A Song for Them @nihilistic_bunny
Montage Arc, Back into the Groove

Naruto Fan Fiction!

Adventure! SI-OC!

(Title)

"A Song for Them"

A/N: Okay, I'm late by a couple days but I've got a really good excuse this time! So, the other day I was working on the chapter, listening to music, just chilling y'know? Then, the roof collapsed. Not on me, mind you. But in the hallway beside me. So there was suddenly a leaky hole in my ceiling and that took a few days to take care of. Damn rain, anyway, am I right? But don't worry neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays this writer's hand from the swift completion of my next chapter!

Feel free to blame the weather but, try and enjoy the chapter!

DISCLAIMER: I do not own 'Naruto' or any of the cannon characters! Otherwise there would be more fluff!

WARNING! RATED M! For Language and absurd Fluffiness! Get ready to brush your teeth, folks. Things are about to get sweet.

Exam Deux Arc,

Chapter Thirty-Nine: "Back into the Groove"

"Life is ten percent what happens to you and ninety percent how you respond to it." -Lou Holtz

The sky was pale as the sun was finally beginning to rise over Hokage mountain, signaling the new day and change of patrols around the Village. The air was crisp, it filled my lungs and left a taste behind of something sweet. I think it was from a bakery down the road, getting ready for the day. This place was nothing at all as I remember it. Then again... I never did spend much time above ground during my Infiltration training. I remember the feeling of suffocating on the stale air of the Foundation's facility, my mind more often than not wandering to the state of the Orphanage on the outskirts of the Village walls. My former home.

I had been naïve, then.

"You took your time getting here." he said, his eyes still on the shapes of the buildings in the distance. "Taking in the sights? The atmosphere around the Village was always rather pleasing in the late spring."

"Apologies, Orochimaru-sama. I was... delayed."

Yellow eyes rested on me and he arched an eyebrow. "Oh?"

"It was nothing that couldn't be handled." I dismissed. Really, the special ops squad sent to observe me were rather inadequate. To be fair, my Dead Soul Technique can be quite convincing if I do say so myself. But the reason why they are following me in the first place was curious, I was sure that I've been careful. Others however, might have not been so cautious. "By the way, do you know what happened to Masato and Saburo? I tried to meet them at the appointed rendezvous during the Exam but they did not show up. Normally, I wouldn't be concerned but they haven't checked in at any of the rendezvous to report their intel since and I'm beginning to fear the worst has happened."

"Yes, I do. Dosu-kun helpfully informed me of their unfortunate demise after he regained consciousness." A grin spread across his face, "It appears that they had encountered Sasuke-kun's team after Sora's Curse Mark had adjusted to her body. I'm told she had killed them in a... brutal fashion."

"Sora-kun… killed them?" I asked, feeling genuinely surprised. The same Sora-kun? If it were anyone else other than Orochimaru-sama telling me this... Then again...

I could still remember the cold feeling of her hand on my cheek. The dead look in her eyes, and how I had noticed the light had been absent from them. Was that from the influence of the Curse Mark? Or had she finally broken? His eyes lingered on me a second more before he looked back out on the Village.

"Yes. It appears she holds more darkness in her heart than your intel would suggest." he chuckled quietly, raising a hand to the front of his flak jacket. "Ikari had certainly chosen an interesting alternative..."

Ikari-senpai... to think that she was Sora-kun's mother? If it weren't for the few handwritten notes attached to some of Orochimaru-sama's older research, I probably would never have known of her existence.

"That matter aside, I have something I want you to do something for me." he said, grabbing my full attention. I awaited his orders and an unnatural grin stretched his face. "I want you to kidnap Sasuke-kun, right now."

Sentiment

After a handful of minutes Sora finally stirred from her blanket cocoon and looked up at from under the hood, meeting my eyes. "Hi." I murmured. Then I remembered I was repeating myself, and added, "...again."

I could tell she smiled from the way her eyes squinted slightly. She looked around the room briefly before revealing her hands and signing, 'Hero? Duck? Scarecrow?'

I smiled slightly. Here she is, just waking up in a hospital bed and she's already asking after other people. She's always been this way, I thought with fondness and exasperation.

"I haven't seen Kakashi-senpai since he came to get me which was about two this morning. But I overheard that Naruto-kun and Sasuke-kun were here until they were ushered out around midnight by one of the nurses. Well, Sasuke-kun left easily enough but she had to physically pry Naruto-kun from your bedside, saying that you needed undisturbed rest." I informed her.

Her smile widened slightly before she asked me the time, I actually had to think about it before answering as there wasn't a clock in the room. "Ahh... It's nearly six, I think. Senpai said that you slept all of yesterday after the Exam preliminaries, the medic's bandaged any of the superficial wounds so all you have left to worry about is a case of serious exhaustion." Sora grinned wider but I spoke up again before she could get the wrong idea.

"But don't think that means you can just get up and start running around either!" I warned with a serious look, her smile flattened out. "The only reason you aren't sedated right now so your body can finish healing on it's own is because I asked them not to. I didn't want to risk you waking up and finding a breathing tube down your throat."

