A/N: Well, I was kind of disappointed by the lack of reviews to the recent chapter of A Curious Thing, which I'm willing to bet was because it was updated too quickly. To those of you who sort your favorites by date updated, I think my story was updated too quickly for any other story to get in front of it so you were like "Oh, it hasn't been updated" when in reality it was updated twice. So from now on, I'll be updating S&S and ACT one after another. That way you'll know when both have ben updated.

Onto the acknowledgements! Sniper Artist, Kage Bijuu, zentary, Clemerl, OBSERVER01, XllShadowMasterllX, Flamelord99, lightningblade99, hellzanetruesdale, Saisaici - The Helper, The Laughing Phoenix, Skelo, Hood Fox 3, Trife, Fic Slayr, One Universe, Alehhandro, Soraya the All Speaker, marc, storyreaderlovespie, Random dude, reviewer, sword, algebraiya, georgeofthecity, and Freehawk.

Now I think I got everyone. However, this time it was a little bit difficult considering that of the 28 reviews, 16 were from members, while 12 were anonymous. I found it funny that they allmost out-numbered the member reviews :P However, while I do appreciate your reviews, I have a bone to pick with one of you in particular.

That person is the anonymous (no surprise there) flamer, reviewer. To you, I say; what the Hell? Don't force your views of how a relationship should be on me! You said, "I liked this pairing untill i looked at in a realistic way and compared it to real relationships and love...Let me as you a question after a girl you loved or crushed on rejected you,do you automatically go for the one you find out likes you even though you never looked at her romatically or evrn shared aword after her confession of love to you march up to her and suddenly say i realised its you i love not her,then she excepts you and all is alright in paradise without a second thought.." Ok, first off, learn to spell you two year old. Second, yes I would. Why? Because the love of the one who loved me first would spill over, and I'd learn to love them as equally as they do me. Also, you need to take into account Naruto's past. He, who has had no such thing as "love" nor has probably had any hope for such a thing, suddenly finds out "Oh hey, they've loved me this entire time. Wow I'm dumb. I guess I should say somthing to her", but in a more dramatic way. Put yourself in his unloved shoes and tell me you wouldn't do the same. If you said "I would do diferently," its probably because you're a griefer who has a different pairing preference.

I take personal offence to this considering this actualy happened to me in real life. I liked this girl, and she didn't like me the same way, however, her friend, and aquantence of mine whom I hardly looked at, or considered dating material, apporached me and told me she like-liked me. Now, you could say I'm soft, and I felt sorry for her, but let me ask you, isn't Naruto the same way? Even so, for Naruto, it wouldn't be pity, it would be a revelation to him in such a way that he would instantly be forced to reconsider his so-called "feelings" for Sakura.

And who says this needs to be based off of real life? FanFiction is our way of escaping life and immersing ourselves in the unreal! You faggots who try and place us back in the real world of pain don't deserve the imagination you've been given! Dont force your worldview on me, or anyone else who happens to be different!

"This reinforces my point of naruto/hinata fans you think by some definition hinata belongs to naruto and lack any respect for her and keep her meek and pitfully weak so she depends on naruto in everyone ,if hinata was narutos wife and heir of the hyuga clan or may be even clan head she must have been able to defeat some fodder shikigami considering the hyuga fighting style and it should be impossible to sneak up on her and should be able to sense spirit pressure with the lifetime of shinobi experience she has and the naivety should not be there whole still could be nice."

Maybe you didn't realize it, but she was attacked by surprise. And just because she's a shinobi doesnt mean that she's lost the gift to allways think the best of others. I protray Hinata with subtle strength that you don't immeditately see or recognize. You kind of just contradicted yourself. As a shinobi, she wouldn't have even known about reiatsu or reiryoku, so how could she have mastered detection of it in a few days? And In what part of the scene did any of the men use spirit preasure anyway? He hit her over the head with a pipe. That doesn't take some sort of enhanced technique! Naivety... Hinata is not naieve. As I said, she simply thinks the best of others. She is willing to put aside grudges or suspicions of others in favor of kindness and gentleness. Is there somthing wrong with that?

"you resaying am a fanatic naruto/sakura fan ask yourself why doesnt naruto go look for any other girl besides her..whats to say he doesnt have a shot with temari respect him for gara and would give him a chance,tenten too could give one..you would say NO cos they belong to shikimaru or negi wouldnt may be hinata and kiba or shino I am willing to bet she knows them alot more than naruto."

