DISCLAIMER: I do not own 'Naruto'. All rights belong to Masashi Kishimoto. I only own my OCs-Kiyomi, Tori. And this fanfic. Thank you.

TLC: To Love Chaos

"Hold still, jeez! It's not like I'm actually hurting you-!"

Sakura's world was spiraling into a tailspin, as she struggled to break free from the woman's restrictive hold. She was giving her some sort of trouble at least, a series of hurried shushes and shifts in position following her twists and desperate pulls. The male cast a brief glance in their direction, an eyebrow raised in light questioning.

"Forgotten your training already, Anko? Has being on this planet for such a short time really drained you so?" In response, the female growled and gave the pinkette a sharp shove to her lower back with her knee. Sakura let out a gasp, muffled by the hand cupped over her lips, and fell to the ground. Anko bent over her, still holding her in a vice grip.

"Shut up! I'm not used to keeping in check-no excessive force, remember? We're just here to scoop up Blondie and make tracks! We weren't supposed to have t'deal with anyone else! How could I have known she'd actually have made contact with anyone on this dump?" Sakura, as frightened as she was, felt her shoulders stiffen slightly at the remark. There wasn't anything wrong with her world! Sure, it wasn't perfect, but it worked well enough for her! Who was she, this 'Anko', to come barging into her home, attacking her with her partner, then going after her girlfriend like-

Whoa, whoa, whoa! Back up there! Ino is not my girlfriend! She's just-But Sakura's frantic thoughts were cut off by a glimpse of the second figure taking another few steps towards Ino, hands in pockets. The girl wanted to scream, wanted to kick, wanted to do something to get her companion's attention! Run, Ino! Run! Get away from him! Or if you won't run, then drive him back!

"So...should we make her change first, or what?" The silver-haired male looked Ino over, from top to bottom, while said girl simply stared at him blankly. Aside from Sakura's protests, the retrieval was going well. "Or do you think we could release the ship here without making a ruckus?"

Anko shrugged. "It's up to you, Kakashi. We're leaving anyway, so what happens after the fact is no concern of mine." At hearing this, Sakura could take no more. Putting as much strength into it as she could muster, she bit down on Anko's fingers, eliciting a startled yelp of pain from the woman. Her grip slackened for just a moment-but that was all the girl needed.

Pushing forwards, she swung one leg out behind her, and it connected with Anko's shins. Swearing, she had to let go, in order to keep her balance. Scrambling across the floor on her hands and knees, Sakura quickly positioned herself between Kakashi and Ino. The man was obviously surprised by the pinkette's resourcefulness, and he gave a short nod. "Not bad. You took some kinda lessons, or-"

"S-shut up!" Although shaking, Sakura steeled herself to look at him straight in the eyes-erm, eye. "I don't know w-what you want, but you're not-you can't take Ino away! I won't l-let you!" Her arms spread out wide, as she took a step backwards, shielding the blonde from view. Ino peered over Sakura's shoulder, curious now as to all the hubbub. Sakura was freaking out. Why? What were these two peoples-es doing to make her so jumpy and shouty?

Kakashi shook his head. Oh, boy...this is going to be hard. He wasn't worried about overpowering the girl. Far from it. He was more worried about the damages that they'd be leaving behind. If this female, this 'Sakura-chan', refused to surrender peacefully...well, a take down might have to come into play.

By this point, Anko had recovered from her earlier trip-up, and was now glaring at Sakura with all the venom she could manage. How could an insignificant worm get the jump on her? "Listen, you noisy twit! If you don't back off, I swear, I'm gonna-"

"Anko. Let me handle this." Kakashi took a deep breath, trying his best to analyze the situation. There wasn't any other option. He was a fighter, yes, but he hadn't come to this planet with combat in mind. So, he was going to go out on a limb here, and attempt to explain the situation to the woman before him. "Sakura, right?" She didn't acknowledge his question, only continuing to stare at him with that wary, cornered gaze.

