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The Oneness of Hearts by Jigoku Dayu

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Story notes: OroAnko, angst, death. AU after Chapter 517.
Everything had gone silent and black. It was quite sudden. One moment the pair, Mitarashi Anko and Yakushi Kabuto, were locked in fierce, seemingly equal combat. The next moment, he had emerged victorious. The serpent Kabuto had shot forth from his robe overcame Anko, leaving her body limp in its coils.

Her eyes fell shut, welcoming the embrace of death. So this is the end, she thought. The darkness was so cold, so still. Anko tried to scream, but found herself paralysed. Nothing seemed to exist any longer, outside of her own consciousness. The limbo she had fallen into was oppressive to her, not at all like the bright, shining afterlife of her waking dreams. This had to be Hell. She was certain of it. I've failed and I'm dying. I am to be punished for my transgressions. If only I had been stronger, it wouldn't have to be this way... At least now I'll be with—

Out of the blue, she found herself waking up, still in the grip of the enemy's snake. A searing pain on the side of her neck had pulled Anko back from the brink. She groaned and gurgled up bloody spittle, not able to do much else in her defeated state. Part of her was glad to have survived. The other part was disappointed that the respite from this world and its physical agony was so brief.

All of a sudden it occurred to Anko that the throbbing at the base of her neck was not from any of her present injuries. Though it hurt like a freshly inflicted wound, it was an old, familiar pain. Had that medic-nin brat truly acquired control of her Curse Seal or was it simply a metaphysical remnant of another's presence? The presence of a master they had both once served.

"Anko-chan," said a voice that sounded only somewhat like Kabuto's. "How beautiful you look succumbing to a massive snake. So ripe, so powerless. Would you hold it against me if I said I rather like seeing you this way?" With each word, the voice grew softer and more sibilant, until it became the familiar tone of one who was forever present in her mind.

She struggled to open her eyes. Her aching body was slow to co-operate, but eventually her pupils were able to clearly focus on the grim sky above her. Whoever was there with her, they were off to the side, out of visual range. At first, her efforts to look back were futile. The coils were too tight. Then, presumably under its master's command, the creature's grip loosened slightly. It allotted Anko enough slack to turn her head and glimpse the speaker.

There wasn't anyone else there other than Kabuto. He looked almost as if he were in pain, hunched over and covering his face whilst skin sloughed off of him. As he straightened up, his glasses and hood fell from his head. Now a different face was locking eyes with her: one with long, black hair. It was the face that went with the new voice.

Could it be true? Was he alive again? Perhaps she really was dead and had been reunited with him in the next world at last. Or perhaps this was a mere dream.

"Is it actually you, Sensei? Have you returned completely?" she wheezed. The pain hit her again, causing Anko to wail in agony. Then as quickly as it struck, the seal's effects subsided.

A tide of relief flowed through her. It wasn't merely that the curse mark had stopped throbbing. There was a sense of mental relief, as well. Anko's fear left her, replaced by an eerie calm. Maybe Kabuto did kill me and I've found peace in death. But it still feels so real. Well, there's only one way to find out. She shook it off and forced herself to look at the man beside her and say something more. "I thought I'd never see you again. They told me the Uchiha boy killed you."

The sentiment was a far cry from her customary tough talk, yet she was in too much shock for that. Not that such words came easily to her when he was there. She could bark out orders around most people, but with her former sensei, even a brave pretense was difficult to maintain.

"You look far more pleased to see me than you did the last time. I think you're actually smiling," Orochimaru replied with a soft chuckle. As he neared Anko, he allowed the snake to loosen its grip further still. "How you must have missed me." His hand, covered with the same scales she had seen on Kabuto, reached out to wipe the blood and saliva from her chin. Once her face was for the most part dry, he caressed her jaw. His fingers were luxurious in their gentle movements upon her skin. The touch was that of someone very real and very much alive.

His words made her gasp and she quivered at his touch. Her cheeks started to burn, her heart pounded. He was right. She had missed him so desperately that she no longer cared about her own safety. All the love and hate she harboured for Orochimaru had been eating away at her reason. Anko had welcomed the dangers of S-ranked missions such as this one.

His demise at the hands of the Uchiha boy had plunged her into a forlorn pit of regret. But in truth, her death wish wasn't her only motivation for going after Kabuto. Secretly, she had prayed for something like this to happen. It was one last, pitiful hope that she clung to. She could try to deny her delight at this reunion, but Orochimaru would see right through her. He always could.

The snake set her down and retracted into Orochimaru's body, vanishing under his robe. Now that she was free, she moved closer until her trembling form was touching his. Moisture welled up in her eyes, causing them to sting. The last of her resolve cracked.

