what's this? me updating twice in one month? must be a miracle!

this chapter is a 'sorry but uni is starting in a week and i dont know when the next time that i'll be free to write' will be, so i thought it'd be better to get it out now.
a lot of important things happen in this chapter, and it's the most canon-divergent one i've produced thus far.

also, a question - i hate danzo with every fiber of my being and i feel like that's quite a common view, but what are y'all's thoughts on orochimaru?
i've been spoilt by beautiful writers like blackkat or ShanaStoryteller or Vixen_Tail to the point that i can't unsee the potential for oro's redemption or characterization that would actually make sense (thanks, kishi) but i'm curious what the 'consensus', so to speak, is.

anyway, as always, do tell me if there's anything odd or you'd like explained or whatever, and further clarification will come in the next chapter!

IMPORTANT!
tw for gore and bodily mutilation around half way through the chapter - if you're iffy, stop reading after "something in her mind broke" and pick up again at "finish the job, or cite accident?". shouldn't affect your understanding of what went on too much ^_^


The day they were meant to set off, Sakura got up before the sun had even risen over the horizon and made a beeline for the cemetery, dropping down beside two familiar headstones. As she knelt by her parents' graves, the melancholy and grief that was usually at the forefront of her mind was pushed to the back by the satisfaction of finally being able to her revenge.

"It's been a while, hahaue, chichiue." She greeted, bowing her head. "But I've been assigned to Sasuke's retrieval at last, so I can bring you some justice." Sakura paused and lightly ran the tips of her fingers over the various trinkets and souvenirs she'd left by their graves over the years as she tried to sort through the mess in her head. "I really should've seen Inoichi..." She sighed, feeling a headache coming on. "But Shikamaru needed me to stay and then we were summoned... I forgot how long it's been since I've seen him. I think I've been procrastinating dealing with some things, like Naruto's return, or Kakashi... Or even the fact that Anko is still in the coma. Now there's Chiyo too and that goddamn forest..." Even as she was speaking, Sakura felt her mind splintering, felt the steel boxes she'd forced those thoughts into start to rattle and threaten to burst open, a Pandora's box of issues she was ill-prepared to deal with. She hung her head and breathed deeply through her nose, only just noticing that her hands were clutching the grass by her knees in a white-knuckled grip. "Wish me strength, hahaue, chichiue. I'll need it. I'll come by… after. After everything." Sakura arranged the flowers she'd grabbed along the way neatly between the graves and rose to her feet, heading home.

When she got in, Genma seemed to have only just gotten up, his hair a mess and pillow creases still evident on his cheek, and Sakura was hit with an overwhelming wave of fondness for the man. She crept up behind him and wrapped her arms around Genma's waist, standing on her tiptoes to hook her chin over his shoulder.

She opened her mouth to somehow voice the fondness she felt, then her eyes zeroed in on what the brunet was drinking out of and she snorted. "Is that a coffee pot?" she asked incredulously, unable to keep the laughter out of her voice.

"A coffee pot can be a coffee mug if you just don't care." Genma replied sagely, then snorted and downed the rest of his drink and put it aside. One of his hands dropped to cover Sakura's while the other tried to comb through his hair. "Everything alright?"

Sakura sighed and unhooked her chin, loosening her arms so Genma could turn around, then grabbed his sleeve and tugged him towards the sofa, pushing him on it once they were close enough. Genma went willingly, the corner of his mouth quirking up even as there was an edge of concern in his eyes, and Sakura couldn't help her own grateful smile.

She flopped onto his lap, delighting in the startled 'oof!' and let her head drop onto Genma's shoulder. "I got the Uchiha mission." She announced at last, and felt Genma go momentarily still as he registered her words, then-

"Ah." And in that single syllable, he managed to encapsulate everything Sakura had been worried about how to breach with him since she got her orders.

Laughing, she let herself relax slightly, picking at a loose thread in Genma's shirt. "Yeah." When nothing more was forthcoming, Genma laughed.

"You don't know what to think, do you?"

