Thank you to the reviewers:
And to everyone who followed/watched/fav'd. I appreciate it.
Warnings: AU, slight OOC-ness, mature situations.
Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto.
A/N: Sorry it took a while, I started college. I apologize if any of the characters are unrecognizably out of character, and feel free to correct me if something seems totally off. Also, I know Ino's mother is in the anime, but in this AU she is not present. All will be explained eventually.
Ino didn't make it back to headquarters in time to catch her father, so she decided just to go home. She was a little relieved- she loved and trusted her father, but how was she supposed to explain to him the mission she was being sent on? It would be awkward and unpleasant, and while Inoichi was usually very balanced and calm, Ino wasn't sure if she could stop him from going to the Hokage tower to employ some of his techniques on Tsunade.
The walk also gave her a little bit of time to think about the mission. It had been late afternoon when she had left headquarters, but now the sun was setting. The dimming light was pretty when reflected in the windows of the shops and houses, but Ino hardly payed any attention. She was still unsure if accepting the mission was the right thing to do.
'It's just work,' she told herself. 'It's for the good of others. So what if I have to get some old, gross guy to like me enough to spill all of his disgusting secrets? It's not like it'd be against my will. My body will still be my own.' That itself made her feel better. 'Plus, I'll be with Uchiha-san...'
Itachi Uchiha. Now there was something to wonder about. Like many other girls her age, Ino had been smitten with Itachi's younger brother Sasuke for a while, although she was now long past that stage in her life. She had never really paid much attention to Itachi beyond the things she heard occasionally. She knew he was one of the strongest shinobi in the village, that he worked with his father in the Police force, and that he was the heir to the Uchiha clan. That was all common knowledge, anyone in the village could tell you that much. However, Ino knew a little more as well. Afterall, intelligence gathering was her specialty, and those who worked in the Torture and Interrogation Force would often chat during breaks and down-time.
For example, Ino knew that Itachi was one of the top candidates for the role of the next Hokage, and that put him at odds with his father. She also knew that despite his fearsome reputation as a warrior and assassin, he was a pacifist at heart and had a great deal of compassion for his fellow village members. On the outside he looked like the average Uchiha- striking good looks, impressive Kekkai Genkai, mastery of genjutsu and fire ninjutsu, but on the inside he defied most of those stereotypes with a gentle heart and a quiet demeanor.
'He's still very intimidating,' Ino decided. 'He's not easy to tease like Sasuke-kun. You never really know what's going on inside his head.'
She reached home just as the last of the light was dying. Her father hadn't returned yet, which didn't surprise Ino. He often worked late, especially when working on an important case. Bypassing the kitchen, Ino went straight upstairs to the bathroom, and started filling the tub with water. 'A nice bath will clear my head.'
A few moments later, she relaxed in the warm water scented with violet bubble bath, her long hair bundled on top of her head. Ino took beauty very seriously, especially her own. She liked to take of her body, and had a painstaking routine to make sure it stayed in the state she wanted it to be. After this bath she would apply lotion to her skin to keep it smooth and supple, and after washing and exfoliating her face, she would put on night cream to moisturize and keep wrinkles from forming. She would brush out her long hair, careful not to break any of the strands, and after making sure it was soft and dry, she would carefully plait it until it hung heavily down her back. She slept with a hairband over her bangs to keep them out of her face and to keep it from becoming oily. After that, she would have a cup of tea while trimming and painting her nails with a glossy top coat to prevent cracks and breakage, and when that was all done, she would do some stretches for her neck and shoulders, put in eyedrops, and then go to bed, but not before making sure she had a glass of water on the stand nearby. It would take nearly two hours for her to finish everything, but Ino felt it was worth it. She had been on missions where she didn't bathe properly for weeks, so when she had the time, she didn't take her beauty regime for granted.
