Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto and don't make profit from this story (except for the enjoyment of writing it!)

A/N: This story is going to follow canon mostly for a while, then will branch off into what I guess is AU. It's rated 'M' for caution mostly at the moment (and language – it's Anko after all!) – perhaps violence and mentions of adult situations later on. This is a bit short, but I plan on putting up the next (longer) chapter in a few days. More detail can be found on my profile. I hope you enjoy it :)

Scene breaks: .c.c.c..c.c.c.

Thoughts: italics

Speech: "etc"

Memories: italics enclosed in '..o.o.o.o..' breaks

.c.c.c..c.c.c.

Chapter 1

Return

She stalked through the streets of Konoha confidently, ignoring villagers and shinobi alike whether they greeted her or not. Those who knew her – Kakashi with his "Yo", Genma with a flick of his senbon – would not care. Those who didn't would brush it off. They knew she was strange, and although people had mostly stopped looking at her like they used to, they would never forget who she was. Mitarashi Anko, one-time student of the infamous snake Sannin, Orochimaru.

Anko knew she was different, and she knew that he was the reason – the reason for her messed up view on life and her less than savoury obsessions. Feeling her mood take a turn for the worse, she veered towards the nearest bar and a bottle or two of sake, and then to one of the training grounds where she began to pound out her frustrations.

The fury, and the hatred, and the bloodlust -

...o..o..o.o..o..o...

"A little higher, Anko,"

...o..o..o.o..o..o...

the fucking bloodlust that would not let her rest even when she controlled it so ruthlessly because she knew he was the cause.

...o..o..o.o..o..o...

The creature gave a final jerk before becoming forever still, and she turned to see him smile at the blood on her hands.

...o..o..o.o..o..o...

Anko smashed the tree trunk, twisting in the air and then blasting a fire jutsu as a deadly blowtorch. She rammed her fist into the wood, and then did it again and again until she was elbow-deep in the sap. She couldn't remember much from that time, but she still had the nightmares. God, the nightmares ...

"Anko-san?"

Anko's head jerked up, making her aware of the fact that she had been staring at her hands, bleeding from splinters, for an unnoticed amount of time. It was now near dusk, and the grounds were a wreck around her, testament to her hatred.

Kurenai gave the wreckage a brief glance before going to Anko and gently unclenching her hands. It wasn't something she, or a number of jonins, hadn't seen before.

Kurenai knew that something in Anko was broken.

"Come along Anko. We'll sort your hands out."

Anko followed her slowly, still in a daze, but once they reached her apartment door she stopped the other woman. "Arigato, Kurenai-san," she smiled her usual on-the-edge grin, "I'll manage myself now." Kurenai may have protested, but Anko was firm.

My sanity may waver, she thought grimly, but I'll be damned if I can't so much as bandage my own fucking hands!

Kurenai smiled, and if it was a bit sad and sympathetic Anko ignored it. She wasn't used to and didn't care for anyone's pity. She'd rather die than accept it from anyone.

Kurenai watched her face with blood red eyes, reading the discomfort there. "Goodnight then, Anko-san." the kunoichi smiled sincerely at her. "I hope you enjoy the chunin exams this year. My genin team is participating and I heard a rumour that you are going to be one of the examiners, is that true?"

Anko's grin became a bit feral. "Yes, but don't think I'm going to go easy on them just because they're your team! I'm looking forward to seeing how all those brats manage..."

Kurenai shrugged, her smile becoming more cheerful and relaxed. "I never expected any less from you, Anko! But my team can handle themselves. There are a number of brilliant genin competing this year, including last year's number one group of rookies. That includes two of the Hyuuga clan, and that last Uchiha boy, Sasuke I believe his name is."

Anko nodded, her interest seeming to fade. She turned away from the jonin, "Goodnight, Kurenai."

"Goodnight, Anko."

In her apartment, Anko lay on her bed in the dark. Uchiha Sasuke. Hyuuga Neji. And of course that Kyuubi boy no one likes to mention – Uzumaki Naruto. The exams will definitely be interesting. Hmm ... can't wait.

