Author: Girl-chama PM
When the Avengers are unable to subdue a hulked-out Bruce Banner, they call in a new brand of consultant to get the job done (rated for mild language).Rated: Fiction T - English - Sakura H. & Hulk/Bruce B. - Chapters: 6 - Words: 22,331 - Reviews: 81 - Favs: 128 - Follows: 83 - Updated: 11-11-12 - Published: 10-27-12 - Status: Complete - id: 8646677
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
AN: This idea has been following me around for a little while, so I wanted to go ahead and put it to rest. The timeline intersects after Avengers but before Iron Man 3 and about a decade after the events of chapter 605ish in the Naruto manga. For the most part, things should be self-explanatory. This should be a three-parter and no more. Enjoy :)
She quickly informed him that she could go in from ground level. It would buy some time as a distraction, if nothing else. Coulson did not need to look at her to see her grim perseverance. She had had the most encounters with the other guy in this state. Pre-Midtown interactions, anyway. To willingly put herself back into harm's way only reaffirmed her dedication. Still, it pleased him to say, "That won't be necessary."
On any other day the Hulk might have been more manageable. Something in him had changed since New York, and even Banner had seemed calmer. Rogers suggested it might be working in a group he trusted not to push him past his comfort zone, to do whatever it took to stop the Other Guy, without mingling the character of the two. Natasha was more certain it had something to do with Stark physically and verbally prodding Banner until he had a modicum of resistance to every day annoyances. Coulson thought the ideas might overlap more.
But Tony was not here, having retreated into his shell some weeks ago after shawarma and sending Loki home. And each of the team had become more isolated, Banner included, almost as if the Avengers unit was hibernating until needed again. None of them besides Thor had ever taken on the Hulk one-on-one. Even Tony, had he not been hiding in Malibu, would have been hard pressed to handle Banner's bad side. Given that Hawkeye was still en route and that they two down to two members of their full unit, they had been hard pressed to do anything but contain the situation.
So SHIELD had called for backup. There was a precedent in seeking help outside of the organization. Exceptional cases called for exceptional people.
Natasha regarded him with a critical curiosity at the relayed command, not yet privy to the contract. Given that a nine-foot tall green giant was currently destroying part of the city, the glare was not without merit. He shrugged his free arm, releasing his radio from its secured position and tucked the device back into his pocket. "We have a contractor on the way. Hill has ordered that we withdraw from this position for further cover."
The operative looked as if she was ready to disagree with the order, or at least have it clarified, which would not have annoyed Coulson in the least. Leaving would jeopardize what little buffer zone was left between their raging colleague and the rest of downtown. Before she could open her mouth, though, a petite young woman came sprinting around the corner.
Her movements were fluid and coordinated, and her eyes showed no discomfort at the sounds of destruction just beyond them. Arms thrown behind her, she moved with a speed that was impressive, belying the unprofessional look of her pale, pink hair.
Both SHIELD agents turned to regard the young woman as she slowed to a stop before them, bowing respectively. She did not even appear to be out of breath. As she rose, she reached toward her hip, and Coulson wondered briefly if they had made a mistake. When her hand came forward again, she was not holding an ineffective handgun, but a tightly bound scroll that looked like it had come from a souvenir store in Little China.
"I'm ready. The target is only a few hundred meters away, yes?" she asked with a thick accent. Her eyes were already moving beyond them, scanning rapidly for the Big Guy.
"Coulson," Natasha preempted. Her tone was thick with what she felt was warranted disbelief. The young woman barely had any muscle on her at all, evident in the sleeveless red top she wore. Was she trying to make herself a target in that color? She would not last two minutes in a street fight, much less a fight against Bruce Banner's alter-ego. There was not even any tech on her person, only a shirt and a flimsy skirt over a pair of longer shorts, nothing to prevent her from being completely crushed the moment she was within arm's reach.
Her former handler said nothing, but turned his carefully passive expression to the newcomer. "You're the contractor?" he asked carefully. She turned two candy-bright green eyes on him and smirked tolerantly.
"My village holds this contract, yes. If you're concerned about my abilities, we can discuss it afterward. For now, we're wasting time." Natasha watched her black-gloved thumb slip under the sealed scroll breaking its binding effectively. "I'll be back in a few moments," the young woman said, inclining her head respectfully.
They were hardly in a position to stop her as she leaped onto the SUV they had been standing behind and immediately flipped off, sprinting as she landed. She manipulated the scroll as she ran, not breaking her speed. By the time she turned the corner, a block away, two arms' length of the paper had been unbound. "Did we just allow a child to run to her death?" Natasha asked mildly.
Coulson did not answer. He was already moving again. Reaching into the vehicle, he opened a thick black briefcase, exposing a built-in laptop and battery. Following his train of thought, she opened up her own communication device and called, "This is Agent Romanov. Get us into CCTV, stat."