I'm not sure... Is that a question, or a statement? I'll treat it as a question. Why doesn't he have a shot with any of them? Because there is not CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT for ANY OF IT! Never once did he view any of them as potential love interests, so there would be absolutely ZERO foundation for such a relationship. Same with Kiba/Hina and Shino/Hina. They're teammates, but never once have they been shown to consider each other any more than teammates. Such a relationship would have no foundation.

You criticize me for treating Hinata like a doormat; not considering what she would do. I throw that coment back at you. Would Hinata place her faith in anyone other than Naruto? No. Never once has she stalked Kiba, or Shino nor once considered them as potential love interests. Your claims to the contrary are easily undermined.

"sorry i came off as are entitled to write as you like my apologies."

Ok, I appreciate the apology, but for some reason I view this as a parent catching the child doing somthing bad, and demanding them to appologize to the other person; a bit forced.

Sorry for my rant, but I felt it was necessary. I don't like feeding the griefers, but this guy pissed me off.

Anyway, this chapter is more for developing some of the characters in the story. Yes, I am purposefully extending the Bleach story line so I can have more time to bring in the characters needed and give them the development they require. This one won't progress the plot too far, so I gues you could consider it a filler, though its not completley fluff. its also a bit short, but I wanted to get it done, so I cut it off a bit. But it's still fairly long, I think.

I was also tempted to put in a Lemon scene in this chapter, but I wasn't sure. I have a poll on my home page on whether I should put another one in soon or not. It probably will be NaruHina again though. I know, Sorry to all you other pairing fans, but I find any other pairing difficult to work with. I WILL try and work one out for them too, fear not! If you want, you can tell me in the reviews too.

Well, have fun!

Chapter 20: Aftermath

"That's enough, Zaku." Dosu commanded. Zaku, who was flirting rather roughly with Kin, turned and glared at the bandaged man. Kin, thankful for a respite, turned and ran, fleeing for the safety of her room. By the time Zaku turned back to her, she was already too far away for even his Sonido to reach her.

"Oh! Wonderful! She's gone already. You really need to learn to mind your own business, Dosu!" Zaku yelled angrily at his fellow Números. Dosu glared back uncaringly.

"You go too far, Zaku,. As usual. Couldn't you tell she'd had enough?" Dosu said as he got up from the sandy ground.

"Who cares? I'm allowed to have my fun!" Zaku said, turning away.

"No, you're not. Not at the expense of a fellow Arrancar, and especially not when that person is a teammate."

Zaku scoffed. "Whatever." Dosu grunted in annoyance as his colleague tromped off to who-knows-where. Zaku had recently started this; it was a cycle of get bold, go too far, explode, chill, and back again. He had a pretty good idea why. Dosu had recently begun having dreams about, what he assumed could be memories of his most recent life. Zaku obviously came to the same conclusion and apparently wasn't too happy about it. Dosu didn't blame him; the dreams he'd had were less than gallant. But he wouldn't stand for him to blow steam on a teammate.

Dosu and Zaku had been turned into Arrancar around the same time, and for as long as they could remember, they had traveled together. Kin was different. She'd been turned into an Arrancar maybe sixty or seventy years after them. She had been brought to them because she claimed to have recognized them. They didn't argue; they felt the connection themselves. They had often pondered why they had this connection to each other, but had often come up blank, commonly speculating that they "Must have been good friends when we were alive."

They often trained with each other, building up so they could become Fracción once the new Espada were implemented. They, unfortunately, didn't cut it. Kin had been devastated by the fact, especially since she'd had eyes on the current Cuatro Espada. Not that he was supposed to know about that. He was certain she didn't know that he knew, and he wanted to keep it that way.

The position had been given to some "Kimimaro" guy whom Dosu had never seen before until his instatement. He had to admit though; the man looked powerful, and equally as cold as the Espada he served. He shuffled off to his Kin's room to check up on her. Zaku had really gone too far this time, and he figured she'd need someone to talk to.

"Welcome back, Grimmjow." Aizen exclaimed with a deceptively warm smile. Grimmjow remained silent.

Tousen, off to his left, gave him a not so subtle verbal nudge. "Well? Don't you have something to say, Grimmjow?"

Grimmjow didn't raise his head, but kept his eyes downward, almost disappointedly. "Not really." Why would he have anything to say?

