A/N: Hey everybody! I've switched gears again. Now I'm writing my first Naruto fic! Until recently, I was going to write a Kakashi/Sakura fic, but then I remembered how much I love our dear Anko! I have a few notes to hand out first before you start reading:

1. I am an American. I do not know or particularly care for the Japanese title system. I skip over it when I read fanfics, so I will not use it outside of the word Sensei. I am going by the English dub because I like it. No offense to anyone. Haha

2. I am in the process of watching all the Naruto episodes. I have only seen a few Shippuden eps since I lost the channels that air the show a long, long time ago. I've been using Naruto Wiki to catch up, so any mistakes, chalk it up to creative license I guess.

3. I do not like Anko's voice replacement in the Land of the Sea Arc and onward. I imagine her original voice in this story. It's much better. lol

4. This will be a slow moving story I think. I go back to school at the end of August, so I will try to post regularly before that. When I get back to school, well you know how that is. Updates will be fewer until I'm on break again.

Anywho, now that I've bored you with all that nonsense, here's the first chapter of my new story!

Chapter One: The Lost Mitarashi Returns

The final fight with Obito was decided. Kakashi had come out the victor, and as much as it pained him inside to have had to relive the death of his comrade-this time by his own hand-he knew that it couldn't have ended any other way. Obito was no longer the kind-hearted boy Kakashi had once known, and the safety of Kakashi's new teammates was much more important to him than the shadow of a boy he had once called his friend.

He and Gai had let Naruto, Sakura and Hinata carry on with the mission while they took Neji back to Konoha. They weren't sure when a funeral could be held for the Hyuga, but they knew he would wish to be back in his own village instead of left behind at the site of his death.

With heavy hearts, the two men deposited Neji's body at the hospital to be tended to, at which point the nurses treated Kakashi's and Gai's wounds, then they headed for Hokage Tower to inform Lady Tsunade of the newest development of the war.

"I see," said Tsunade, her fingers laced in front of her face, elbows resting on her desk. "At least we can say one facet of this war has been taken care of." Her eyes narrowed and she looked down in remorse. "It's a shame we had to lose Neji Hyuga..."

"Agreed," said Gai, his usual vigor absent in the face of such tragedy. "Neji was truly one of a kind. No doubt we will all miss him."

The three shared in a moment of silence before Tsunade shifted her eyes to Kakashi.

"Speaking of which...Hatake, I have another assignment for you."

Kakashi waited expectantly for her to explain.

"Tokuma Hyuga and Muta Aburame contacted the Shinobi Allied Forces to inform them that they had found the Akatsuki base and that they were mobilizing for war. However...Anko Mitarashi was their team leader. She had sent them to alert the Allied Forces while she went looking for Kabuto. She hasn't returned, and that was a number of days ago. Tokuma and Muta returned this morning. I want you to accompany them on their search for her."

Kakashi nodded. "Yes, Lady Hokage."


A few short moments later, Tsunade's assistant entered the room. "Yes, M'lady?"

"Find Tokuma and Muta and bring them here. Tell them Kakashi will be acting as their new team leader to retrieve Anko."

"Yes, Lady Tsunade, right away."

As Shizune left, Tsunade turned her attention to Gai. "Gai, I want you to round up a few Shinobi and head for the Akatsuki base." She pulled out a mission scroll from her desk and handed it to him. "Here you'll find the location of the base as reported to us by Muta and Tokuma. Other teams are already there, but we need all the man-power we can get."

"Yes, Lady Hokage, of course."

"Right then, you may go. And good luck."

Gai nodded and bowed before exiting the room, leaving Kakashi alone with Tsunade.

"You're sure you left her here?"

"Yes," said Tokuma. "She told us she was going to look ahead that way." He pointed to the right.

"We guessed she was going after Kabuto..." said Muta. "I wish she hadn't gone alone."

"Honestly, I doubt she made it if she found him."

