Oh my gosh! Panda is back & writing :D Haha I'm so psyched to be home, guys, it's great. Anyways, this was an idea I came up with a long time ago. I'm trying to pick it back up again, now, after all this time--hope you enjoy!

Prologue: The Plan


"Princes Piggy, coming in. Kchtt."

Kankuro rolled his eyes as the walkie-talkie in his palm beeped repetitively. The voice issuing out of it was one he wouldn't have ever wanted to hear in his life, and if it wasn't for the sake of his beloved sister, he would have ditched the mission days ago.

"Do we have to use the code names?" he begged of the small device.

"Yes. Kchtt."

Kankuro squinted at the thing, tilting it left and right until he found the "off" button. He pressed it and heard the rippling static emitting from the contraption cease abruptly.

He heard the voice again, this time slightly frantic: "Puppet Master? Kchtt. Come in, Puppet Master, this is Princess Piggy—"

Kankuro let out an exasperated breath and looked at the back of the crouching young woman in front of him.

"Oi," he said, fighting to control his patience, "I'm right behind you."

"Oh." Ino turned around and faced away from the bushes that had previously been her hiding place, her ponytail swaying faintly in the wind. "Hey."

Kankuro sighed, irritated, and tugged on the hems of his black hat. "Now let's ditch the toys"—he held his walkie-talkie up by the antenna—"and get on with discussing the mission."


The key clicked, successfully unlocking the door to the small townhouse that Temari hadn't set foot in for months. She opened the door slowly.

Small particles of dust lifted off the floor. The couch was completely still, as was the coffee table in between it and the tiny television set. The mini-kitchen was set off to the side, but healthily connected to the living room. Everything was completely untouched and undisturbed, exactly as she had left it.

Temari stepped into her second house and took a deep breath.

"I'm home," she said to the emptiness.

And, indeed, though this place had been sort of a hotel for her in the past, for the next few months she'd be living in it like it was her home. Temari became homesick for Suna often, but under Gaara's orders, she was forced to accept that the closer she was connected with Konoha and its citizens, the closer the relationship between it and Suna would remain in the long run.

Temari set her suitcase down and proceeded to open every window and door in the small home. Once she had done that she positioned herself a few feet away from the front door and opened her fan gently.

Focusing her chakra to the tips of her fingers for delicate wind, Temari spun on the spot. On the downward arch of her spin, she swung her fan with grace. Wind echoed through the entire house, blowing up every particle of grime in the place. When the wind had cooled down and escaped through the open windows, carrying the dust along with it, Temari closed her fan and set it on the coffee table, smiling in a victorious way at her now very dust-free countertops and couch cushions.

But as she bent over to retrieve her suitcase from where she had set it on the floor, she heard a small noise.

A cough.

She tensed.

There it was again.

"Ahem. Ach."

Temari straightened up and turned around. A man stood in her still open doorway, almost entirely covered with dust. He was taller since the last time she'd seen him, but when he finished rubbing his eyes to clear them of dirt, they opened and his face resumed the bored, flat expression she had become so accustomed to seeing during her stays in the Leaf Village. In one arm, he held what looked like a gift basket.

"What are you doing?" he asked, frowning at her. "We don't set traps in our ambassador's houses, you know." Under his breath, he muttered, "troublesome woman."

Temari smirked slightly at the familiar nickname. "Just a bit of spring cleaning," she said airily. "It's been a while since I've seen you, Nara. Still a crybaby?"

Shikamaru rolled his neck back, cracking it once. Temari recognized his boredom, and smiled wider. She bothered with the jibe merely because she enjoyed that it annoyed him, and she had a feeling he knew that.

He held out the basket boredly. It was tied with a sheer purple ribbon, and inside had an assortment of chocolates and other candies.

"From Tsunade. She appreciates that you're 'honoring Konoha with your presence' for the next few months." He heaved a sigh, as though this was more trouble than it was worth. Which, to him, it probably was.

Temari took the package from him. "You'll have to give her my thanks."

Shikamaru shrugged, still looking quite ridiculous with dust clinging to his Chuunin vest. He must have seen Temari glance at it, because he shrugged once more and said, "Dust is such a pain. Hope you enjoy the chocolate," he added, not sounding at all like he actually hoped she would.

With that, he turned on his heel to leave. Leaning against the door frame, Temari watched him go. His posture slouched and his ponytail bobbed gently, as usual, but this didn't bother her. Shikamaru was one of the only familiar things in Konoha, and he usually made her feel much more secure in this foreign village.

It was only when he was completely out of sight that she shut the door, set the gift basket on the kitchen counter, and began to make herself at home.


"You know what to do, right?"

Kankuro was about to pull his hair out. They'd gone over the plan twelve times already, and counting.

"Yes, I know what to do," he replied, feeling infuriated. "Do you?"

Ino stared at him from beneath the lock of blonde hair that partially sheltered her face. "Of course I know what to do. I'm just trying to make sure you won't forget it."

Kankuro bared his teeth, infuriated. "Just—come on. Forget it. Can we get this over with? Now?"

Ino twitched angrily. "Well, I've been waiting for you to tell me you were ready—are you sure you can trick her?"

"Oh, my God," muttered Kankuro, his eyes rolling upward until they could go no farther. "Believe me. I have a pretty decent poker face."

"It's not like anyone can see your face anyways, with all that… stuff." Ino made a mad swiping gesture around her own face to indicate Kankuro's makeup. Then she added persistently, "But she is your sister."

Affronted at her gibe towards his makeup, Kankuro replied sharply, "It doesn't matter."

"Okay. But keep this with you"—he watched with horror as she held up the walkie-talkie and caved her eyebrows downward pleadingly—"just in case I need to get in touch with you to make sure everything goes smoothly. Okay?"

Groaning, Kankuro took the vile thing that he had so loathed the last couple of days.

Ino grinned. "Excellent," she said triumphantly, "Let's move out."


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Haha. It really is great to be back.