"How dare you-!"

"It's all right, Kaname." Aizen cut in from his throne high above them. "I'm not upset in the least with Grimmjow's actions."

"Aizen-sama!" Tousen exclaimed astounded.

"I believe Grimmjow's actions were an attempt to please me that got a bit carried away." Aizen explained. "Isn't that right, Grimmjow?"

Grimmjow considered denying it, but that would be risky. It was obvious Aizen wanted him to answer yes. "That's right."

Before he could blink, Tousen's gloved hand griped his collar and held tight. Grimmjow looked over with a bored expression. "What the hell's your problem, Tousen?" A small stare down ensued between the two before Tousen finally looked away and in anger demanded, "Aizen-sama, give me permission to execute him!"

"Kaname…" Aizen began, but whatever he was going to say was cut off. Grimmjow knocked Tousen's arm away, taking a good two steps back.

"You wish. You just can't stand me, can you? Is it ok for a commanding officer to act like that?"

"I believe those who disturb the peace should not be forgiven. That's all." Kaname shot back instantly, not a shred of hesitance in his voice.

"…For the sake of our group?"

"For Aizen-sama."

"Ha! You're always thinking about your morals, aren't you?" Grimmjow mocked with a smirk.

"That's right. I act based on my morals. Which your actions completely lack. Without a higher cause behind it, justice is no more than slaughter." He grabbed the hilt of his Zanpakutō, drawing it from its sheath an inch or so. "But, slaughter in the name of a higher cause… is justice."

In the blink of an eye, his sword flashed into the light and down towards Grimmjow's left arm. There was an audible slash, and blood dripped to the floor. Tousen's eyes widened and Aizen's twinkled in amusement a small smile forming on his lips. Tousen's eyes widened, as did nearly everyone else's at the spectacle.

"If slaughter is justified, then it is acceptable… is that what you're saying?" Tousen's eyes narrowed now, a snarl forming on his lips. "You…!"

The figure that stood between Grimmjow and Tousen shifted his arm, throwing Tousen's blade to the side. "Is not justice susceptible to personal opinion? Would not Grimmjow-dono's actions then be justified by his account?" He stood between the two as if he were an immovable wall.

"Kimimaro... You are dangerously overstepping your bounds!" Tousen spat. The white haired Arrancar did not flinch. "I am simply pointing out how Grimmjow was justified in his actions. If that meets with your displeasure, then do as you see fit."

"If that is your decision." Tousen growled out, leaping forward to attack. He swung his sword down, aiming to bisect the Kaguya down the middle. Kimimaro was unfazed. It was his duty to do right by Aizen. One should not go about killing their own soldiers, especially when those soldiers are so difficult to replace. It was simply not what superiors did. But if his death would bring him to that realization, then it was worth it. For Aizen-sama's sake.

Tousen's blade descended down. Kimimaro was already resigned to whatever fate he might receive. But Fate itself, had different plans for him. A speeding white blur intercepted the ebony captain, holding the blade not an inch above Kimimaro's head.

"Whooo… Scary sca~ry! Almost got yerself killed there Kimimaro-han." Gin's stood, grinning as usual, directly in front of the former ninja. He was bent over slightly, bringing himself to Kimimaro's eye level. The blade that was intended to kill him lay in Gin's wiry grasp, the former captain being careful not to let it go. Tousen was stunned. "Gin… Even you…?"

"Aizen-taicho, sorry for interuptin', but I kinda like this kid too much ta let him die. So…" He said, turning back to Aizen but still holding onto the blade.

Aizen smirked and leaned on a fist. "Its fine, Gin. He amuses me as well. Kaname, sheath your blade."

"But Aizen-sama-!"

"Kaname." The black captain froze. "Don't make me have to tell you a second time." Tousen clenched his teeth but obliged. Gin released his hold on his fellow former-captain's blade.

Kaname, seethed from being humiliated in such a way and in front of the very person he despised, that being Grimmjow.

"However, Grimmjow, due to your actions, you are hereby removed from the Espada." Aizen said, now returning to his serious face. Grimmjow's eyes widened and he made as if to argue, but he immediately closed his mouth. He had no choice but to accept it.

He clenched his fists and turned and stormed out of the throne room. What's wrong with killing people? He was only acting like the Hollow he was. 'Us Hollow shouldn't even be putting up with those Shinigami bastards in the first place!'

