Foosha: Can you believe it guys? I actually put out another chapter within a few months!

Vash: Quick, alert the media.

Foosha: Unfortunately though, I'd say this chapter and the last chapter have been a bit slow. Sorry about that, but I had to get some things out of the way and set other things up.

Nicky: Plot process!

Foosha: Yes... anyway, sorry if any of the other characters introduced in the chapter seem OOC. I've been too busy with family stuff to actually go watch the show to figure out what they are really like... so forgive me.

Nicky: Thanks again for all of your reviews and messages! They are always welcome!

Vash: Foosha doesn't own ninjas or memes or the internet. And let the story begin!


In the real world...

It was another rainy day outside, meaning Rin was once again stuck indoors. Luckily, she actually had something to look forward to today: it was her birthday! She was turning 8. And since she was getting older, this meant she could take on more responsibility. She had decided that she was going to get to the bottom of Nicky and Vash's disappearance if it was the last thing she did!

As far as her birthday went, her parents had invited a few of Rin's friends over for cake and presents, but Rin was still too preoccupied in her thoughts to be distracted by a party. Originally, Nicky had planned on taking Rin out to the water park for her birthday with everyone else. Unfortunately… that wouldn't be happening any time soon. So at the moment, Rin was sitting at the dining room table, pushing what was left of her chocolate-strawberry cake around her plate as her guests chatted loudly about trivial "child" things. She was practically ten, she didn't need to bother herself with such pointless thoughts!

"Rin! Are you having a nice birthday, sweetie?"

Rin blinked as she was brought back to the real world. She glanced up to see her mother and father hovering over her, wearing smiles that didn't quite reach their eyes. Rin knew her parents were trying really hard to make this day special for her. And they'd also put a lot of effort into being home more. Regardless of her inner turmoil, she owed it to them to show her appreciation in a way they understood. She looked up at them with a small smile.

"Thanks momma and poppa. It's been a really fun birthday. I'm glad you're both here for it."

Her parents looked surprised, but it soon melted into a look of relief, which they had appeared to be holding in for a while. Her mother leaned down, giving Rin a tight hug.

"We're so glad you feel that way, honey."

Her mother's voice was sincere, which shocked Rin. She hadn't heard that tone from her mother in a very long time. Hesitantly, Rin wrapper her arms around her mother's shoulders, and as she let her mind ease into relaxation, her hold tightened. She hadn't realized that she had been yearning for this close relationship with her parents, and now that she had, she felt a strong sense of desperation to keep it that way.

"Rin," she glanced up from her mother's embrace as her father placed a hand on her shoulder. He smiled softly, giving her shoulder a light squeeze. "We have another surprise for you when your guests leave."

Rin nodded, just content with the fact that she once again had people in her life she could rely on.

True to their word, after the part guests had said their goodbyes, Rin's mother sat with her in the living room while her father retrieved the "surprise". They'd been discussing the girls' disappearance, which helped take some of the stress off Rin's shoulders knowing that someone else knew how worried about them she was. Though, she still felt that she had the responsibility to figure out what happened to them.

"Rin? Is that you?"

Rin turned towards the voice, her eyes widening noticeably. At the entrance of the living room stood her grandmother, the woman she hadn't seen since her young childhood, maybe two or three. Rin quickly stood up and jogged toward her grandmother, enveloping her thin frame in a tight hug.

"Happy birthday, sweetie."

Rin smiled. Her mother walked over to the two and waved back towards the dining room.

"Why don't we go chat over some leftover birthday cake?"

Rin's grandmother nodded and pushed Rin along with her as she walked.

"That sounds nice. Then we can do some catching up! I want to hear what's happening with everyone nowadays."

Meanwhile

Konan! We're saved! Vash noticed the origami piece too, looking more relaxed. Suddenly there was a strong gust of wind and the campfire went out, leaving us both helpless to the dark night. I brought my knees up to my face, trying to make myself as small as possible. Silently I hoped Vash was doing something similar. Leaves rustled, branches snapped and grunts could be heard. It was eerie how quiet it was for being in the middle of a ninja battle. I guess that's why their ninja… because they're sneaky like that.

"Die, bitches!"

There were some slicing sounds, one of which resulted in a fleshy hit and a cry of pain. I cringed. Jesus that sounded like Marshy. I'm glad he's on our side… but why did he come to save us? And why am I not more disturbed by the sounds of people dying?

