Author's Note: Sorry I got sidetracked, but here is Chapter Three. For those of you who have read my earlier fic, Show Her Something Eternal, this chapter's flashback picks up where that story left off. Hope you enjoy!
When I was a kid, all I wanted was to be this grown-up woman, which was what I felt like inside. Now that I'm an adult, I feel stuck as that little genin I used to be. Somewhere along the way, I regressed back to my childhood. Was it due to trauma or am I simply a selfish brat?
Orochimaru and I had both been the same age when we lost our parents. The circumstances were quite similar as well. My parents were also killed on a mission in another land.
The night I met him, he carried me home from the cemetery. I was clinging to his neck and shoulders. Orochimaru put me down once we were inside his flat.
"So, tell me your name, my dear. I believe you already know mine." He knelt down and took off my shoes, setting them next to his.
I nodded. "Mitarashi Anko is my name. Like the food."
He stood back up and looked down at me. "Do you like that food?"
I grinned, nodding once more. "Yes."
"No surprise, there." He smirked at me.
"What do you mean?" I was confused. It seemed to me like he was making some joke that I didn't understand.
"You're such a sweet child. Sweet like sweets. My sweet girl." He ran his fingers through my hair for a moment.
I blushed intensely. Making me blush is a great talent of his that I've never been able to fight. There's something in his voice and in his touch that makes my cheeks go red like apples.
"You've gotten yourself rather dirty. I'll draw you a bath." He then went into the lavatory and proceeded to fill the tub.
"What about my clothes? I got a lot of dirt on them," I said as I followed him in.
"I'll get you one of my shirts. You can wear it for tonight and I'll get you your clothes tomorrow." He laid out some fresh towels and a wooden hairbrush. I immediately recognised it as his own, with all the black hair stuck in the bristles.
Orochimaru stepped out and returned soon after with a folded up shirt. "Here you are. And just in time as I see your bath is ready." He turned off the water. "Do you need me to wash you?"
I pulled the rubber band out of my hair. "No, I can wash myself. I'm just not allowed to turn on the hot water faucet yet."
"All right, but if you should need something, just holler for me." He exited, shutting the door behind him.
After I took off my clothes, I got in. It was pleasantly hot with a great deal of steam rising from the water. Yet I didn't want to spend more time in there than I had to. I was exhausted from crying all day. I went about washing up and shampooing my hair. All I wanted was to get it done with and go to bed.
When I got out, I wrapped my hair up in a towel and started drying myself with another one. My knickers were reasonably clean, so I put them back on underneath Orochimaru's shirt.
The shirt was black with a v-neck and was practically a dress on me. The short sleeves almost reached my wrists. It was fine for a nightgown, however. I took the towel off my head and ran the brush through my damp hair.
When I left the bathroom, I noticed the door of the next room wide open, with a light on inside. I tiptoed in, hoping I wasn't being rude by intruding.
Orochimaru was already wearing his night-clothes. He had a spare pillow and blanket tucked under one arm. "You can have the bed. I'll sleep on the couch," he said.
My stomach knotted up at the proposal. "I don't want to be alone right now. Just for tonight, could you stay with me?" I was still really sad, but I felt safe with him. I couldn't bear the thought of him going away, even if only to the front room.
He smiled at me and set down the extra bedding. "Very well. I see no harm in it."
I crawled into the bed. After he turned off the lights, he got in with me. As I wanted to feel his warmth, I scooted a little closer to him. Part of me expected him to move away, but instead he draped his arm over me and held me fast.
It was so nice, I didn't want to go to sleep anymore. Instead, I wanted nothing more than to lie there forever, being cuddled by Orochimaru. My drowsiness could not be denied, though. I was conked out within a few minutes.
The next morning, I awoke to the scent of breakfast. I hurried out of bed to find Orochimaru cooking miso soup and rice in his kitchen.
He smiled as he noticed me join him. "When you're ready, we'll go see the Hokage. He's been on me about refusing to teach students. He should be pleased that I've chosen to take you under my wing."
"You know the Hokage?" I asked him. It seems stupid now, but I was really thrown for a loop at the time.
He let out the subtlest laugh when I said that. "Who do you think my sensei was? And of course, I was always his favourite student." I don't know what he liked more, bragging about himself or the way I never failed to be impressed by said bragging.
Orochimaru portioned out the servings into bowls. He then carried it all out to the dining area so we could have a proper meal. There was plenty for both of us, which was good, because I was starving.
There was a tea kettle already on the table. He poured some for me, then himself. "Once I've arranged everything, I'll send someone to pick up your belongings and we'll find ourselves a bigger flat. You should have your own room. I know girls need their privacy."
"So I'm really going to stay with you from now on?" I took a sip of my green tea.
"I can't very-well have my disciple off in some orphanage when I could be training her. What kind of master would that make me? No, we need all the time we can get till we learn everything there is to learn. Be forewarned, I won't go easy on you. I'm going to make you work harder than anyone else, but I will take good care of you, all the same." He stroked my hair.
"Thank you," I whispered. "You saved me, so I owe you everything." It was a struggle not to cry, but I felt the urge to show him I wasn't weak.