Kakashi sighed and looked in the direction Tokuma had pointed. It had been nearly a week since last anyone had seen the Special Jonin. Even he had to concede that if they found her, it wasn't likely that she would be alive. Kabuto had grown too powerful after absorbing his former master's power.

"Well, there's only one way to find out," said Kakashi wearily. "Let's go."

The three men set off, scouring the forest up and down, but there was no sign of the lost Mitarashi. They searched through the night, only stopping to rest for a little while. A few enemy ninja showed up, but Kakashi and the others beat them quickly and easily before they resumed their mission.

It wasn't until late the next morning that they found a cave they decided should be searched. The three Jonin were cautious as they entered the dark cavern, but Tokuma's Byakugan revealed that there were no traps. He did note, however, that there was someone inside the cave with them.

"Their chakura is only barely flowing," he noted.

"You think it's her?" asked Muta.

Tokuma focused his Byakugan to see far into the cave until he could make out the features of the person whose chakura he had sensed. "...Yes. It's her."

Tokuma and Muta followed Kakashi as they hurried toward their fallen comrade. They knelt beside her, and Kakashi gently rolled her onto her back, checking her vital signs.

"Her pulse is weak, but she's alive...barely."

"It looks as if she's comatose," commented Muta.

Kakashi examined her body and saw that she hadn't suffered any visibly fatal wounds, but he knew that Kabuto had to have done quite a number on her if she'd been unconscious for days.

"We have to get her back to the village," said Kakashi, easily lifting Anko onto his back. "If there's a chance she'll survive, Lady Tsunade is probably that chance."

The other two nodded, and the three of them rushed back to Konoha as quickly as they could.

"I've done all I can to heal her injuries," said Lady Tsunade as she stood in the hallway with the three Jonin assigned to retrieve Anko. "She had some internal bleeding, and it's hard to say whether she'll completely recover from it. For now, she's still comatose. I have no idea if or when she'll wake up, but we have IVs running to keep her body nourished. She's severely dehydrated and it's unlikely that she's had anything to eat since last you two saw her."

The Hyuga and the Aburame nodded.

"I hope she'll be okay," said Tokuma. Muta agreed. "Can we see her?"

Tsunade gave them the go ahead before announcing that she had other patients to see. Kakashi was left in the hallway, leaning against the wall while he watched Anko's teammates enter her room and close the door. It was only after the two of them left the hospital some minutes later that Kakashi stepped into the room to check on her for himself.

Kakashi couldn't say that he'd ever really been friends with Anko. In fact, he happened to recall many arguments with the headstrong woman. However, after his battle with Obito, he found himself taking stock of all the people in his life, friends, acquaintances, enemies and passers-by. During the retrieval mission, Kakashi had found himself thinking of how different Anko was from all those who had been taken in by Orochimaru-and how she was different from Obito. No matter what life threw at her, Anko had never lost her heart to the darkness that seemed to overtake so many good people. She may not have been a match for Kabuto on the battlefield, but she showed more guts, heart and determination than the rogue medical ninja ever would, and for that, Kakashi admired her.

As he stood staring down at the unconscious woman in the hospital bed, he found himself desperately hoping that she would be okay. They had all lost too many friends and fellow ninja; the village would be mourning its losses for years to come.

Out of habit, Kakashi pressed his fingers to her wrist, noting that her pulse was a little stronger than before. He gave a quiet sigh of relief. There was hope.

Sending one last prayer to higher powers for the safety of Konoha and its ninja, Kakashi silently left the room.

Her brain was foggy as she tried to decipher where she was and what had happened, not to mention why she felt so exhausted and drained of energy. She lay there with her eyes closed, trying to recall the last thing that had happened to her.

She remembered finding Kabuto and fighting him. Had she lost? Where was she now?

She moved her fingers experimentally and found the softness of bed sheets beneath her and a blanket covering her. She also noted that she wasn't wearing her usual mesh and trench coat.

Birds were chirping somewhere to her right and she felt heat on her face, so she assumed that wherever she was, there was a window. The room smelled sterile but she could also smell the fresh air that swept in from outside.