And Sakura snorted, meeting his eyes so he could see the gratitude in them, and replied, "Not in the slightest." When Genma asked her to walk him through her thought process, she sighed. "I've been after this mission for the last three years, but now… well, firstly, I'd much rather go with Shikamaru. Secondly… Naruto is going with me. And this time, we won't have Kakashi to keep him in check." At Genma's confused hum, she elaborated. "Kakashi got assigned as Team 10's back-up, which I'm grateful for, but… the jounin we got instead… I recognise his chakra, Gen, but I've never seen his face."

"ANBU, then." Genma summarised, confirming her suspicions.

"That's what I thought too. But, more importantly – I got separate orders. I was explicitly told to bring Sasuke back so he can face trial. My team was just told to see whether he can be persuaded or convinced of the error of his ways. I… I'll break him, Genma. He's the apprentice of a monster I can't ever hope to touch, if I have to overpower him, I'll have to break him to the point he can't fight back. And then Naruto will never forgive me."

Genma hummed and lightly patter her thigh. "Don't let him see then. Orochimaru will doubtless be there. Tell your jounin leader your mission if you must, get him to help you take Naruto away from your battle with the Uchiha." When all Sakura could do was stare at him, he sighed and ruffled her hair. "And Sakura, even though you refuse to tell me for whatever reason, I know you have some sort of ace up your sleeve. If anyone doesn't have to worry about fighting the Uchiha, it's you."

"Plausible deniability, Gen." she mumbled, then yawned. "I don't have to be at the Gates for another two hours. I'm ordering nap time. Night."

Genma was apparently aiming for the Worst Pillow Award because he laughed, shaking her with the force of his chuckles. "Are you sure you aren't actually part-Nara? But fine, sleep. You'll need it."

Sakura couldn't help but smile as she closed her eyes and cuddled in further, as always unbelievably grateful for whatever twist of fate let her into Genma's life.


When she met her team at the Gates, all of her new teammates were already there. Naruto seemed to be arguing with 'Sai' over something, while their team leader just watched.

"Sakura-chan!" Naruto yelled when he spotted her, running over to her and dragging her towards their pale teammate. "Tell this asshole to can it!"

Sakura assessed situation between the boys, Naruto fuming and Sai smiling in a way so fake it set Sakura on edge.

"By hiding behind Ugly-san, you're not persuading me at all to change your nickname, Dickless. In fact, you're proving it right." Sai said, and it took Sakura a moment to realise 'Ugly' was directed at her.

Beside her, Naruto growled, ready to snap again, and out of the corner of her eye, she Yamato tense, so she held up a hand and turned to fully face Sai, her fakest, Kakashi-inspired smile in place.

"I realise that we've only been made teammates for the purpose of this mission, but I'd still appreciate if we were able to show some basic professionalism. My name is Haruno Sakura. I expect you to use it, Sai, was it?"

Naruto gawked at her, but their team leader relaxed, so Sakura counted that as her win, even more so when Sai eventually bowed his head.

"I apologise, Haruno-san. The books I read recommended giving the people you meet nicknames based on the first thing that comes to mind when you meet them." Sai explained, and Sakura mentally catalogued had to read books on social interaction to the folder dedicated to 'why this whole mission is giving me the creeps'.

"Then remind me to recommend you some books on basic manners when we get back to the Village. You might find yourself less likely to land in the hospital if you read those first." She replied, and, because she was looking for it, she saw Sai tense.

"Was that a threat, Haruno-san?"

"Not at all." She smiled innocently, waving him away. "Just some advice. Teammate to teammate. I look forward to working with you." And she turned on her heel and moved to stand beside their team leader.

Naruto went back to squawking at Sai, but Yamato this time turned to her.

"That was skilfully handled." He observed, "Not many teenage girls would have let the insult slide."

"I am a jounin of my Village before I am a teenage girl, Yamato-san. If we all let playground insults affect us, we'd never get anything done." She replied, noticing the minute widening of the man's eyes when she mentioned 'jounin'.

"You're Shiranui's partner." He said, more of a statement than a question, and Sakura nodded with a murmured, 'yes, sir'. "Why were you assigned to this mission though? Godaime-sama isn't in the habit of splitting partners up."

Sakura shrugged, offering the man a wry smile. "I'm Naruto's old genin teammate. I think Tsunade-sama was humouring his sentimentality more than anything else."