Even as he did, Kimimaro gave a gentle bow of thanks to Aizen before stepping back.

"However, Kimimaro, whether you believe you are right or not, you should not directly, and publicly, defy your superiors. Whereas I had originally planned the next stage of my plan to include you, I'm afraid you'll have to sit this one out as punishment." Aizen finished before the Kaguya got too far back.

The Kaguya bowed again. "As you wish Aizen-sama. If you are finished with me, I need to check on my comrades."

Aizen noted his unfazed complexion and grinned. "Very well, you may go." Twisting on his heal, Kimimaro turned and stepped lightly out of the chamber. Ulquiorra watched him go, not sure whether to be disappointed by him or approving. When his Fracción was out of sight he stepped forward. It was now only the three commanders and him. "Aizen-sama, if you don't mind, I have a question for you."

"Ahh, Ulquiorra. Yes, go ahead and ask." Kaname hadn't moved still brooding, while Gin had begun to retreat to a nearby wall to lean on.

"Why was that man made a Fracción rather than an Espada?" The question was surprising. Aizen only grinned all the more. As expected, Ulquiorra's eyes were sharper than ever.

"Hierro that can block a captain's bade, a calculating mind like mine, surpassing loyalty… How exactly did he end up as a Fracción?" Aizen's face didn't change.

Indeed, Kimimaro had strong Hierro; Kaname's blade hadn't cut more than a few millimeters into his skin, and a trail of blood droplets on the floor denoted the Fracción's path afterword. Few, if any, Fracción were capable of that type of defense.

"Are you questioning my decision?" Aizen asked almost threateningly.

"Merely inquiring." Ulquiorra stated flatly and impassively.

"Very well then. Like you deduced, he is probably low Espada material, possibly equal to Zommari's level. However, the reason he is not in the position of Espada is because he refused to show his Resurrección."

Ulquiorra's eyes widened slightly. "Refused?"

Aizen nodded. "When asked to show us, his full power, he refused. He claimed that his Resurrección was actually weaker than his current strength. Because of this, since we can't correctly gauge his full capabilities, he has been denied the position of Espada."

"Does he realize this?" Ulquiorra asked, somewhat surprised one would openly reject the title.

"Oh yes, I made it clear if he did not show me, he would have no chance of ascending higher. Curiously, I think he prefers to bow low than to stand high."

Ulquiorra blinked. He didn't understand it. But then, he must have his reasons, however strange they must be. "Thank very much Aizen-sama. I will take my leave now." He turned and walked out of the throne room as well, leaving the three ex-Shinigami alone.

Kimimaro treaded across the sands of Hueco Mundo's desert. It had been a lie that he needed to check up on his friends. What he really needed was time alone with himself. The flashes had been flooding his mind lately, revealing brutal and frightening images of his supposed past. Had they only happened once, he might have dismissed them as some crazy fantasy he had deep down. But the fact that he was actually able to piece them together into a sort of chapter-by-chapter picture book meant that they were simply old memories floating back to the surface.

But every time he had them, especially recently he would collapse, have whatever dreams he would, wake up and notice the black lines extending from his Hollow hole, including a burning pain accompanying it. But, as always, it would recede and leave no trace.

He gently pinched the two split slabs of skin on his left arm together. Slowly, the skin began fusing back together. He had a mildly fast regeneration ability, which he supposed he'd only recently found out about. In truth, his Hierro wasn't all that strong. In fact, it was very weak. The only advantage he had was not his Hierro, but his Acero.

His bones were noticeably stronger than his skin, and this included density and stability. While light, they were extremely compact, to the point that even Tousen's blade could only nick it a bit. But even that small nick was erased as his proteins began filling the gaps.

He sighed in annoyance. He wore his Zanpakutō in the "tachi" style (worn with the edge down, rather than the edge up like a normal katana), tightly tucked into his black sash. He had a feeling he'd need it very soon. Nnoitra was bound to catch wind of his strong Hierro and come after him. Even with him being a Fracción, Nnoitra's position as Espada pretty much meant he could do what he wanted.

That was the reason he was so far from the walls of Las Noches. He needed t make sure no one saw or felt what he was about to do. Fingering the hilt of his blade he took a few deep breaths, exhaling long and slow. He lightly lifted the blade from its sheath, staring impassively at the unforgiving dunes.