Sora gave an involuntary shudder, hiking the sheet higher around her shoulders before signing briefly. 'Thanks.' She leaned back into my chest and closed her eyes, relaxing. Not even a minute of quiet passed before she popped her head back up and gave me a scrutinizing look, frowning. 'When was the last time you slept?' she asked.

About two days ago, I was pretty sure. Maybe three if you counted the night I spent here. I didn't tell her that, of course.

"Right. I got something for you." I said instead of answering. Sora gave me an annoyed look, letting me know she wasn't fooled but watched me with interest nonetheless. I reached around into the bag on my hip and pulled out a small ornate case, holding it out towards her. "You did ask me to bring you back a souvenir from my trip. I hadn't planned on getting anything, just so you know, but then I spotted this on our way back and figured that you might find it useful."

She looked up at me with barely contained curiosity as she gently lifted the latch of the box and inhaled sharply, eyes going wide. It was a set of calligraphy brushes and a resealable inkpot for traveling. A brush of each size and made with a sturdy bamboo so there wasn't as much risk of them snapping in the middle of a fight. I'd seen it in the window of a shop while passing through Takumi Village on our way back. I kept the pleased look off my face as she gingerly picked up one of the brushes and ran her fingers along the bristle.

'Rabbit?' she asked with wide eyes. How could she guess that? I frowned as I thought back, I think the shopkeeper said that the brush was made of rabbit fur or something like that. I honestly didn't know what was considered suitable for a pen beyond the strength of the bamboo. I said something along the lines of a 'yes', but Sora didn't pay much attention to my unsure answer as she inspected the brushes intensely.

A genuine grin of excitement spread across her face, assuring me that I'd chosen correctly. 'Beautiful. Thank you.' she lifted her head, placing a chaste kiss to me cheek and pulling before I could react. I ignored the heat rising to my face and scratched my jaw, letting out an embarrassed chuckle. Is she always going to be so openly affectionate?

"Maa… don't you two look comfortable?" drawled an all-too familiar voice. Dread pooled in my stomach as Kakashi-senpai was suddenly standing there, leaning against the wall as he looked at us. I became very uneasy as I realized the situation I was now in. Still sitting on my lap, Sora nodded as she lifted her head and nuzzled it against my collarbone.

I was uncomfortably tense in this position as Sora signed, locking eyes with senpai, 'Neko is more comfortable than you.'

I choked in surprise.

What the hell did that mean!? I looked in between them with rising horror, my mind trying to come up with a plausible and reasonable explanation for that sentence. The only reaction Kakashi-senpai made was to shrug, unconcerned. "You're getting too heavy, anyway."

Sora gasped dramatically, then she scowled up at senpai, 'I am not fat!'

Senpai nodded, then added in an unconvinced tone, "Of course you're not."

'I'm not! You are going blind.' she insisted. She was getting mad and her cheeks began to puff out, not really helping her case at the moment.

"It's nothing to be ashamed of, Sora. It's just puppy fat. You'll grow out of it eventually." he consoled. Sora's eye twitched. Senpai was all but laughing at her face. I couldn't believe my eyes. I felt like I was stuck in come sort of strange dream I wasn't waking up from. Having these two in the same room with me was worse than I had feared.

They were actually bantering.

Kakashi-senpai continued nonplussed, "I mean, Tenzō doesn't seem to mind it." Oh, no. He's switching targets.

Sora snorted, a smirk beginning to form and I recognized that gleam in her eye. 'Good news for you then, Sensei.' Kami, I knew this would happen.

"Really now?" His only visible eyebrow arched before he looked at me, "Is there something you'd like to tell me, Tenzō…?"

Sora looked up at me with the damnedest grin. "No." I grit out. I haven't slept in days, haven't had a hot shower in weeks or eaten something that wasn't standard-issue nutrient bars. I was not in the mood for this, from either of them!

Kakashi-senpai nodded, "Because you already have a girl on your lap." he said, I blanched and he then added, "Funny, I thought you already had a girlfriend." he mumbled disapprovingly.

"Kakashi-senpai!" I cried. Oh Kami, Sora is right here for goodness sakes! "Please don't say things like that!"

Sora, to my distress, looked between Kakashi-senpai and I with wide eyes, that same grin on her face widening. 'Is this a thing?' she asked, 'Is this a thing that happens often? You two gossip about love?'

She was two seconds away from bursting into laughter.

"Maa… he's the one who chats about his romantic misadventures. I just encourage him to follow his heart and confess to the one girl in his life he keeps going back to."

No. Not this again. Please senpai, no.

Sora leaned forward excitedly, 'Who?'

"It's-"

"-Kakashi-senpai, was there a reason why you came here?" I interjected hastily. They both gave me a pointed look, for different reasons of course. But I wasn't going to sit by and allow this conversation to go any further.

"What? I can't drop by to see my kōhai and my student in the hospital?" Kakashi-senpai drawled. I gave him a dry look, I knew him better than that. He doesn't take a step anywhere near the hospital unless he is either unable to walk under his own power or he has something important to do. He dropped the pretense, "I'm here to talk to Sora, actually. To finish our debrief."

Her smile withered away in a blink of an eye.

"We need to know everything that... Orochimaru said to you. I've already heard Naruto and Sasuke's sides of the fight but there's still some missing parts I need you to fill in." he said quietly. Sora nodded once, unconsciously leaning into my chest again, then motioned for her pad. Kakashi-senpai went around to the other side of her bed and retrieved it from the table.