"Ah," Yamato murmured, as if he'd had an epiphany. "You're senpai's third student."

"Senpai…?" Sakura mumbled, then her eyes widened. "Ah." And she suddenly knew exactly who she was talking to. The only other canine mask in ANBU. The best performance record in ANBU under the Sandaime. And, under rumours, conjecture, and hastily-pieced together redacted records from the T&I and Intelligence archives, the only survivor of Orochimaru's attempts at recreating the Shodai's kekkei genkai.

She shook her head at the questioning look she received from the jounin and they set off.


When they finally made camp, Sakura was very tempted to put her entire team under genjutsu just to shut them up. Naruto and Sai did not shut up the whole way to the rest point, and if Sakura had to explain emotions and interpersonal relationships to Sai one more time, she would have gone mad.

But as they all crawled into their tents, Yamato's clones spread out around them keeping watch, Sakura waited until her teammates' breaths evened out then snuck out of her tent. She pulled back the zip of Yamato's tent and ignored the man's start, crawled in and slapped a silencing tag between them.

"Evening, Yamato-san." She greeted calmly, ignoring the slightly indignant stare she was on the receiving end of. "I think it might be beneficial to the both of us to touch base, so to speak."

Yamato narrowed his eyes but obediently put down his book and sat up. "And why could we not have done this during the day?"

"Because I doubt you would've wanted Sai to overhear that you're here to watch him." She pointed out innocently, frowning when Yamato froze in place at her words. "Relax. They can't hear us." She gestured at the tag she'd stuck down. "But I know that, apart from Naruto, all of us have some ulterior motives for being here, a secondary mission, if you will. I don't need to know the specifics of yours," she assured him, when the man looked ready to argue. "But I have an inkling nonetheless. I do, however, want you to know mine."

Yamato relaxed, but there was still a guarded look in his eyes. "Go on?"

"I am here to bring Uchiha Sasuke back. Not the way Naruto is. No matter what. By force, if necessary. By breaking every little bone in his body, if I need to, so I can take him back to face trial in Konoha. That's my mission. And I want you to know, Yamato-san, that you will be needed to keep Naruto in check should he happen to see me. He still believes Sasuke can be saved. He still believes that whatever 'bond' he might have had with him will be enough to convince him to come back. It won't. The Uchiha Sasuke that I remember before his defection was bitter, power-hungry, and overtaken by a single-minded drive to avenge his family, whatever the cost. His bond with Naruto won't even register on his radar. But Naruto is an optimist at heart and he will not take that lying down. So I want you to take him away."

Yamato startled, then grew suspicious. "Explain, 'take him away'." He ordered gruffly, and Sakura quirked a wry smile.

"Orochimaru will likely be there. Let him try his hand at the Sannin, if he must. But last time Sasuke provoked an emotional reaction from him that I know of, he underwent a partial jinchuuriki transformation." She saw Yamato pale at her words. "I think I know why Tsunade-sama assigned you particular to this mission, but I would rather it didn't come to that. Do you see what I am asking?"

Slowly, the jounin nodded an affirmative. "I will try to keep Uzumaki-san away from the Uchiha after the initial confrontation, and provided there is no threat or provocation from Sai." He told her blandly. "But I would like to know how you know about me. I wasn't briefed about your mission so I doubt you would have been briefed about mine." This time, his tone wasn't so bland, but instead held a clear note of threat, of challenge. Sakura was suddenly reminded of Genma's words before they went to rescue the Kazekage; "do you realise how much danger you put yourself in? If anyone hears you talking about this, you could be tried and stripped of your rank!"

For the first time since she heard those words, or since she first decided to take out files she didn't actually have the proper clearance or authorisation for all those months ago, that became a real concern. Because Yamato didn't know her. He wouldn't be as fond of her as Genma, or as secretly-indulgent as Ibiki, or as proud of her for finding loopholes in the system as Anko would be. Yamato could, and most likely would view her as a security threat.

So Sakura took a deep breath and settled for the safest option – an embellished truth.