(The Game, Disturbed)

Golden reiatsu spun through the massive room, twisting between the red pillars and clinging to it like energized honey. "Kuso!" The woman's shrill voice cried out as she shielded her eyes. "You're really going to release your Zanpakutō in this place? This is our turf!"

Her only answer was the howling of the energy around her. "I won't be caught by your webs again!" She brought her yo-yo like Zanpakutō up and swung it around like a slingshot. "Rip off, Golondrina!"

Cirucci felt her body both lighten and become heavy at the same time, as her own blue reiatsu burst forward to meet the golden gale. Pure spiritual power tore through the pillared room, clashing with the unnatural force of conflicting interests and hidden emotions.

Large wings sprouted from Cirucci's back, each with ten crescent-shaped blades on them in place of feathers. Her mask became a beak-like headpiece with a large, feathery mane protruding from it, covering most of her body and trailing past her legs. She also gained a long, prehensile tail, which emerged from her back and large, disc-like pieces of armor that formed around her shoulders. In addition, her arms became long and slender, with large claws. This was Golondrina, her Resurrección.

As soon as she donned it, she knew she was admitting somewhat of a defeat. The fact that this… Números was pressuring her into such a state was incomprehensible! But here she was, in that very position.

The tormented wind died down on both sides as the reiatsu began to settle. To be honest, she had no idea what to expect. She'd never seen this Arrancar's Resurrección before, and was completely unsure as to what might happen. A quiet zipping sound alerted her to danger and she raised a bladed wing in time to stop a golden projectile from piercing her chest. The missile shattered upon contact with her vibrating wing-blades. She looked in the direction it came from but found only pillars. A quick swipe of her wings fixed that problem. They fell to the ground, cut clean in two.

But what they revealed was nothing. There was absolutely nothing. Two more wisps followed, quickly trailed by loud breaking sounds, like crushed glass. She lowered her wings and spun around with a scream. The "feathers" on her wing flew off, spinning and slicing through the pillars in her way, clearing the area well enough to see her opponent. He eyes widened. He hug supported by large threads attached to nearby pillars, a golden bow positioned at his feet and an equally golden arrow loaded and held back in his teeth. All three of his eyes glowed with entertainment. Without a word, his mouth opened and let flew the arrow. It ripped forward, tearing through the air, directly at her head. Her eyes widened as her wings were recalled for defense. They barely made it. The arrow that would have gone through her head snapped in half and fell to the floor.

She grit her teeth and resisted the urge to pant at the amount of energy she'd spent to bring them back so quickly. When she peaked out from her protective wings, her opponent was gone. But now he was close enough to feel his reiatsu. He'd been hiding it, and doing a good job too, but now she knew where he was.

With a battle cry she flew through the air towards him. The Pillars collapsed under her wings and tail as she cleared a path toward him. Her eyes widened when a golden arrow sung toward her, dodging out of the way, she saw hi jump up on top of the pillars and leap across them erratically, firing his missiles at her continuously. Without time to set up properly, there was much less force behind them then there had been.

But she wasn't fooled by his nonsensical weaving between the pillars and pursued him, quickly catching up. That was when he suddenly spun and reared back, spitting out an impossible mass of moist threads at her. "I told you I wouldn't fall for it!" She swung her claws and wings, cutting through the threads easily. But when she'd turned back to him, he was already on the move again, shooting arrow after arrow at her.

With a yell, she dodged them this time, and threw her wings forward, tearing toward his fleeing form.

She had him now, or at least, that what she thought until he cocked his head to the side, just far enough for her to see his smirk.

"Trap one: Estrangulamiento." She watched in absolute surprise as her blades completely redirected around him and flew back at her, landing back in their designated slots.

"What was that, just now?" She asked hesitantly, but still with fury in her voice. His only answer was to load up another arrow on his bow, aim it at her and fire. She narrowed her eyes in annoyance. "I'll just break it again!" She swung her left wing at it and it shattered.

Its pieces fell to the ground. Oh but it wasn't the arrow that shattered. She looked in horror as the blade that had taken the impact of the arrow now lay broken and useless. "H-how-?"

"Those blades vibrate at an average rate of 1,200,000 times a second. As long as they did, my arrows would continue to break on contact. Lucky for me you were too stupid to notice the webbing you kept running through." Her eyes widened and she looked at her wings. She could barely see the sheen from the thin, almost invisible webs that crisscrossed the blades.