She then realized her mouth tasted like sandpaper and she gave a small grimace. She was hungry and thirsty.

It took several minutes before she was finally able to open her eyes, having to blink multiple times before her vision adjusted to the brightness. Indeed, there was a window and she was in a bed. Unfortunately, it wasn't her bed. The white walls and sheets told Anko that she was in the hospital. She frowned, trying to remember the end of her fight with Kabuto...

I'm gonna take a wild guess and say that bastard beat me...

Anko heard the door to her room slide open and she slowly turned her head to see Shizune walking in. The med-nin drew in a surprised breath before she smiled.

"Oh, you're awake!"

Anko watched Shizune hurry to her bedside, finding it difficult to speak.

"Wha...what happened?"

Shizune's smile faltered. "I'm afraid you lost your fight with Kabuto. Days went by before we could send a team to find you. You've been unconscious ever since."

Anko's eyes narrowed. "And how long ago...was that?"

Shizune hesitated. "Over a month."

"A month?!" cried Anko, shooting up into a sitting position only to immediately feel light-headed and sick. She grit her teeth and squeezed her eyes shut as she held her head, Shizune rushing to aid her in lying back on the bed.

"Careful! You have to rest, Anko. Your wounds may have healed, but though we've had IVs hooked up to you to keep your body nourished, you're bound to be weak after being unconscious for so long. You need to take it easy."

Anko grimaced. "Right..." It took a few minutes for her to not feel as if she wanted to vomit-though she knew she had nothing in her stomach to throw up (she really didn't want to start with dry heaves). Then she looked toward the window and noticed a vase of flowers on the bedside table.

"Who's been here?"

Following Anko's gaze, Shizune smiled lightly. "I suspect Sakura and Ino. They've made it their custom to deliver flowers to their injured friends whenever they get the chance."

Anko briefly wondered if anyone else had come to see her, or if they had all been too busy with the war.

"You've had a lot of other visitors, too," said the med-nin, and if Anko had been in a shaper state, she might have commented on Shizune's remarkable mind-reading skills.

Instead, she turned back to the nurse with a different question. "What's happened since I've been out of it?"

Kakashi made his way directly to the reception desk, the receptionist already knowing the reason he was stopping by. He had several people to visit in the hospital, and he had been there every day for the past week. As per usual, he signed his name to the visitor sheet, then gave a nod to the receptionist before turning to head down the long hallway.

But before he could even clear the waiting room, Shizune had come through the doorway holding a clipboard and examining the contents of the file it held. When she looked up upon seeing his shoes, she donned a cheerful smile.

"Kakashi! You're just in time. She's awake."

The Copy Ninja stood a little straighter. "I assume you mean Anko?"

Shizune nodded. "Mhm. She's still really weak and she was falling in and out of sleep while I changed her IVs, but I have every confidence that she'll be fine now that she's regained consciousness."

"Well, that's good to hear. I suppose I'll drop in on her first, then, you know, to give her my best wishes."

"I'm sure she would appreciate that."

Anko wanted to stay awake, she really did. A month of inaction was more than she could handle-and she'd been out cold longer than that. But unfortunately, she had to concede that Shizune was right. It would take awhile before she regained her strength, and Anko, as painful as it was, would have to be patient.

That didn't change the fact that she felt frustrated at feeling so tired when she'd been asleep for so long.

On the bright side, though, she had to smile at herself upon remembering the good news that Shizune had relayed to her. The war was over. Naruto, that little troublemaker, was still alive and had saved the village. Sasuke was back on Konoha's side, retrieved from the darkness that had clouded his heart.

And Anko was free of the curse mark.

It was a strange feeling, and with how sleepy she felt, it wasn't hard for her to imagine that she was dreaming. To be free of all traces of Orochimaru was a dream she had wished so desperately would come true, but she had never thought she would ever escape that terrible shadow. Perhaps when she was restored to her former health, she would finally find peace in her life.