"When they told me you died, it made me hollow inside. Oh, Orochimaru-sama... I've always loved you! Forgive me for everything that's happened." Anko's eyes fell shut as she cupped a weak hand to his jaw. She tilted her head and kissed him.

A nagging voice in her mind said to stop, but she was having none of that. I don't care, anymore! It's been too long. I want one last bit of closeness. One last bit of him!

His mouth tasted sweet and salty. And he was warm. Very warm. She remembered that warmth from when she was a young girl. He would caress, even coddle her back then. Those little intimacies had meant the world to her. The effect had not diminished over the years. It overwhelmed her and she nearly collapsed against his chest.

To her surprise, he kissed back. His tongue slipped inside her mouth, finding little resistance from her. It undulated around hers, causing them both to moan. Orochimaru clasped her roughly, slamming her torso against his and digging his nails into her back. Only when he pulled away an inch was she at all reluctant to comply.

His eyes bore deep into hers. "I knew you still loved me. No matter how much you've tried, you can't let go of me," he panted. Grabbing the collar of her trench coat, Orochimaru pulled it down to reveal her shoulders.

He laughed wickedly, running a finger over the mark he'd given her long ago. "There was never any point in hiding your feelings for me. I know you inside and out. Don't I, Anko-chan?" His lengthy tongue slithered out of his mouth to lick her Curse Seal.

"Yes," she whimpered, gasping for breath. Her eyes rolled back into their sockets. It was all she could do not to beg him to say he loved her back.

Orochimaru hitched her knee up around him in order to stroke her thigh. Now he was the one to kiss her, sucking and biting her lips. When her tongue slipped past his teeth, he gnashed at it before licking it. He hissed and snarled between inhalations, his hot breath swirling about her face.

With one quick movement, he yanked her head back by her hair, forcing her to look him in the eye. "You were pleading with me to forgive you for everything. I take it you have since discovered that you were the one who abandoned me?"

There was a substantial lump in her throat that Anko had to swallow before she was able to answer him. "Yes, my true memories came back. I'm sorry... I rue it! I never want to be away from you again!" she cried.

"You deserved some punishment for refusing your sensei like that. That's why I altered your memory and made you think I'd tossed you aside. I'm glad to see you've learned your lesson, my dear. You shouldn't have betrayed me that way." He exhaled a slow, deliberate breath against her neck. "I need your worship of me, your willingness to suffer simply to please me. I feed off of my sweet girl's love for me." Orochimaru swiped his tongue up her throat to the back of her ear. "It makes me so much stronger," he purred.

Her former sensei had an exceptional talent for making her second-guess herself. This time was no different. Anko knew what had to be done; the only thing that would give her peace. And yet, her obstinate, little heart was fighting her for his sake. It begged her to follow him, give him anything he wanted, and belong to him body and soul.

A few tears escaped as she screwed her eyes shut, trying to gird herself against the pain she was about to inflict on her heart. There was no getting around it. She had to at least try. Things would only get worse if she didn't. Anko took a deep breath. She seized his left hand with her right in preparation for making the seal. "This time, I will go with you, Orochimaru-sama."

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The fragrance of plum blossoms hung in the evening air. Sensei and student sat side by side under one of the ume trees after many hours of training. Its canopy of white petals shielded them from the rest of the world as Orochimaru explained the technique he had just instructed Anko in. It was a Forbidden Jutsu so lethal they could not actually practise it. They had instead gone over the hand signs and theory.

"Twin Snake Sacrifice is a lovers' suicide jutsu," he said, resting his lower back against the trunk of the tree. Orochimaru looked down at his student. His exotic eyes traversed her face, taking in her rounded cheeks and other youthful features.

As she was wont to do, Anko stared up, starry-eyed, at her sensei, enthralled by his lesson and by the affection in his gaze.

"Why would two people in love want to kill themselves?" she asked with quivering lips. Her eyebrows arched up over her forehead.

He flashed a sly smile at Anko and pulled her closer to him. Orochimaru seemed to lap up her adoration as much as she lapped up his sensual motions. "I suppose they would want to be eternally together, something that's not always possible during life."

Anko frowned at his answer. The idea of having to be separated from the one she loved was frightening. It stung at her heart in such a way that she could see how the act might make sense. She tried to picture it in her mind.

He smiled softly at his apprentice, draping a comforting arm over her shoulders. "Of course, it could also be used as a murder/suicide jutsu. If, for instance, you fell in love with the enemy of your village and were ordered to kill him, you would be quite torn. You might find yourself unable to disobey, yet unable to live without him. Twin Snake Sacrifice would allow you to die with him, your bodies forever entwined. That's why it's forbidden. No village wants its shinobi letting all the world know of such romantic attachment to a foe."

She looked off to the side and made a sound of hesitation.

Putting his hand on her chin, he delicately moved her head back to face him. "What is it you're thinking, Anko-chan?" His voice was tender and breathless.