She ran her tongue over one still-bleeding scratch on the back of her hand, and slept with dreams of blood and death and snakes and him.

.c.c.c..c.c.c.

When Anko stood in front of the class of genin, berating Ibiki about the high pass rate, she was inwardly pleased. The students were still sitting in a daze after her grand entrance, and a few were staring in disbelief. Anko was a great believer in getting people to underestimate her, and her entrance certainly made at least a few sceptical about her claims that her portion of the exam would cut them down to at least half.

Haha, they would be lucky if that many will remain, she sniggered to herself. "I'm getting excited..."

She got a strange feeling when one of the Grass nins stared at her, but it passed as soon as he/she/it looked away seemingly bored. It made Anko feel angry for some reason, so she cut the talk short.

"I'll explain everything tomorrow once we've changed places. Ask your jonin sensei for the time and place." she said coldly. "That's it! You're excused!"

She flipped the banner (pronouncing her name and position in broad, loud letters) closed, and disappeared through the window that she'd broken on her entrance. Sake. She needed sake. Her damn head was aching, and there were only a few things that helped. She briefly considered finding Kakashi, one of the few people who could amuse and 'distract' her, but didn't. He'd probably be busy with his genin team, and it would be meaningless anyway, for both of them.

Maybe another time, she thought dully, drinking the last of the sake before falling back in to bed. She dreamt of him again, but dreams more vivid than she had had for a long time.

"A little lower, Anko,"

Even in her dreams she felt like someone was watching her. Even sleeping she tossed and thrashed out an arm and hissed his name.

.c.c.c..c.c.c.

The next day, Anko stood in front of the group of nervous but excited genin, and savoured her answer to the Kyuubi brat's question about their location.

"Welcome to the stage for the second test, practise area 44." She paused dramatically, enjoying the tangible fear, "Also known as ... the 'Forest of Death'!" The increase in fearful mutters was worth drawing everything out, and worth having to deal with the children. She drank in the tense atmosphere, enjoying the fear and the determination.

Anko liked fighting, she liked it more than anything else, probably because it was all she knew. She was brought up to be a shinobi, in a world of pain and blood and death, and that would be how she died. She didn't fear it, but she trained to become stronger so she could take out as many people as possible with her. One in particular ...

Anko chuckled. "You'll soon experience why it's called the 'Forest of Death'."

The Kyuubi brat glared at her, and then proceeded to mock her by imitating her words. Mock her!

"I'm not afraid!" he shouted loudly, pointing at her.

Anko smiled, "Yeah, you're spirited!" Her smile suddenly changed from cheerful and friendly to far less than that when she whirled around and flung a kunai at the boy so fast he didn't even have time to flinch.

It grazed his cheek, spilling a thin line of blood and Anko was behind him in a second.

"Kids like you are the first to be killed..." she chuckled softly, before putting her hand on his cheek and tilting his head to the side so that she could run her finger through the blood, "spraying that red blood that I love..." she whispered in his ear.

Just as she was about to wipe some off, her eyes narrowed and she drew another kunai, and was about to thrust it through the person who had appeared behind her when she stopped. It was that one Grass nin, holding out over her shoulder with her tongue the kunai she had thrown. She creased her eyes in an amiable smile, but did not relax.

"Here's your kunai." 'she' hissed around her tongue.

"Why, thank you," Anko replied, not lowering her weapon. Her grin became more feral, as did the other nin's. She felt a strange understanding with this shinobi, but it didn't make her feel comfortable.

"But you know," she continued, grabbing the kunai, "don't sneak up behind me like that, unless you want to die young."

"No," replied the Grass nin, "I just get excited when I see red blood." She smiled eerily, "Plus you cut my precious hair, I couldn't help it." Anko felt something ... strange, but then 'she' turned around suddenly and walked back to her team mates. "Sorry about that."

Anko watched her leave, trying to think why she felt so strange – it was like she was experiencing deja vu. "Looks like we have a lot of bloodthirsty ones in this test," she smirked, looking towards the Grass nin. She couldn't lie – she quite liked it, and sniggered again. "This should be fun."