Her eyes remained closed and she took comfort from the warm bed as well as the rays of sun that fell across her. She was somewhere between being awake and being asleep when she heard the door slide open again.

It took a mighty effort to open her eyes again, but when she did, she was surprised at who stood beside her, hands in his pockets.

She smirked weakly, managing a teasing tone. "Well, Hatake. Fancy meeting you here."

"Anko," he acknowledged simply with a nod of his head. "I see you're awake. Welcome back to the world of the living."

Again, she let her eyes fall closed. "What do you want?"

"Do I have to want something?"

She didn't answer, and he wondered if she's fallen asleep again. After a few moments of silence passed, he turned for the door again.


He stopped.

"Thanks..." she murmured.

After a brief pause, he looked over his shoulder to see that she had fallen asleep again, her lips slightly parted as her chest rose and fell with her slower breathing. Her head was still tilted in his direction.

He smiled to himself, knowing she would be alright.

"You're doing much better this time, Sensei," Ino encouraged as she and Sakura walked down the hallway with Anko. It had been a few weeks since she'd woken from her coma, and she had been working hard to recover the strength she had lost.

"Believe me, I'm trying," Anko replied good-naturedly with a grin, stopping briefly to rest as she leaned on her crutches. "Man, I hope I never have to do this again. It's such a pain."

"I'm sure it is," said Sakura, remembering back a few years ago to when Lee was badly injured during the Chunin exams. It had taken him a long time to recover. "But you'll be back to your old self in no time, trust me!"

"I sure hope so!"

"Hello Sakura, Ino, Anko."

The three kunoichi looked up when they heard the familiar voice of the Copy Ninja.

"Hey Kakashi-Sensei," Sakura greeted cheerfully.

"Hey!" said Ino.

"What's up?" asked Anko.

"Oh, just doing my usual rounds now that I'm back from a courier mission. What are you three up to?"

"We're just helping Anko-Sensei to regain the strength in her legs," Ino supplied. "She's made a lot of progress."

"Mhm," agreed Sakura with a nod.

"Awe, you guys are so sweet," said a now grinning Anko.

"Hm, guess that means she'll be back to terrorizing the village before we know it, right?"


Ino and Sakura giggled.

"I only terrorize the people I care about."

"Then you must really care about Naruto, huh?" asked Sakura.

Anko laughed. "I gotta admit, I'm kinda fond of that knucklehead! Besides, it's fun to mess with him. He scares so easy."

"Well, you are pretty scary..." Ino mused with a thoughtful frown.

"Ino, Sakura." Shizune was hurrying down the hall behind Kakashi and came to a stop beside him. "Lady Tsunade needs to speak with you both. She would like you to see her right away."

The two girls looked at each other, then back to Shizune.

"Alright, but can we take Anko-Sensei back to her room first?" asked Ino.

"I'll take care of it." All four women looked at Kakashi. "You guys go on. You know the Hokage hates to be kept waiting." He gave his signature one-eye-crinkle in reassurance.

"Okay," said Sakura. "Thanks Kakashi-Sensei."

The two rushed off, Ino calling over her shoulder, "You'd better take good care of her!"

Anko chuckled. "Yeah, Kakashi. You'd better listen to 'em."

"Hey, it's not like I was going to let you jump out a window or something. But, you know, if you don't have faith in my abilities, I suppose I'll just be on my way..."

She snorted and turned to head back to her room. "Ha, shut up, Hatake."

He chuckled and followed her, hands in his pockets. "So, how are you feeling overall?"

"Eh, could be better, could be worse. You know how these things go."

"You tired?"

"Getting there. I've been trying to stay awake longer, but my body disagrees with my decision."

"The road to recovery is a fine line to walk. You shouldn't push yourself too hard, but on the flip side, if you don't push yourself at all, you'll never regain your strength and your health."

"Ya don't have to tell me."

They walked in silence the rest of the way to her room. Kakashi opened the door for Anko and she shuffled to her bed to sit down, now feeling exhausted. Setting the crutches aside, she let out a long breath.

