Claire: THE WAIT IS OVER! THE MOSSY NISSAN SALE EVENT OF THE YEAR--I MEAN, SEQUEL TO 'How Are We Still Alive?' IS HERE! -dance of joy- We just made your day, didn't we? DIDN'T WE:D
I am such a dork.
Now for my chapterly rant: I really hate Jason right now because he turned on Comedy Central and I hate it. And I'm too lazy to get up and find the remote to turn it off. I hate America. Americans cannot do TV! Not TV, not movies, NOTHING. I'm quite sure I'd rather watch the Backyardigans. Or shove an ice pick through my ear. But once again, due to laziness, I can accomplish neither. THE BULK OF AMERICAN CULTURE CAN BE SUMMED UP IN ONE PROCESSED ITEM: SPRAY ON CHEESE IN A CAN.
And my ass is asleep…
SEE! It's really getting to me! Inappropriate humor from brain-rotting pricks with filming equipment!
Leah: This is for making going back to school a bit easier!
Hopefully, Eva won't torture me as much this time around (knocks on wood) Whatever, it's gonna happen anyways…
Eva: Oh come on, Leah, you know you like it… (-is thinking some form of citrus-)
Claire: Eva, come on…do not plague the poor readers with your perverted humor…
"Yes, Christmas," Eva confirmed, reapplying a coat of black to her nails as she and her housemates, Claire and Leah, surrounded the phone.
"Why?" Deidara snorted skeptically.
"Why the hell not?" Claire demanded, annoyed, "It's not like you people aren't always around anyway."
"You'd get presents! Everyone loves presents," Leah tempted.
"Kakuzu wouldn't let any of us get you presents anyway. Unnecessary expenses," Konan pointed out.
"We weren't expecting you to get us presents," said Eva. She paused, then added slyly, "Why, were you going to?"
"I don't celebrate Christmas. Christmas is a fucking Christian holiday," Hidan argued, saving the other Akatsuki members the trouble of answering Eva's awkward question.
"But you get presents! Everyone loves presents, even man-whores," Claire insisted.
Eva glared at her friend. "Claire, it's not just about presents, it's about the birth of Jesus!" the avid Christian insisted.
"Who cares about the birth of that stupid pansy-ass Jesus guy?" Hidan interrupted.
"Seriously Eva, all anyone cares about is the presents…" Leah pointed out.
Eva's scowl deepened, and she huffily stuffed the nail polish brush back into the bottle. "Fine. I'm going to pretend you all didn't insult my religion… again. Are you guys coming or not?" she said into the phone.
"Tobi wants to go!" the orange-masked ninja's slightly squeaky voice was recognizable over the phone.
"I think it sounds fun. When was the last time any of us celebrated a holiday around here?" Konan added. "What do you think, Pein?"
There was a short silence, presumably as the Akatsuki members looked to their leader for indication of whether or not they were going to accept the girls' invitation.
"I suppose we could fit it in," he said formally.
"Great!" Claire exclaimed. "You guys have to take a break sometime anyway. What better time than Christmas?"
Leah glanced up at her. "From killing people?"
"Yes. Plus, who kills people on Christmas?"
"So we'll see you on the 25th! Don't be late!" Eva said before the other two could continue their strange and out-of-place conversation. She quickly pressed the end button on the phone's base and it clicked as it hung up.
They sat around the counter for a minute, looking around their house, which was decorated according to the occasion. A red reindeer-patterned blanket was draped across the back of the couch, with matching red ornaments sparkling on the coffee table. Golden tinsel was settled on top of the TV and the mantle of the fire place, occasionally shedding wisps of itself onto the floor. Plastic strings of holly and berries could be seen tacked along the banisters of the stairs from the kitchen. An elaborate centerpiece of pinecones, frosted berries, and big red flowers illuminated the middle of the dining room table.
The final touches were the Christmas trees, located in the living room, and several of the empty rooms upstairs that they had felt could use some extra Christmas cheer. Two were snowy white, decked with shining silver orbs and strings of small charms that blended, but matched with the pattern of their branches. There was a tree small enough to place comfortably on the island in the kitchen that was decorated with small paper cranes that the three girls had made together and wedged in between the little pine needles.
The last tree, and the biggest, was directly visible now from their positions on the barstool-like chairs lined up against the counter. It towered up almost eight feet, so even Claire, who was the tallest, had had to stand on a stool to put the star on top. It shone like a beacon, casting a warm yellow glow down to the other ornaments. They ranged from purples to reds, with yellows, blues, and gold and bronze. Large white snowflakes dotted throughout, spinning slowly one way, then twisting the other way when the strings fixing them in place got too tight. For whatever reason, Jason, Leah's older brother, had dug up boxes of handmade ornaments from the attic that they and their younger sister Charli had made years before. He had insisted that they be added to the mix, probably to embarrass Leah. But there they were among the festive blinking lights, made of cotton balls and Popsicle sticks.
