Meanwhile, in a town called Spoons…

Ino did not like rain. This statement is on par with "Hitler wasn't a very nice man." or "Straw is a poor building material." Or, in a similar vein of thought, "Ino doesn't want to move to Spoons, Washington." Thus it should come as no surprise that Ms. Yamanaka was in passive-aggressive mode as the moving van pulled up next to the vacant storefront. (There was living space above it.) However, Ino was no a selfish girl. She was 16, after all, so she was accustomed to change, although it tended to manifest in her body's growth and her temperament. Though she was secretly disappointed in some areas, she had a normal height and a certain slim grace, so she couldn't complain. Too much. Especially if she gets her monthly dose of really good chocolate. Regardless, both she and her parents have become accustomed to her new emotional balance. Thus it is that Ino silently helps transport flowers, boxes, vases, and luggage. Ino thanked her lucky stars that the weather deigned not to rain upon them in mid move. Just as this thought crosses her mind, rain patters… smugly. She couldn't hold back a laugh. This signaled the end of her bad mood, and so the Yamanaka household was peaceful. Ino flumped down on the couch amidst the cardboard strewn living room. Mr. Yamanaka donned a very manly daisy-laced apron and started frying noodles. Mrs. Yamanaka gracefully deposited herself on the cool carpet floor. Muffled a bit by her folded arms, she let out a yawn and promptly fell asleep. (The parents had taken turns driving though the night.) The next few days flowed along reasonably smoothly. (There was some excitement when they ousted a family of rats from the kitchen cupboard.) As the house grew to resemble a home, Ino could feel summer vacation slip through her fingers. Before she knew it, the mists of morning swirled around her and her father as they strode to the car. The girl fidgeted with her backpack straps.

"Now, I realize you're nervous, being the new kid. However, for a limited time, you will be an unknown. Unknowns can be frightening, but also enticing. So you shouldn't date for the next three months."

"Daaad…"

"Alright, I'll trust your judgment, but be careful."

"You're so embarrassing."

"But you loooove me."

*Sigh* "Yes, dad. Now can we talk about something else?"

"Too late sweetie. We're here."

Ino turned in surprise. It was an old building. It resembled a rundown mansion, as much as a school. The sign out front and the graveled playground tipped the scales. As she climbed out, Ino saw a small add on that looked to be a small gymnasium, significantly newer than the building it was attached to. Ino waved to her father as he drove away. Taking a deep breath, she turned to school and marched up, determined to remain firmly in control of her day.

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"Let's see here… Mr. Hatake, first period, room 203. Right."

Ino knew the map she held would be priceless during the next few days. As she opened the door, something fell on her head, and she sneezed. 'awesome.' The class in front of her had a mixed reaction. A blond with outrageous sideburns was howling in laughter. A pale girl in front had a look of sympathy and complete embarrassment. The rest ran through the spectrum between amused and exasperated.

"Honestly, Naruto, it's not that funny." A pink haired girl with an irritable expression picked up the eraser from the floor and chucked it at the offending party. 'bullseye' was the second thought to go through our hero's head. Absently brushing chalk dust from her head, Ino sighed and said, "Hello, my name is Ino Yamanaka."

"Sakura Haruno. And that delinquent is Naruto Uzumaki. For the record, though, that eraser was meant for our teacher. He should be here any hour now."

Ino looked at her strangely as she sat next to Sakura. "Any hour now?"

"Mr. Hatake is late every day. Luckily he teaches English, so we just read our assigned reading until he gets here."

"Sounds easy."

"Oh, it is, until he gives us a test. Those things are murder."

Just then the door opened, revealing a surprised grey-haired man. Ino couldn't help but wonder why he wore a Phantom of the Opera mask.

"You're late!" Ino wasn't surprised by her new friend's reaction. She was more surprised to hear it in stereo. Looking back, she saw Naruto glaring furiously.

"Yo." Is this really a teacher?

"I was helping an old lady cross the river…"

"LIAR!" Again, the stereo yell.