His battle noises continued to grow louder, sounding more vicious by the second. I gulped, hoping that he wouldn't accidentally off Vash and I by mistake in his rampage. My eyes still hadn't adjusted to the darkness, so when a bright flash went off nearby, I was nearly blinded. I scrunched my eyes shut in pain before I felt something strong wrap around my waist and lift me in the air to rest on something solid. I wriggled in its grip.

"Holy shit! Put me down! I won't go anywhere I promise, but you're making me really dizzy!"

We started moving at an unnatural speed and I desperately tried to hold down the strong urge to vomit.

"Goddammit, Vash! Don't die!"

Vash's POV

I squinted into the darkness when I saw movement after the flashes of light went off. Once the smoke cleared a bit, and my eyes adjusted, I realized Nicky was no longer in front of me. I started to get anxious and called out to her.

"Nicky!"

I heard a voice in the distance, but couldn't tell if it was her or not. More small explosions went off and I ducked my head behind my knees. The fighting was getting closer. I'm going to die. Two figures emerged from the foliage, one I recognized by his white hair.

"Hidan!"

Either he didn't hear me or just decided not to acknowledge my existence. Instead, he continued his onslaught of attacks with another figure, who I assumed to be one of the guards, or maybe even kitty-ears. Sparks flew as their weapons clashed. Holy shit. That's a big scythe. I scooted myself backwards to avoid the crossfire.

"Where do you think you're going?"

My eyes widened as I was lifted up by my elbows and abruptly carried into the air through the trees, retreating from Hidan's position. He held me around the waist and all I could do was hang there like a limp doll, desperately grabbing as his pant leg to make me feel like I wouldn't fall to my death if he were to slipup. It felt like I was on a rollercoaster as we moved up and down between thick boughs, traveling much faster than the speed I was used to. I lost my grip for a moment when we made a particularly difficult jump. My heart stopped as I was sent flying from his grasp, catapulted through branch after branch before crashing into the dirt, the right half of my body taking most of the impact, and eventually skidding to a halt. Dazed and disoriented, I barely registered how bad my right arm felt and the acute pain erupting from my shoulder. As my senses came back, I felt the stinging sensation of fresh cuts all over my face and being covered in dirt and twigs. I groaned as I tried to open my eyes and noticed my vision was blurry and the frames to my glasses were all that was left of them. The pain I had was now at full force and it was excruciating. I had never felt anything like it in my life. My blurry vision began to dim to black and all I could think was "we're both going to die and no one we care about will ever know what happened."

Nicky's POV

We'd been running for a few minutes (well I wasn't running…) and I could finally see the edge of the forest. Thank god. Open area. We burst through the dense trees to end up in an open field full of high grass. The moon shone brightly as we slowed to a stop. I realized that I wasn't being taken by a random sand ninja when I saw the familiar head of long blonde hair besides me. I got really excited.

"Foofy!"

He put me down slowly and I stretched out my aching muscles before turning to face him. I beamed at him.

"I didn't think we'd ever see you guys again! I'm so happy I could hug you right now if my hands weren't tied up! I thought we would die for sure…" My face fell. "But Vash… will she be okay?"

Foofy took out one of his diamond-shaped knife things and cut off my wrist restraints before speaking.

"Hidan, Zetsu or Konan will grab her, since we didn't come here just to pick a fight, yeah. We made a promise and we owed you guys, hm."

I nodded and took a deep breath, nervously picking twigs and leaves from my hair.

"Well… what do we do now then?"

"We are meeting back at the base, un."

"…"the" base?"

A light breeze picked up and I finally was able to wind down a little from the adrenaline high I'd been on the past week. I then noticed a shadow growing bigger around me and glanced up in time to see a giant white bird land near Foofy.

"What… the… shit… that's a giant clay bird. There's no way that thing can really fly! There's no way I'm riding it!"

Foofy sighed and rolled his eyes before easily lifting me up and onto the bird, jumping up afterwards.

"We need to report to Leader, un. No time for games, yeah."

You think this is a motherfuckin' game? There was a rumble as the bird began to lift. I lost whatever balance I had and fell on my face. Shakily, I scrambled to my knees and latched onto Foofy's waist for dear life.

We shot off into the night sky and I tightened my grip on Foofy. The speed we took off at left me breathless, but we eventually slowed to a less terrifying place once we were above the clouds. I kept my face buried in his shirt and tried to relax my hands so I wouldn't squeeze him to death.