'And I suppose it's paid off,' she decided, sinking lower into the water. 'Tsunade chose me for this mission, when there are plenty of other kunoichi out there.' Ino didn't doubt the beauty of her friends and colleagues. She made fun of Sakura for her broad forehead, but her best friend had great skin and nails. Tenten's build was great- she was tall and stocky, but held herself with a grace and elegance that Ino envied. Hinata had all the classic beauty that many girls would kill for- long, luscious hair, wide, soulful eyes, and amazing breasts (that were unfortunately hidden most of the time, to Ino's dismay. Flaunt 'em if you've got 'em, was her motto). Even Temari was a source of jealousy for Ino. She was a strong leader, and she exuded confidence and power. Ino would never admit it, but she was often frustrated with herself when in the presence of her friends. She felt like she had to work for hours and hours until she was happy with her appearance and power and abilities, all while her friends accomplished theirs without having to do much at all.
She supposed that yes, she did have an inferiority complex. 'I'll show them, though,' she thought drowsily, patting the dying bubbles all around her.
"Ino! I'm home," a voice called from downstairs, making Ino jump slightly. It was her father, Inoichi.
"I'm in the bath!" She called. "Be down in a few!" Groaning, she pulled the plug from the bath with her toes, sitting up as the water drained around her. 'How am I supposed to explain this to him?'
Not too far away, on a rooftop overlooking the brightly lit Tea District, Itachi sat quietly. He had returned to his patrol immediately after being excused from Tsunade's presence. Fortunately, it looked like it would be a quiet night, which gave him an opportunity to think.
He was neither pleased nor displeased with the upcoming mission. It was just another job, and if it was helping people, then it was for the greater good. Most likely it would go off without a hitch, and he'd be back in the village doing the same patrols within a week.
The only unknown was his mission partner. Itachi knew very little about Yamanaka Ino, and what he observed today inspired even less in him. He knew she was around Sasuke's age, and that she was a member of the Yamanaka clan, and subsequently a member of the Torture and Interrogation force. Other than that, she was an enigma. 'I suppose I shall find out more in the coming days.'
And while his job on the mission wasn't anything he hadn't experienced before, Ino's task was slightly more troubling. Other villages employed a steady task force of seduction-class kunoichi, but Konoha's had been out of commission for a number of years. Itachi had a feeling Tsunade was using this mission for more than just coin and a chance to slow human trafficking- if Ino was successful enough, it would give Tsunade a reason to possibly start Konoha's seduction-class training again. Itachi didn't know how he felt about that.
"Something on your mind?" A voice sounded from Itachi's right. Shisui appeared out of the shadows and plunked himself down next to his friend, two covered cups and a greasy bag in his hands. "I brought dango and tea."
"Aren't you supposed to be patrolling the River district?" Itachi asked.
Shisui shrugged, popping off the top of one of the tea cups. "They can live without me for a minute or two."
Itachi smiled despite himself. This was one of the many reasons he loved Shisui- the man always knew when he needed someone to talk to. Itachi wasn't a very open person by any means, but Shisui always knew how to get him to open up. Besides, he was hungry, and the tea smelled amazing.
"So," Shisui said, sipping his tea, "Can I know what the whole Hokage meeting was about, or are you sworn to secrecy or something?"
Itachi shrugged. "I have a mission coming up. Starting tomorrow."
Shisui arched a brow. "Really? Short notice, huh?"
Nodding, Itachi picked up one of the dango skewers and examined it. "It's to the Land of Hills. There's suspicion of an undergound human-trafficking ring being directed from there."
"Who're you goin' wif?" Shisui asked, mouth full of dango. "Kurosawa? One of the Hyuga?"
'Pfffft!' Shisui spit out his dango, coughing and choking in surprise. Itachi peered at him curiously.
"Is there something wrong, Shisui?"
Shaking his head, Shisui pounded himself on his chest. "N-no! You just...surprised me. She's the last person I thought you'd say..."
"Why?" Itachi pressed. Shisui obviously knew much more about Ino that he did.
Shrugging, Shisui sipped his tea to clear his throat. "Well, I don't know her personally, but she's got a...reputation, I guess. A ton of guys call her easy."
"And you're not?" Itachi said dryly. He had heard this argument before, from Ino herself up in Tsunade's office.
Shisui had the grace to blush in the dim light. "Well, yeah, but it's different when you're talking about a girl. A guy sleeps with a ton of different women, he gets a pat on the back and the guys in the bar buy you a drink every now and again. But when a girl sleeps around..." He trailed off.