"Anyways, it looks like we have a new student. How about you introduce yourself?"

Ino was a tad embarrassed. "My name is Ino Yamanaka, and I'm from Tuscan Arizona."

"Thank you. Alright class, the first book we will be reading this year is Fahrenheit 451. I'll be expecting your report…"

She could feel herself ease into the normal rhythm of high school. Some things stay the same wherever you are. At the end of the period, Ino waved to Sakura as they parted ways. Down a hallway, up a flight of stairs, and around the corner, she gazed cautiously at the door. Nothing fell when she opened it, so she proceeded. It was a little weird being the first in a classroom. Ino chose a seat in the back. The next student to enter was remarkably handsome, in a pale way. As he took his seat, Ino couldn't help but notice the many chains, belts, and pins that seemed to hold together his clothing. He audibly clattered when he sat. As the students trickled in, the only person to sit near the pale goth was a red head wearing similar clothing, if less ornamented. Almost as soon as the red head sat down, he rested his head on his crossed arms and fell asleep. At the sound of an ominous creak, Ino tore herself away from ogl… observing the ebon haired goth. The source turned out to be a tortured desk seat. Upon it sat the largest person she had ever seen. His ginger hair stuck out of holes in the knit cap he wore. The white t-shirt and tan shorts were stretched rather severely in places. His backpack crinkled as it came to rest on the dusty floor. The large boy opened a bag of chips that seemed to come out of nowhere, and proceeded to munch contentedly. No one seemed surprised. It was at this moment that the teacher chose to enter.

He was a thick set man, with a reasonable amount of stubble. He casually and shamelessly put out a cigarette in the ash tray on his desk. As Mr. Sarutobi droned through the class roll in a rumbling baritone, Ino kept an ear out for the strange people's names. Mr. Sarutobi straightened and smiled. "Welcome to Economics. To start off, behold this one dollar bill. We will auction it off in class." Someone ended up buying it for $1.05. (AN: this actually happened.) The rest of the class was less interesting. "What is Economics, blah blah, It's not about the money, blah blah." Ino had a page of notes that, she suspected, would be duplicated in the textbook they were to get the next day. Shouldering her backpack, she dreaded the next day when it would be heavy with textbooks. Ino opened the door to her math class. Sitting in the middle of the room was, "Sakura!"

"Hey Ino. How was Econ?"

"Ugh. It's going to be the longest class of the day. Sarutobi's nice, but his droning puts me to sleep."

"Sounds tough."

Ino plopped down next to her, and suddenly noticed the teacher leafing through the newspaper.

"Oh, Ino, Ebisu assigned seats. You're in the corner window seat."

"Figures."

A third student walked in. He sported blue jeans, a white t-shirt, and a simple black suit jacket. However, all of this had dog hair all over it. His own hair was an unkempt mane of brown. When his eyes alighted on Ino, they brightened. When he spoke, it was with an outrageous French accent.

"Welcome, mademoiselle, to our academy de'arts. If I may be so bold, your name must be sexy-fine to accurately represent ze owner."

Ino laughed and Sakura sighed in exasperation.

"Honestly, Kiba, do you have to hit on every girl you meet?"

"Sakura! You wound me!" He dropped the accent. "I only hit on the pretty ones."

Sakura turned towards Ino.

"This is Kiba Inuzuka." The boy bowed with a flourish. "And he is as close to being Naruto's twin brother without actually being related."

Ino nodded to Kiba. "I'm Ino Yamanaka. You know, you'd look better without the dog hair."

Kiba sighed tragically. "Alas, it is the curse of my family to always be on the best of terms with all of canine kind. Seriously, though, my parents are vets. With a house full of patients, it is impossible to keep any surface free of hair." He dropped his backpack by the desk next to Ino. Then he got down on one knee and pretended to open a ring box.

"Will you be… my neighbor?"

Ino laughed, a bit ruefully. "Sorry, I'm assigned elsewhere. In fact," she saw class was starting soon, "I should be going to my seat. Nice meeting you." With that she sat in her assigned spot. Ino looked out the window and waited for the boredom to set in.