Yamato knew of his senpai's female student only vaguely, having spent too long in ANBU to be able to keep up with most of the Village gossip. Connecting 'senpai's student' to 'Shiranui's partner' was a jarring thought, but it was nothing compared to the girl's rolled-up sleeve revealing an ANBU tattoo. Not all that new, either. The words that followed were even worse; "You are famous and I was curious. It wasn't hard to listen in to gossip or recognise your chakra once I knew where I'd felt it first. I also work at T&I, and have almost unrestricted access to the files kept there. I'm sorry if what I said startled you – nobody outside of T&I really knows what we do there, and this, well," she gestured to her tattoo, "is pretty clear why this wouldn't be common knowledge. I hope this hasn't changed your decision to help me?"

Yamato blinked, then slowly shook his head. "I will still assist you, if I can." He confirmed, then watched relief blossom across the girl's face, lighting up her features and chasing away the heavy frown of worry that had marred her brow, suddenly making her look years younger. Freer.

"Thank you, Yamato-san." She murmured, entirely sincere, and bowed her head before bidding him goodnight. When she left, Yamato settled back against his covers and sighed.

"They gave me Itachi's brother, sensei's son, and a civilian girl. I can't fail them, Tenzo, but what am I going to do with kids?"

"Sasuke is skilled, but he's no Itachi. Naruto has Kushina-hime's chakra stores, but none of sensei's control. I don't know what to do with the civilian girl."

"Zabuza Momochi on our first C-Rank. Even Team Ro's first mission wasn't that fucked up."

"Naruto lost control of the fox for a minute."

"Sasuke unlocked his Sharingan."

"I've nominated them for the Chunin Exams."

"Orochimaru was after Sasuke. God, Tenzo, how do I protect the kid from a Sannin?!"

And then, at last –

"Sakura-chan surprised me."

"Sakura became chunin."

"Sasuke defected."

"Naruto left."

"Sakura won't talk to me."

"God, Tenzo, I fucked up again."

And then, when Yamato was swamped with ANBU missions and Kakashi was taking on more and more frequent high-ranking missions to make up for the shortages in the forces, even their sporadic talks ceased. But the girl's lightning-quick rise through the ranks reached even him, as did his senpai's team's official dissolution.

Yamato's respect for Kakashi knew no bounds.

Yet he couldn't help but wonder whether he shouldn't have given such an easy acquiesce to the girl's request. Because back in the day, Uchiha to Jounin in three years' time was not 'common', but neither was it unheard of.

But civilian nobody to jounin/ANBU interrogator/assassin in three years? That never happened. And for Kakashi of all people to have missed when it happened?

There was something they were missing, he was sure.

He only hoped he could see it in time.


The base exploding hadn't surprised Sakura.

The knowledge that Sai had been a spy sent by some sub-division of ANBU hadn't either. She had figured as much.

Sai's mission had given her pause, but the fact that he had been unsuccessful was a comfort. A cold one, but a comfort nonetheless.

But nothing could have prepared her for the fight that broke out.

Sasuke was…lazy. Mocking. Showing off. Exploiting Naruto's trust, Sai's sudden empathy, Yamato's lack of familiarity with either his or his charges' fighting styles.

Sakura hung back and watched even as Yamato was ran through with Sasuke's blade, even as Sai and Naruto were mercilessly electrocuted. She watched and catalogued and strategized and sent her clones and explosives underground and waited –

And then she could wait no more.

She lashed out with her chakra strings, hauling Naruto and Sai's still-twitching bodies out of the makeshift arena and atop the cliff edge, then shared a meaningful look with Yamato, and sensed more than saw him disappear. Then, her attention was on Sasuke.

She bombarded him with kunai tagged with explosive seals, letting them scatter harmlessly after being deflected, but keeping the threat there. Then, she closed in with her daito, testing Sasuke's skill with his chokuto he carried so proudly. He was good. Better than Kakashi. The lightning chakra that sparkled off his body and sword was enough to make Sakura wary, but not enough to stop her. Yuki was a far craftier opponent, and Chojuro far more skilled, and she matched blades with both often enough to power through the current, the static, the burn of electrocution until she finally knocked Sasuke's blade out of his hand and stamped on it, the blade shattering into dozens of pieces.