"We encountered him about an hour and a half after the start of the survival test." she started. I wrapped my hands around the armrests, stopping myself from breaking them as Sora described the events that led up the encounter. The gust of wind that separated them, the attack from giant snake, how he had tossed Naruto-kun and Sasuke-kun until she distracted him with a Genjutsu. Then he had cornered her. "I don't really remember much after that." she admitted, "Things start to blur together after he said-"

Sora stopped as her hands began to tremble, I could see a sheen of water in her eyes, she was holding herself back. She took a deep breath and composed herself again. "-that he knew my Mother."

"What?" I heard myself ask, it felt like I had ash in my mouth now. What she was saying... it couldn't be what I think it is, could it?

"He is the Bad Man we were running from."

愛情 Affection

Neko's expression was carefully neutral.

It always is when I tell him bad news. Is it a bad thing that I know what face he makes when he hears bad news? Kakashi-sensei is taking it better, I think, but his expression and chakra was just as frustratingly neutral and what's even worse, he was suppressing it. Not allowing me any insight to what was going through his head right now. A hundred-and-two doubts began to eat at me. I didn't make a mistake, I reminded myself firmly for not the first time in the last few minutes. I didn't make a mistake in telling them. I had to tell them about Kaa-chan's connection to him.

…didn't I?

Of course I did. My feelings didn't matter in this decision. My family and precious people aside, I was still a child soldier in the military. I chose to tell Naruto and Sasuke about Orochimaru so they could know how dangerous he really was and if it came out that I had a connection to him that I didn't tell my superiors about then that would raise questions and lead to other things that I really don't need to be dealing with. Not right now when I have so many other things to worry about. Honesty is the best policy. This time. Mostly? Well... not complete honesty. Being too honest would lead to having my mental health checked and that would open a whole 'nother can of worms that I'm not prepared to answer for.

Careful Sky-girl, start blurring those lines too much and... Terra trailed off, sounding delightfully ominous, But yes, I got the point.

Why Fucking Bother? As If Any Of These Fucks Are The Picture Of Mental Health. It chimed in, reminding me of another important point of conversation since I had these two here. Do I tell them about my sociopathic and homicidal one-third? How do I even breach that topic in the first place? Or about my eyes. Kami, my eyes that bleed. Just pop off and say; 'By the way I found out I have a kekkei genkai that can explode people I touch. Oh, and cast ocular genjustu that can last for days after it was applied!' My mind began tormenting me and I suddenly felt a reassuring hand on my shoulder, grounding me back to now.

I looked up into Neko's large brown eyes and worried frown and was reminded of who he was. He was the guy who would stop by after a mission to ask how class went. Who listened to me complain about Naruto's sometime thick-headedness and who gave me advice when I didn't know how to deal with everything. I let out a breath, releasing the tension in my body. It was Neko and Scarecrow. Two of the most morally inclined elite killers I know... not much of a compliment when put like that but, if there's one thing this world has taught me, it's to work with what you've got.

"Something else happened. To me, after I woke up. I didn't wake up as-" I struggled for a moment. This was like pulling teeth, I swear. "-me."

"Tera?" Scarecrow guessed, his normally apathetic gaze was more alert now. From beside me, Neko looked at sensei sharply as surprise registered in his chakra. Why? I filed that reaction away for closer inspection and focused on my current task, I brought my pen down again.

"Not quite. There is-" Before I could finish writing, the handle on the door began to turn and-the was a rush of air as I was displaced, the warmth that was previously surrounding me was gone and I landed on the empty chair with a grunt. I huffed, glaring half-heartedly at the now-opened window. That scaredy cat! It doesn't matter if he's not supposed to be seen in his ANBU uniform without his mask, I was using him for warmth! There was a huff from Kakashi and I couldn't tell if it was a laugh or a scoff. The door opened fully and a familiar girl dressed in a white nurse outfit with bright pink hair walked in, green eyes landed on me and Sakura gasped.

"Sora-san! You're awake!" She said, flipping on the light switch hurrying into the room. I winced at the sudden brightness that filled my vision and-"KYAAA!"-cringed at Sakura's following scream. She only just now spotted my creepy sensei standing in the previously dark corner, like a creep. As the poor girl pressed her hands to her chest and tried to swallow back down her heart, the cheeky masked man lifted his hand in greeting.

"Yo."

I rolled my eyes as I messaged my temples, wow that was a sudden migraine. If I didn't know any better, I'd thought I had a hangover. Sakura took a deep breath and found her voice again. "S-Shinobi-san, I'm not sure if you're aw-ware but it's not yet visiting hours."

He tilted his head in the most innocent fashion, "Oh? My watch must be set wrong."

…I know for a fact he doesn't have a watch.

Sakura's face was the picture of deadpan. She briskly walked in and pulled the curtains aside, -I hid under my sheet like the blood-sucking vampire I've turned into, totally not dodging finishing my earlier sentence- revealing the first rays of light peeking over the Hokage mountain and disproving Scarecrow's claim of ignorance.