Gotta diffuse this while getting the upper hand. But I don't want to spook her, either. He decided to reach out, wrapping an arm around her shoulders as he pulled the pinkette forwards. She stumbled, bumping into his chest. "Look, here's the deal-"

He didn't get a chance to finish. With mint green eyes and mouth wide and open, she let out a cry. "Don't touch me!" Instantly, Ino's blue eyes flashed and narrowed. She marched up to Kakashi.

"Eh?" It took him a second to realize what was happening. He had no time to stop it, though-with hands at his sides, the blonde had lifted him clear off the floor and above her head, before chucking him at the window across the room. If he hadn't caught himself at the last moment, he'd have crashed straight through the glass. Instead, he managed to straighten his body, pushing off from the wall and landing in a crouched position. Anko was gaping. Well...shit.

Ino was standing straight up, at her full height, blue eyes blazing with one hand clenched in a tight fist, the other holding Sakura's right hand in hers. Her glare was trained on Kakashi's kneeling form. "Sakura-chan doesn't wants you touching hers. And if Sakura-chan doesn't likes, then Ino says no, too! Ino says don't touch Sakura-chan!" The pinkette was in awe, feeling Ino's fingers wrap a bit tighter through her own. She'd known that her actions would be enough to trigger Ino's 'fighter' mode, but she hadn't been expecting her to react this strongly! Her heart was pounding, as she took in every last detail of her beautiful savior. Ino...

Now, Anko was aggravated. These girls wanted a throwdown? Then, by God, she'd give them one! If they had to knock out the both of them and hog-tie 'em before making it back to the ship, so be it! But she was not about to let her honor as a soldier get dragged through the mud! "Alright, Blondie. Daughter or not, you're going down!" She took up a fighting stance, as all three pairs of eyes turned in her direction. "Get ready! Haah!" With that, she charged.

"Anko! No!" Jumping up, Kakashi rushed ahead, to wedge himself in-between before blows could be thrown. But he wasn't fast enough. Pushing Sakura towards the chair in the parlor, Ino spun around, effectively dodging Anko's first fist. She raised her other arm, blocking the second strike that came at her face. Her eyes gleamed as a slender leg lifted, foot connecting with the woman's side. She grunted, but did not fall as she leapt to the side, keeping her balance. Now Kakashi was the stunned one.

How? How does she know these things? Is it simply ingrained in her DNA? I know they didn't have any fighting programs in her lessons; Tsunade had wanted to save that until she'd grasped the rest of them! So how...? The silver-haired man couldn't wrap his mind around it.

"Ha! Not bad, for a clone!" Anko grinned, reaching down to her waist and pulling out a pair of kunai. Her competitive spirit had been awakened. "But let's see if you can keep up with weapons thrown into the mix!" And in an instant, she'd aimed and released the blades straight ahead, sprinting along, ready to attack just in case the projectiles didn't hit their mark.

"Eek!" Sakura ducked down as best she could in the chair, arms raised to cover her head. Seriously, how was any of this even possible? Ninjas? Fighting? Clones? She was supposed to be an ordinary stressed girl in community college, not scared for her life as her roommate from outer space took on two weirdos in her living room, complete with arsenal!

As Kakashi jumped to the side, Ino didn't miss a beat. Swinging her leg once more, she sent the first kunai flying towards the hallway, while her right hand stopped just a few inches short of her cheek. In her grip was the second blade. Anko nearly skidded across the wooden floor, as the blonde flipped the weapon in her fingers, and threw it back at her assailant. Diving to her left, the blade just nicked the edge of her upper arm, slicing open the fabric of her sleeve. Teeth gritted, she slammed her hand into the wall, palm out flat to stop her slide.

"You really are...your mother's daughter." Minus the bad luck and boozing...The woman wasn't sure how to respond to the situation now. So far, all her moves had been returned with twice the gusto and, while good for a workout, didn't help to bring them any closer to their original goal. Ino needed to be captured. There was no time left for all this dancing around. Kakashi wouldn't engage in combat, so it was up to her to turn the tides in their favor.

And catching a glimpse of bubblegum pink locks poking up over the arm of the seat, Anko had an idea of how to pull it off.