Sasuke's anger rolled off of him in waves of lightning chakra, and Sakura had to retreat to avoid complete paralysis.

"That's all you've ever been good at; running and hiding." He sneered as he advanced, yanking the sword's sheath from his belt and tossing it aside. "I see nothing's changed."

"And you," Sakura snarled back, resisting the urge to advance again, knowing she had surprise on her side if she waited just a little longer – "could always be relied on to underestimate your opponents." And just as some degree of alarm entered Sasuke's eyes, Sakura smirked, "Surprise, Uchiha."

Five clones burst from the ground, surrounding Sasuke, but Sakura knew the distraction would only grant her a second, maybe two.

But that was all she needed.

She swapped places with one of her clones just as two more were destroyed, ducking under Sasuke's swing and jumping over the sweeping kick, all the while swiping blue-tinged hands over his quads, calf, bicep, lower back-!

Sasuke noticed the numbness, snarled, and Sakura watched his eyes bleed red and the air fill with the sound of a thousand chirping birds, then she moved.

Palming the seal she'd made, she let Sasuke's chidori connect with her chest just as she reached up and slapped the paper on his forehead, and on her last exhale, pumped it with all the chakra she had left.

The paper ignited and fell away, black ink bleeding onto Sasuke's forehead, sinking into skin like tattoo ink, burning red and spreading, then shrinking back into a small, black seal above each eye, connected by a single line of black ink lit blue.

Sasuke's Sharingan flickered, then disappeared, and his onyx eyes started jumping wildly, searching, as if –

As if blind.

Sakura's body convulsed with the shock of the current still running through her muscles. She ground her teeth and rode it out till the shock faded into tremors, then palmed and swallowed a soldier pill, and watched as Sasuke's legs folded under him and he tumbled to the ground in a graceless heap, his leg muscles severed, right arm completely immobile, paralyzed from the waist down and blind as a new born.

Sakura took a moment to breathe and brought a green-glowing hand to her right breastbone, glad to notice that her flak jacket and chest armour absorbed most of the momentum and energy of Sasuke's chidori, but she still had a second-degree burn to treat. She numbed it instead, the injury not that dire, and focused on Sasuke's prone form.

He couldn't move a muscle.

Sakura had weaponised the same technique that let her survive her first stint in ANBU. She'd cut his nerves and numbed his muscles, her technique a bastard child of the chakra scalpel and anaesthetic jutsu. Sasuke's chakra wasn't sealed, but if he couldn't move his arms, he couldn't perform handseals. Even though Sakura knew that the whole-body chidori he'd used on both her and Naruto didn't require seals, the fact that Sasuke was blind and immobile was clearly too shocking for him to realise that.

Ah, the blindness.

She had resigned herself to kissing Inoichi and Hiashi's feet for weeks upon her return to the Village.

Inoichi had asked the question that orchestrated this whole scenario, that granted her the satisfaction of Uchiha Sasuke's defeat at her hands.

Then, Sakura went to Hiashi.

Neji's monologue at the Chunin Exams had been her inspiration. If the Hyuuga Cursed Seal could seal their dojutsu away at death, then it had to somehow affect the chakra channels connected to the optic nerves too. But Sakura didn't want to dabble in juinjutsu. All she wanted was to remove the obvious advantage Sasuke had over any of his opponents, the one factor that let him get the drop on Anko – his Sharingan. So she asked Hiashi for a crash course in the Sharingan, what with it being a mutation of the Byakugan, and wheedled and flattered and argued and persuaded until she was blue in the face, and finally he acquiesced. She had been sworn to keep everything she learnt in the Hyuuga Compound to herself, and to return any unused seals she came up with to the Hyuuga patriarch, which she had thought fair and promptly agreed. What she found out was…underwhelming.

The Byakugan and the Sharingan required chakra to activate them and keep them going. A constant stream that could cause enormous strain on the body and ocular nerves, and the already sensitive chakra pathways connecting the eyes to the main chakra system. If she simply blocked those pathways, the chakra wouldn't be able to get to the Sharingan and activate it. And, because all ninja became used to unconsciously cycling chakra through their muscles and enhancing their senses at all times, the blindness was Sasuke's body getting used to sight without the aid of chakra.