"Well, look at that..." he said all too innocently, like he actually hadn't noticed the lack of sunlight before this moment. I snorted a laugh from under my designated light shield. I heard movement and felt Sakura's fuzzy-looking chakra move around my little room, checking and adjusting things and whatever practicing nurses do until she gently tugged on my light shield, trying to remove it. I protested this.

"Come on, Sora-san..." she endeavored sweetly. I didn't budge. Uncomfortable chair or not, I was safe from that horrid light on the other side. "You should really be in bed. You had been checked in with a serious case of fatigue." she said, emphasizing her request with another tug.

I don't care if I was being childish. I really didn't want to move from here. My body was still sore from the sealing of the Brand and my courage left with Neko. I didn't want to talk about... it, to Kakashi. Not without either Naruto or Neko to be my support blanket, I almost had a panic attack telling him about Kabuto back in Wave and I had years to come to terms with that.

Make The Introduction. I'll Be Happy To Speak For Myself.

'Fuck. That.' was my decidedly firm response. There was no way in hell that I was going to allow it-her to have the reins again.

I'd actually rather die than lose control.

"Sora-san... I..." Sakura trailed off, her tone changing from 'concerned-but-nagging-friend' to something else entirely. When her chakra filled up with doubt and hesitance yet a good amount of determination, I pulled the blanket over my head far enough to look up and see the pink-haired girl staring intently at the floor as she fiddled with the hem of her nurses uniform. Seeing she now had my attention she straightened up and a surprisingly stubborn glint appeared in her mint-green eyes. It's been quite a while since I saw that look from her, nearly an entire year now actually. "There is something that's been on my mind for a while now and I would greatly appreciate it if you'd hear me out."

I was fully sitting up again, my interest piqued. Sakura, who has basically been Miss Perfect all the time I've known her, wants my advice? What in the world for? I waited for her to continue but her green eyes darted towards the Scarecrow in the corner and I got the hint. I frowned at him. It was obvious that Sakura now required my attention and that she didn't want to talk in front of him so why was he still here? He wasn't dense and I knew he could pick up on social que's when the situation calls for it. Was this about the Icha-Icha contraband? Because if it was then it was just his own fault for telling me not to read something. I gave him a look and not-so-subtly jerked my head towards the door.

He eye-smiled, feigning ignorance.

Fine. He wants to play it that way? I did a quick scan of the room, looking for something to use. My eyes landed on the end of the bed and I smirked. I narrowed my eyes at the silver-haired man as I fully shed my protective shield and stood up from the chair.

Then I began stripping.

By the time I'd pulled my hospital shirt over my head a blushing Sakura had squeaked in surprise and Kakashi had made a choking noise before getting out of there like a bat outta hell. Hah, I knew that'd work! When it was finally just us girls, I reached for the set of clothes someone was so thoughtful to leave on the end of the hospital bed and finished dressing, moving aside my holsters and storage book on top of them. I was lacking undermesh and clean underwear so I had to settle with just throwing on my blue shirt and the pair of calf-length pants over my old bra and boyshorts. It'd do until I got home. Finished, I looked over at Sakura expectantly and she began to fiddle with the hem of her nurse uniform yet again, her steely nerve from earlier gone just as fast. I didn't frown, I reminded myself that Sakura was a teenaged girl with self-esteem issues. She just needed a little coaxing.

I gave her a lopsided smile and patiently waited for her find her voice again, sitting on the edge of the bed. After a full minute she began tentatively, "There is something that I would like to ask of you. A-A favor actually..." she took a deep breath and I leaned in, listening intently as I saw that glint appear in her eye again, "I-"

"SORA-CHAN!" in burst a fluffy-headed blonde, causing Sakura and I to jump in surprise. My heart was beating a mile-a-minute as Naruto came charging into the room with Sasuke trailing in not far behind, much more composed and aloof of course. "You're finally awake!"

The Hero bulldozed his way past the poor pink-haired girl and hug-tackled me into the bed, knocking the breath from my lungs. I wrapped my arms around his shoulders nevertheless, squeezing him back just as tightly. "Naruto!" Sakura snapped, finally recovered from her surprise. "Sora-san is still recuperating!"

"But Sora-chan's fine now! Right?" he looked at me with those big baby blue's and I had to smile and nod, even though I was having a but of trouble breathing with his weight on top of me. He then craned his neck around to scowl at Duckie, "See! Told 'ya she'd be fine in the morning 'ttebayo!"

"I didn't say she wouldn't be, idiot." Sasuke retorted.

"Yeah, you did! Last night after that scary nurse kicked us out, you said Sora-chan probably might not even wake up for a few days!"

I frowned, a thought occurring to me as I registered Naruto's words along with his still dirty clothes and ruffled appearance. I wedged my arms out and asked, 'Did you sleep here?'

"Hm? Oh yeah, we did! At first we were gonna stay in here with you but then that nurse came in and told us that we couldn't so we just went to the waiting room and slept there. Man, it was uncomfortable!" he said quickly. My brain stalled when he said 'we'. Who was 'we'? He couldn't mean-the other 'we' is the he that is Duckie? Because that would be... 'We' as in him and Sasuke? I looked over at the dark-haired boy who wasn't looking at any of us now, his chakra conveying a good amount of awkwardness.

What.