"Man, I'm beat."

"Have you eaten anything?"

Anko took off her trench coat, which had been draped over her shoulders, and tossed it into a nearby chair. She was grateful to be able to wear her normal clothes again. "Not since this morning..."

Kakashi saw her mild grimace and he chuckled. "Am I to assume you're tired of hospital food."

She smiled. "You got that right. That stuff's terrible."

"Hm. How bout this: you lay down and rest and I'll bring you something good to eat. How's that?"

Anko looked up at him, a bit taken aback by the offer. "You don't have to do all that."

He shrugged. "I have nothing better to do. I'll finish up my visits here at the hospital, then I'll head into town and see what I can find for you."

She gave a genuine smile of gratitude this time. "Thanks. I owe you one."

"Don't mention it." He turned toward the door with a wave. "Be back in a bit."

Once the door had closed behind him, Anko leaned back on the bed, pulling her sheets back over her before she closed her eyes.

She sat up in her bed, watching a few birds fly around the tree outside her window. The sun was low in the sky now and it would be nightfall in a few hours. When she heard the door open, she figured it was just a nurse checking up on her, and so she was taken by surprise when a familiar male voice filled the room.

"Sorry I'm so late," said Kakashi with a guilty grin, brown paper bag in hand. "I met up with Gai, and...well, you know how that goes."

Anko chuckled. "Save your excuses. We all know you're pathologically late."

"And you're pathologically early. So it evens out."

She scoffed then looked to the paper bag expectantly. "So, whadya bring me?"

"Oh nothing much," said Kakashi, handing her the bag. "But it's bound to be better than what they serve here."

Anko opened the bag and beamed when she saw the rice balls, fish and ramen. "This looks awesome. Thanks." She did a double check to see if there was anything else in the bag and her eyes lit up as she pulled out her favorite dumplings. "Aw man! You got me the best dangos around! You must want something from me if you're bribing me with these!"

Kakashi laughed quietly. "No, it's not a bribe." He shrugged. "The whole village knows how much you like them. I didn't even have to pay the chef when I told him you were in the hospital. Said you're his best customer."

"Guess I'll have to thank Akito when I get the chance. Thanks a lot, Hatake."

"You're welcome," said Kakashi with a smile that was hidden by his mask.

"It looks like you've recovered pretty well. In fact, there's really no reason for you to stay here at the hospital anymore."

Anko beamed at Shizune. "You mean I can go home, right?"

Shizune returned the cheerful smile. "Yep."


"But, you will still have to come see us twice a week so we can monitor your progress. And you won't be allowed on any serious missions until you've been cleared by me and the rest of the medical corp."

"Yeah, yeah, I already figured that much. I'm just glad I get to go home."

Shizune signed her name to the outpatient sheet with a flourish of her pen. "I'll leave this with the receptionist when you're ready to leave. Be sure to sign it on your way out."

"Gotcha. Thanks."

"You're welcome. Remember, if you need anything or you start with any unusual pain or sickness, come see us right away."

Anko nodded and Shizune left the room. For a few seconds, Anko simply sat there, staring at the door. Then she grinned again. "Alright!" She jumped to her feet, gathering all her belongings and heading for the door. "I'm so outta here!"

"Hey, you're feeling better I see," said the receptionist as Anko strode up to the desk. "Just sign your name here and you'll be all set."

Anko took the clipboard that was handed to her and signed on the line marked with an x. She then handed the document back the lady before she turned to leave.

"See you!" called the receptionist with a polite smile.

Anko looked back over her shoulder as she walked down the hall. "Not too soon I hope!"

The receptionist giggled at that.

Anko stretched, raising her arms high above her head as she walked out into the fresh, unsterilized air. She'd been able to take a few short walks around the village, but otherwise, she hadn't left the hospital for two months (three if you counted when she'd still been in a coma). Visitors had helped a little, but there was nothing better than being able to wander freely around the village. And no bed was better than her own. If she hadn't had so much energy to blow off, she would have gone straight to her apartment, flopped onto her bed and snuggled with her pillows until she fell asleep on her familiar mattress in her oh-so-cozy blankets.