The seal, in its entirety, was almost painfully simple – it was a chakra dam, a plug in the ocular chakra pathways.

Uchiha Sasuke, the genius, the prodigy, the Last Uchiha, brought down by basic medical ninjutsu and a single seal.

It was laughable.

It was underwhelming.

And, Sakura realised, her lip curling in disgust, painfully unsatisfying.

She wanted him to suffer. It wasn't enough to simply beat him, to incapacitate him. She wanted to crush him, to humiliate him beyond the point of no return.

It was as if something in her mind broke.

She didn't notice the box in the back of her mind bursting open until she was towering over Sasuke and crushing his femur with a chakra-laden foot. She didn't notice all her anger, all her bitterness and resentment and grief flood to the forefront of her mind until she was snarling and stamping on his hand, shattering the delicate metacarpals with nary a thought. She didn't notice her mouth moving, forming vicious, rancorous words 'this is for my parents, you fuck', 'for Anko', 'for Tonbo and Naruto and Kakashi and-!' as she crushed his radius, humerus, tibia and metatarsals with her feet with no thought nor mercy. She didn't notice that Sasuke was sobbing until she had knelt down beside him and was knuckle-deep in his eye socket and his scream jerked her into awareness.

The bile that rose up her throat was unintentional, but the decision to crook her fingers and gouge out the eyeball was completely lucid.

There was a sense of macabre curiosity as she observed the red tissue and muscles and nerves still surrounding and dangling off the eye clutched in her bloodied fingers.

Then, Sakura had to hastily turn away and vomit, and with the acrid smell of the contents of her stomach came the dawning horror of what she had just done. Sasuke was still screaming, his voice hoarse now and Sakura vaguely registered the sound of battle above them growing louder, as if nearer.

Orochimaru. Kabuto. No.

She wiped her mouth with trembling fingers of her free hand, then fished out a jar from the hammerspace seal on her arm, dropping the eye in there and turning back to Sasuke.

Finish the job or cite accident?

The thought of repeating the motion now that the adrenaline was wearing off and she was hit with a wave of disgust for herself and her actions made her gag, even though she no longer had anything to throw up.

She carefully sealed the jar in her hammerspace seal too, then wiped her fingers on the dark cloth around Sasuke's waist and stood up. The sound of battle was too close now, and all it took was one glimpse of black hair and pale skin and furious amber eyes for Sakura to lean down, grab Sasuke by the collar of his shirt, and channel chakra in to one of the only two Hiraishin seals she'd ever planted herself.

A tug, a glimpse of pale yellow eyes, a millisecond of nothing, and then the comforting red of Konohagakure Main Gates, and the nausea of complete chakra exhaustion.

She staggered, but didn't lose her grip on the Uchiha's collar.

And then, slowly, people began noticing who, exactly she had in her grasp.

And chaos broke out.

All Sakura focused on was long, pale blond hair and kind amber eyes drawing nearer, so she hefted the Uchiha higher and quirked a wry, tired grin. "Alive." She murmured, relinquishing her hold.

Then, everything went black.


Inoichi should've known.

Or guessed, at least.

He should've known no conversation, no offhand remark, regardless how casual, was ever truly offhand, dismissed or forgotten as it normally was, normally should've been. Not with trained assassins, and especially not with trained assassins who moonlight as interrogators and whose career is built around messing with people's minds to the point of being able to convince them up is down.

(he might've fucked up a little.)

He should've known, that time he brought up Sasuke. But it had seemed innocuous at the time, a subtle probe into his patient's psyche.

It had been one of Sakura's worse days; a day where the time in Iwa, the week in a cave in Stone, the things she'd seen and done in ANBU, the sheer number of lives she's already taken had caught up with her. So Inoichi had worked through those feelings with her, and at the end, it seemed prudent to check, to ask, to probe a bit deeper.

All he'd done was say; "Now that Naruto's back, he'll likely want to go after your old teammate. Have you thought about what you might do if that happens?"

(Okay, so he'd fucked up a lot.)