"Yo! Copy-Nin!" Kakashi's head shot up, as his lone eye locked with the female's gleaming gaze. "Be ready to back me up here, just in case things get ugly!" Before he had a chance to ask, Anko had disappeared, only to show up directly behind the still hiding Sakura. She didn't have any time to react, as Anko wrapped an arm around her neck, hauling her to her feet. She let out a yelp as the woman's grip tightened by her throat, and the tip of another kunai brushed her ribcage.

Now Ino was seeing red. She took a step forwards. Anko's lips curled up into a satisfied grin. "That's right. You don't want anything happening to your buddy here, huh? So then, be a good girl...and come with us." She nodded. "If you understand, then get on your knees." She looked at Kakashi once more. "Get the cuffs out!"

Sakura was watching in a panic, squirming as Kakashi walked over slowly to where Ino stood. He didn't seem any happier with the situation than they did. The pinkette had to wonder why he wasn't telling his partner off, if that was the case. "Ino, don't! Don't listen! You can get out of this-ah!" The blade had slid upwards, slicing through about an inch of Sakura's top. Anko gave her a hardened glare. "Next time, I won't hesitate to draw blood." Now the girl was shaking, and a faint whimper left her lips. S-she's utterly psycho...!

Kakashi gave the blonde a sympathetic glance. "Come on, Ino. Let's just get this over with." Carefully, eyes never leaving his face, the girl began to bend down, knees just barely grazing the ground. Sakura couldn't believe this. Was she really giving up? Just because of her? "Ino! Please-"

But the words never made it out of her mouth. In one second, the blonde was no longer on the floor before them. Anko was looking about frantically, while Kakashi blinked, hands partially raised and clasped in the beginnings of a jutsu.

"Oof!" The blow seemed to come from nowhere. Sakura instantly felt the death grip around her neck release, and the kunai which was previously aimed at her abdomen went clattering across the ground. Falling forwards, the pinkette tried to gather her composure, only to be shaken again, this time by a tremendous crashing.

"Oi! W-what the hell, 'tebayo?" That voice-Naruto? How did he get in here? Whirling around from where she sat sprawled on the wood, Sakura's eyes threatened to pop out of their sockets, at the new sight that greeted her stupefied gaze.

Staring back at her in abject shock was none other than her next-door neighbor, Uzumaki Naruto, blue eyes just as round and bulging as her own green pair. His spiked yellow head poked up from beyond her wall. Or, more accurately, what was left of it. A good chunk had been taken out, leaving a massive circular opening, with the lower half of a body visible on the pinkette's end, which Sakura soon recognized to be that of her captor, Anko. From among the rubble, a low groan arose. "Uggh...who ordered the train?"

And standing beside the damaged plaster, looking for all the world like a giggly schoolgirl-aside from the lingerie-was Ino, arms tucked behind her back as she teetered on the balls of her feet. A wide smile stretched across her face, as she skipped over to help Sakura from the ground. "Up, up. Sakura-chan is not 'apposed to be sitting down. Sakura-chan needs to go to schools. Schools, schools! Bells and whistles and booksies and work! Work, work, work!" Now she was making a motion with her hand, apparently meant to be an imitation of an instructor. "Rawr, rawr, rawr. Too many words. Ino likes Sakura-chan's speakings better." She then proceeded to hug the girl, who was still frozen in a daze.

"Oh, man." Now Kakashi stood alongside his K.O'd companion, hauling her limp form from the mess. "Looks like we've got some explaining to do here." He paid no mind to Naruto, who was looking from the man to a bowl before him on the low table. With a pang, Sakura realized that they must have caught the blond while he was in the middle of breakfast. Bits of paint and plaster were floating in his bowl of cereal. It was the first time she'd ever seen the boy eating anything other than ramen or instant noodles, come to think of it.

Now Kakashi was seated at Sakura's table, Anko stretched out in the armchair. He motioned to the pair of females to join him. "Or do you prefer the fighting? After all this, I know I don't." Sakura swallowed the lump in her throat, leading Ino with her a moment later. She had to agree with him. At least one of them seemed to have something akin to common sense. Though he could have just told this all to me at the door! If they'd bothered giving me a reason to trust them, I probably would've wound up letting them in anyways...