"You can let go now, un."

"Haha, nice try crazy person! I'm fine right here."

"Don't be such a baby, it's not that bad, yeah."

I felt his hands grab mine and easily unclasp my fingers, pushing my body back a bit in the process. I instantly grabbed onto the back of his cloud cloak.

"Are you nuts?!"

"Just look around, you're fine, or should I knock you out for the ride, hm?"

"I-I'll be fine I guess…" Reluctantly, I tore my eyes from the nifty patterns on Foofy's clothing and looked around me. If Aladdin's magic carpet was real, I'd imagine this is how it'd feel like, except maybe slightly more comfortable to sit on. The sky was dark and clear above the clouds. I could see the stars so clearly that it felt like they couldn't possibly be real. Relaxing somewhat, I scooted myself back and put my hands on the clay bird.

"Whoa, this is actually really neat. Am I dreaming? I'm probably still locked up in that room I bet."

Foofy glanced back at me.

"Leader wants to hear what happened to you guys and even though we did come to save you, he also wants to make sure you didn't give the Sand Village any information about us, yeah."

I nodded.

"That makes sense. At least I'm out of there alive."

"We actually thought you'd be dead for sure, hm."

"Yeah… me too."

One Bird Ride Later…

"Wakey wakey eggs and bakey!"

"Ugh…"

I opened my eyes slowly, feeling an instant pressure on my head and throbbing pain. I groaned and closed my eyes again, now realizing that I was on a bed, and a very soft one at that.

"Geez… I feel like I was hit by a rock… what happened?"

My eyes cracked open again, focusing on an orange blob hovering over my face.

"You're awake! Tobi saw girly fall from Deidara-senpai's bird as it was landing! You hit the ground really hard."

"Oh… well that's embarrassing. I was probably asleep." And somehow, I just didn't care. Old Nicky would be like "Oh nooo I'm so embarrassed," but now I'm like IDGAF Nicky, and I don't give a fuck. My life is over anyways. There's no way to get back home, so whatevs. This is "living-in-the-moment" Nicky, now! No more lingering on the past or future. In a way, this thought was actually very freeing. Perhaps thinking this way could calm some of my anxieties! Well, maybe.

"Tobi put the bandage on your head all by Tobi's self!"

He pointed to my head and I sat up and touched the wrinkled fabric of the bandage lightly.

"Thanks Tobi. It's good to see you again."

Instead of commenting back, he quickly embraced me. Wow, he's really warm. Didn't realize I was cold. I patted his back awkwardly, not used to close contact, still. He seemed satisfied though as he pulled away.

"Tobi missed the girlies, too! Tobi is glad you're both here."

"Where's Vash at?"

"She's down the hall. Tobi can show you!"

It took a minute to orient myself as I tried to stand up, grabbing onto the bedside table for support. Once I was on two feet, Tobi turned around and led me out of the room, down a few hallways and turns, to the point where I had given up trying to remember how to get there, and eventually stopped in front of an open door. I walked passed him and entered the room. It gave off the vibes of a doctor's office, except not as hi-tech as the ones I was used to. Vash was asleep on one of the few beds, her right arm in a large cast and elevated. She had scratches all over her face and other arm and was, again, missing her glasses.

"What happened?"

"She dislocated her shoulder and broke her arm pretty badly."

I looked up to see Kakuzu (I got his name right!) exiting from a bathroom adjacent to Vash's bed. He continued.

"Luckily, Zetsu grabbed her before anything else could happen."

I sighed.

"At least she'll be okay."

"She'll be fine. Leader needs to see you."

I gave Vash a pat on her good shoulder.

"Hang in there, buddy," I said quietly, then gave Kakuzu a nod. "Okay, let's get this over with."

Pein's Office

Why is this room so dark? The room was large, with a couple dimly lit ceiling lights that just outlined each member's shape. I felt a little intimidated without Vash by my side and no longer having leverage over these potentially dangerous ninja.

"Can we like… turn on some more light, please?" I asked nervously.

A lamp flickered to life at the far end of the table I was seated at, giving Pein's face a menacing glow. Konan then stood up and turned up the ceiling lights so I could actually see everyone's faces. Pein almost looked annoyed, but then again, he always kinda looks like that. His ringed eyes bore into my brain.