"Excuse me, but I would like to sit there. Would you like to switch seats?"

The blond looked up. Before her stood a gangly youth, brown, nearly black hair, circular sunglasses and a grey trench coat. Ino was momentarily distracted by the cute little bee embroidered on the breast pocket. Glancing away, she saw the only available seat was, oddly, between Kiba and Sakura.

"Are we allowed? I thought the seats non-negotiable."

Shino called out to the teacher. "It is fine, isn't it, if Ino and I switch seats?" The weird thing was, it didn't sound like a question, more a veiled threat. Mr. Ebisu folded his newspaper and looked at the strange student. They both had the same style sunglasses. What followed was an odd staring match where neither party could see the other's eyes. Then Ebisu looked away, or something.

"It'll be fine this once. But I expect both of you to be on your best behavior."

Ino found herself once again next to Sakura. Shino stoically regarded a bumblebee on a droopy flower. Mr. Ebisu (seemingly in retaliation) had the students work on problems from the book.

Scribble. Scribble.

"Say, Sakura, why did Ebisu obey Shino?"

"Shino's family owns a honey business. People joke that they talk to the bees. I don't know how true that is, but they do tend to have the dirt on everyone."

"Weird."

Kiba interrupted, "You know, Shino's not a bad guy. It's just that he's quiet, like a robot. It spooks people." The boy sighed. "his only friends are Hinata and I."

"Hinata?"

Sakura waved her hand in the air vaguely. "You know, the pale girl in our English class. She's very shy." She cocked her head to the side. "I don't know she and Kiba became friends. They're like complete opposites."

Kiba shrugged. "One day she brought in her puppy for shots. We just started talking in the waiting room. In retrospect, it was mostly me talking. " Kiba grinned and wiggled his eyebrows. "Must have been my charming nature."

The girls rolled their eyes.

Before they knew it, the period ended. Sakura stretched as she stood. "Lunch time. Why don't you sit at our table, Ino?"

"Sure thing."

The three strolled amicably down the hallway, separating to retrieve their lunches. When Ino looked out over the lunch room, quick scan caught a patch of pink. A hand waved from near the patch.

"Ino! Over here!" Sakura sat at a table, with what had to be Hinata to her left , and across from her was a brunette with her hair in two circular buns. Despite being clearly of European descent, the girl wore very Chinese clothing. It looked good, however. To Sakura's right was an empty seat, obviously saved for her. As she sat down, Ino noticed Kiba in front of her and Naruto across from Hinata.

"Ino, Tenten. Tenten, Ino." The brunette nodded.

"And this is Hinata Hyuuga." Sakura leaned back a bit. Hinata shyly waved a bit.

"N-nice to m-meet you."

"Likewise."

When introductions had ceased, Hinata almost immediately sent discreet glances towards Naruto. The object of her attention was also blatantly staring at Sakura with the eyes of a lovesick puppy. 'Huh. Love triangle.' Naruto absently crunched on his lunch (dry ramen) and suddenly squinted at Kiba. "Hey, Kiba, whya sittin' over there?"

Kiba swallowed his animal cracker. "Why, I merely wish to converse with our lovely lady."

"Hey! Stay away from my Sakura!" Naruto had risen from his seat and now pointed dramatically at Kiba, over Tenten's head. She continued to eat as if this happened every day.

"Idiot, I meant Ino. I swear, those overgrown ear hairs of yours have leached out your mind."

"You. Did. Not. Just insult themanchops."

The argument quickly dissolved into a scuffle. The girls seemed unsurprised, and only Hinata seemed concerned about the combatants. Ino leaned towards Sakura.

"Is this… normal?"

She sighed. "I'm afraid so. And no matter what he says, I am not Naruto's girl."

"Then what's his deal?"

"He latched onto me when we were freshmen. Since then he's been like a brain dead stalker. He's not so bad, at least when he's not asking me out for the hundredth time. Right Hinata?"