Eva sighed happily as she took in the seasonal setting.
"Do you think it was a good idea to invite them?" Leah asked suddenly.
"You said the same thing when we gave them a cell phone. Nothing bad has happened yet," Claire noted.
"Besides, they were here for a solid month during the summer, and have been frequently returning ever since. The house is still standing, and the only real damage its sustained is that time Deidara blew up your room," Eva recounted. "Why do you ask?"
"I just have this feeling that something bad is going to happen."
"You worry too much," Claire assured her casually. "Nothing is going to happen."
They sat in happy silence for a few more seconds, eyes never seeming to tire of the cheery, festively decorated house.
But cliché's are strange things. They would all realize this in retrospect. As the unwritten rules of the universe would demand, as soon as Claire spoke the words, something happened.
None of the doors or windows were open, because even though they were in La Jolla, California, it was December and the weather was at least chilly. But despite this fact, a strong wind suddenly blew through the house, disturbing Leah's long brown hair, Claire's medium length red hair, and Eva's short, blue-tipped blonde hair. As they heard the hums and crackles of static electricity crescendo, they rushed into the adjacent room, knowing what was coming.
"Why would they be coming now?" Eva yelled over the noise. "They were all at the hideout when we called, so they can't have been on a mission."
But when the wind died down, and the last crackle of lightning collected and instantly dissipated, signaling the end of the jutsu, the person standing in the middle of the wreckage was not one of their usual visitors.
In place of the black cloak patterned with crimson clouds was the very recognizable green jounin vest. His face was mostly obscured by a navy blue mask, while his Konoha forehead protector was tilted jauntily over one eye. The only visible part of his face, his right eye, was arched in a manner to suggest the carefree personality that was usually present. On top of it all, looking peculiarly like a dead wolf, his white hair spiked up wildly as it defied gravity.
They stared. For whatever reason, the shock that they had felt in July, nearly five months ago when the Akatsuki had arrived in their living room, was back. Only it was worse. They didn't know for sure, but from the look on Kakashi's face, they would have guessed it was because he wasn't in La Jolla by accident. He had been sent…after them.
After what they had seen last summer, they were sure this was not a mirage, a dream, or a hallucination caused by an overdose of sugar. Though they were not less shocked, it was this that allowed them to get over their temporary speechlessness.
"Kakashi…why are you here?" Eva asked slowly.
"Why else? You know about the Akatsuki, yes?"
She blinked. 'If I talk, I screw things up. That's usually how it works.' She said nothing.
He raised an eyebrow. "You do know that giving no answer is about the same as saying yes, right?"
'Damn it. No matter what, I end up fucking things up.' She felt a slight pressure on her left foot, which turned out to be Claire's shoe. Eva glanced sideways at her friend, and realized Claire wanted her to stay silent.
"Seriously, what makes you think we know anything about these…Antarcticans, did you say? I'm pretty sure I've never met an Eskimo before, what about you guys?" Claire said, feigning ignorance.
Leah shrugged. "Nope."
"Er…no," Eva said awkwardly.
Kakashi stared skeptically at them. They stared back. He dropped his gaze from them, and crossed his hands behind his back, assuming a business-like pace across the room. "We've been monitoring several sites where large occurrences of chakra have appeared. We were able figure out that various Akatsuki members had performed it at least once. So we were eventually able to mimic it, to figure out how it worked, and ended up here. You can't play dumb; we know they've been here."
Claire scowled at him. "You've been monitoring our house, eh? That sounds like stalking to me. Not to mention the fact that you're inside now! Breaking and entering! You just seem like some wacko to me."
"Yup," Leah agreed.
"Mm hmm," said Eva.
Kakashi sighed. "Okay, then how did you know my name?"
The three of them froze. Claire paused a few seconds before answering, thinking frantically of an excuse. "You're…wearing…a name tag."
The ninja blinked. "I am not."
"I'm positive that I'm not."
"I can see it."
"You can't, because it doesn't exist!"
"Maybe someone else put it there when you weren't looking."
"That's not possible."
"Have you looked?"
"You're just trying to get me to look down."
"Would your head fall off if you did or something?"
"No," Kakashi wasn't amused. "There's no nametag."
He sighed again. "Can you just admit that you know the Akatsuki? I've been instructed to use force if you refuse to come with me or withhold information," he informed them dispiritedly.
