Yahoooo. So I had this idea, and decided it would be interesting to share!

That, and who watched Naruto 296? MITO APPEARED! Happy moment. Besides that, I have been SO busy this weekend, and any writing done was my terrible procrastination habits working their evil ways through. I haven't had my weekly dose of Fairy Tail OR Psycho-Pass... =3= (I barely managed to sneak Naruto in...) I realized that there were new chapters of both OPM and Oresama Teacher...gahhhh. Too much stuffff.

Anyway, here's the story!

Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto, because I totally would not have thought of ingeniously placing pictures of Grandpa Hashi, Great-uncle Tobi, Nawaki, and Dan in Tsunade's room. Yes. Naruto SD ftw. asdfghasdfjghasdf Nawaki and Tobirama looked SO cute.

As promised, something less depressing, and more lighthearted! :)

(I can't help but lapse into sad parts, sometimes, so sorry for that...get's better though, I promise!)


Chapter 29: Koharu - To be an Actress

The jingle of two bells, swinging from delicate red strings, was immediately picked up by keen ears. Determined eyes locked on the form of the great Tobirama, casually leaning against the doorframe of a shop, chatting with the grocer.

Observations:

His hands are in his pockets - extra millisecond of time to steal bells before he moves/draws weapons.

Bells are hung on belt, right next to pockets - minus one millisecond.

His back is to us - extra millisecond.

He's talking to someone - extra millisecond.

He knows we're watching - minus one millisecond.

Homura is positioned above doorframe, presence undetected as of yet - extra millisecond.

Koharu and Hiruzen are upwind of sensei - extra millisecond, maybe.

Hiruzen's new shoes are squeaky - minus two seconds.

Homura breathes loudly when nervous - minus two more seconds.

Koharu is distracted - minus one second.

Koharu is not distracted anymore - plus one second.

Oh look, there's Mariko-san - plus three seconds (of course). Thank you, Mariko-san.

"Three, two, one," Hiruzen said under his breath. A quick flick of his wrist, two fingers signaling in the air, and the three converged on their sensei. Teamwork was a go, but not quite fast enough.

"You three aren't in sync!" Tobirama threw them all off, chucking a bundle of asparagus at Homura above, rolling a shopping cart towards Koharu, and thirdly a disastrously plump tomato at Hiruzen. Hiruzen, luckily, managed to duck, but lo and behold, the red produce hit Biwako right in the face. She had only wanted to ask Hiruzen something, but no, fifteen-year-old boys don't listen to anything girls say. They just nod, nod some more, fail to comprehend (most of the time), and walk away. This time, Hiruzen ducked and let a tomato hit a girl's face. Oh, Hiruzen, the things you must learn.

"See that?" Tobirama accused. "You didn't even know Biwako was behind you!"

This sent Hiruzen into a flurry of apologies, while Biwako claimed she was fine, slopping the tomato mush from her face whilst remaining dignified. Hiruzen offered a napkin, which she gratefully accepted (and then returned to him upon finishing with it, to his dismay), and walked away proudly.

Atta girl, thought Koharu triumphantly. However, then she turned, and Tobirama was glaring at all three of them. They had been trying now, for three days in a row, to get the bells. The first time ever, they'd been useless, noisy genin who only argued, but somehow passed at the end, with Hiruzen tied to a post and stomachs growling all around. This time, they were determined to actually get the bells.

"Same time, tomorrow. Starts at 8:00am sharp," Tobirama told them. "Same as we've been doing, you have the whole day till sundown to get the bells."

Team Tobirama sighed dejectedly, gathering in a dejected circle and staring at the sun dipping below the tops of Konoha's buildings. The sun perfectly framed the Hokage Tower as it descended, and it was a magnificent sight, but no one except Mariko was admiring it. Poor Mariko. She was admiring the sun, Team Tobirama sulked, Biwako ran to one of the Nara girls venting in frustrated tears, and Tobirama himself was admiring his wife. No big deal. She wanted to say something like "wow, so beautiful", to which Tobirama would answer "yes, you are", but she decided it was far too corny, and that she would burst out giggling should her husband answer like that. And he would look at her funny.

