor, she barely managed a protest: "But I haven't done anything wrong."
"Then you have nothing to worry about. Escort her down." The Hokage said curtly, waving at her guards.
"You were observed watching Gai train, more than once in the few days that you have been here." Morino Ibiki decided to start the interrogation with a direct confrontation in the hope that she would give something away. This Fukudo Akina had claimed to be a civilian with no real knowledge of any shinobi arts, besides her family's kekkai genkai. It wouldn't be difficult to put such a bold claim to the test. "It seems to me that you were trying to gain knowledge of his taijutsu."
She blinked for a moment, opened her just slightly as if she were to speak, before closing it again. Finally, she chuckled ruefully and shook her head helplessly; "I'm not even going to try."
Ibiki's face was stone cold; "Oh, but you are…" he told her silkily, stalking closer until just a few paces from the young woman in his clutches. "Tell me." he commanded as he took his own seat.
"No." She answered emphatically.
His eyes narrowed imperceptivity and he was readying himself for the next move when she went on and he realised that she wasn't refusing to talk but was instead answering his earlier question.
"I wasn't trying to spy on him." she gave that rueful chuckle again "I couldn't even if I wanted to. He is so darn fast that I cannot even see him move." her hands seemed to move on their own accord with her words and ended up helplessly held out on each side. The hint of embarrassment he could easily read from her face was quickly justified to herself "I am practically a civilian..."
He blinked, not used to the blatant honesty in her eyes, voice and posture.
Nowadays, Ibiki only personally dealt with the more dangerous, or most slippery of shinobi. His… guests… tried to lie, plead, threaten or deceive their way out of his 'care'. But in the end Ibiki always got the answers he came for, one way or another. Still when they gave in, some sooner than others, the answers usually came in either a hatefully spit-out sentences or a terrified babble. This 'conversation' was unnervingly different from any of that.
But Ibiki didn't let his surprise show on his face, he was too experienced to show that he was, just slightly, caught of guard.
Though he could sense no lies from her he tested her claim with a cold, disbelieving statement; "You defeated two Akatsuki members."
Her arms retreated to her body, and her posture became slightly hunched. He noticed a slight tremble in her clenched fists. Interesting. Was she afraid of being caught in a lie? Did she finally realise that this game they were playing could turn very deadly very fast? He leaned forward, invading her personal space, emphasizing the threat.
"Now how would a mere civilian manage to do so…?" His voice was silk over cold steel and he expected her to flinch away from him but instead she looked up to meet his eyes. Was she challenging him? He frowned inwardly but kept his face impassive on the outside. But no, her eyes held no challenge and the hint of fear that he could find there seemed not to be aimed at him. Hmmm…
"I am sure that Kakashi-san and Gai-san probably already told you." she said softly, her voice barely trembling. "I used my kekkai genkai, my family's techniques." He waited patiently as she took a deep, shuddering breath. "I didn't defeat them, I mean… not like that." She shook her head and he read frustration and fear but also a small amount of amusement in her posture. "You make it sound like I won some sort of great ninja battle!" she exclaimed, her amusement more pronounced.
Another sigh and helpless shrug of her shoulders; "If they wanted to kill me, I would have been dead." Ah. He could place her fear now; this was the origin, not him. He wasn't sure if he should be insulted. She wasn't afraid of him, but of the mere memory of facing Hidan and Kakuzu? He nearly snorted. From what he heard they hadn't even touched her. Hadn't even threatened her or looked her way twice.
She had taken them down in a sudden and immediate wave of earth attacks. The trees, the earth itself, even the leaves all instantaneously did their best to disable the two S-class nins. They hadn't even had a chance to react or dodge as she had nature attack them from each and every side.
And she had done all this without using any hand signs.
"If it hadn't been for Gai-san and Kakashi-san…"
He didn't hesitate to pursue her softly whispered sentence. As far as he knew those two hadn't done anything. Hell, before they even had a chance to engage in battle the two Akatsuki were already unconscious on the ground. "How did Gai and Kakashi help?"