"Ah!" As she settled down next to her companion, Sakura cast a glance over at Naruto, who was now on his feet, prodding at the corners of the hole in the wall. "Oh, jeez...Sasuke's not gonna like this one bit-and I suck at lying, 'tebayo..." She sighed. That's right-now he's a part of it all, too. Waving a hand, she called out to him. "Naruto, come here. Sorry you had to get involved, but...well, you're gonna need to hear this, just as much as we do." The blond blinked, before carefully climbing across the damaged space. He took a few seconds to look around the complex. "So this is your room, dattebayo? Huh, it's not nearly as girly looking as I-"

"Naruto!" Now Sakura's teeth were gritted in a tight smile. This alone was a warning sign. Gulping, the boy scurried over to sit next to Ino. He gave her the once over, doing a double-take at her outfit. "Wow, and I thought these guys were weird! Did you dress her up like this, Sakura-chan?" He tilted his head.

"Shut up already!" Sakura was down to her last nerve, and the constant interruptions and commentary were not helping to soothe her frazzled state. Slamming her palm against the table, she leaned across, until she was nose to nose with her neighbor. "Unless you want to contribute to the next hole in the wall?"

Naruto shrunk under her mighty glare. "Sorry..." Aw, crud. This is what I get for changing up the routine. I knew I should've stuck with the noodles. Letting out a sigh as Sakura sat back, Kakashi looked at the three attendees with a questioning gaze. "If you're all finished...?" Receiving nods and a mumbled "Yes, dattebayo" from Naruto, he launched into his speech.

The pinkette rested her elbow upon the table, chin in palm. Looks like she was going to be missing a few classes today.

…...

"Oh? What was that?"

Awaking and stretching from their places upon the ground, the three Akatsuki members were stirred from their morning routine by a sudden fluctuation of power in the air. Blue eyes fixed in the distance of the forest, Deidara shrugged his cloak back on his shoulders. "Kisame. You think that's our target, un?"

The shark man nodded, adjusting the strap that held up his sword. "No doubt about it. I certainly don't recognize that spike, so there's no other option. It's not like there's anyone else here, aside from those two ANBU and Tayuya." The explosions master smiled, raising his arms towards the sky. His spine cracked, and he let out a soft sigh.

"Finally! We're getting some fucking action!" Pumping his fist in the air, Hidan swung his scythe in a half circle, then lifted a hand to inspect the duct tape around his neck. It resembled a tight metal choker, or perhaps a scarf. Satisfied with its sturdiness, he began marching forwards, towards the trees. "Well? Hurry up, slowpokes! I'm not waiting for your asses!"

Kisame had to roll his eyes at this. "Back up, Hidan. Since I'm the leader of this expedition, it's only logical that I'd be the one to go first." Although the sadist let out a frustrated huff, he stopped his steps, turning to look back at the pair behind him. "Well, hurry the fuck up then, Fish Face! Before I gut you like a fillet!" Deidara let out a small whine.

"What, no breakfast, un?" At this, both males gave him looks of disbelief. The blond frowned. "What? I'm hungry, un! We didn't catch jack shit last night! And it was too dark to go searching for anything better than what was left of the rations, un..." In response, his stomach growled. Hidan snickered, while Kisame gave him a tight-lipped glare of annoyance.

"Deidara...stuff it. We're heading out." And that was that.

…...

A flurry of horns were honking and screeching in the hours of the hectic morning, combined with furious shouts and the occasional shriek of distress. This time though, their commotion had nothing to do with traffic lights or pedestrians. The cause was, in fact, directly above them-hopping over one car to the next, more precisely.

"Aw, shut the fuck up already! Pathetic morons! I said can it, fat-ass! If ya got a problem, why don't ya get yourself outta that tin can and face me head-on? Yeah, didn't think so! Go stuff your face!" Flipping the bird to a middle-aged, balding male in a dark blue sedan, Tayuya proceeded to leap from his hood to the roof of the one in front of her, before thudding across to jump into the bed of a pick-up truck.

