"Happy Birthday, Anko!" cheered the voices of five people, party poppers being blasted into the air at her arrival. The purple-haired kunoichi herself had walked into her apartment two seconds ago before recoiling in shock at the sight of all her friends in one place, even worse, her place, her apartment! They better not have looked at my stuff was her first thought, but then she came to appreciate the effort her friends had put in to try and give her a happy birthday.

Her living room was decorated in colours, a banner hanging at the back reading Happy 17th Birthday, and balloons of all shapes and colours were floating on the ceiling and lying on the carpeted floor. Confetti was also on the ground from the party poppers, and all the 'guests' to the party were wearing bright clothing.

Iruka Umino was present, as well as Kakashi Hatake, Asuma Sarutobi, Kurenai Yūhi and Ibiki Morino. Anko could only smile appreciatively and give friendly hugs as her surprise birthday party was thrown right in her face. She was pushed around, handed drinks and then pushed to the next surprise. She tried to protest, but was completely ignored as her friends tried to treat her to the best party ever. Only one person seemed to notice her negative feelings and that was Iruka, and Anko appreciated it when he backed off her, enjoying the festivities without trying to get in her face.

She finally got time to think when they all sat down on her couches, slipping a DVD into the player beneath her television. Unfortunately, Kakashi had chosen the film and she was subjected to watching Make Out Paradise, something she detested upon belief; this was mainly because she'd once caught Jiraiya 'researching' her whilst writing the book. As the movie rolled on she allowed her mind to wander, relax after a hard day's work. She'd been out on a mission for the whole day, a request by her, would you believe it. She'd wanted to take her mind off what day it was, because she hated her birthday. She hated every single birthday she'd ever had or would ever have in the future. Why? Because five years ago on this exact day was when she'd been abandoned by the one she'd called her sensei, leaving her broken inside forever.

"Come on, Anko! Time to open your presents!" Kurenai called out after the movie had ended. Anko groaned, wearily moving off the couch she'd sprawled herself out on and crawling towards the small stack of gifts that lay next to the television. She counted them quickly, one, two, three, four, five... six? She counted the people present and they tallied five, so had someone given her an extra present? Or had someone dropped a gift off earlier for her? She frowned, but thought nothing of it. She assumed it was most likely Iruka. He'd been giving her funny stares lately, and she'd caught him more than once ogling at her from a distance.

"Mine first," Kurenai said, taking the top present off the pile and handing it to her. It was neatly wrapped, a rectangular shape covered in blue and red wrapping paper with a black bow tied around it. She appreciated the lack of pink things on the wrapping. She absolutely hated the colour pink, and wished death upon all who presented anything pink to her. Kurenai obviously valued her life. With a chuckle Anko accepted the gift and tore off the bow and wrapping paper. She hated birthdays, but she couldn't pass up the opportunity to get stuff for free.

Anko observed the long brown box she'd unwrapped, and taking off the lid she let out a sigh. She didn't want to seem rude, but she wanted to recoil at the sight of the perfumes and little bath soaps within the rectangular box. Ah, when would Kurenai learn?

"Urr, you can have them," she said, shoving the box right back at Kurenai. Kurenai laughed. "I'd hoped you'd changed," she said, and took the box and placed it beside her. She knew Anko would never use perfumes and the sort, but so far Anko hadn't seemed to have had a boyfriend or any kind of love life, and she hoped she could make Anko into more of a... girl... so she could maybe attract a boy into her life. But it seemed each attempt was in vain as Anko waved off all her countless tries to make her wear dresses, put on some perfume or wear make-up, and be a bit more, to be blunt, nicer to everyone. She could be a right bitch, but at the same time she was their bitch and everyone in the room loved her as a friend.

Behind them Ibiki let a husky laugh leave his lips, a scary kind of laugh that could make even the toughest of people flinch. Anko's head whirled around as Ibiki got up off the couch, his big boots clunking across the carpet despite the softness. He took the next present off the small stack and passed it to Anko.

"Now here's a real present for you, not some fancy perfume that'll only get you killed on the battlefield. A lot of ninja hunt by smell!" he said, giving her a hard stare. Ibiki looked a lot better than what he would in later years, lacking both of the scars across his face. His face then brightened with a hearty grin as he watched Anko take the present. It wasn't even wrapped, just a black box slightly longer than her hand. She took off the lid and her eyes gleamed at the sight of a kunai, kanji etched into the steel that she instantly recognized as her own name. Now this was more like it.

"Thank you, Ibiki!" she said with a sadistic glee in her voice that made Kurenai eye her warily.