Anko went on to tell the genin about the exam: the rules, details, and of course she took great delight in telling them about the indemnity forms, in case of death. She loved the look of frozen vermin many of them had on their face. She was glad to see that they seemed to have some idea of the seriousness of this, her exam.

But the whole time she was preoccupied with that incident. Ah, the blood. Anko was having to strain hard not to tremble in excitement, and on some level it disgusted her. That Grass nin that handed back her kunai gave her an odd feeling. Such an intense gaze – she wanted its blood too.

Something was nagging at the back of her mind, but she shrugged it aside – her head was aching and so distracting – and all she could think about was the coming bloodshed.

"Do you think we'll have many casualties this time?" one of the chunins asked her quietly, just after the gates had been opened for all the teams.

Anko smiled widely. "Hopefully," she replied, before moving away to take in the lingering anxiety.

"That one really freaks me out sometimes," the chunin remarked to another.

"Damn straight."

At that moment a scream sounded from the forest. Anko smirked, "Sounds like it's started."

.c.c.c..c.c.c.

A few hours later, Anko sat outside the main entrance to the Forest of Death. She was completely unconcerned about the carnage going on inside, and was absorbed by one of her favourite pastimes ...

"Mmmm, nothing better than dango and juice! Guess I should head to the tower when I'm done. The fast ones should be finished already." she mumbled happily, lazily throwing the dango stick with perfect accuracy at a tree trunk to finish an outline of the Konoha leaf – a testament to how much she loved the snack.

A chunin appeared in front of her. "Big trouble Anko-sama!"

Hmm, I love hearing my name said like that.

"Mmm? What is it?" She wasn't entirely happy about having her meal interrupted.

"Bodies! Three of them!" came the reply.

Anko was unimpressed. Don't they teach them anything at that academy any more? Of course people are going to die in this exam ...

"And they're weird! Please come!" he finished urgently.

"Weird?" That piqued Anko's interest. Better be good. She felt uneasy about it for some reason, but shrugged it off. I'll soon see what all this fuss is about ... she looked sideways at the chunin and grinned ferally, and if it's not worth interrupting me I'll let him know what happens to people who waste my time.

Luckily for the chunin, he was too worried to notice the looks she was sending his way.

.c.c.c..c.c.c.

The blood splattered the ground for a good area around the three bodies as they lay in twisted positions. Their bodies were placed awkwardly, like they had fallen where they stood without a chance to resist. The odd breaks and injuries ... it just wasn't right. There was something really strange about all of it – something she felt like she should remember just seeing them.

"After examining their papers and personal items, it seems they are the Hidden Grass shinobi who were entered in the chunin exam," the jonin informed her, "but ... as you can see ..."

"They have no faces." Anko finished. She was deeply disturbed, trying desperately to remember ...

"Yeah. They're blank, as if they were melted off." he replied.

Anko reached almost unconsciously towards her neck. She stared at the blood on one of the bodies, trying to remember the 'genin' who now wore it.

There's no mistaking it ... She thought, a fragment of memory returning. This is his jutsu. Why ... why is he in this exam? The day seemed too bright to hold such a dark memory that he brought back to her thoughts. It almost seemed unreal ... that he was here ...

Fear ... Anko felt it take over her, but it was more than that. It was such an intense rush of emotions – fear, fury, hatred, longing. Longing to see him again ... to see him and kill him.

She had a sudden realisation: "Show me the application pictures of these three Grass nins!" she demanded, anxious to prove or disprove her fears. "They should be in the file!"

She looked at the picture of the Grass nin that the man handed her, and recognised it. She knew it: He stole this face. She remembered suddenly the incident with the kunai. So at that time, he already ...

"This is bad!" she said, turning to the jonins. "Go report this to Hokage-sama immediately!" They had never heard Anko speak so urgently and fearfully. "And send at least two ANBU teams into the Forest of Death!" She turned away before continuing. "I'm going after them right now, understood?"

"Yes!" the three shinobi were gone in an instant, knowing better than to ask any questions.

Anko reached for her neck again. He's ... he's in this village. It felt like a foul wind was blowing through her soul.

He was here.