The occasional snickers that popped up every few seconds came to an immediate halt. The girls grew serious, their eyes wide and their minds awakened by his last sentence.
"Come with you…?" Eva repeated numbly.
"As I said, I'd rather not use force. I'm giving you one more chance to admit you've been associating with the Akatsuki."
"Come with you where?" Leah asked.
Kakashi paused, caught off-balance by her question, which hinted the promise of future cooperation. "To Konoha, of course."
Claire gaped. "To…To…" As she continued to repeat the word, the corners of her mouth curved slowly upward, along with Eva's and Leah's as they all turned to face each other.
This time Kakashi was so shocked that he fell over and nearly knocked over an already disheveled Christmas tree. He awkwardly tried to keep it from falling and smashing more of the glass ornaments as the three girls shrieked in joy over and over again, jumping around in circles and conversing with each other in sonic frequency tones at a speed no man could ever hope to understand. They suddenly ran forward and started pelting him with questions about Konoha.
"What's it like?!"
"Do we really get to go?!"
"When do we leave?!"
"You aren't going to change your mind are you?!"
"Is it going to be hot or cold?!"
"What kind of money do you use?! I want souvenirs!"
"Can we go soon?!"
"I'm going to go pack!"
"HEY WAIT A MINUTE!" Kakashi yelled as the three of them ran at full speed towards the stairs, tripping over each other in their haste. They froze and stared at him, each of their pupils the size of saucers as they panted, out of breath from their constant gibbering. He straightened up once he saw he had their attention, pausing to smooth one of his shockingly white hairs back into its oddly vertical position.
"Does this mean you know the Akatsuki?" he asked calmly.
"You should have figured that out five minutes ago!"
"We have to go pack!"
About three seconds later, they were gone up the stairs, though the sounds of their frantic crashing about and screaming could probably be heard at the other end of the street.
Kakashi stared at where the three teenage girls had suddenly disappeared from sight, feeling a bit off balance.
"This is probably the strangest mission I've ever been on," he said quietly to himself.
Twenty minutes later the crashing ceased and the girls reappeared, straining under the weight of their bags.
"You…er…can't really bring all that," Kakashi pointed out as Claire gave up and kicked her back the rest of the way down the stairs. Leah shrugged, and dropped hers too. It toppled clumsily towards the ground, though it got stuck about halfway down due to its large, unmanageable girth.
"They aren't ours, they're Eva's!" Claire huffed. She turned around and pointed to her slightly deflated backpack, which was what she was bringing. Leah also had a backpack of about the same size.
"Why could you possibly have to bring that could be so important?" Kakashi asked, appalled.
"Well…" Eva began dangerously, "I have about half of my wardrobe, all my make-up, two bottles of black nail polish, all of my shoes, a sleeping bag, my pillow, my unsharpened sword, my practice sword, and my actual sword, my sword care kit, half of my manga collection, two of my writing notebooks, five pencils, the contents of my wallet and piggy bank, two of my purses, my iPod, my iPod charger, my cell phone, my cell phone charger, my cell phone's extra battery, a battery replacement kit for my iPod, some of the weights I occasionally practice with in an attempt to gain some upper body strength, a bottle of Tylenol, all of my skulls, and the things I used to keep them in good shape."
They all looked at her with expression portraying nothing less than 'Holy fuck…'
"That…that's…all in here?" Kakashi said in a barely audible voice, motioning vaguely toward the suitcase at his feet.
"Oh hell, no!" Eva said emphatically.
He let out a sigh of relief. "Thank god…"
"That's all the stuff I have in that bag!" Eva said brightly, "There are three more upstairs."
An additional ten minutes later Leah and Claire, dragging Eva by the wrists as she tried to claw her way back up the stairs, came back downstairs. When they let go, Eva was clutching a backpack the same size as the other two, and sniffling in misery.
"But what if I need my skulls?" she wailed.
"You won't," Leah said dully.
"But what about my manga?"
"There will be plenty of other stuff to do," Claire assured her coldly.
Eva sniffed the loudest sniff of them all. "WHAT ABOUT MY SWORDS???" she sobbed loudly.
"Eva, for the last, time, we packed all the essential stuff you need. That does not include skulls, manga, or swords. Swords won't do much against ninjas anyway," Leah sighed impatiently.
"But what if I—"
"But I need—"
Sniffle. "You guys are meanies."
"Yes we are," Claire agreed cheerfully. "Now shut up, and stand up."
After only about forty minutes, Kakashi was already beginning to grow immune to their weirdness.