As she made her way aimlessly through the busy streets of Konoha, she saw Ino heading toward the Yamanaka Flower Shop, no doubt having just returned from a delivery run. The blond spotted the older woman just before she reached the door, and she smiled.

"Anko-Sensei! You're out of the hospital!"

Anko scratched the back of her head as she approached the girl who had once been part of her squad on the mission to the Land of the Sea a few years back. "Ah, they let me out early on good behavior."

"Pft, right...Sure they did. They probably wanted to keep you from swiping the wheelchairs and racing the elderly folks down the hall."

"That was one time! Honest!"

Ino laughed. "Yeah, but it sure was funny anyway!"

"Hey Ino! Whatcha-ah-ahhh!" Naruto skidded to a halt next to the Yamanaka when he saw the crazy exam proctor. "Ehhh...What's she doin' here?"

Ino glowered at him. "Really, Naruto? She just got out of the hospital. Show a little decency, will you?"

"Oh yeah...you were in the hospital, weren't ya? Huh...Guess that means you're ok, then, right?"

"You bet," said Anko. She narrowed her eyes at him mischievously. "And I hear you played a big part in helping to end the war."

Naruto actually had the decency to blush as he grinned. "Yeah, I guess you could say that. I had a lot of help though..." He wasn't sure he liked the look in her eyes...

Anko threw an arm around his shoulders. "Well, well! Look at you. A big hero! I bet there are a lot of girls chasing after that cute, spiky head of yours, huh?"

Naruto's eyes widened as he leaned his head as far away from her as possible. "Uh...no...not really..."

Anko pulled back and frowned at him. "Huh. You don't say."

"Please," said Ino. "I honestly don't know what girl in her right mind would ever date him, hero or not. He's still the same old Naruto."

The Kyuubi Vessel was offended by this. "Hey! I've changed! And who wouldn't love this handsome face?"

Ino shoved a hand in his 'handsome face,' not bothering to even spare him a glance. "I wouldn't."

Anko laughed. "You guys are too much. Hey, maybe I'll see ya around, okay?"

Ino smiled. "Sure thing, Anko-Sensei. Glad you're feeling better."

Naruto just grumbled to himself, arms crossed. Anko waved to them both as she headed off in another direction. She shook her head. Naruto Uzumaki; always full of surprises. Boy had he grown a lot since she'd last seen him. He really did look like his father, The Fourth, may he rest in peace. She really was surprised that he didn't have any fan girls chasing after him, especially when it was rumored that he probably would become Hokage someday.

Anko snorted as she tried to imagine the hyperactive boy sitting at a desk filling out paperwork.

As Anko passed through the market district, she looked around at various stands where vendors sold everything from books to weapons to food and more. It was in passing one of these stands that she saw fresh blueberries for sale, and man did they look good! Pulling out her wallet, she handed the vendor the allotted price and took a pint of the delicious-looking fruit. She ate the berries with a happy smile as she continued on through the village.

She saw many familiar faces during her wanderings, and she stopped to talk to each one, catching up on all that she'd missed while she'd been removed from the hubbub of the outside world. Genma offered to treat her to lunch sometime while Izumo and Kotetsu hugged her, grateful for her return to her old self. Anko passed Gai and Lee who also expressed their joy at her remarkable recovery, claiming once again that Lady Tsunade was a most excellent medic. She even passed Hinata, Kiba and Shino and had spent several minutes conversing with the three.

Finally ready to head to her apartment, Anko headed toward the east part of town. Judging by the position of the sun, it was roughly four in the afternoon. Anko mused that a nice bath would certainly be welcomed followed by a home-cooked dinner-

"Damn it!" She stopped and stomped her foot. "I have no food in my apartment...I emptied my kitchen before going to search for the Akatsuki..."