Naruto shifted, his shoulder now digging to my right one, where Kin's senbon and lodged themselves the other day. My face screwed up in pain and Sakura gripped the back of Naruto's collar. "Sora-san still isn't recovered and needs her rest! You shouldn't treat her so roughly!" she shouted. She then yanked the boy off of me, coincidentally allowing me to breathe again.

"But-!" he tried. Sakura didn't give him any chance.

"No! And if you insist on yelling being so disruptive to not only Sora-san but also all the other patients on this floor then I have no choice but to remove you!" she said with a tone that gave no room for argument. Then she began to shuffle the blonde out with a surprising strength. Has she been training? I watched my Hero flail as he was dragged away, somewhat relieved by the prospect of more rest and disappointed that he was leaving.

"O-OI! WAITAMINUTE! SORA-CHAAAAAN!" I heard him shout, his voice getting farther away.

And then it was just Duckie and I.

I briefly wondered if Sakura had actually forgotten he was there or just didn't think that he needed to be told to leave. He didn't. Leave, that is. He just stood near the doorway with his hands in his pockets, eyes staring idly out the window. I only just took the time to look out myself, I was on the third floor. I spotted a pearly-white case and a rush of affection bloomed in my chest all over again as I reached out and picked up Neko's gift. A set of high-quality calligraphy brushes in a easily carriable case. There was even a refillable ink cartridge! I felt a grin slip onto my face as I pressed the case to my chest fondly. With this, I won't have to cut open my hand or have to unseal a pot of chakra-infused ink if I need to draft a Fuinjutsu formula in a pinch. Neko really does know me so well...

"That was your genjutsu, wasn't it?" Sasuke said out of the blue, effectively popping my bubble as my chest tightened. "The one Abumi was under." he clarified unnecessarily. I had immediately understood what he was referring to, what else could he have been.

I deliberated playing dumb for all of two seconds before I nodded, going with my gut and being honest.

"How is that possible?" he asked, his onyx eyes now pinning me with a hard look. "I know you didn't cast it before or during the fight so the only time would've been-" he stopped suddenly, eyes widening ever so slightly. He didn't even need me to say anything and he figured it out! Sasuke was annoyingly clever like that.

I shifted uncomfortably on the bed, folding my legs under me to stop myself from fidgeting. I nodded, confirming what he was thinking. He was silent for a while and I ran my fingers along the case of my gift frim Neko, tracing the small decorative carvings on the lid.

His voice was quiet, "...the Sharingan is the only thing I know that is capable of a casting a genjutsu that lasts over an extended period of time, over days."

I looked up in slight panic, raising my hands to sign. 'I'm not a-'

"-Of course you're not." he snapped harshly before I could even finish. I ducked my head, I hadn't meant it like... like that. His chakra shifted awkwardly of all things as he forcibly released the new tension in his shoulders. His tone was calmer when he spoke again, "So, what are you then?"

I shrugged.

"What kind of answer is that?" he snapped again, more annoyed than angry. I resisted the urge to shrug again just to annoy him further and actually gave him an answer.

'I never met my Father.' I confessed, 'Mother never told me much about him except-'

"You know, you look a lot like him actually. He had curly hair and beautiful periwinkle eyes as well." she would say. A serene smile in her face as her chakra twisted.

I clenched my jaw and fisted my hand into the paper bed-covering under me, crumpling it. A felt a wave of anger at the memory, surprisingly enough. There were a lot of things she never told me apparently.

"...except what?" Sasuke prodded, his ever-perceptive eyes searching my expression.

I wiped the scowl from my face and finished, 'She used to say I had his eyes.' I smiled bitterly, 'I thought she meant color, but now, I wonder.'

…what the hell am I?

There was a tense silence and Duckie shifted on his feet uneasily, that constipated look on his face again. His gaze moved around the room uncertainly until his eyes met mine, he opened his mouth to-"Isn't this an interesting sight." sounded a voice that was not there a moment ago!

Duckie and I both froze in surprise as that damned Scarecrow announced his presence. He looked at us from the doorway, his bored gaze seemingly boring down into my very soul. How the hell does he even do that? And that is the second time in the last hour that someone has snuck up on me! I really have to work on that, preferably soon.

"Now, I wonder what it is that the two of you could possibly be talking about...?" he drawled. I frowned at his oh-so timely appearance. You know, I actually wouldn't be entirely surprised to find out if Kakashi had sent Naruto and Sasuke up here to get me to spill what I had not finished telling him earlier. Actually, that's probably what happened now that I think about it.

Sasuke's eyes darted to me, not saying anything. It touched me that he wasn't going to blab about this. Sensei felt vaguely the same as me but way more annoyed with the fact that neither of us had spoken yet. I was still a teensy-weensy bit pissed at Duckie for outing me to Naruto the other day, but it's different now. I wasn't at a tipping point and this wasn't like confiding in Naruto. Still... it would be helpful to know exactly what's in my head.

I reached for my notepad, writing swiftly. "I found out I have a Dōjutsu."

I showed him the pad.

There was silence.

I frowned as he stared, not reacting.

Sasuke looked between us, I could feel his morbid curiosity overcome his awkwardness of still being in the room.

