disclaimer: BOOHISS x2.
dedication: to sonya and les. because you're sexy.
notes1
: i suck at life. let's move on.
notes2: you're halfway around the world, and i'm just a day behind.

…–…

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Anguished gutter breathing was the only sound left to be heard. The room was empty of feeling.

Sasuke slammed his fist against a wall, and half-snarled "So close…"

The empty silence in the room seemed to swell and stretch, filling the tiny kitchen with an unbearable sense of weight. It hurt to breathe, almost.

"Can we go now?" Suigetsu's voice was low, and strained.

"Yes."

There was a flash, and the room was left empty.

…–…

Hurtling through time and space was no less disorienting the second time around. Lady Sakura had a feeling that she would never become entirely accustomed to it – having one's particles pulled in so many directions at once was a rather jarring experience.

But, as oddly familiar as it was, it was deeply different. Sakura could see everything – speeding through dark blue, watching the flickering images of what Sakura realized were other worlds.

There was swirling white cloth over ink-black horse-hide in rushing wind; a flash of metal in sunlight; two eerily stunning women with slanted eyes in many layers of beautifully embroidered fabric were giggling behind gilt fans; a man wrapped in a deep burgundy travelling cloak stood tall on the stern of a ship, his blue-green gaze steady and unwavering beneath unruly red hair-

The images were cut off, and Sakura realized that they were about to be thrust into their newest destination.

They hit the ground running. Mass chaos spiralled around the six girls as the world imploded around them – there was screams of laughter, and yelling, so much yelling, but it was oddly good-natured. There were catcalls, and the fresh scent of baking bread was caught on the not-out-of-place summer breeze.

And Sakura was beyond confused, as to where she was.

It was all she could do to shoot after Hinata in a panic-induced blur, dodging around the various other beings in her way. Much of all Sakura could see was olive-toned skin, colourful skirts in various bright colours, and long, dark, curly hair.

The six disoriented girls scattered, losing each other in the flurry of confusion.

The heavy weight of the silver and steel sword at her side was Sakura's only reassurance as she suddenly found herself very alone.

…–…

"What in Chrome's name–?"

Temari's brain went haywire.

She was shaking and shaking, the lack of fibre optic connections terrifying both the genius girl, and the pixels of supercomputer that were hardwired into her skull.

Temari's vision was blurring, and it was all Temari could do to cling to whoever it was, that was leading her away from the screaming noise and the chaos of the market. The cobbled streets felt vaguely familiar, like something out of a distant childhood dream. Odd, distorted memories flooded Temari's mind – memories of laughter and running barefoot, trying to catch a flash of golden-red. Temari could hardly think.

Tenten tightened her grip on Temari's arm; it was she that was leading the stumbling girl, a grim set to her jaw, her auburn hair flashing copper in the hot-bright sunlight. She kept close to Temari, kept her grasp firm.

Tenten had lost her princess, and while it irked her, she knew that Sakura was far more then self-sufficient. Besides, Tenten had bigger things to worry about – Temari's sanity, for instance.

This was not good.

Tenten hauled Temari into the shadows of one of the side-streets, off the main venue. It was darker, quiet. Better. She murmured "Are you okay?"

A sigh escaped Temari –Tenten wasn't sure what kind of sigh it was, but it was there–, and she sagged against the wall, resting her forehead against cool stone of the white-washed walls.

"My head – hurts. I don't – it just hurts."

Tenten bit her lip, and scanned the tiny area around them out of habit. The street was long, but narrow; she would see someone coming a mile away. She turned back to Temari, even as the other girl slid to the ground, holding her head.

"Why today, of all days?" Tenten mumbled, and pinched the bridge of her nose.

"Psst! You!"

Tenten whipped around, drawing the small, dangerous dagger that she kept belted to her waist, guard up, teeth clenched, prepared to knife whoever it was that had spoken.

But there was no one.

The street was empty. There was just a creaky door; simple wood, simple hinges, and open only a crack.

"Listen, child!"

"Excuse me?" Tenten hissed, eyes narrowed.

There was an exasperated grumble-cough, and the wood door opened another centimetre. The same voice hissed in return "In here! Your friend, too, we don't have much time!"

Tenten's eyes flicked back and forth, between the curled-on-the-ground Temari, and the door.

She realized that she didn't have much choice. "Come on, Temari. Get up. We'll get you some ice. Or something."

Temari made a sound between a scream and a sob that made Tenten grit her teeth. She bent down, slipped an arm around Temari, and forced her up.

"Ay dio, child, here!"

It was a tiny old woman, surprisingly springy on her feet. Knarled hands wrapped around Temari's other side, and Tenten could only see a flash of twinkling brown eyes, and wiry grey hair, before the old woman whisked them both through the creaky door, and into the dark.