She dropped her head with a sigh. Why couldn't she have remembered that when she'd been in the market district? Knowing she had to get some groceries, she turned around and headed for the small store a few blocks away. Half an hour later, she was back en route to her apartment, two brown paper bags in her arms.

"Need help with those?"

Anko turned to find Kurenai falling into step beside her. "If you really want to take one," she said cheerfully, holding out a bag to the black-haired kunoichi.

Kurenai smiled and took it. "I take it you're back to your old self?"

"Getting there. Almost forgot I needed to restock my refrigerator. Haven't seen my apartment in a few months."

"Well at least you remembered before you got there."

"Right? So how are you doing? Haven't seen you much at all."

The older woman looked down at the ground as they walked, her expression suddenly sullen. "I've been getting along. Day by day, you know how these things go. I've had so much help from Shikamaru, though, so it's not too bad."

Anko frowned as she looked ahead. "The baby's okay, right?"

Kurenai nodded with a faint smile. "Yes, he's fine. He has a whole village full of people that love him, and he will grow up knowing that his father died a brave man."

Anko glanced sideways. "He'll know his mother's brave, too. In fact, he'll grow up to be proud of his whole village and every person in it."

"That he will."

Kurenai walked back to Anko's apartment and helped her put away the groceries, then the two women sat and talked about the recent goings-on, the older of the two sharing stories about the young little Kenta and his adventures with his uncles Shikamaru, Choji and Kiba. She said that Hinata dropped by quite often to play with the toddler as well and even Naruto had seen fit to take the little guy under his wing when he wasn't on a mission.

"I feel guilty for always having to leave him, but at least I'm never far. Lady Tsunade only gives me small missions within the village, so I'm never away from home for more than a few hours at a time. Still..."

"Well, I'm not really cut out for babysitting, but if you want, I can ask Lady Tsunade if I can take some of those missions off your hands. I'll be laid off from real serious missions for awhile, but there's no reason I can't run errands if you feel like you need to be at home with your kid."

"Thank you, Anko. I appreciate that very much. Perhaps I'll bring that up the next time I see the Hokage."

Anko stifled a huge yawn and Kurenai chuckled. "Looks like you could use some rest."

The purple-haired kunoichi grinned sheepishly. "Yeah, looks like it, doesn't it? Still not one-hundred percent yet."

"It will take awhile," Kurenai amended as she stood from the sofa she was seated on. Anko sat on the couch opposite her, a coffee table between them. "I'd better get home. Since Shikamaru's out on a mission, Kiba volunteered to watch Kenta this afternoon. God only knows what the two of them have gotten into."

Anko stood as well as she shook the other woman's hand. "Right. Hopefully your house will still be standing."

"Hey, don't joke about that. Last time I left Kenta with Choji, I didn't recognize my kitchen." The two women laughed before Anko walked with Kurenai to the door. "It was nice seeing you, and up on your feet, too."

"Same. Say hello to your little boy for me. And let me know if you need anything."

"I will."

Once the Sarutobi widow was gone, Anko decided she couldn't wait until after a bath to eat, so she whipped up some pork and rice, taking the liberty of eating a few cookies for desert. Her belly finally satisfied, she headed for the bathroom.

Words could not describe the feeling of joy that a tub of hot water had brought her. Showers were alright, but nothing beat soaking in a nice warm bubble bath. She took her time washing her hair before slowly running the washcloth over pale skin. Anko frowned a little, noting that she needed to get out in the sun more. Being cooped up in the hospital had turned her into a ghost.

After rinsing the soap from her body, she pulled the plug and stood up to grab her towel. She scrubbed it over her head to dry her hair as she stepped out of the tub before wrapping it around her middle, then began to brush her teeth before running her comb through her short, violet locks.

Satisfied and refreshed, she padded into her bedroom, hung her towel on the bottom bedpost, then flopped down on top of her sheets with a contented sigh. She was home at last, and it felt so good. Pulling her sheets up over her naked form, Anko closed her eyes with a smile.

There really was no place like home.