"She's branded as a slut and everyone assumes she's easy," Itachi finished for him. Shisui looked at him in wonder.
"Geez, Itachi. I didn't know you talked like that."
"I don't think the rumors are true," Itachi said quietly. "It was brought up during the mission debriefing, and Yamanaka-san was very offended."
Shisui shrugged half-heartedly. "Yeah, I can see that. Okay, so maybe she's not a slut. She doesn't exactly do much to dispel the rumors, though, does she?"
Itachi didn't reply. The conversation was starting to make him uncomfortable. He didn't know how much of it was true and how much was wild speculation, and didn't want to jump to conclusions.
"We'll see," he finished. Picking up his cup of tea, he blew on it softly before taking a sip.
Shisui was silent for a while. "Just don't expect much from her, alright? I don't know her personally, but I doubt she's the kind of person you'd like to have a conversation with."
"I have conversations with you," Itachi said dryly, and dodged Shisui's incoming fist.
Ino met her father downstairs after getting ready for bed, and sat across from him at the kitchen table. He was looking over some documents, a steaming pot of tea in the middle of the table between them. Pouring herself a cup, Ino leaned back in her chair and waited for Inoichi to say something.
"Have a good day?" He asked mildly, and Ino nodded.
"Yeah. As good as any other, I suppose."
"You weren't in the building when I came back up," Inoichi mentioned. "Mayu said you were summoned by the Hokage."
"Oh, yeah," Ino said, trying to play it off as nothing important. "I'm being sent on a mission. Tomorrow."
That made Inoichi look up. "Really? That soon?" Ino nodded, sipping her tea. "Where to?"
"The Land of Hills. There's supposed to be some sort of human-trafficking thing going on there. I'm on a two-man team being sent to check it out."
Inoichi sat down his pen, and crossed his arms. "Hm." Her father was by no means a stupid man, and she knew that he could tell she wasn't telling him everything. "Who are you being sent with?"
Ino hesitated. "Um, Uchiha Itachi."
"That doesn't make any sense," Inoichi said almost immediately. "Itachi Uchiha is a one-man army. Why is Tsunade sending you on a mission with a man who could do it all himself?"
"Because I'm going to do something Uchiha-san can't," Ino snapped. She was tired, and she didn't like where this conversation was going.
"Oh?" Inoichi prodded. "What's that, then?"
"I'm being sent as a seduction-class kunoichi," Ino blurted, and immediately regretted it.
There was silence. Ino clutched her cup, determined to keep eye contact with her shocked father. Her heart was beating very fast- she rarely argued with him like this.
"You're not going," Inoichi said quietly after what seemed like an eternity. Ino resisted the urge to throw her cup at him.
"Yes, I am," she countered slowly. "I'm leaving tomorrow morning."
"No, you're not!" Inoichi yelled, making Ino jump. He rarely raised her voice to her, and never in a manner like this. "I am your father, Ino, and you will obey me."
Standing, Ino slammed her cup down on the table, spilling tea everywhere. "I'm an adult, father," she cried. "You don't get to tell me what to do anymore-"
"You live under my roof!" Inoichi stood as well. "You abide by my rules, young lady!"
"That's a bullshit reason," Ino spat. "I'm a chunnin, a soldier! I'm not a little girl anymore!" Inoichi opened his mouth to speak, but Ino cut him off. "So what? The Hokage's orders trump yours anyways, dad." Spinning around, she sped up the stairs, leaving her fuming father in the kitchen. Slamming the door to her room, she sat on her bed in an angry huff.
Downstairs, she could hear the screeching of chairs as her father gathered up his things and retreated into his office, slamming his own door. He was angry, but Ino knew she had won the argument. They were both shinobi of the Hidden Leaf, and both of them acted on the orders of their superiors. Familial ties did not come in between work.