"No problem," he replied, waving it off as if it were nothing. Anko took the kunai out of the box and ran a finger across its edge, pleased when it left a small cut in her finger. A bead of crimson blood dripped from the self-inflicted injury, and she licked it off as if it were nothing, tasty even.

"Right, who's next?" Anko said whilst looking around as Ibiki sat back down. Kakashi waved a hand lazily.

"My gift's the next one on the pile," he pointed out, and Anko snatched it up. She hoped it wasn't what she thought it was. Tearing off the blue wrapping she groaned.

"Come on, Kakashi! Why?" she said, holding up a copy of the Make Out Paradise book. He just loved that book too much. Kakashi grinned at her.

"Go on, read it! It's really good, and I guarantee you'll like it. Not everything has to be filled with bloodshed you know," he said with a knowing smile. Anko narrowed her eyes at him and chucked the book at his face, but he ducked and it soared overhead. She watched it hit the floor, a few pages crumpling in the awkward position it'd landed, but she didn't care.

Kakashi sighed at her lack of enthusiasm for the book, but Anko had moved on to her next present. She snatched up an envelope, eying it intensely as if trying to make it melt with the sheer force of her gaze. She looked at the scruffy writing on the front of the envelope and identified it as Asuma's. Maybe the extra present she'd counted went with the letter, but when she reached out for the presents Asuma cut in.

"You're not so disinterested in my gift that you're just going to ignore it and move on, are you?" he asked with a laugh. She moved away from the presents and picked up the letter again.

"Course not," she replied with a laugh of her own; coughing as some of the smoke Asuma had blown over from his cigarette entered her system. "And I told you to put that damn cigarette out. Not in my apartment!" she said angrily. Asuma apologised before stuffing out the end and throwing the little cigar in the bin. Anko huffed. "Much better."

She tore open the envelope and looked at the card within. It wasn't a birthday card, but when she realised what it was her heart leapt and she got very hungry. She jumped to her feet and threw herself at Asuma, wrapping her arms around his neck and hugging him energetically.

"Thank you, thank you, thank you!" she yelled, and then noticed that Kurenai was staring at her, appalled. Anko quickly got off Asuma and backed away, remembering about Kurenai's confession to her.

"I... I think I fancy Asuma, Anko..."

"What? Why?"

"Ahck! I knew I shouldn't have told you!"

"No! It's fine! I won't tell anyone, promise."

"Thank you, Anko... It's sort of embarrassing"

"Not at all! In fact, it's kind of cute, heh heh."



Anko looked down at the card in her hand. It was a card that entitled her to have free dango for a whole year! She licked her lips in anticipation, excited for the mountains of dango she'd scoff down. This would definitely be good when she was in a depressed mood – her favourite food generally made her feel so much happier.

"And now, Iruka," Anko said, looking over at the boy. He hadn't said anything in the whole time they'd been unwrapping presents, just standing by the wall watching on. There were two presents left, and Iruka kindly pointed out what one was his.

"The smaller one," he said with a smile. His look carried something that she quickly deciphered. Pity. She didn't like it when people took pity on her, and she hated it when she didn't know why they pitied her. She guessed she'd know once she'd opened the gift. Unwrapping the present she found a box with what looked like tribal markings on the side.

"Huh?" she said, opening the lid. She saw a talisman inside, a circular object with beads and pieces of string hanging off it. It had a weird eye-shape in the centre of the circle. Anko shivered. She didn't like it as it creeped her out. "What is...?"

"It's a talisman..." Iruka explained. "To ward off bad dreams." Anko stiffened at the mention of that. How did he know she'd been having bad dreams lately? She quickly relaxed so as not to arouse the suspicion of anyone in the room and nodded her head.

"Thanks, I'll put it by my bed later," Anko said, and she meant it. She hated the bad dreams and nightmares, because they always revolved around the same person. Him. He who had ruined her life, poisoned her mind, caused a distrust to spread across the village towards her when they learned she'd been his student. And now there was one more present.

"So, urr, who's the last present from?" she asked, waiting for one of them to raise their hands and come forward, relieving her of her worries about the neatly wrapped gift. However, that was not the case. No one came forward, only looked awkwardly at her and then everyone else, wondering who had brought it.

"Maybe someone came and dropped it off earlier?" Kurenai suggested. Anko frowned, not satisfied with just that. Kakashi spoke up.

"I can check what's in it with my Sharingan? Just so we can find out if it's dangerous or not?" he said, hand moving up to be placed on his ninja headband. Despite wearing new clothes for Anko's surprise party he still wore his mask and his forehead protector. They were just a part of who he was, and she knew he had to wear something over his eye to conserve energy, and an eye-patch would make him look like a complete idiot.