The driver inside nearly spit out his coffee, as ninja sandals and free-flowing fuchsia locks shot into his vision. Stomping over the roof of the car in front, Tayuya timed her next jump just so, landing on the back edge of a bus. With absolute grace and brute force, she stormed over the long roof, sliding down the front just as the light changed. But she was already rushing for the sidewalk, shoving the onlookers aside as she thundered along the city streets.

Sleeping in an alleyway was not her idea of fun. Nor was being awoken by a 'car alarm', which she had wound up tracking down, then silencing with a bomb. Its owner hadn't been too happy about this, but a pair of kunai had been more than enough to scare him off from retorting, much less giving chase. Thus, her day had begun.

Tayuya had a reason for her blind fury today, though. As she'd been struggling to navigate her way through the mindless herds and sickening displays of mass consumerism and pointless advertising, she'd caught the sensation of a power surge in the air. Her amber eyes narrowed, and a smirk began to stretch out on her face.

A power surge, with an energy she couldn't recognize, could only mean one thing: Anko had to be somewhere nearby. And that was all she needed to know. It was a lead, and she would follow it to Hell, if necessary. As long as it led her to her target, she couldn't care less where she ended up. Her footsteps pounded past a chain-link fence, where a couple of small time gang bangers were hanging out. One of them let out a wolf-whistle as she ran by. "Hey, baby! What's your hurry?"

His companion laughed. "Yeah, give us a minute of your time! We'll make it worthwhile! Give you a few bucks, too! Getcha some new threads, there!" They high-fived each other, taking no notice of the fact that Tayuya had skidded to a halt, cold gaze trained on them from behind her flowing hair as she turned slowly in place.

I think...yeah, it's over this way. Over that fence. Her smirk widened, to a full predatory grin. She took a few steps back, before running ahead. The two men didn't know what had hit them.

"Augh!" The first one fell forwards, as Tayuya's foot stomped down painfully on the back of his neck, forcing his chin into his chest. As his friend looked on in horror, she let loose a kick to his jaw, knocking his head upwards with a loud snap. He went flying, and she used his body for extra leverage, soaring over the metal and landing on her feet in the untrimmed grass on the other side. She gave the duo a mocking salute and smile, knowing full well that they weren't even conscious to see it.

"Thanks, boys! You're so chivalrous, helping little ol' me like that! Hope you like my gift in exchange for the services-I never let a good deed go unthanked! Fuckers!" She was gone in a flash, before anyone could come across the pair of bodies.

Serves them right, underestimating their opponent. I can't stand men like them. Hope they have fun with medical: surgery's a bitch. Licking her lips, Tayuya continued up the hill, making another leap over the next expanse of chain-link.

…...

"Whew...finally made it. Now I just gotta get my bearings settled."

Leaning against a nearby tree, Kiyomi let out a long sigh as she brushed a strand of straw blonde hair from her eyes. The trip had been long, but at long last it was over. She'd reached her destination, and was now ready to undertake the truly hard part: tracking down her comrades, and dealing with whoever lay in wait. Namely the Akatsuki, and that pain, Tayuya.

Pressing the necessary button, the space pod folded up and shrunk, until it was small enough to fit in her holster. Looking up towards the sun, she shielded her eyes, lowering her gaze to the lush surroundings. It wasn't that much different than home...but then again, she hadn't exactly landed amongst the populace. So she couldn't relax her guard.

So far, everything seems okay. I don't sense anything out of the ordinary. Yet. Walking forwards, she pulled out a compass from her vest pocket, waiting for it to adjust to the new atmosphere. From the look of the shadows and the feeling of the temperature, she'd guess that it was probably close to afternoon, if not past that. Half the day was gone. Kiyomi furrowed her brow. But that's okay. As long as I can find the nearest town by the time I settle down for the night...it'll be alright. I can resume the search tomorrow, bright and early.

She could only begin to imagine what the inhabitants of this world were like and how they functioned. For all she knew, the residents were covered in fur! Or maybe they had wings? Perhaps they didn't even have cities and towns; they could just as easily live as one with nature.