The pale girl was rapturously staring at the two writhing boys. Her glasses were sliding down and she sported a definite blush.

"He's… magnificent."

Ino couldn't help herself. "Even with the 'manchops'?"

Hinata paused; "They are… interesting."

Naruto Shot straight up and clasped Hinata's hand. "Thank you! See Sakura? The manchops are not to be feared but admired!" Hinata was hyperventilating. Naruto noticed the odd state of the girl as Kiba stood up behind him. "Hey, are you alright?"

"I-I-I-I-I'm o-ok-kay."

Kiba whispered something in Naruto's ear. The boy shrugged and let go of Hinata's hand. She calmed down significantly, but the blush didn't fade.

"Hyuuga… That sounds familiar." Ino mused aloud. Tenten mimed glasses. "You know, Hyuuga Inc.? The optics company with the commercials that start with 'Byakugan!'."

Ino turned to Hinata. "Then you're…"

"My dad owns the company."

"Dang."

"Yeah." Hinata seemed to wish she wasn't from such a prominant family.

Out of Ino's peripheral vision came a flock of black. It was Sasuke, Gaara, and two others. The girl wore a black and purple dress, elegant and head and shoulders too dressy for a school day. Her sandy blond hair was tied back in what looked like four pony tails hacked off a couple of inches from the hair ties. The boy walking beside her wore a black hoodie and black pants, both torn and spattered with paint. His face was exquisitely painted, one half seemed to belong to a demon, the other was that of an angel.

"Yum." Sakura murmured, staring appreciatively at Sasuke. "Who are they?" asked Ino.

"The Sabaku's, Gaara, Kankuro, and Temari, are from a rich family." Began Tenten. "Their father was an abusive tyrant. Then one day the serial killer Orochimaru knocked him off. Since then they've been the wards of the Uchiha family. Sasuke there is the youngest. His father is the police chief."

Kiba sighed. "Ah, Temari. The only woman to punch me in anger, yet still look as lovely as a crashing wave." After that, the conversation turned to more mundane topics, such as comparing schedules and how weird all the teachers are.

The bell rang. Ino was on her own next period. Mr. Baki was reputed to be a strict, but fair chemistry teacher. It is rumored that half his face had been horribly scarred in a lab accident. When Ino arrived, he was not there. There was, however, a small scattering of students. She checked the front desk, and yes, a seating chart. Ino waved her arms a bit to orient herself with the chart. Then she froze. Next to her name was Sasuke Uchiha. To say Ino was nervous is an understatement. With as much grace as she could muster, the girl strode to her seat. Awkward silence. Ino glanced at the marble pale beauty next to her.

"Please tell me you're not the kind of girl who has to talk all the time."

"I'm not. Wait. What?"

Sasuke sighed. "That's good. I am really not interested in the latest celebrity gossip."

"Girl problems?"

"You have no idea."

"I'd sympathize more, but I'm distracted by how pretty you are."

"Let's set some ground rules here. I do not want to be saved. I am quite happy as a goth. You cannot go goth spontaneously. This is not your chance to get close to me. We will simply work together when necessary. I will engage in casual conversation, however, I am not interested in dating your friends or you. Lastly, I cannot emphasize this enough, I am not gay."

"Sounds fair. One question though; am I allowed to ogle?" Ino was only half joking.

"I guess. I can't really stop you."

The lights turned off. In walked a man in a white lab coat, black shirt and slacks. In the darkness it was hard to see his face. Light flared from the tip of a barbecue lighter. Three Petri dishes were sequentially set afire, blood red, emerald, and sapphire flames clawed at the air. Above them loomed the visage of Mr. Baki. One side of his face was that a soldier might have, lined and weathered. The other side… in the surreal light of the burning alcohol it seemed to be the hideous of the devil grinning at you. Several students gasped. Mr. Baki rasped as he spoke, sometimes barking out words for emphasis.