"Spiders have five different types of silk. You've been unknowingly running into the dragline silk. As far as unit weight goes, that webbing is stronger than steel. To deflect those blades a moment ago, I used the aciniform silk. That one is three times tougher than even dragline silk. Unfortunately they stick pretty well, especially to metal."

His mouth bulged for a moment before he spat out another arrow. This one had a drill bit tip that looked especially dangerous. "Normally, you can only cut a vibrating object with another object vibrating at an equal or greater frequency. However there is another way. First you have to decrease the amount of vibrations they make per second. As I'm sure you can tell, your wings have been slowed considerably." She looked at her wings and could indeed tell they were barely even moving.

"Second, is to use a piercing object with force equal to or greater than the vibration rate." He drew the string on the bow back and aimed. The fins on the arrow were strangely twisted, in sync with the drill tip. "This arrow will spin at a rate of 678 times a second. With your vibration rate decreased to about 340,000… I'm sure you understand what I'm getting at." He said with a malicious sneer.

She grit her teeth and charged forward. If she could dodge it, she could still kill him with her claws. But she didn't get far before her arms were suddenly stopped by a seemingly invisible force. She turned her head quickly to see them tangled in more webs.

"Minor-ampullate silk; it's used during construction as a base for the other webs. It also works pretty will for tying people up, so to speak."

His fingers opened slowly, eventually releasing the arrow from its anchor. With a terrible whine, it raced through the air.

But there was no way Cirucci was going to die like this. Throwing her barely usable wing-blades through even more webs, she hoped to use them as a deflector to knock the attack away, or a buffer, should it penetrate them all.

They all lined up one after the other and the arrow. The first one met blade with tip, and the arrow quickly proved its superiority by chewing through it. The second one met the same fate, as did the rest as it simply shattered them like cheap pottery on its road to her destruction. But when it got to her, she was no longer there. The assailant's eyes widened as he looked around. He spotted her across from him to his right, both of them standing on one of the few remaining pillars.

It looked as though she'd torn her Resurrección's arms off, and he knew what that meant.

"You're joking right?"

"I hate to admit it, but I could've definitely died if that had hit. It's not like I really had a choice. Besides, discarding them allows me to pour all of my energy into this." Her tail rose up and the tip split creating a large fan of energy, coincidently reminiscent of a swallow's tail.

A quick, but careful look around her showed millions of tiny threads, linked loosely to the pillars and rubble around her, and even to the high ceiling. When she was sure she knew where most of them were, she swung her tail, cutting through them and leaping forward toward the Números.

He smirked as the energy in her tail turned into a sword, which she swung down at him. Her body suddenly stopped, and hung suspended in the air. "Wha-? But I cut through them!"

"I told you, minor-ampullate is just the basic building blocks for the rest of the web. I knew you'd look for them and try and cut them, so I had another set of threads surrounding me to trap you. You're now caught in my capture-spiral silk. As the name implies, it's meant for catching prey. They're sticky, extremely stretchy and tough, and they're set up just right so when you tumble into it, you'll never get out."

She struggled hard to break free of the webs. Even her tail of energy was caught, and she couldn't flex it to cut the threads around her.

The man smiled and shook his head, walking away. "Trap two: Destripamiento." All of a sudden, the thin strands of silk drifting around her curled and tightened, snapping taught and tightening, constricting her for only a moment before slicing right through her, eviscerating her, as the name implied.

She didn't even have time to scream before the blood fell from her in large puddles, limbs falling off and splashing in the pool of red liquid. What was left of her fell apart and to the ground, even as the threads slackened and fell over her remains, forming a web blanket, also soaking up the blood. "You'd never fall for my web again, you said? Before the words even left your mouth, you were already sealed inside it." He scoffed.

Even Privaron Espada were no match for him.

"Naruto." Her voice was soft, but commanding.

"Hm? Need something Hina?" Naruto asked as her turned to her.

"Naruto-kun, please let me participate in the next battle." She said firmly, her face displaying her desire to fight.

Naruto blinked. "Well, I suppose you can, but you don't really need to ask me so early on y'know."

"I just wanted you to know ahead of time. I've been sitting out this whole war, and it's getting to me. I'm not just some weak girl that always has some tragic accident. I-"

She was silence by his lips meeting hers. She blinked. 'When did he move? I was looking at him the whole time.'