"...what." Scarecrow eventually mustered. Staring at me unabashedly, like I'd grown a second head or something. I underlined my words for emphasis and he closed his visible eye, an almost pained expression on the 19% of his face we could see. "I understood the words, Sora. What I don't understand is how." I shrugged, his annoyance spiked and even Sasuke rolled his eyes at me.

"It's true. I saw it for myself." Duckie confirmed for me, like I'd even make something like this up. Kakashi held his eye closed for a second longer before he actually straightened up, taking this seriously. Good. I would've been mad at him if he thought I was screwing around.

"So. You have a kekkei genkai." he affirmed. I nodded, "Alright, can you... show me?"

'Hell no,' was my first reaction. Outwardly, I shook my head curtly even though I could remember the buzzing feeling at the base of my skull, could reach out and almost touch-No, nonono. Not doing that. I'm not prepared to try that. I shook my head again, more fervently that time.

He lifted a hand and scratched the back of his head, "You said you have a Dōjutsu. Do you not know what it is?" he asked. I shook my head negative. "Describe it then. I've encountered a few over the years, I might recognize it."

I frowned again. I... haven't actually seen it. I only found out when Sasuke-I turned towards the Uchiha boy and wrote. "Can you draw it?" I asked, "You're the only one who got a good look."

Sasuke frowned, "Why don't you just show it to him?"

Because-DrippingFromMyHand-HisBodyExploded-ShowHimTrueNightmares-I made a face, a bad one by the looks on Sasuke's face as he mirrored it. I can only assume that our minds went to the same place. A further, uncomfortable look crossed over his face before he wiped it away and took up the pad and pen. He pressed the pen down, pausing for a moment.

His eyes spun with the Sharingan and then he began to sketch a startlingly realistic copy of the top of my face. I watched in morbid fascination as he darkened my irises to black, gave me horizontally slit pupils and shaded the whites to a of my eyes to a darker color to match with the misshapen pupil. He drew tears-Oh, and he drew the tears of blood, too. Kami knows we can't forget those. When he finished it looked like something out of real nightmare.

"That's it?" Kakashi asked dubiously. "With the-" he gestured towards the tears of blood.

"Yeah. Her eyes turned a glowing red here and here," Sasuke pointed to the pupil and the not-so-whites of the eye, "and when she touched someone, they exploded." Sasuke summarized, I stiffened up at the mention. "She also cast the Genjutsu on Abumi a couple days before the preliminaries."

I felt Kakashi's chakra churn as he realized.

Scarecrow took a deep breath, closing his eye.

"...yeah. Okay. I have no idea what this is." he admitted, lifting a hand to rub the back of his neck. I feel so assured, sensei. Thank you for that. My shoulders slumped and he added, "But I know someone I can ask. They might have some information on this."

'Thank you,' I signed, 'Both of you.'

Kakashi straightened into his habitual slouch again as Duckie handed my pad back to me. The man pinned me with a look, "Is there anything else you'd like to tell me?"

Loaded question, much? Terra drawled. I agreed with her. On the outside I shook my head negative as I smiled, not feeling like I was doing a very good job at faking it.

'Not today.' I signed.

Kakashi stared at me for a moment with that bland look and I felt that familiar flare of panic in my chest that I usually get when I irrationally think that Kakashi has suddenly developed the ability to see into my very soul. He couldn't do that. Right? Before I could start freaking out his nose was in his favored orange-covered book again like nothing at all was the matter.

"Sasuke, I'd like to talk with you about something. You mind?" he nodded towards the open door. Sasuke glanced at me one last time before stuffing his hands back into his pockets and heading out. "I'll drop by your apartment to talk about your training arrangements tomorrow, Sora. Rest up today!" Scarecrow said mysteriously as he followed Sasuke out of the door.

Right, training. I have to do something like that. Prepare. And not just for the Invasion but for my battle against Tenten, too. But... not just those things either. Things have changed that I haven't even considered would be effected. What about the things that shouldn't have changed?

A horrible, probably irrational, thought struck me.

What if Sensei doesn't teach Sasuke the Chidori?

You really think that's a possibility? Terra asked skeptically.

'Well I didn't think that I'd be the one going first in the prelims but we know what happened there. I have no idea what could change from here on out.' I sighed aloud, still feeling like I had a hangover. But, at least I was beginning to come to terms with things. I looked around the room and found myself alone for the first time this morning.

I didn't like it.

I slid off the bed and collected my things, strapping on my holsters and tools bag. Carefully tucking away my new brush set in the bag and folding up the hospital clothes, leaving them on the end of the bed before peeking my head into the blue-tiled hall. I was thankful when I didn't immediately spot any high-strung medics that might protest my escape. I slowly began walking down hallway, keeping my senses stretched out for anymore surprises as my mind went back to my worst-case scenario butterfly.

Sasuke. Chidori. Technically sensei should still teach him that technique. What was the trigger for it Before? Seeing a full-out Lee get messed up by Gaara, right? So, that didn't happen and Sasuke didn't get Marked but Sensei still wants to train him though. That is what he meant when he said he wanted to talk to Sasuke, right? To protect him from the still very dangerous and sociopathic genin and full-on crazy sannin that's after his skin.

Shit.

There are no guarantees.