"You know who I am. In this class you will sweat in the refiner's fire and come out pure and strong. Any horseplay will be dealt with HARSHLY. Follow the procedure to the letter. If you break something, TELL ME. I will NOT have people digging glass out of their shoes."

Click. Whiiiiirrrr… the overhead thrummed to life. Behind the teacher shone the class rules in his spidery handwriting. Demonstrations followed. Dry ice exploded inside an eye dropper that was held under water; Two liquids met in the air and disappeared; and the grand finale: Mr. Baki blew a powder at an open flame that flared dramatically. Ino couldn't help but be reminded of the older kind of circus, the kind with darker attractions and a sense of mystery and magic that is almost palpable.

And then, it was over. Mr. Baki was back to being a teacher, and the class was no longer an audience. A worksheet was handed out.

Scritch Scritch.

"Hey Shikamaru, what's the number nine?" Sasuke called out. A drowsy voice answered, "Page 13, the little blue box."

Ino looked back to the source. Directly behind her sat a student who seemed to be asleep. This long brown hair was tied back into a loose ponytail. Sasuke opened to page thirteen, and indeed, a little blue box held the information needed to answer number nine. A bit hesitantly, Ino wrote down the answer. She glanced back. In front of Shikamaru lay a blank work sheet. Slowly, Shikamaru drew a stamp from his backpack. Thump. The stamp was returned. On the name line in an old font was "Shikamaru Nara". That seemed to be enough.

The period passed slowly, with intermittent exchanges between Sasuke and Shikamaru, the occasional "troublesome" and "Thanks". When the class turned in the worksheet, Shikamaru's was blissfully empty of answers.

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Outside the door to the study hall room, she heard a familiar voice.

"And we shall call this land… This Land." Then the voice took on a gravely tone, sounding rather stereotypically evil. "I think we shall call it your grave!" then it was back to normal. "Curse your sudden but inevitable betrayal!" It sounded like the good voice was in trouble. Ino opened the door. Before her was Mr. Hatake, playing with stegosaurus and T-Rex toys on the overhead.

"Um… good afternoon Mr. Hatake."

"Ah. Good afternoon Ms. Yamanaka."

Awkward silence. Mr. Hatake slid the toys into his pockets. Ino picked a seat at random, and wished desperately someone would come to break the silence. Then, "NO! Naruto, I will NOT feel you sideburns! Freak."

"Manchops, Sakura. And why not? They are so soft and lonely!"

In walked the blond and the pink. Hinata quietly shadowed Naruto. Sakura plopped down next to Ino. "So how was chemistry?"

"Mr. Baki is pretty cool. He did some tricks and stuff. Oh." Ino leaned in close and whispered, "I sit next to Sasuke!" Sakura's eyes opened wide. "Lucky! You must take pictures and give them to me. My love shrine can always use more offerings."

"You… don't actually have a love shrine, do you?"

"No, but I wouldn't mind the pictures anyways." Sakura winked.

"Say what's the story on… oh, speak of the devil." In shuffled Shikamaru. He sat next to the window and gazed blankly at the overcast sky.

"Oh, Shikamaru? His family owns a cattle ranch just north of here. They're old friends of the Akimichis."

"Who?"

"You know Choji? Always eats chips?"

"Oh, him. It was weird in chemistry. Shikamaru knew where all the answers were to the worksheet. But he didn't write any down, he just stamped his name on it. I don't get it."

Naruto had gone to the bathroom, so Hinata joined in. "He tested out of his classes. He just attends school because he doesn't want to do anything more than is necessary." It seems that Hinata could act normally if Naruto was away. Ino sighed. "Must be nice, no homework, no tests, just napping in school. But wait. Hey Shikamaru! How'd you know the answers?"

The person in question slowly turned his head towards Ino. "Chemistry writers follow a pattern with their material. People are too predictable. Now leave me alone." With that, he turned back to cloud gazing. His voice was a bored monotone. Naruto chose that moment to return. He straddled his chair backwards and rested his arms on the back.