He separated from her and smiled. "You're also not some kid who has to ask permission. You're a fully grown woman y'know. Do as you like. But just make sure you don't overdo it." He smiled gently at her, his right hand aimlessly playing with her locks of hair.

She smiled, but was genuinely surprised. Ever since Seireitei, Naruto had not let her out of his sight when he thought they were in unsafe territory. But one look in his shining blue eyes showed why he agreed. He believed in her power, and her desire to fight for him. They were husband and wife; he realized she wanted to fight to protect him just as much as he wanted to fight to protect her.

"Thank you." She smiled sweetly. Naruto chuckled and lifted her up, carrying her up to their room.

"One condition though..." He added suddenly as he opened the door. "You let me drive." He grinned wryly at her and with a twinkle in his eyes. She blushed and nodded with a satisfied expression as he closed the door behind them and locked it.

Suffering. Absolute suffering on levels Sasuke didn't couldn't even imagine. The pain pulsed through every limb and thought as he stood, unable to turn away from his fate.

"Oh come on Sasuke, it looks good on you!" Sakura's energetic cry came from beside him.

"…I feel like I'm going to puke." He deadpanned as he looked at his wife.

"Well you can't exactly wear your usual outfit so we need to find something that you can wear out."

Sasuke turned his head over to the clothes rack. "I have an idea; how about I pick out the clothes and you tell me if they look good or not?" He said. Sakura looked at him surprised. Was he actually willing to work with her on this? "Sure! That's perfectly fine!" Sasuke sighed in relief and shucked the clothes he was currently wearing out of the dressing room. He knew he'd just admitted some type of defeat by even asking the question, but it was worth it. 'Anything to get e out of those gaudy clothes.'

She'd fitted him in a completely black outfit with black straps and belts, along with a black choker. She was even about to put on black makeup to complete the look. 'For crying out loud! I'm formerly emo, not currently gothic!' He went over to the jeans and picked out a pair of basic blue pants. Turning around, he went over to the shirts and looked through them. Finding a basic white button-up, he slung them both over an arm and disappeared into the changing room.

A minute later he reappeared in both. His shirt was unbuttoned the first two buttons, allowing enough breathing room. His sleeves were rolled up to just before his elbows. Beneath that he had a white tank-top undershirt that clung to his body tightly. His blue jeans were actually a bit looser than he'd expected, so they rode fairly low on his hips, leaving enough of them to drag on the floor by his heels. Sakura looked up from her book and blinked. She looked back down at the book, and then back at her husband.

"So? How do I look?" She blinked again. She stood up and circled him, as if examining some precious stone. "Well?" He asked again.

She looked down at her book again and shook her head. "You look good, for once." She said playfully. He smirked at her jab. "Hey now, I resemble that comment."

She laughed as she hung on his arm. "By the way, what book is that?" She handed it to him, not exactly given a choice in whether he grabbed it or not. "It's a manga. Comic books and stuff around here are really cool, so I thought I'd read a few." Sasuke stopped flipping through it to turn it over and look at the title. "Death Note, huh? Sounds cheesy."

"Oh its really good! Just reading it makes me feel like my IQ's increasing!" She said honestly. Sasuke went back to glancing through it. He'd passed a few pages before he stopped and went back. "…Well I'll be damned…"

The page he stopped on was a picture of a young black haired teen with a bored, almost apathetic expression on his face. He stood rather casually with both hands in his pockets, and on one bare foot, while the other scratched his heel. He wore a plain white long-sleeved shirt and basic blue jeans.

Sasuke blinked. He looked at the picture and then down at himself. "…Now that just creepy."

Sakura smiled and rubbed the back of her neck awkwardly. He looked at her and held the manga volume up. "Mind if I get a copy?"

With his interest piqued, she nodded. "Sure, but first we have to buy these clothes!" And so she shoved him back into the changing room so he could get redressed. But Sasuke knew better than to believe he was done shopping yet. They were just buying this outfit now, so they don't have to later. 'Damn it, I just encouraged her, didn't I?'

Gaara, having recently had to put up with Bee's rapping explanation of what exactly was going on, with the bizarre chibi-Orochimaru giving more detailed explanations where necessary. It had been a long, and strange story, but he'd managed to hang with it to the end. "I see. Then what was the purpose of my summoning?"