"We need a new battle plan," Homura stated flatly. "And it's not another plot, position, and attack together plan. We need something different, something more creative."

"I agree. Should we work in separate segments, somehow?" Koharu said.

"Guys, guys, I think I just hit Biwako in the face with a tomato," Hiruzen cried.

"Shut up, Hiruzen, she doesn't really care that you're stupid," Koharu snapped, before turning back to Homura. "Any ideas?"

"Um. Not really, sorry." The genius Homura paused, then, contemplating as deeply as a Nara would, but his mind strayed to the fact that he'd missed lunch, and was now thinking like an Akimichi.

"Hiruzen, get it together. Plans?" Koharu kicked Hiruzen's shin, Hiruzen yelped, and then he finally focused on the nonexistent plan. He glanced around the area, and caught site of his sensei, who was currently tucking the bells into his pocket for safekeeping until the morrow, the other arm slung around his precious little blunette.

Light bulb, Hiruzen sang inwardly. Well actually, he said it aloud, as his two teammates stared at him exasperatedly.

"Good to know your brain works," Koharu deadpanned. "Whaddaya got?"

"Awesomeness."


Surprisingly, Hiruzen's plan was quite good. It started out at 8:00, with the team pretending to formulate a plan somewhat near Tobirama, who was running yet another silly errand for Mito. Team Tobirama nearly ran into Uchiha Izuna—well, it was the other way around, really—but Izuna was quite friendly and asked them how their day was going. It was going well, so far, so Izuna continued on his way. Why a blind man was walking around Konoha without an escort—namely, his brother—was beyond the three, but they let the Uchiha be.

This was explained shortly after, seeing as Madara came tearing down the street, scaring the bejesus out of the poor Leaf citizens. Sometime down the avenue, he roared,

"IZUNA!"

And everyone flinched. But Team Tobirama secretly giggled and continued their plan.

Tobirama is at the ramen shop. Okay. Team Tobirama positioned at the barbecue restaurant, outdoor seating, having lunch, across from the ramen shop.

"Seriously, guys, he knows we're here," Hiruzen said in a half-whisper, half-urgent voice. (This, too, was part of their act.)

"Guys, we'll definitely get him today," Koharu stated firmly. "He can't escape this one. Okay, so, Homura, when you're at the vending stall…"

A few minutes later, and a clone of Hiruzen transformed into Koharu's mom happened to stop by.

"Ah, Koharu dear, I've been looking for you everywhere!" Hiruzen made a surprisingly accurate imitation of Koharu's mother. "Can you please pick up some of the take-out I ordered today? It'll be ready around 2:30. I have to make a sale downtown, you know, that ugly apartment I showed you?"

Koharu's mother, a former kunoichi retired into civilian life, was now a well-to-do real estate agent. Koharu agreed to her "mother's" request, and Hiruzen-as-Mom walked away contently.

And they were sure that Tobirama heard them.

Tobirama, now, was sure that their plan would now have to revolve around that time—either because Koharu wouldn't be there, or because they had something planned. Between the former and the latter explanation, Tobirama had still to figure out.


2:30 rolled around quickly, and the plan commenced. Beforehand, Team Tobirama had carefully scrutinized Mariko's schedule that day—she was on a shopping spree with her girlfriends, and was not scheduled to be back until dinner. That, and the newly remodeled and extended Konoha shopping center was as far away from the Ninja Academy as possible (not that Hashirama hadn't planned in advance for kids like Shiro and Hiruzen, or anything, but he prided himself on his ability to foresee such potential hazards).

They had also employed the help of Aki to alert them, should Mariko suddenly appear.

Why? Simply because the plan involving Koharu transforming via Henge into Mariko, getting within close proximity of Tobirama, and while their sensei was preoccupied with Hiruzen and Homura tracking him, she would snatch the bells quickly and make her escape. Plan executed.