All the same, I hope they have some kind of civilization established here. I'd prefer a roof over my head, if nothing else. Though, beggars can't be choosers, in the end...she let out another sigh.

Kiyomi, what have you gotten yourself into this time? The first traces of anxiety wound their way up from the deepest pit in her stomach, and even under the warmth of the sun, she had to shiver. Would she really be able to fulfill everyone's expectations? Tsunade's, Anko's, Kakashi's...? She swallowed hard. If the matter arose, could she effectively fight her enemies? Would she be able to secure the targets? Could she live up to her name as an ANBU; as the 'Ice Queen'?

Her fist clenched tightly. No. She couldn't think like this. She had to have faith. If she didn't believe in herself, and give this mission one-hundred and ten percent without hesitation, then she would fail. She couldn't have any doubts here. It was far too late to second-guess herself now. She'd jumped into this reckless quest headfirst, and this was the result.

It was do or die. And after all she'd been through, Kiyomi wasn't about to give into the latter so freely. She was strong. She could handle this. She'd make her superiors proud. She'd prove her worth, and show just how much her life meant to her. Once again, that familiar head of silver hair and half-masked face lingered in her vision.

The compass in her hand started to beep. Glancing down, she took in the reading, before leaping up to the high branch of the tall tree a few feet in front of her.

It was time to move on.

…...

The sound of an empty bottle smacking against thick wood rang out in the office, the sole figure behind the desk running a shaky hand through straggly golden locks. Tired honey eyes gazed at the window, blinds drawn down tightly, and then at the mountain of unchecked, incomplete paperwork to her side. She slumped forwards, allowing her grip upon the sake container to release. It rolled away from her, clattering to the floor. There were at least seven more like it scattered at her feet.

Tsunade couldn't remember the last time she'd gotten a good night's sleep, nor could she recall the last time she'd truly smiled, out of a real happiness. All she could see was that blinking light; the discarded communicator lay somewhere in the room. She'd given up calling how long ago, but the constant referral to the messaging service still haunted her hearing.

And Ino. Her beautiful, sweet Ino...seated before her once more, blue eyes wide as she began the lessons again, pink lips curved up as she spoke. When was the last time they'd shared a lesson, anyways? If she did get her daughter back, Tsunade promised that she wouldn't lose her temper; she'd be as patient as she could possibly muster, just as long as she could be in the presence of her beloved daughter for another minute longer.

Nobody really came to see her up here anymore. Perhaps it was for the better. The Slug Sannin had no clue as to how she'd react, seeing Shizune's solemn expression, or Shikamaru's deadpan stoic face, neither bearing any new news on the mission front. She was liable to snap.

Not even her husband came around to check up on her, though she couldn't blame him. He was affected just as heavily as she was, but he had his own ways of dealing with the aftermath. And she wasn't about to force him to come up here, just to commiserate on her behalf. Besides, she didn't really feel like sharing her booze right now.

When? When will this all be over? When will I awaken...and find out that it's just a nightmare, a bad dream? When will I see my subjects and family gathered around me, laughing and rejoicing and reassuring me...of tomorrow? Her eyes shut tightly, trying to hold back the tears that threatened to spill over. She was the Hokage! She had to stay vigilant, had to be steadfast for her people! Even when she felt so sick and hollow inside.

It had started with her brother. Then her first love. Then her daughter. And now...how many? How many people would she have to lose, before the fates were satisfied? What had she done to incur such a wrath? Whatever it was, I'm...I'm sorry already! Do you hear me? "I'm sorry..." The words came out in a croaking whisper, tinged with the stench of alcohol. Her hygiene was going to Hell too. But she couldn't be arsed to care. Not now.

"Oh, Alice..." In the encompassing quiet and darkness of her own personal cocoon which was these four walls, Tsunade finally allowed herself to grieve, alone and hungover. What else was new?

…...

"Naruto, I'm home. You wouldn't believe what I heard on...the...news...coming back..."