The computer screen flared to life, the execution file opened, and for a moment all was snowy static until the city cameras became their eyes. Banner was there, or rather, the Other Guy was there. His destruction had slowed almost to the point that it seemed he was waiting for something. Whether he was tolerating the transformation or perhaps he could hear the girl approaching, his wait would soon be over.
It had been a long time since Sakura had been so far away from Konoha. Perhaps this was the first time she had been quite so far away. Wave Country had been over a decade ago, and she had made so many trips to Suna in the interim that the three-day trip seemed routine. This was something else entirely. She had never been on a ship for days and days with nothing but the ocean to surround her and the stars to blanket her. Granted, the ship had been a nice one, with interesting people and delicious food, but it had delivered her to a city that was a country unto itself.
Her task was simple. The village needed money. Years after the last Great War had been averted, she and her friends lived in a time of relative peace. Beyond the guard details for local royalty, there had been very few reasons to hire ninja, especially ninja of her caliber. So, on the order of the Rokudaime, they had branched out, sought countries beyond their own with the wealth that could match their needs.
Sakura was the latest link along a length of chain supporting her village. Whenever word of a new, hopefully expensive, mission appeared, she was already a good distance closer to the potential client. She had been in this gigantic city for a few weeks when this mission had finally arrived.
The green man had been on the news before. She had seen his propensity for destruction and had picked through enough of the local language to realize that he was still something of a hero, despite his egregious displays. She had contacted the Hokage, only half sorry to be interrupting his ramen binge, and expressed an interest in interfering. She might have even taken the task on without money had there ever been a more dire need. Each time before, the beast man's caretakers had eventually figured out how to have him rescinded, but not before causing a lot of damage along the way. Feelers had been put out, and a tentative agreement had been reached. If they ever needed Konoha's help, they would call. Sakura was not sure what Naruto and the Council had done to convince them, but contracts had been drawn up, and their employer had contacted her. It had not taken much advance warning, especially since she had seen his latest rampage on the news and come running.
All of the information for the contract had been filtered through Konoha. While she felt nothing but confident in her ability to accomplish her task, she still did not know the faces of her employers. The man with the shoulder sling and the severe woman were the first contacts she had interacted with. Just like many of the other clients she had encountered, they seemed to want to discount her at first sight.
"So it was best to just greet them and move onto the target," she thought, having had similar experiences before. Invariably, the clients were satisfied with her work and gracious at the end of the day. For now, though, there was no getting around being someone with a small frame and pink hair.
The target was not hard to find, the hokano aitsu. He heard her as soon as she turned the corner, his eyes narrowing even with the stark distance between them. She paused for a moment, the open and rolled ends of the scroll held tightly in her fingers. He huffed like a bull, muscle rippling beneath his green skin. Green was new.
Beyond the verdant shade of his hide, he looked similar to the curse-sealed nin she had seen so many years ago. Hyperfunctioning proportional myomegaly, indicating an increased metabolism and increased capability for force. Especially in his upper torso, while his legs were comparatively thin. They were still thicker than her entire torso, but long, lengthy fibers would imply speed. So he was fast and strong. Still, he had no horns growing from his head or wings sprouting from his back. There were only four appendages, not eight.
"Hmm," she thought, her curiosity piqued. If he had been a nin of any kind, she might have worried, but she had seen the news reports and had further intel from her employer. There was no increased intelligence in addition to his increased physicality. His own colleagues considered him not much more than an animal in this state. A powerful, fast animal whose defensive and offensive abilities outstripped their own, but an animal nonetheless. She tried not to feel too calm about the situation. Lions and bears were still dangerous in their way.
Yet supposedly beneath his curse was a brilliant, and gentle scientist. For that reason, the target was not to be terminated, only incapacitated. Killing would have been easier on many levels, but Konoha had insisted they could get the job done. Their reputation was riding on her.
She frowned as she darted forward, dark boots pounding on the pavement. A gentle man he might have been, but she could not sympathize with such self-inflicted conditions. Power for power's sake was an ethic she had rejected as a child, already well aware of the consequences of such pursuits. Perhaps this man would one day know just how horrible his own pursuit had been. Until then, her village could benefit from the revenue brought on by his carelessness.
He turned to face her fully, baring his teeth as she approached, and he did not run. As she closed the distance between them, she took the barrel of the scroll into her mouth, her hands sealing quickly. Chakra surged through her fingertips and then into the paper as she rapidly took hold of the scroll once more. She zigzagged trying to confuse the lessened intelligence behind his watchful eyes, but his gaze held her like she might be prey.
She leaped, covering several meters to land at his side, but he was already facing her again. Sakura continued running, monitoring his ability to keep up with her speed. It made sense that he would be so fast if all he had to do was turn a few degrees at a central point while she was traveling the circumference around him. Quickly, she threw the scroll high into the air, her eyes still on him. He glanced to it for a moment, perceived no threat, and then turned his eyes back to his would-be assailant.