Hopefully, it would all go smoothly. Tobirama had no idea what Mariko was doing that day, only that she was hanging out with friends for an unspecified period of time. Appearing in the afternoon was perfectly normal. Poor Koharu had had an inner debate with herself, one half of her mentally protesting fiercely while the other end squealing with delight. What was she thinking?! It wasn't like Tobirama would really do anything to her besides talk, right? By then, most of their generation knew that Koharu had a sort-of, maybe, itsy-bitsy teeny-weeny crush on Tobirama. The infamous "Sensei-crush", it was called. Many girls had it, and they often met together to discuss random topics involving their hot teachers. Top secret information.

Anyway, by most of their generation, one should take notice that "most" did not include the ignorant, such as Hiruzen. Again, hopefully, this would not make any unforeseen bumps in the road…or so Homura prayed.

"You must give off unrealistic amounts of cute," coached Hiruzen. Koharu looked at him dubiously, eyebrows knitted. "I'm serious."

"You're serious," echoed Koharu, "but what is that supposed to mean?"

"Well, given that Mariko-san can kill a man with the amount of cuteness she emits, it is important that you try to create that level of cuteness," explained Hiruzen, as if it made the most sense in the world.

"And?" Koharu waved him on.

"Don't get nervous, he means," cut in Homura, sighing, "and act as in-character as possible."

"You didn't need to tell me that, Brains," Koharu snapped. Unknown to the two others, she had thought long and hard about her role-playing job last night. She recalled as many instances of Mariko that she could remember clearly, thought of typical body language, voice articulation, etc.

"Good luck, soldier." Hiruzen saluted ridiculously at Koharu, who made a face but lamely saluted back quickly. After all, they were a team, and even if Hiruzen could be arrogant, sometimes smart, but mostly stupid, she was subject to his friendly demeanor and cheerfulness. Sometimes, it was hard to refuse his kindness; she would never admit it, but if he tried, Hiruzen was charismatic, caring, and enjoyable to be around. But, she would never admit it, until his death many decades later, and only then, it was to Homura, who sipped his tea solemnly after the funeral reception. Homura, of course, had always known. They loved Hiruzen with all their hearts.

"Gah! There he is!" hissed Hiruzen, now, and their plan rolled into action.

They waited a good amount of time so that nothing was suspicious, and Koharu disappeared on her "mother's" assigned task, looping around downtown Konoha to reappear at the southern end of the market road, as Mariko. Homura and Hiruzen positioned themselves accordingly, knowing full well that one Wednesdays, Tobirama always stopped at the baker's special offer market stand to get something for the family. The fake plan they'd discussed earlier, with Homura waiting at the "vendor" fit perfectly, seeing as they'd placed Homura subtly disguised a few stands down.

"Ah, Tobirama-sama! Back again?" said the cheerful old man with the funky, curly mustache that the kids loved. He had an interesting accent, somewhat Grass Country, but also with the snippy lilt of Kirigakure. There was an entire conspiracy that he was really a crazy Kiri nin come to kill them all. Then again, that was the conspiracy behind everything, from Shiro getting a cold, to Aki dropping a penny, and from Koharu's time of the month to Mito losing her hairbrush (which was quite catastrophic, by the way). So, the idea of crazy Kiri nin killing people was out of the question…or was it?

"I am, Mr. Mill. How are you and your wife?" Tobirama conversed amicably.

"We are well, good boy, we are well," chuckled Mr. Mill. He produced a few specialty cakes, breads, pastries, and plenty of other delicious articles he somehow fit behind his stand.

"How are the kids? And grandkids, I hear?"

"They are doing very well, my boys are. And I have a beautiful grandson, Hiruko." Mr. Mill smiled and nodded, seemingly distracted by his happy family thoughts. He quickly returned to Konoha, however, and asked, "What would you like today, my boy?"

"Whatever you recommend," Tobirama answered simply.

"Same answer as usual," Mr. Mill said, "Never any favorites?"

"They're all our favorites," laughed Tobirama pleasantly.

Cue, "Mariko".

Observations:

Tobirama notices "Mariko" right away - plus 1 point.

Homura's fake mustache is itchy - minus 1 point.

No, Homura is not dressed up as Mr. Mill - no points.

Tobirama's eye flickered to his upper right, he has spotted Hiruzen laying under a tarp on an under-construction building's roof - minus 1 point.

However, he is again distracted by "Mariko" - plus 1 point.