The words trailed off, as a freshly arrived Sasuke stared, utterly lost, at the gigantic hole in his complex wall. Beyond it, he could make out Naruto and Sakura, sitting at her table with a wild-looking woman. Her purple hair was messy and falling out from its clipped up style, and she held an ice pack to the left side of her face. He could just barely make out the faintest traces of a nasty black and blue below the corner of her swollen eye, and a hint of a cracked lip.

"Nope, ain't got any sixes. Go fish, boy." She chuckled weakly as Naruto pouted, before reaching across to draw a card from the deck in the center. Ino was seated between him and Sakura, looking over both of their shoulders. First one, then the other. And standing in the kitchen was another male, close in age to the strange woman and just as garish in appearance. He seemed to be studying the microwave. Noticing the young man's intent gaze, he gave a short wave. "Yo. Haruno-san, is this the other neighbor you were talking about?"

"Ah?" Naruto glanced up, to lock eyes with a silently seething Sasuke. He paled visibly. "Uhh...hey there, Sasuke...um, wanna join our game, 'tebayo? I'm having some real rotten luck here...eh-heh-heh-heh..." His invitation was not enough to dissuade the murderous intent in the male's near pitch-black eyes. "Naruto...what the hell is going-"

That was when Sakura decided to intervene. Jumping up, she scuttled over to his side, placing two hands on his shoulders. "Let's go outside, okay Sasuke-san? There's a few...things we need to talk about. There have been quite a few 'changes' since you last left, ha-ha..." She stepped over the gap, and was now steering him towards the door which he'd just arrived through.

Sasuke was starting to protest, but his words fell on deaf ears. After all that had happened today, Sakura wasn't about to be pushed around again, least of all by her stuck-up neighbor. She shot him a glare, though it was coated in sugar and restrained by a grimace of a smile. "We are. Going. Outside. Now. 'Kay?" His complaints effectively quelled, Sakura led them out into the hall, then further down. She was hoping to keep the damage to a minimum.

Back inside her room, Naruto sighed in exaggerated relief. Thanks, Sakura-chan... "Uh?" He was alerted to a sudden poking in his back. Ino was looking at the cards in his hand yet again, head tilted and bangs falling over her confused gaze.

"Where is the fishies? Ino sees no fishies. Ino likes fishies." She smiled brightly, poking Naruto's spine even harder. He winced. "Show Ino fishies, Na-tu-ro!" Across from him, Anko covered her mouth with her cards, muffling a snort.

This was really going to be rough to get used to. For all parties involved.

A/N: Ta-da! And so, it begins!

Hope you're all still enjoying this odd lil' story of mine! A new twist has come into play: not only have Anko and Kakashi failed to obtain their target-or have chosen not to continue undertaking it-but they've also decided to move in w/our pinkette and her blonde super-heroine! XD The madness!

Which reminds me: how did you all like seeing Ino show off some of her fighting skills? It's been awhile since we had a real battle sequence, and I sure had a ball penning out this one. Plus, Sakura is FINALLY starting to come to terms w/Ino's influence upon her life, along w/how much she means to her. And Ino is showing more of her own feelings towards Sakura as well. Hope the SakuIno interaction here was up to par? It wasn't much, but it's a start. And more is yet to come!

Also, we got some screen time w/Tayuya, the Akatsuki, Tsunade, and even the neighbors! Sasuke and Naruto have become involved in the antics now-did anyone like seeing them added to the mix? They'll be showing up in future updates, so hopefully their existing relationship will be a positively received addition to the plot-line. There's probably some OOC going on here, but for the most part, I tried. Please don't hate me. ^^;

As always, feedback is welcomed, encouraged, appreciated and loved. To those of you who have been stopping in and saying hi, thank you. I really mean it. But the last few chapters haven't been getting as much attention, and I admit: I get paranoid that I messed up. Just a few words, maybe? I'm not looking for essays here. ^^; Sorry if it seems like I'm begging here. I just like hearing from everyone. :)

Next time: Living arrangements, more exploration, Tsunade's breaking point, and the start of a showdown! Hope to see you again! Take care!

=^.^=