He set up the circle of kanji with the same type of red chalk Itachi had used among the wreckage he had created earlier. The girls hopped inside the circle, biting their lips and trying (and failing) to resist smiling, laughing, and squealing. Even Eva cheered up considerably as they realized the situation—they were actually going to Konoha. They were actually going to a place they had all thought was fake. But they had all desperately wished it was their home instead of stupid America.
The familiar lightning flashes, static electricity, rushing of wind, and they were gone.
It was all over in a second. Afterwards, they would struggle to remember precisely what happened since it had been so quick and uneventful. The best way to describe it was probably like being in a lava lamp. Or being part of it, as if they were each one of the mysterious gelatinous blobs that float around in other blobby goo. Groovy. But it was over, in an immeasurable amount of time, being that it was so small. A white flash and then black.
The black of their eyelids, that was, as they had squeezed them shut in anticipation. The sun warmed the faces and arms. Bird calls, both familiar and unfamiliar sounded in unseen chirps. They could smell the clean, fresh air and hear the leaves of the trees rustling. It could have easily been La Jolla on a nice sunny day. But it was obvious that they were somewhere else. Somewhere they had never been before.
There was a certain element; it was intangible, but definitely real. They could feel it in their hearts and minds, and in their very beings. However cliché it was it was true. Slowly, they opened their eyes.
They wouldn't have thought it would be much different from the show. They were wrong. Sure, they recognized everything, but it was so much more real. The gate to the village towered over them, and the cracks in the plaster could have been as real as the ones in their own house. The buildings beyond it were too. The foliage bordering the wide path filled in the space with a mass of green. Everything was so alive. And they were in the middle of it. It was all they could do to stop themselves from running through the streets, screaming until they literally exploded or suffocated from lack of air.
Kakashi, of course, was calm and collected as usual. This was nothing new to him, and he was completely oblivious to the girls' awe. He strode past them into the adobe-colored street, pausing when he realized they hadn't moved yet. "Come on," he said.
Leah, Eva, and Claire turned in towards each other. They spared one last moment to squeal and jump around with joy, then ran quickly after him.
Colorful banners flapped lazily in the slight breeze. The smells drifting out from various restaurants were similar to those of Japanese meals they had simulated, but obviously much more authentic. They must have looked like they were on speed or something the way their heads spun around back and forth across the way.
Eva stopped walking briefly, her eyes wide as she pointed ahead of them. "Look!" she breathed.
Tsunade's office burst up from the landscape. Really only three words fit to describe it. Huge, red, and impressive.
The mountain with the five Hokage's faces was equally deistic. Claire, who had seen Mount Rushmore, confessed enthusiastically that this was hands down a million times cooler. Kakashi smiled appreciatively, but otherwise said nothing as he led them closer to their destination.
They barely noticed the strain they felt from climbing the steps, absorbed in their now constant state of adrenaline. Their hearts beat furiously, to the point where they all thought they were going to have heart attacks as they neared the door.
Finally, they knew. It was twenty yards away. Fifteen. Ten. Five. Three feet. Kakashi knocked. Each knock coincided with their heartbeats, loud and painful in their ears. The three of them gulped, suddenly very nervous.
"Eep," Eva squeaked nervously.
Shizune stood in the corner, smiling warmly as the sun illuminated her dark hair. Tsunade sat at her desk, nearly obscured from view by the mountains of papers. This sloppiness was further illustrated by the rest of the room, filled with a seemingly endless supply of boxes and files…and a couple of boxes containing sake.
Kakashi, once again, advanced into the room. Once again, he had to turn around and beckon the girls forward. They took a step together. Kakashi sighed. "Okay, try that again, only move farther."
"More…" he coaxed patiently.
"—It's fine, Kakashi," Tsunade interrupted, waving her hand impatiently. "Go gather your team while I ask these girls some questions," she ordered with her spiffy Hokage authority. "Just tell them that I need to see them in my office. They don't need to know why."
Kakashi left the room with a quick bow and a careful look at the girls. Tsunade waited until she was sure that Kakashi was gone before she continued.
Shizune closed the door behind him and quickly returned to Tsunade's side like the loyal little puppy she was. Tsunade nudged a stack of papers over a bit so that she could see her 'guests' more easily. They could see her too. Faced with her stern expression, they were suddenly and violently reminded that they weren't visiting Konoha on the best of terms. The dream-like state of euphoria was dissolved instantly. She cleared her throat, "Do you know why you're here?" she demanded.
"Erm, let's go with 'no'," Claire mumbled standoffishly. Hostile expressions still weren't enough to put them off their act of innocence.
"Not a clue," Eva agreed.
"You guys…" Leah muttered quietly.