Homura sneezed - minus 1/2 a point.

"Mariko" is within contact distance of Tobirama - plus 1 point.

"Ah, Mariko, you know Mr. Mill," Tobirama said, suspecting nothing at first. Inwardly, he was trying to decipher the meaning of his team's actions. At the current moment, he had no idea where Koharu was, but then again, she had always been better at concealing her presence. He looked harder. Hiruzen was easy; the tarp was shifting. Homura, too, was far to noticeable, seeing as he sneezed rather characteristically, and that sneeze just now gave him away.

They intend on jumping me again, Tobirama thought with a snigger to himself. How many times do they have to do that to figure out it doesn't work? It's the same as yesterday.

"Yes, we love your cakes and stuff," Koharu said. She smiled sweetly, and tried not to let her blush show through when Tobirama beamed fondly down at her. She also tried extremely hard not to squeak when Tobirama's left hand came down to rest on her shoulders, fingers slipping to the nape of her neck and running through her currently blue hair.

Calm down, nothing's happening, relax, relax Koharu, she told herself sternly. Her shoulders remained loose and confident, and she sidled closer to Tobirama to seem more comfortable. Her main concerns included blowing up and blowing out the jutsu, revealing herself to Tobirama—earning a bewildered expression in the process—or Tobirama secretly knowing, and toying with her just for giggles.

When Tobirama paid for the wrapped goodies that Mr. Mill packaged up for them, his hand moved to the small of "Mariko's" back to guide her through the town center.

"I think you'll like this one," he commented.

"Why?" she asked coyly.

"It's a surprise," he said, smiling. She hadn't seen the cake that Mr. Mill had chosen. Meanwhile, the back of his head registered and Homura and Hiruzen were tailing him. Where was Koharu? He had to suppose that he was moving in a predicted direction, and that Koharu was lying in wait.

"Tell me," Koharu insisted. She was surprised that her voice remained so smooth and natural. She'd nearly purred that last line out, shocking herself. Her friends would giggle and tell her that she was more seductive than she presumed. And then, Koharu proceeded to scream at herself in her head, her inner self flailing violently at just the ideas that began popping around.

"You'll have to wait and see," Tobirama answered, his voice dropping to a lower, huskier tone. Koharu nearly died, then, and only her kunoichi's survival instincts kept her from fainting on the spot. Her gut pulled her back to her senses; Don't think, just act, don't think, just act. Words that didn't really go together, but still, it was working for her.

Tobirama noted the furtive glances that Mariko was throwing towards him, and was wondering if she had something in mind. He also kept in mind that Homura had switched outfits just now, and was weaving through connected stores in different outfits, pausing at random intervals. Hiruzen, on the other hand, was holding the steady trail, maintaining his cautious distance from Tobirama.

"Do you think Mito would like me to buy something at the local deli today?" Tobirama commented.

"Well, did she mention anything about it?" answered "Mariko".

"I'm sure she'll just yell at me later," muttered Tobirama. "Anyway, I have to go check on some problems at the Akimichi place, so I'll see you later."

"Okay—" Koharu nearly choked on the end of her words, because Tobirama had leaned down to kiss her. His lips were nearly on hers, and she began to panic. Behind her, Homura and Hiruzen nearly freaked out because Koharu had frozen abruptly.

The bells! Koharu thought frantically. Her hand casually lifted towards Tobirama's waist as he came closer. His lips were so close, she could feel his breath tickling her chin, and their noses nearly brushed. Her hand reached for the bells…

Tobirama smoothly changed path from lips to her right ear, passing up the kiss to whisper in her ear:

"I found you, Koharu."

At that moment, his right hand slapped away the hungry fingers reaching for the tempting bells, which jingled lightly at the movement. Tobirama leapt away quickly, taking a light perch on top of a store roof. Koharu, still transformed as Mariko, stared at him, mouth slightly agape. When the Henge dispersed, leaving Koharu as herself standing in shock, jostled back and forth by afternoon market goers, Tobirama smirked.

"Not bad, guys," he called. "That plan was quite impressive, you almost had me."