She did feel ashamed of her reaction, however. She didn't like fighting with her father, and she knew that deep inside she would always be her father's daughter. Her mother had left them both when she was very young, and she knew next to nothing of the woman who had birthed her. Her father never spoke of her, and Ino avoided asking, knowing that it hurt him in ways she didn't understand. She had never been that curious about her anyways- she hadn't been old enough to develop a bond with her mother, and both Shikamaru and Choji's mothers had doted on her maternally. She learned more about womanhood from them, she didn't need her mother, or so she told herself and others. Her father was the dearest person to her anyways, and in her mind anyone who had hurt him in such a way wasn't deserving of her attention.
Inoichi's reaction to the mission had hurt her, though. She knew he didn't mean it, but the way he worded it made it sound like she was completely useless. To her, this mission was a chance to excel at something her friends couldn't, something only she could do. She wanted that more than anything, and although it hurt to fight with her father, it's something she would sacrifice.
And as she fell asleep, stomach churning from the yelling and upset feelings, she couldn't help but wonder what her mother would have said. 'Would she be on dad's side? Or mine?' As a parent, she thought she'd be on Inoichi's side. But as a woman, Ino had a feeling that her mother would have been on her side.
'Maybe it would have been nice,' she thought drowsily, 'To have someone like that...'
Itachi returned back to the Uchiha compound late. As he entered the great main house, he was surprised to see his family still awake around the kitchen table, chatting quietly over bowls of green-tea ice cream. It warmed his heart in a way- he loved his family very much.
"You're home," his mother, Mikoto, smiled gently. "I saved you some dinner. Do you want me to reheat it for you?"
Shaking his head, Itachi lowered himself to the table. "No, thank you. Shisui brought dango and tea. I'm quite full."
His mother frowned. "Well, okay, although dango doesn't exactly constitute a full meal." Itachi rested on the floor, glad to be inside where it was warm.
"What did the Hokage want?" Fugaku asked, foregoing any kind of greeting. Itachi wasn't surprised- his father was probably still upset that Itachi had been taken from the meeting.
"I'm being sent on a mission," he replied, and went over the mission parameters. Fugaku had been reading the paper when Itachi began, but as he went on, he folded it up neatly and laid it next to him.
"Human-trafficking, huh?" Fugaku stroked his chin thoughtfully. "Well, at least it's something worthwhile. Who're you being sent with?"
"Yamanaka Ino," Itachi replied. "She's going to act as a seductress to gain information from Ichiro himself, while I interrogate his contacts."
There was snort from across the table, and Itachi's younger brother Sasuke laid down his spoon. "Ino?" He asked incredously. "You're serious?"
Resisting the urge to roll his eyes, Itachi bent pinched the bridge between his eyes. "I am."
"Why?" Mikoto asked, confused. "Isn't she one of Sakura-chan's friends?"
"Uh, yeah," Sasuke said. "And she was obsessed with me for the majority of our childhood, in case you've forgotten. I haven't."
"If I remember correctly," Itachi said smoothly, "Sakura-chan was obsessed with you as well."
Sasuke failed to hide his pink cheeks. "Sakura's different. She's my teammate now."
Mikoto smiled pleasantly. "I remember now! She and Sakura-chan would follow you home from school almost every day. It was adorable."
Sasuke glowered. "It wasn't adorable! It was terrible! Traumatizing, even!"
"Ahem," Fugaku cleared his throat, and Itachi turned to look at him. "Beyond these, erm, childhood obsessions, how capable do you think she will be on this mission?"
Itachi paused. "She has little formal training in the art of seduction," he said slowly, "But I do not think that will dampen the mission's progress. Overall, I do not think my performance nor hers will be in any danger during the mission."
Fugaku nodded. "Good to hear. Her father Inoichi is a good man. The Police Force and the Torture and Interrogation Force work together closely. If she's half the shinobi he is, then I'm sure the mission will be successful."
Nodding, Itachi excused himself for the night, and headed up to his room. He had his own apartment on the other end of the compound, but he still came back to the main house every so often. His mother kept his room clean and ready for him when he did, and he appreciated being able to sleep in a house filled with his loved ones. Living on one's own was nice at times, but it was also very lonely. Sometime he just wanted to be near his family.
He was much more tired than he had thought, and felt drowsy as soon as he laid in bed, still clothed and on top of the covers. The moon was visible outside his window, and he gazed at it for a long time until he fell asleep.
Thanks for reading.