She looked up, slightly startled, but did not hesitate to explain. "If they hadn't been there… I mean, if those missing nin had been focussed on me." she looked uncomfortable at the thought but managed to shake off her fear and continued; "As it was, their attention was fully focussed on the other shinobi. To them I was nothing. I was less than nothing. It's only logical; with Gai-san and Kakashi-san there I probably didn't seem like much of a threat." She snorted "They could probably smell my fear from where they were standing. If it wasn't for my mother teaching me about our family's gift…"
She looked him in the eye once more, and he was struck again by how open she was; her emotions, her thoughts, her very soul were right there for anyone to see. Then again, not everyone was able to read other humans as easily as he could. Still, it's a good thing she really isn't a ninja, he thought, powerful kekkai genkai or not. She wouldn't have been able to deceive even the most oblivious of nins.
"I didn't defeat them." She told him again, when he stayed silent and a rueful smile spread across her face. "It was just an 'Oh My God I Am Going To Die' survival instinct, fight or flight response."
Ibiki looked at her curiously "And you chose fight?" his voice was calm, matter-of-fact. But something felt off about this. Somehow flight seemed to fit the young woman in front of him far better. She seemed honest in her claim that she isn't a ninja, and the fear in her eyes at the thought of her encounter with the missing nin was real. So why choose to fight?
A shrug of the shoulders; "I could never outrun a shinobi."
He nearly laughed at the answer but managed to keep his composure. Yes, that was the obvious answer. And told with complete honesty and not even a tinge of embarrassment. He was so used to having to cut through layers and layers of lies, half-truths and arrogant silence that having her lay all her cards on the table without even the slightest worry about whether or not it was a winning hand was nothing short of amazing.
He had heard enough. Enough to know that she wasn't a spy or a nin. He had done his duty as head interrogator.
Still, he was curious.
"So why where you there, at the training field with Gai if you cannot even see his moves?"
She blinked and looked at him blankly. The sudden change of subject seemed to take her a moment to process but he could tell the moment she comprehended his question. She lowered her eyes and twisted her hands together in a nervous gesture. Inside he smirked. I wonder what this is about? He no longer thought she had any nefarious intentions towards his village. She would make a horrible spy; completely incapable of hiding her emotions. Besides, if she had ever been 'found' by any other group of ninja they would have either trained her as a nin, killed her for the slight threat she posed, or kept her for her bloodline. Sending her out as a spy would have been the last thing any enemy would have done. That would have been like wrapping her up with a ribbon and giving her as a present.
"Um…" she hedged. "Well. I don't know that many people in Konoha, so…"
Ibiki could not help but push; it was just too easy… "So you were watching Gai train? Even though you are not a ninja, and from what I can tell have no desire to ever become one and even though you could not even see the most interesting parts of his training…"
He suppressed a smile when she reacted with an overly defensive babble. "I wasn't really watching all the time. I brought a book. And lunch, we had lunch. There's nothing wrong with spending a little time outside on a beautiful day. And since I don't know Konoha that well, the training grounds were really just as good a place as any."
"Ah." He answered, and looked at her blankly, waiting to see if she would spill even more.
She frowned at him, an annoyed expression that did not seem to belong on her face.
Her frown deepened; "What?" she asked, self-consciously.
He made sure to answer in his most commanding, professional tone; "Nothing."
The hint of a grin was at his lips as she nodded in acquiescense and let her frown disappear, but he knew she did not know him well enough to see it.
Ibiki cleared his throat slightly and went in for the kill. "So you had lunch." Matter-of-factly
Her answering blush, the lowering of her eyes and the small nod made it difficult to keep his composure.
"On the training fields." he pressed
"You must have brought it with you."
Still a silent nod.
"You made lunch."
Her blush deepened. She didn't answer, her gaze fixed firmly on her shoes.
He calmly continued on; "You made lunch." he repeated, not waiting for her reaction this time. "And you ate it on the training fields."
A beat of silence.
"Yes!" she finally burst in frustration, her eyes finally snapping up to his own, her annoyance coupled with the embarrassed blush from earlier made her look ruffled and flushed. "Yes, I had lunch with Gai on the training fields." she answered, her previously soft-spoken voice suddenly taking on a louder quality.
Now this was what he was used to: pushing buttons until his victim finally broke and shouted out their confession. Ibiki sat back to enjoy the show.
"So what? What's wrong with having lunch? Everyone one has to eat! What's wrong with having lunch with Gai-san, huh? I practically don't know anyone else here and he's a nice and honest person."