A doubly horrible realization set in, one that had me feeling cold and so very tired. What if the events that lead to the Invasion happen wrong and Gaara doesn't flee like in Before? Because Sasuke doesn't learn the Chidori? What if he goes berserk in the middle of the goddamned Village? I closed my eyes tightly and hung my head, leaning on the wall for support. Fuck. So much planning to do already and I only keep giving myself more work to do, more contingencies to plan and account for.

I can't believe this...

I have to figure out a way to take out Gaara.

…I regret so much.

"OI! KAKASHI-SENSEI, DON'T TELL ME YOU'RE ONLY GONNA TRAIN THE BASTARD! SENSEIIIII!" I blinked as I heard Naruto's shout echo throughout the hospital floor. I cracked a weak smile as I continued down the hall, deciding to check up on someone else stuck in this damned hospital. At least some things will never change.

God, please don't ever change, Hero.

I stepped away from the man feeling more than a little depressed. The nurse in charge of the second floor said that Hinata wasn't allowed any visitors today because she was currently recovering from a second surgery. I felt a prickle at the base of my skull and breathed through my nose deeply, keeping calm and reminding myself that she was going to be just fine. Mouse stood up for what she believed in and will be better for it, I couldn't allow for any doubt to the contrary.

I'd just come back tomorrow to check on her.

Slipping past a few nurses and patients I briskly walked down the stretch of hall, following the signs to find the front desk so I could check myself out and get the hell out of here. The sterile, disinfectant smell everywhere was burning my sense of smell and the feeling of all the cleansed chakra was starting to make me twitchy. I quickly hopped down the stairway and stepped onto the ground floor and it was only because I had stretched out my senses that I had felt it.

The hair on the back of my neck stood on end as I felt the distinct sensation that I was being watched. I stopped in the middle of the hall, noticing with alarm how empty it was. I turned my head up and down the hall, spotting not a soul besides my own. What the hell? It unsettled me deeply. I never considered myself as very paranoid but if the last few days have been any indication, I might have a good reason to be.

I closed my eyes and focused.

I could feel the chakra of the trees in the yard on the other side of the wall, the earth below the stone foundation, I even felt a muddle of security Fuinjustu layered on the walls of the hospital, especially towards the southern part of the building interestingly enough. I could feel a swath of light wisps, both large and small in the building as far as I could see. Problem was I couldn't feel any one chakra that was particularly focused, and not in my immediate surroundings. And it wasn't as if there was any Intent, it was just... a feeling. But, underneath everything there was a... a white noise. Something that was just barely registering but I couldn't pin it down-it was like it was everywhere.

I opened my eyes, still not seeing anyone. I turned forward again hurried down the hall as fast as I possibly could without looking like I was running away. Which, I definitely wasn't doing. I was never so glad to see the front desk of the hospital before in my life. I hastily explained that I was checking out, was heavily advised against it, until I convinced the woman behind the desk that I was, in fact, in charge of all my mental and bodily functions and I no longer needed hospitalization. She was disgruntled to say the least, but she relented with a warning that suspciously sounded like a threat to not push myself or I'll end up right back in my room, no arguments. It was just my luck that I ended up with a ninja-trained medic and not a civilian one that would be happy to have me out of their hair.

I let out a sigh of relief as I passed the crowd of people in the waiting room and headed towards the door, signalling my freedom. My mood lifted even further when I heard my Hero's voice call out to me. "Oh! Sora-chan! Hey, over here!" he called, waving at me. I obediently walked toward him and blinked curiously at the man standing beside him. He was tall with dark-tinted round glasses and his hitai-ate tied around his head like a bandana. He looked vaugely familiar somehow. Maybe like I'd seen him around the Academy before?

"Sora-chan, you won't believe this!" Naruto scowled, crossing his arms over his chest. "Kakashi-sensei is planning to train Sasuke and just Sasuke!" he complained irritably. As much as I sympathized with his frustration, I was more relieved by the news. Duckie might actually learn how to shoot electricity from his fingers after all. I gave him a half smile before my eyes were drawn to the stiff-looking man still standing beside him. I lifted a brow and nodded towards him in question.

"Huh? This is that closet-pervert I was tellin' you about! The one who I beat with my Harem-Mmm-MMPH!" I blinked in surprise as Naruto was suddenly muffled by a hand. Then I looked up at the bespectacled man whose face was turning red from indignation and humiliation as he hissed at Naruto from under his breath. I crossed my arms over my chest and gave my best 'judge-y' glare, remembering the Hero's story of how he met Konoharmaru very well. I didn't care much about his pervertness -you can't throw a shoe without hitting one here- but I was more upset about how he had treated Naruto the last time they met.

He was just like the rest of them.

He released Naruto and turned to me, pressing his glasses further up the bridge of his nose, "Hello, you must be Sora-san. Kakashi-sensei talked about your skills when he was describing what Naruto was lacking in. I'll be responsible for his studies for the following weeks. My name is-" I turned to Naruto, dismising the man at point-blank. For some reason I didn't have much patience for his type today. Odd.

'He's teaching you?' I asked Naruto. He blinked at me, glancing between me and the now-insulted man.

"Yeah." he said hesitantly.

I followed up with another question, expression serious. 'Are you okay with this? After how he treated you?'