"You're alive. That's surprising." I rolled my eyes.

"Yeah yeah." He ignored me.

"I need to know what has occurred since you came through the portal. If you lie, we will kill you."

"Oh come one! You guys should know me better than that!"

His expression remained.

I scoffed.

"Fine. I promise I'll tell the truth or else be brutally murdered."

Geez, I've sure gotten ballsy.

He nodded and waited for my story.

Elsewhere…

A woman with short black hurried down a hallway. She reached her destination and frantically knocked on the door.

"Come in."

She tried to compose herself before pushing open the door. A blonde woman looked up from some paperwork, her expression worn.

"What is it now?"

"Lady Tsunade, the messengers from Suna... they ran into some problems along the way."

Tsunade sat upright in her chair.

"What kind of problems?"

The dark haired woman exhaled deeply before speaking, her demeanor more serious.

"The Akatsuki ambushed them and kidnapped the girls without chakra."

"The Akatsuki? What would they want with them?"

"I don't know. I could only guess that there is more to those girls than we knew."

Tsunade contemplated quietly, reaching into her desk to grab a bottle.

"If they are associated with the Akatsuki, I can only assume that they are powerful. These girls might be part of a battle strategy. I can't imagine why else they would want seemingly powerless civilians."

"We need to stop the Akatsuki then! If we would have realized how important they were, we could have had more ninja guarding them in their transfer. Who knows, this could be part of their plan to collect the Jinchuriki."

The blonde nodded slowly, eyes calculating.

"I need to contact the Kazekage, if he doesn't already know. We might have to take action."

"I'll notify the messengers."

And with that, Tsunade was left with her thoughts. She sighed.

"Today is going to be long."

Later in Elsewhere Elsewhere…

"So, no chakra, hm?"

The man had a slight lisp as he spoke. His snake-like eyes turned up with his smile.

"How interesting."

The man who had delivered the news stood close by, a glare reflecting off of his glasses.

"Yes, that's what the scout said."

"And they are with the Akatsuki?"

"Yes."

"Hm… well we wouldn't want him to get overexcited. Let's wait for Konaha to make a move on them first."

Nicky's POV

After I had told my long and adventurous tale of being captured and imprisoned, Orangey and the others interrogated me for a few hours to ensure that I didn't tell anyone about them. I realized that I had never even considered telling the sand guys about the Akatsuki. If I had, I would imagine they would torture us to death for information. So… probably good I didn't do that! In the end, Pein decided he would discuss with everyone else what to do with us and try to get some sort of vote going. In the meantime, we would have to just hang out.

At the moment, I was laying down on the fluffy bed I had woken up in, only hours ago, and yet I felt like I've been awake forever. I was exhausted.

"Can't sleep yet though."

I groaned and reluctantly pulled myself from the bed, wobbling into the hallway after standing up too fast. Konan had kindly offered me some clothes to change into and showed me where a shower was. I had no idea when the last time I changed was.

"I bet it's been almost a week… yeesh."

I was still wearing the same uncomfortable ninja clothes that I left the sand village in, four days ago. Gross.

After walking a little ways, I found the bathroom surprisingly easily, but the door was shut.

"Well… dumb."

With a sigh, I sat down next to the door, hoping that whoever was in there wasn't a bathroom-hog, like Vash. Speaking of Vash, I wonder if she's awake yet. She was still sleeping when I checked on her on my way back from the meeting. She's always been a heavy sleeper. Lucky.

"Are you just going to stare at the wall like an idiot all day?"

My cheeks instantly flushed with embarrassment and I glared at the person next to me, cursing inwardly at my quick change from "IDGAF Nicky" to "normal Nicky". Sasori stood above me, his eyebrows raised.

"What else was I supposed to do?" I mumbled, pushing myself up. I quickly passed around him, not looking anywhere close to his face, and shut the door.

Now, I wonder how long I can survive in an unfamiliar place where I'm not a prisoner.


Foosha: Okay guys, guess what? The next chapter or so are going to be filled with fluff and stuff like that. I know you've been waiting forever and I'm going to reward you for your loyalty! There is going to be a LOT of fluff, but I'm still going to try to maintain a believable escalation of a relationship. Also, there are probably only like... nine or ten chapters left! Can you believe it? Crazy, seriously. Anyways, review and stuff! I love you all and am excited for the next few chapters :D