Leah's slight protest went unseen by the Hokage. "How long have you been associated with the Akatsuki?" she asked in a business like tone.
"We already said we don't know any Eskimos!" Claire yelled.
Tsunade blinked, caught slightly off guard. "I'm not talking about Eskimos. I'm talking about the Akatsuki."
"Antarcticans are Eskimos, Tsunade," Claire said as if she was talking to a four year old.
Tsunade narrowed her eyes, "How do you know my name?"
"You're wearing a nametag," Claire accused for the second time that day.
"I am not."
"You are too."
Tsunade straightened up a bit without taking her eyes of the girls. "Shizune, am I wearing a nametag?"
"No, Tsunade-sama," Shizune said honestly.
Claire pointed dramatically to Shizune. "Damn you, accomplice."
Tsunade cleared her throat loudly. "I'll say it again; how long have you been associated with the Akatsuki?"
"We don't know any Antarcticans!"
Tsunade slammed her palms flat on her desk and stood up, causing a loud noise and papers to slide to the floor. She scowled at them, "Stop playing games and answer my question!" she yelled.
Claire and Eva backed away. Leah jumped a little but didn't react so much since she was use to these kinds of outbursts from her mother.
"Don't eat me." Claire requested.
"Cannibalism stunts your growth," Eva added just as fearfully but stupidly.
"Shut up, Eva."
"Yes you are."
Leah shook her head at her friends and looked at Tsunade, who was still expecting an answer. She swallowed nervously and said, "I can't say anything."
Tsunade slumped back in her chair and rubbed her forehead in frustration. "They're criminals. Very dangerous criminals. If you can tell us anything, you could save dozens, maybe hundreds of their next victims!" she said in a persuasive tone.
The girls said nothing, and chose instead to shuffle their feet. This was about as good as a confession for Tsunade, and she was about to continue when there was a loud knock at her door. She sighed and fixed her papers again. "Come in."
Kakashi reentered the room seconds later, followed by three more very familiar ninja's—Sakura, Sai, and, of course, the one and only Naruto. They, like everyone and everything else, were very real.
Naruto, jumpsuit and hair both the same degree of neon, was glaring at Sai, who was wearing his signature attempt at a friendly smile. Sakura just stood sternly between the two of them in case war broke out in her teacher's office (which would be bad).
"Sakura, Naruto, Sai," Tsunade addressed them each with a nod. They straightened up and looked dutifully at the Hokage. "You three will be keeping an eye on these girls today. They're foreigners from—"
"—Really? Where?" Naruto asked excitedly as he bounced in front of Claire, Leah, and Eva.
"Mars!" Claire replied in a mockingly excited tone.
"Ahem," Tsunade coughed, "As I was saying, you'll be showing them around. Don't let them go out on their own. It's a big village as you know and they could get lost," Tsunade explained.
"I know, I still get lost," Naruto grinned.
"That's because you're a dumb-shit," Sai noted cheerfully.
Sakura elbowed them both. "Be nice, we're on a mission."
Naruto was ignoring her and about to go all ninja fury on Sai's ass, but seeing that Kakashi and Tsunade were in the room, he decided against it. Instead, he settled for quietly glaring at Sasuke's replacement and imagined him being squished by giant muffin.
Tsunade eyed Naruto and Sai, wishing momentarily that they got along a little better. However, her attention quickly returned to the matter at hand. "Find them places to stay for tonight after you show them around. I expect to see the three of you," she pointed at Team Kakashi, "tomorrow morning. You're excused."
Kakashi and his team, Eva, Claire, and Leah, all turned and filed out the door. The girls cast one tentative look back into the office before the door closed. This wasn't a dream; it was real. But with Tsunade and Shizune staring knowingly after them, they wondered if that was a good thing…or not.
Claire: It's got clichés, AND suspense! It's like a duplex! Only it's not a house…and houses usually don't have suspense…or clichés…OH WELL! YOU GET THE POINT!
Leah: I wrote stuff, but still Claire wrote most of it and Eva wrote nothing…because she is lame and is only good for pervy-ness (and editing). Also! Jason hugged Claire! It was funny!
Claire: Go to hell.
Ew….germssssssssssss. –scrub scrub scrub-
Eva: NOT TRUE!!!!! I wrote almost the ENTIRE packing part. They always complain about how I NEVER write ANYTHING, but when I DO write something, and then they completely and totally FORGET ABOUT IT! –gets eaten by frustration and over-reacting-ness bunnies-
Plus, you guys are seriously incapable of writing any pervy-ness. I have my uses.
Claire: ...I got to use the word groovy!
I. Am. So. Happeh! -squeak of joy-
And Eva's creepy. The end.