"Nah... Don't worry. It's my birthday, I'm sure it's just something harmless like... a puppy or something," Anko suggested, pulling the large present towards herself. Kakashi laughed.

"You should know from experience that dogs and puppies aren't harmless," he said. Anko couldn't help but agree in her head. She'd met Kakashi for the first time after being dared to break into his house at night to see if it was true he still wore his mask whilst sleeping. She'd done the dare, broke in, and instantly been chased out by a pack of angry ninken. After receiving a bad bite to her leg she'd never underestimated the ferocity of dogs again. She never did find out if Kakashi wore his mask at night or not though, but it would be awkward if she asked him now so she didn't.

She took the neatly stuck-on tag off the gift and put it on the ground, slowly taking off the wrapping paper, but then she got too impatient for that. She held her breath as she ripped the rest of the wrapping paper off, and nearly screamed when a sudden rushing hiss filled the room. Kakashi, Kurenai and herself had jumped though, but all she'd unwrapped was a box. They turned around angrily to see Asuma by the taps in her kitchen which was in the same room as her living room, a cup in his hands that was filling with water. It was just a tap. Just a tap. Anko gave Asuma a death glare, and he responded by mouthing an apology and turning off the tap. Ibiki just looked plain amused.

She turned back to the box, calming herself. Alright, here goes. One, two, three! She yanked off the box's lid and instantly felt a heavy weight strike her in the face. Stars flashed in her eyes as she bordered unconsciousness, but brought her mind back to reality in time to duck a blurred object moving towards her face again. A hissing noise filled the room again, but this time Anko knew it wasn't the tap. Everyone seemed to be moving around quickly, and Anko knew that she should be moving too. She hastily stood up, but felt the heavy weight strike her in the back this time. She stumbled forward but Iruka caught her, helping her to her feet whilst Kakashi moved agilely towards the creature that had attacked her. It shot at him, but he'd removed his headband, and his Sharingan showing and active meant certain defeat of the attacker. Kakashi caught the creature around the throat, his features curled into a heavy frown as he looked at it. Anko turned around, sight fuzzy as she brought herself back to focus. The world soon became sharp again and she was looking at a snake. Not just any snake, but a fucking huge snake. Anko cried out as she felt the snake's intentions, but it was too late. The snake buried its fangs into Kakashi's hand, and he cried out, letting the reptile go.

"No!" Anko yelled. The venom that snake would have in itself would be enough to kill Kakashi with ease. "Kurenai! Quickly! Get Kakashi to the hospital! Ibiki! Go with them! This party's over!" she moved into action. The snake had aimed another attack at Kakashi's neck this time, but Asuma had intervened, hitting the snake against a wall. It left a large dent in the wall, and Anko swore. She didn't want to pay to have that repaired.

Kurenai was now at Kakashi's side, Ibiki helping too. Asuma was staring at the snake he'd just hit, and Anko was aware of Iruka moving behind her. Anko stared hard at the snake, as if she was trying to remember something, but suddenly she felt a pain in her neck and gasped. The snake had then moved from its position on the ground. Before Asuma could do anything about it the snake, so large and scary, had shot itself at the defenceless Anko. She couldn't do anything; she was going to die just like Kakashi was going to if they didn't get him out of here quickly to the hospital.

"Anko! Catch!" Iruka yelled behind her. Anko managed to use her incredible reflexes to turn her body in time to catch a sharp projectile that had whizzed at her. The snake was suddenly upon her, but she was now armed. She thrust her arm up, the kunai with her name imbedded upon it stabbing the snake through the head. The life flickered out of its eyes, blood splashing across the kunai and dripping from the snakes head onto the floor. Anko was breathing hard, feeling a painful prickling in the left side of her neck. She pulled her kunai from the dead animal's head and let its lifeless body hit the floor with a thud. She looked up to see Kakashi breathing heavily, trying to overcome the poison that was overwhelming his system. They were at the door, him, Kurenai and Ibiki. Ibiki gave a curt nod to Anko before the three of them left her apartment. Asuma ran out after them, a worried look on his face. Iruka looked helpless.

"I'll help you clean up," he soon suggested, and started to walk towards her kitchen.

"No... no... Just go home. I'll clean up by myself, Iruka. Thanks for the party," she said, and watched a glum Iruka nod his understanding before leaving her apartment too, closing the door behind him. After the final echoing sound of Iruka's footsteps melted away to nothingness Anko looked around. She was alone now, just her, the dead snake and the little tag that had been attached to the final 'gift', the neat and fancy writing on it reading out: Happy Birthday, my dear Anko.