Three more of her had appeared in the small amount of time it had taken for his eyes to dart back and forth. All of them were running in a tight line around him, each catching an identical scroll from the air. Then without a word each girl broke off at a cardinal point around him, surrounding him in a small square. Sakura and her bunshin mimicked their stances. Staggering their approaches, each charged him. It would be over as soon as she could apply the seal that would effectively contain him until his rage subsided or further action was necessary. Just another moment.
She was almost upon him, charging from the back when he whirled on her like a dervish. His hand snapped closed around her ribs. The kunoichi was so startled that it only took a squeeze for the other bunshin to dissipate into nothing. He had beaten her shell game, with no chakra and without seeing the copies made. Had he sensed her?
The resulting squeeze felt like an angry elephant had decided to sit on her and then grind her into the ground. She cried out despite herself as he pulled her in, face-to-face, teeth bared. For a horrible moment she had the clearest understanding that he was going to bite her head off like in some deplorable fairy tale about trolls and goblins.
The roar that bellowed into her face did nothing to assuage that concern, but by that time she had gathered her wits again. She still had a free hand that was not holding the scroll. It only took a split second to clock her captor with a medium-strength punch. It was enough force to ensure that she was serious without completely devastating his body. He reeled backward, dropping her as he did, and she took a full breath as she dropped to the ground, instinctively checking her ribs. The length of them felt bruised for sure, and strained, but not fractured.
Satisfied, she stood, taking hold of the prepped scroll once more. She did not hesitate as the beast man rolled onto his feet again, his face full of hateful anger once more, but completely unmarred. He charged to meet her. Fingers pulled the binding characters from the scroll with another surge of chakra and then promptly dropped the useless paper. Another hand plucked a smoke bomb from her pouch and tossed it at his feet. It exploded, smoldering upward and covering the hulking body. He jumped upward to be clear of the debris, but Sakura was already there.
Her black fist, covered in a writhing mass of characters pressed lightly against his forehead as she called, "Sealing technique!" She pressed off of his descending body and landed a moment later, crouched. As she glanced over her shoulder, she saw the body of a naked man careening to the street. Her seal had worked, but even the little effort had been more than she had anticipated. The green man had not responded to her strike as he should have, and the realization made her frown. Her client had not exaggerated his endurance.
Gathering her breath, and healing the little bit of damage to her body, she stood carefully and then approached the subject. Sakura kneeled next to him, safe in the knowledge that the sealing had obviously worked. He was older than she, perhaps Kakashi's age, with pepper-speckled dark hair and a dusting of chin scruff. He looked… tired. She reached a single finger forward to his forehead and channeled a minute amount of chakra. The compact black seal writhed under her finger as she traced it alongside his face, down his neck to the back of his shoulder. When she removed her touch the characters settled down into a nice, inky tableau.
His vitals felt strong, but he was clearly exhausted. She sighed, feeling pity for the man. How much harder was it for non-ninja to subject themselves to forces they could not control? There was no precedent for this kind of action amongst civilians, not that she knew of, anyway. Her pity turned to annoyance all over again. She stood as the first of the reinforcements arrived in a large, black vehicle.
The man with the injured shoulder climbed out of the back seat- not driving, so in authority, it seemed. The woman from before stood beside him, just slightly behind. Just next to her was another tall, blond man, a very attractive tall, blond man, who happened to be staring at the sleeping man with concern.
"Impressive work," the first man spoke soberly, reaching out a hand to her. "Very expedient." Sakura took it, respecting their custom, and allowed her hand to be shaken. She could not help but smile at his satisfaction, receiving a small, perfunctory smile in return. "I'm Agent Phil Coulson."
"Haruno Sakura," she said, while something about his calm, uninterested manner made her think that he already knew her name. Perhaps more. How much had Konoha told him about her?
"Is he all right?" the woman from before asked, facing her again. Sakura turned, glad to be able to speak about the contract and nodded. She had the strong impression that there always something serious in the woman's manner.
"He's just tired. Transformations like these take much out of the body."
That statement did grab Coulson's interest, and he asked, "You know about such transformations?"
She felt no reason to hide the truth, and so she nodded. "We've seen something similar to this before where I'm from." The woman and Coulson exchanged silent glances, exchanging a wealth of communication in flat eyes. Sakura wondered how long they had worked together, before the red head smiled and stuck out her hand as well.
"Steve Rogers," the third of their party added from Sakura's side. She glanced back to see another hand extended to her. Occupying most of Rogers' right shoulder was the naked man, who had been wrapped in something like a robe. Sakura shook his hand as well, smiling more brightly at the warmth of his own gaze.
"Miss Haruno, we'd like to speak with you a bit longer, if you wouldn't mind. It's very interesting to us these techniques. Plus we'll need you to give us the actual details of the procedure you accomplished."
She regarded Coulson for another moment, then nodded. If she was going to get paid, she needed to cooperate as much as possible. Konoha's sealing style, or in this Kakashi's sealing style, was proprietary information, of course, and how to recreate such important things, she would not divulge. But… She took a glance at the sleeping man, who only minutes before had been trying to crush the life out of her, and thought that it might be nice to see him awake and as gentle as they claimed.
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