She threw her hands in the air in a frustrated gesture and continued on with her rant; "It's not like I've ever been to a shinobi village before. And no sinobi ever came to our town so it's not like I've had any dealings with them before and suddenly there are these missing nin criminals who would have killed me. And Kakashi-san and Gai-san who brought me here and now I'm here in this huge village and a shinobi village to boot, where I don't know anyone besides these two ninja so forgive me for sticking with who I do know in strange and uncertain surroundings."
He patiently waited for her to take a few calming breaths before he verbally poked at her again: "Hmm… I didn't hear about you spending time with Kakashi." he dead-panned.
"…" She looked at him hesitatingly. "Kakashi-san… is a bit…"
He waved his hand, silently urging her to continue, curious as to what she would say about the silver-haired jounin. It was obvious to him that her spending time with Gai and not Kakashi had more to do with Gai than Kakashi (and isn't that a surprise?) but it seemed that she wanted to make it seem the other way around. A useless tactic, especially considering how utterly incapable she was in his field, but amusing none the less.
"Well… I mean, Kakashi-san… he's… I mean, a ninja, obviously… and… um… I don't know him that well, so…" she gave him such a helpless look that he nearly choked trying to keep his laughter in. No-one ever looks to him for help. She looked like a five year old caught by a teacher for not paying attention and therefore not knowing the answer to his question.
He decided to let her off the hook on trying to come up with a valid but not insulting reason why she didn't spend time with Kakashi and instead drew her attention back to Gai.
"So you don't like spending time with Kakashi…"
He ignored her interruption 'no, that's not what I…. I just don't…' and continued mercilessly "but you do like spending time with Gai."
This time he allowed her to stutter out her explanation.
"He… I… Not… just… I mean, Gai's a nice person… he's very honest and safe so I mean this village is a bit different to what I'm used to and with everything that has been happening it's nice that Gai-san is so um, constant."
"Yeah, he may be a bit enthusiastic." Ibiki raised an eyebrow at that understatement. "But he doesn't let fear or doubt or anything hold him back from doing what he wants. I just thought that by spending time with him, maybe I could get a little of that courage and then being so far away from everything and everyone I know in a big village wouldn't be scary anymore but an adventure. But until things are a bit more familiar I just like to borrow a little of that strength and confidence…"
She trailed of into silence and as the silence went on she started to fidget nervously.
Ibiki silently let her sweat it for a few minutes more.
"Well." his deep voice finally spoke out and his lips twitched when she immediately shot to attention. "We're done here."
He stood up and waited as she followed suit before walking confidently towards the door. A few steps from it he stopped and turned around, watching as she hastily scrambled back half a step to avoid colliding with him.
With no emotion whatsoever showing on his face he told her his conclusion "So you have crush on Gai."
For the first time in the whole interrogation she lied; "No!" she denied vehemently and she was an even worse liar than he thought she would be.
He allowed his disbelief to come through to his face. She didn't really think that he of all people would believe that?
Ibiki silently stared her down and it didn't take long for her to lower her eyes to the floor and look at her own, nervously shuffling feet.
A moment later and her clear green eyes were staring back at him again. "You won't tell him, will you?" she asked pleadingly.
"… he won't hear it from me." Ibiki answered, more matter-of-fact than reassuring, before turning around again.
She trailed behind him as they made their way through the bowels of the Hokage tower and passed the two ANBU stationed at the end of the T&I hallway.
They walked in silence until she finally broke it. "Thanks" She said, almost absentmindedly.
Ibiki remained silent for a long moment until he felt that his incredulity was successfully hidden "For what?" came his calm query.
She stopped for a moment as the question caught her off guard "Well…" she thought about it for a moment, as if trying to define her own thoughts, before turning to him with a bright smile when the answer apparently came to mind; "For talking to me, I guess. I feel better now." A small beat of silence and a shy smile "You're a good listener."
Ibiki couldn't hold it in any longer.
They made their way from the lower levels of the Hokage Tower back towards the surface; the large, imposing head of the T&I department chuckling freely in genuine mirth while a smaller female form rushed on behind him, trying to keep up with his larger strides with a confused look on her face.
A.N. I wrote the bulk of this story over a year ago and I came across this again recently. I think I was planning on turning this into a multi-chaptered story, but never found the inspiration to continue. I kind of like it, though, so now that I found it again I tried to brush it up a bit, added some parts and hope it will do as a one-shot…
Tell me what you think? I'm no expert on Naruto and its characters, so any feedback would be great!