"DANG IT!" yelled Hiruzen, leaping from his cover and dashing at Tobirama. He made an effort to get the bells, but those efforts proved fruitless. The white-haired Senju easily dodged and hopped away casually, throwing a few warning kunai at Homura, who sneezed through his fake mustache again.

"HOW DID YOU KNOW?!" continued Hiruzen, picking up kunai and throwing them back. Tobirama grinned.

"Mariko usually picks up faster than that, sorry," he laughed, waving nonchalantly before skillfully blending into the crowd as they entered the busiest portion of town.

Koharu ran to the nearest alley and sat down, curled up in a ball, and hid her face so that no one would see her blush.


"Um. What did you guys do to her?" demanded Biwako. The sharp snap in her voice made Hiruzen shift uncomfortably, partially because he was still worried about the tomato thing.

"Well, we made her…" Homura went on to explain their bell test strategy, and Biwako made a face. Kagami sniggered, earning a threatening dozen of shuriken aimed at his face from Koharu's weapon pouch, while Shiro shook his head. Surprisingly enough, Aki sighed and Torifu munched on some potato chips (which he offered, but Koharu declined politely).

She must be really embarrassed to turn down these chips, Torifu thought vaguely.

"C'mon, Koharu, cheer up! Our plan failed, so what?" Hiruzen tried. He failed however, to see the real cause of Koharu's unhappiness.

"You're an idiot," one of Koharu's friends told him bluntly.

"Whaddaya mean? Hey, Koharu, it wasn't that bad, right? He even said it was a good plan—"

Koharu reached up and slapped Hiruzen across the face harshly before tucking herself back into her position, knees drawn to her chest, head down, arms wrapped around her body.

"Che. Stupid," Danzo muttered.

"Wait, am I missing something?" Hiruzen glanced around questioningly. Everyone groaned at his ignorance.

"Yes," answered Biwako. "You're missing everything."

"Help?" Hiruzen turned to Homura.

"Can't help you here," Homura said. He received a quick glare from Koharu, who had sworn him to eternal secrecy on the touchy subject of girls' crushes. He himself had never said a word, she knew, but news of crushes, no matter how subtle, circulated around the girls without fail. Gossipy girls, too. It didn't matter though, because at the moment, the idiot was not Homura, it was Hiruzen, who was still trying to figure out what happened.

"Wait, wait, did I do something wrong? Did Tobirama-sensei do something wrong?"

Another slap to the face.

"Ow, Koharu…"

"If you don't shut up, I'm going to turn your face into something unrecognizable," the girl growled. Team Toka backed away slowly, as did Biwako's trio.

"This shall be your homework for the weekend," sighed Homura, pushing his glasses up his nose and wiping a bead of sweat off his brow.

"Wait, Homura, wha—"


"You know, Koharu, I always wondered why you acted funny around Tobirama-sensei." A glance at the four portraits on the wall, three of the four subjects deceased, the third sitting on the old couch fondly visiting nostalgic moments in life.

"And you never figured it out," she answered, "did you?"

"You had a crush on him, didn't you?"

"I'm surprised you didn't pick up on it sooner."

"But Homura, you did, right?"

"I was sworn to secrecy." A dry chuckle.

"Those were good days," she said softly.


Three months later, Tobirama and his brother would return to take their beloved Hiruzen to the afterlife. Death by student using your teachers—how terrible.


"I'm home!" sang a familiar voice, accompanied by the quick pat-pat of footsteps as she ran down the hall. A head of messy blue hair appeared in the doorway, announcing Mariko's arrival.

"How was shopping?" asked Mito.

"Fun," replied the happy little blunette.

"Wanna hear a funny story?" offered Tobirama, who was helping Hashirama flip through the last few documents of the day at the table. (Mito scolded them about doing work at the dinner table, but relented when Hashirama threw a pleading glance and gestured that they were nearly done.)

"Sure," Hashirama agreed as Mariko hung up her jacket and sat down at the table.

"So today, Saru and the team came up with this plan…"


Why did I get so depressing in random parts? /shot

My cat meowed. (You totally needed to know that).

Tobiramaaa! :)

Questions, comments, burning concerns?!