His jade eyes turned on the serpent incarnate. Said fellow looked back impassively. "It was a complete test. Modifying my own jutsu is difficult and requires practice to perfect it. Forcefully summoning an individual of Jinchūriki levels isn't easy after all. Now that I know I can summon two Jinchūriki before I give out, I can deduce an average of nearly a hundred basic soldiers can be summoned before I run out of energy." He explained.

"So we were a level test." Gaara mused.

Orochimaru nodded. "Using you as a sort of 'maximum limit', I can measure the amount of people I can summon by their power levels." Orochimaru didn't say it, but that also meant that anyone he tried to force summon from his location to another location was also limited to that same number.

"Anyway, I'm going to be absent from school and meetings for a while. Naruto's having me do some stuff, so spread the word."

"Yo, can't you tell us a bit mo'?" Bee asked.

"Unfortunately, no." He said in continuation to Bee's rhyme. He offered no more as he walked out with a smirk, heading to his room.

Suigetsu stood stalwart and unmoving, the hot water running down his naked form; one hand on the wall in front of him, supporting himself as he stared blankly down at the floor. The steam from the heat rose around him, greedily being sucked up by the fan. The temperature was turned up so high the water would be scalding to anyone else, but to Suigetsu, it was soothing. But his mind wasn't on the water, or even on getting clean, as it probably should have been.

It was focused on the memories of last night.

He thought he'd be able to at least stand a chance against those Arran-thingies, but the difference in power between the two he fought was just too great. The way he was beaten so easily was…

He gritted his teeth and smashed the tile he'd been leaning against so hard it buckled and cracked.

…it was humiliating.

If only he'd been more powerful. If only he'd had more-

"Suigetsu, are you ok? I heard a crash." He heard Karin's worried voice from the other side of the door.

His expression didn't falter, and his narrowed unconsciously. "…Yeah…" He clenched his unused fist. "…I'm just peachy." He muttered.

Deidara was ecstatic. Guns in this world were so fucking fun!

"Damn I'm lovin' this!" He yelled out as he emptied the magazine into the target at the end of the range. Eventually the banging gave way to faint clicks as the last bullet was fired. "Tch, finished already?" He reached into his pocket while walking back to the counter. Placing the money down, the clerk slid another two magazines over the counter to the blond. Handing him the empty clip, he took the two new ones and went back to his station.

"Oi, you sure this is the first time you've shot a gun?" The clerk said as he watched the pyromaniac attack the dummy at the end of the range with a renewed passion.

Deidara finished the first mag before turning back to him. "Yeah, why? Am I sucking?"

"Well, no, that's not the problem actually…" Deidara shrugged and loaded up the next clip. Another round of bullets tore into the paper target. Satisfied with his currently sated desire to shoot something, he pressed a button on the wall beside him and the target was drawn toward him on a string for easy retrieval.

"…You're actually acing it." Deidara looked at his handiwork. Every shot he aimed for had hit where he wanted it. Of course the first few shots had been difficult as the recoil was surprising. But his strong hands allowed him to adapt just fine. It was unfortunate, but his gigai did not include the hands on his palms, something he'd told Orochimaru specifically to include. Naruto had told him he couldn't have it though, which pissed him off, however much he understood why. He smirked at the target again. He looked back at the clerk to see his reaction, but his eyes suddenly fixated on something behind the man.

"Hey, what's the difference between those two guns?" He asked, re-approaching the desk.

The manager turned to look at a poster set up behind him with an assortment of gun images. The two the blond pointed to had a basic grip with an oddly square barrel. "Oh, the G-17 and the G-18. Pretty much all guns of that type are the same, expect the G-18 is fully automatic."

"You sell them here?" He said.

"Haha, no we don't. Only the military can use them. Civilians can't get them. Just getting a normal fully automatic gun takes tons of paper work."

"Damn it… Oh well, thanks for the info, and the pleasure." He said, referring to the pleasure of shooting.

"No problem, come back any time!" Unbeknownst to the man, Deidara's swift hands had snatched a gun magazine from under his nose. Deidara had suddenly found a new hobby, and quite a few items to be added to his "to steal" list.

A/N: Well there it is. I hoped you like it. To be honest, my drive to continue this story is lacking more and more. Reviews help keep it up and keep me going. Don't forget to make them nice and long! Its much more helpfull to put details in that just say "great job" trust me. Anyway, please do so now, before you forget! I look forward to them.