His blue eyes widened, "Oh." he said lamely. The man's chakra twisted oddly and my eyes snapped over to see him looking elsewhere, his eyes fixed on something in the distance. I wanted to frown but kept my expression clear as Naruto began to speak up again. He scratched the side of his cheek and didn't look me in the eyes. "It's fine, y'know? All that stuff happened a long time ago and Kakashi-sensei said that he was good at what he does, so..."

I softened, affection for Naruto overriding any irritation for the man standing beside him. He honestly didn't hold his blind ignorance against him, all was forgiven and forgotten in Naruto's book. I let out a resigned sigh. He was too good and pure, my Hero.

...he really was a much better person than I am.

I smiled brightly and lifted a hand, bringing down on fluffy blonde lock and ruffling them throughly. Naruto laughed in delight at the display of affection and while his head was being pushed down, my smile dropped and I narrowed my eyes dangerously at the bespectacled man. He stiffened up immeasurably. Lifting my free hand I pointed two fingers at my eyes before pointing them at him, clearly getting across the message of; 'I've got my eyes on you'. Naruto might've grown out of revenge via prank but I will unleash a glittery hell on anyone that dares try to hurt my Hero's feelings.

He looked throughly disturbed but wisely decided to keep his mouth shut.

"C-Come along Naruto-kun, we should get started on your training right away!" he nearly squeaked as he grabbed Naruto's jacket cuff and began hauling him away.

"Hey-Wait!" the blonde shouted, digging his heels into the tile and stopping the retreat. "Sora-chan! Aren't you comin'?" he asked.

'Can't. Rest day. Sensei's orders.' I signed with a shake of my head.

"Oh, okay..." he said, looking a bit disappointed. I felt guilty already. Before I could damn the orders and cave, he brightened up again. "Okay! I'll be home for dinner then 'ttebayo!" he promised with a wave as he headed out the doors.

And then I was alone again, only this time I was surrounded by people.

I shook off the melancholy feeling settling in my stomach and headed out the glass doors as well. I had a chore list of things to do, the first of them being a hot shower at home. I began compiling a list of priorites in my head as I walked past the large gate. After my shower was done and I threw on a set of clean clothes I decided I would stop by the Archive and look up all the Fuinjutsu theory books I could find and get some inspiration on how to stop a rampaging jinchuuriki. Fun times. And barring that I should look into modifications to my Revival seal again, as it is now it's not going to be healing anyone. I mean, just look at what it did to me during my fight with Kin. There's too much straight Yin and that'll-"Sora-san! Sora-san, wait!" urgently called a feminine voice from behind.

I stopped in my tracks, turning around towards the source I saw a very ruffled Sakura running up to me. I blinked rapidly as she came to a stop in front of me, panting for breath with her hands on her knees.

"Sora-san..." she gasped, straightening up and meeting my eye. "I still... -gasp- still wish to ask you a favor!"

Wow. I'd completely forgotten with everything else that was going on. It must be something serious, too by the look on her face. I felt her Grounded chakra fill with a surprisingly steely determination as her minty eyes glinted again. I crossed my arms over my chest as I waited for her to ask this oh-so important favor. She suddenly bowed all the way to the waist, posture impeccable, alarming me quite a bit as she drew attention to us. Then, none too quietly, asked my something I'd never in a million years thought I'd hear her say.

"Please, Sora-san! Teach me Fuinjutsu!"

Birds flew by. There were sounds of kids just getting out of school. Civilians kept walking by us, shooting the pink-haired girl strange looks. Sakura was still bowing and making me terribly uncomfortable. I shifted my weight on my feet, chewing on my bottom lip as my brain tried to catch up with what was happening right now. I could swear that I'd misheard that.

Before I could ask if I was imagining things she followed up on her previous sentence, "Please! I wish to learn about the Schools of Sealing from you!"

Crap.

Exam Deux Arc,

Chapter Thirty-Nine: "Back into the Groove"

END

A/N: So, remember how I said I had plans in store for everybody's pink-haired girl... oh, about a year ago? Well! It's finally happening! We'll get an actual conversation next time but for now you can just let your imaginations go wild with the new possibilities! For other stuff... a lot actually happened, didn't it? Let's see, there was Sora, Kakashi and Tenzo all in a room together. Fun. Kakashi fleeing. Sasuke confronting Sora and unknowingly making her confront one of her many new issues. Kakashi found out about her eyes. Foreshadowing, foreshadowing, foreshadowing.

Oh, and Orochi-teme wants to nab Sasuke. Not much different there. Anybody have any predictions for what Kakashi has in mind for Sora's training? I'm pretty confident you won't be able to guess this one!

Author Question!

"In the spirit of costumes and decorations, who/what would you dress up as given the chance? And don't worry about if you don't think you can pull it off, forget that! Go with your heart! Hero, Princess, Badass Beast? …a Sailor scout?"

Himiko Toga from Boku no Hero Academia is my pick. In her villain attire, of course. When I was little I was always a princess/fairy/angel and now I'm thinking that a giant needle would be good to have on a dark night. I'll even play the part of psycho-stalker! ...just picture it... it would be incredible.

Alright guys, know I wuv yew and remember... never trust your friends with your hard-earned candy! They'll eat it! Have a safe All Hallow's Eve!

-Nanami

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