For a moment, Tenten stood very still, her arm still wrapped around Temari's waist, and waited for her eyes to adjust.

"There now, child – ay, aspetta!" the old woman barked at the both of them. "Here, lay her down here, she needs to rest."

Tenten did as she was told, and helped Temari sit on the single cot in the room.

The only sound in the room, then, was the echo of scraped knees and inexplicable summer heat from outside, radiating in through the still-barely-open door.

The old woman sat in a chair and hummed a soft litany in a language that didn't make sense, but was beautiful anyway, her eyes far away.

Tenten didn't understand.

"…Who are you?"

The woman cast Tenten a sharp look, the look in her brown eyes unfathomable. There was a vague sense of knowing, there, and it made very little sense to Tenten.

"It matters not. Your friend–" she paused, and looked at Temari. Tenten was left with little doubt as to who she meant. "–will be safe here."

"How can I trust you?"

The old woman sighed something out again in that odd, beautiful language, her nose scrunching up in a strangely familiar way. "Pesta – you don't know if you can. But you must. You have someone else to find, do you not?"

Tenten clenched her jaw, and the old woman smiled wryly.

"I will be back," Tenten promised. She swept out of the little hut, and closed the thick wodden door behind her.

She didn't even think to question how the woman had known she was looking for someone else.

…–…

Laughter was the first thing that registered.

Pandemonium was the second.

Karin's hair was a flaming beacon, flashing radiation-sick-red in the sunlight. Her fingers were knitted through Ino's, gripped tight – vice-grip, caught like a rat in a trap.

She ran, because she didn't know what else to do.

Too emotionally exhausted to even register where they were going, Karin allowed Ino to whip her into the shade and safety of a private groove. Olives – they were olive trees, Karin thought in wonder. Growing right there, right out of the ground, like it was completely natural!

Karin was too exhausted to realize that she was thinking about this place like it was home – olives didn't grow at home. It was too cold.

She sank to the ground, the world turning to a fuzzy-blurry smear around her.

"Get up," Ino called, from somewhere very far away.

Karin just shook her head, violently-red hair swaying in front of her vision. No, no, there was no reason – the sky was a different blue then she was used to, but blue was better then purple, and where were they, again? What were they doing, again?

Karin sunk into a haze of half-remembered musings, and Ino sank down next to her, determined to outwait this storm.

…–…

Hinata ran for her life.

Lost in the chaos that was the roiling mass of marketplace, Hinata got pushed up, and pressed against the wall of one of the hutches. Tossed around like a ship in the midst of a hurricane, it was almost more then the girl could do, to hold on and not get swept under the stampede of feet.

This was inconvenient, Hinata thought, bothered. Her Lady and her friends had disappeared.

She needed to find a way to remedy this. Hinata ducked down, and latched herself to the wood of the hawker's stand that she'd been deposited by. If she was lucky, she'd manage to cling there, until the market-place had calmed.

Hinata closed her eyes, and took a slow, deep breath in. Calm, calm, be calm. You must find Lady Sakura, or all will be lost. Calm, Hinata, calm. High-noon sunshine hit the back of her neck and burned. Scents assaulted her nose; baking bread, cooking meat, human sweat, rotting fruit – they seasoned the air, and Hinata struggled not to vomit.

This was not helping.

Small, calloused fingers closed around her wrist. Hinata's snapped her eyes open, and her head around, and met Tenten's eyes. The relief there was palpable.

"Morgana, you're okay – get up, we need to get back to Temari – have you seen Sakura or Ino or Karin or anyone?"

That was everyone mentioned, Hinata thought, amused, but decided not to point it out. Tenten looked frantic, and it was best not to frazzle her, in this state. "No, just you – did you see where Sakura–?"

Tenten shook her head, one of the red ribbons that kept her hair tried back coming loose. A smile quirked Hinata's lips. She would have to fix that later.

"Sakura can take care of herself for a bit. We – you, rather, because after I get you to Temari, I'm going to–find everyone else – need to worry about Temari, right now, Hina, it's bad, I don't know what's wrong with her, and–" Tenten broke off, and stared at the ground, angry.

Hinata nodded, and kept her grip on Tenten's hand.

There was identical, empty fear inside them both, and Hinata allowed Tenten to lead her away, deep into the bowels of this new world.

…–…

Somewhere else, across the city, another flash of light burst across the sky. Seven bodies fell through the cross-dimensional rift, and landed with a crash on the top of a roof.

Three men, garbed in white robes and black shirts and red scarves, stood there, and stared.

Three identical, dangerous smiles broke out across their faces.

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notes3: i hate everything about this chapter. it gave my such trouble (the writers block made me livid, you have no idea), and because of that, it sucks. i apologize, for that.
notes4: DISLIKE, WORLD, DISLIKE.