"Soooo, Sakura. You. Me. Friday at 7. Howabout it?" He was trying for smooth, but came off obnoxious. Sakura rolled her eyes. "No, try Hinata."

The girl in question blushed furiously and had a sudden interest in the pen in her hand.

"Oh, Sakura, why so mean? One day you will relent and in that day you will know the rapture that is Naruto!"

Slap. "Idiot."

Hinata mumbled inaudibly, "I want to know the rapture…"

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Mr. Gai was… a unique Phys. Ed. Teacher. He wasn't a bad man; he ran the local orphanage where Tenten lived, and from what Tenten had said, he was very generous and kind. What she left out was how incredibly unlovely his hair style was. The bowl cut was bad, but those eyebrows! To add insult to injury, he seemed to consider green sweats and an orange vest to be high fashion. Ino must have stared a little to obviously, because a voice beside her sounded amused.

"Pretty cool, eh?" the voice commented. It sounded vaguely Canadian. When Ino turned her head, her heart stopped. She stood face to face with Mr. Gai's clone. But wait, the face looked younger, and narrower. Suddenly remembering herself, Ino stuck out her hand. "Ino Yamanaka." His hand grasped hers firmly and pumped up and down a few times. "Rock Lee, at your service."

The students stood around aimlessly on the gym floor. Then Mr. Gai blew his whistle. "Class! To start off the year and celebrate the springtime of youth, we will run the mile!" He struck a ridiculous pose, and gave a thumbs up. Lee burst into tears rapture in his eyes. "Yes! I will run a mile for you, NO! Two miles!" The rest of the class groaned and meandered to the starting line. When Mr. Gai blew his whistle a second time, Lee was off like a shot. As the mini-Gai completed one lap, Ino noticed Shikamaru asleep in the corner of the gym. 'Three classes in a row with him. Weird.'

Ino had traveled half a mile when she noticed long, black swaying hair in front of her. "Hinata!" The owner turned. The person was obviously tired of people addressing him as such. Ino was mortified. "I'm sorry! It's just the hair…"

"I understand. It's the price I pay for my beautiful locks."

Ino couldn't tell if he was joking or not. Lee, on his last lap, seemed concerned.

"Neji, why oh why have you slowed? Are you alright?"

Neji's face was an emotionless mask. "I may have eaten something at lunch. Don't worry, I'll be fine. Shouldn't you hurry to beat your last record?"

"Oh! Many thanks for reminding me! GET BETTER!" With that, Lee sprinted off. Neji rolled his eyes and turned back to Ino.

"Gai expects improvement over the school year. If I set a slow time at first, it will be manageable later."

"Ah. Good plan. So… you're Hinata's brother?"

"Cousin. My parents died in a car crash, so my uncle took me in."

"Oh, I'm sorry. That must have been terrible."

"It was, but it's been a few years. Time dulls the pain."

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Lee led the class overenthusiastically in calisthenics that the class would have to do every day. Gai himself performed various gymnastic feats "To keep my springtime of youth fresh!", or so he said. By the end, Ino was exhausted.

Art class was interesting. Mrs. Sarutobi "Call me Kurenai." reminded Ino a lot of Cruella De' Ville, only younger and much more beautiful. Despite that, Ino resolved never to mention dogs or puppies. She turned towards Tenten to comment on the resemblance, but Tenten was happily absorbed in staring at Kankuro. Hinata's seat was across the room, next to Lee. The boy was bouncing in his seat. Ino dreaded the idea of him having access to paint. Time flew. The class got up and starting walking around the room, like some non-musical chairs game. They were examining each other's drawings, and Ino had to admit Kankuro was amazing. It was hard to tell the difference between the black and white photo they all had tried to replicate and the pencil drawing.

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Ino opened the door to the flower shop.

"How was your first day, dear?" Mrs. Yamanaka called from behind the counter.

"Interesting." Ino said as she climbed the stairs, and promptly flopped on the bed.

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AN: ugh. That took forever. Anyways, bits of this are taken from my high school experience. Like the chemistry demonstrations, and the dollar auction.