"I was thinking that it sounds beautiful. That's how I'd want to die, bound to the one I love." She looked up at him again, shallow breaths escaping her pouting lips. Deep down, she wanted nothing more than for him to kiss her right there. He wouldn't, and certainly not where someone might catch them, but she wanted him to all the same.

Orochimaru just stroked her reddened cheek. He giggled slightly. "That doesn't surprise me."


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His serpentine pupils narrowed even more than usual, so that they were like senbon piercing deep into her heart. He growled at her as he attempted to free his hand. "You're a fool, Anko. You could have been with me all this time."

Her eyes glistened and tears began pouring from them without restraint. "I have to do this for us. It's the only way we can be together."

"Your loyalties are so unwavering, my dear. You can't betray the Leaf Village or me, can you? I must admit I've always admired your stubbornness." He clamped his teeth down on her bottom lip, bruising it and drawing blood. "That's why my Curse Seal didn't take total control of your mind. Instead of hatred, you're filled with love... Love for me. No matter how I might abuse you, your heart cannot be changed."

Orochimaru released her bleeding lip and moved on to her tears. He sucked them off of her cheeks, hungrily licking his lips when he was done. "Mmm... Your devotion awakens needs in me. I can't let you get away from me again." Having slaked his thirst for her tears, he returned his attention to her mouth. He swallowed the drops of red liquid oozing from her flesh, moaning his approval of the taste.

Anko was stunned. Was he really going to let her do it? Perhaps he was merely trying to beguile her into staying with him, alive. She decided she'd better hurry up before he changed his mind and freed himself.

Yet before she could do anything, he interrupted her train of thought. Orochimaru put his free hand on her waist, clutching her roughly. It felt like he was trying to break her in half.

"You're enough to make a man give up his dreams, my dear. If you had just asked me to back then, I would have done so." He smirked for a moment and then knitted his brow in severity. "I intend to return to this world with you in tow. When that happens, you must be the one to give up your dreams for me. Will you do that?"

The fingers of her left hand buried themselves in his hair. "I promise," Anko answered with a sob. She meant it sincerely. If they were lucky enough to come back, why not give in to all of his whims? It would be worth it to spend a life with him, rather than a life haunted by his memory. A life like this one.

Before she could resume the hand sign, Orochimaru sucked the air out of her in another rough kiss. "Anko-chan," he finally whispered against her lips.

She pressed her forehead to his while they broke from kissing. "What?" Her breathing was raspy and her chest heaved. Adrenaline coursed through her veins.

"I hate you for making me feel this way."

She let out a slight, bittersweet chortle. "Same here." Less than second later, their lips met again. Anko whimpered and moaned into his mouth. It was now or never. She inhaled sharply through her nose to steady herself. Here we go, Sensei.

Their fingers twisted about in a series of different signs. Anko opened her mouth to speak, though she refrained from taking her lips completely off his.

"Ninja Art: Twin Snake Sacrifice Jutsu!" she cried.

The words spoken, they resumed kissing for the last time. She was determined to enter the next world in his embrace. Unlike her first attempt in the Forest of Death, she had now succeeded. The jutsu was manifesting. Her whole body shook with fear of what was to happen next.

Two chartreuse snakes rose up from the ground, each as big as the one Kabuto had captured her with earlier. The serpents proceeded to coil themselves upward around Anko and Orochimaru like a giant caduceus. Finally, the snakes wrapped their mouths around the necks of their human counterparts. Fangs drove through flesh, pinning them together in their kiss.

She could feel the venom being pumped into her body. It stung not unlike her Curse Seal. Her blood flowed up past her lips and into Orochimaru's mouth. Likewise, his blood poured into her mouth. The crimson fluid mixed and trickled down their chins as they continued kissing. Anko tried to open her eyes one last time. She didn't have the strength to lift her lids all the way, but she could see the glint of his irises.

He was looking back at her. A mixture of rage and desire emanated from his glare. Was he having second thoughts? No matter. It was too late for either of them, now.

Whatever he was feeling, she thought he looked quite beautiful that way. Anko always found him to be very beautiful, but his last glance was all the more exquisite for the fire in his eyes. She was satisfied that this image of Orochimaru would be that last thing she would ever see in her life.

Her lids sunk shut once more. This time there was to be no return. Their hearts, which had been beating in a dwindling unison from the effects of the toxin, were now still.

The serpents ignited in a brief flash and were disintegrated. The only traces of the creatures left behind were a ghostly outline of their forms in the smoke and the bits of soot left on the corpses.

Anko and Orochimaru's bodies fell to the ground, lips and limbs still clinging to each other. The thud with which they landed was not enough to pull them apart. They remained in that kiss when they were found, so that it was fairly easy to guess what had transpired.
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