We were both quiet as we ate. Orochimaru is actually a pretty decent cook. I don't recall much about my mother's cooking, only that I liked Orochimaru's better. That might sound bad, but my mother was more focused on her nindo than her homemaking skills. She's the one I inherited my spunk from.
There was a knock on the door. Orochimaru went to answer it as I remained at the table, having another bowl of soup.
Whoever it was, they didn't stay long. Orochimaru returned a minute later with a box in his hands. "Some clothes for you, my dear. I had someone collect a few of your things to wear today. They'll get the rest later."
After breakfast, I took the box into the bathroom. There was a blouse, shorts, clean underwear, and even another pair of shoes. I could've still worn the ones I had on the day before, but these were less dusty. I did want to look nice when we went to see the Hokage, not to mention for Orochimaru. He would be seeing me clean and properly attired for the first time. I didn't want him to think I was just a ragamuffin.
Once I was ready, we walked to the Hokage's mansion together. It wasn't that far from the flat, but navigating the manison was a different story. The corridor was long and winding. By the time we got to the Hokage's office, my feet hurt.
Orochimaru knocked on the door. A voice inside told him to come in. "Stay here for a few minutes. I'll talk to him privately, first," he said before turning the knob.
I took a seat on one of the benches there in the corridor. It seemed like years went by as I waited nervously. My bottom lip became chapped from my biting down on it so much.
Finally, the door opened and Orochimaru emerged. "You can come in now. He wishes to meet you."
I followed him as he went back into the room. We stood in place before the Hokage's desk. It turned out to be less fancy than I anticipated. At that age, I expected someone of his rank to be sitting on a jewel-encrusted throne, not ordinary office furniture.
"So you're the Mitarashi girl? I'm sorry to hear of your parents' passing. They were both fine ninja." The Third Hokage remained seated, squinting at me. "You don't think she's too young, Orochimaru-san? Perhaps you should let her be a child a little longer."
"I'm not that young! I'm five and a half!" I shouted. Half-years were of vital importance to me when I was a kid. Counting them made me feel more mature.
"Ay, a precocious one! Now I understand a bit better," the Hokage chuckled. A little pipe smoke shot out of his mouth and nose.
Orochimaru turned his head to smile at me. "That she is. Last night, she took a bath all by herself. She didn't need any help washing." He turned back to the old man, straightening his mouth into a more serious expression. "But the real reason I chose her is that I think she's the right one for me. As it happens, her age is a bonus. It will allow me more time to harness her full potential."
The Third Hokage took a drawn-out puff from his pipe. "In that case, I will have the proper paperwork expedited. You may go."
All these big words they were using were beyond me, but I was pretty sure they were good. No one was yelling or frowning. I think I smiled, albeit cautiously.
"Thank you, Sarutobi-sensei." Orochimaru bowed and nudged me to do likewise before we left.
When we came out of the Hokage's office, I suddenly broke down crying. It was the last thing I wanted to do, but I couldn't stop myself.
"What's wrong, my dear? Have you changed your mind about becoming my apprentice?" That was the first and possibly the only time Orochimaru sounded genuinely worried. The rest of the time he was so sure of himself and in control of things.
"No, I do want to be your apprentice still. I just... I..." My head was spinning. "I just started thinking that this isn't a dream. It's real. My parents are gone, but now I'm with you."
"So it's hit you that your whole life has completely changed?" He bent down to wipe my tears. "I imagine that's quite a shock. It's only natural to cry when you have such feelings in you. Part of you is sad, but another part is excited and even happy about the new phase of your life. The confusion will pass in time and you'll feel calmer then."
Hearing him explain this somehow made me feel better. It made sense, even if it was a little advanced for me. I stopped crying and my mind wandered to something else.
"How old are you?" I asked on the way back to his flat.
"Me? Oh, I'm much, much older than you," he said.
"But how old? What age are you?" After the Hokage had made such a big deal about my age, I was curious to know Orochimaru's.
"If you must know, I'm thirty-one. Or thirty-one and a half, by your standards."
"Wow, that's really old!" I was surprised. He didn't look older than my parents.
He frowned and sighed. "Which is precisely why I didn't want to tell you my age. Just wait till you're thirty-one. You won't know where the time went."
"Oh... I'm sorry, Orochimaru-san." I felt like such an idiot, hurting his feelings like that.
"No, no. You must call me 'Sensei' now," he replied, shaking his head.
"I'm sorry, Orochimaru-sensei. I didn't mean to make you feel bad. Or forget to call you my sensei. I won't do it again."
He smiled weakly and took my hand. "You're forgiven, my dear. Now let's go find our new home."
That was about twenty years ago. It's been such a long time, yet it still feels so close. Some days, I wake up thinking I'm still his little girl. That all I have to do is go to the next room and he'll be there. I do want to be a woman. I want to be his woman. Since I can't, I'm instead reverting to being that young girl again. I think that's why I'm so immature.
Sensei, I'm staring at the photograph of us. It makes me cry every time. You brushed the tangles out of my hair that day so I would look nice for the camera, but I only agreed when you let me brush your hair. It felt so soft against my fingers.