Sakura's face had gone terrifyingly blank for a moment, the way some of his PTSD patients' expressions sometimes smoothed over when he asked a triggering question. He was about to take the question back and call it a day, but then the rosette's face transformed before his eyes and a saccharine smile replaced the stony façade.

"I'm going to gauge out his pretty eyes and drag him to face trial." She told him sweetly, in a tone that was scarily reminiscent of Anko at her worst. And then, in a completely different voice, more confused and thoughtful than before, she said, "I…don't know."

And Inoichi had stupidly ignored the part of his brain that screamed not good not good abort abort-! and stuck to the first statement, and what came out of his mouth was:

"Oh? Have you found a way to get past his doujutsu?"

(sweet lord, he fucked up bad.)

He should've clocked right around the time her expression switched from saccharine to contemplative, but he hadn't. Didn't realise even when she thanked him a lot more enthusiastically than usual.

It wasn't even when he heard she'd brought the Uchiha back that he caught on, oh no.

It took him hearing that she'd disabled his kekkei genkai with a seal and proceeded to gauge out his eye and break all the major bones in his body that he realised.

Of course, in retrospect, it should've been obvious. She had basic training as a med-nin. She lived and worked with one of the few men who'd had real, first-hand knowledge of the way the Yondaime thought, who'd kept his notes and journals and revamped his signature jutsu into something completely his own. She'd become a tokubetsu jounin at fourteen through force of will and stubbornness and a bucketload of raw skill. She was an ambassador to two countries who'd been outright enemies or tentative allies at best with Konoha for decades.

The worst thing was that he really hadn't meant anything by it - it should've been impossible, preposterous even, to think of blocking a doujutsu with anything short of a more powerful one.

But if there's anything he'd learnt over almost three years as Sakura's therapist, the one thing that he bitterly yet proudly recalled now, it was the fact that the rosette had stopped believing in the word "impossible" even before she came to him.


When Sakura awoke, it was to a steady beeping, a hard bed, metal around her wrists and the sound of voices.

Familiar voices.

"I think I should question the brat about the company she keeps. Terror of the Mist, who would've thought."

Anko?

"I could say the same, Orochimaru's apprentice. But I won't, because I'm nice."

Yuki?

Sakura's heart rate sped up and her eyes flew open as she sat up, only to almost wrench her arms out of their sockets by the cuffs round her wrists.

Cuffs?

She pushed that to the back of her mind and frantically looked around. Indeed, Yuki was perched on the windowsill of her hospital room, and Anko was sitting up in the chair beside her bed, crutches resting beside her and clad in clearly stolen male pants and navy shirt.

"S-senpai?" Sakura choked out, her eyes unconsciously filling with tears. "B-but…?"

Anko smiled, soft and gentle, and staggered to her feet. She hobbled the meagre metres between her and Sakura's bed and threw her arms around the rosette, and when Sakura automatically went to reciprocate, she found her arms still chained to bars of the bed.

"A little help, please?"

Then Yuki was there, senbon in hand, poking and prodding until there was a decisive clink and the right cuff gave way. She threw her free arm around Anko's shoulders and buried her face in her senpai's neck, but it wasn't until her second arm was also freed that she realised that she didn't feel as sluggish anymore, that her gaze was sharper, her heart lighter. It wasn't hard to connect the dots.

She pulled away, indignant and more than a little panicked, "Chakra absorbing restraints? What's going on!?"

"Bandaged guy insisted." Yuki replied, and when Sakura's expression made it clear that a little more detail would be appreciated, thanks, he shrugged. "Some old crony Elder. Had bandages around his head and eye, walked with a cane. Ring any bells?"

Sakura shook her head, no, at the same time as Anko gasped.

"Elder Shimura…?" she murmured, clearly confused, forehead marred with a frown. "But why would he- oh."

"Senpai?" Sakura asked cautiously, but Anko shook her head.

"Not yet. I… I can't be sure of anything at the moment. What we need to do now is catch you up and take you away from here."

Obediently, Sakura lowered her feet to the ground and took the offered bundle of clothing, only to pause when she realised what she was holding. She unfolded the grey turtleneck dress and blue kimono and raised an eyebrow at Yuki, at which he laughed.

"What?" he teased. "She's not supposed to be awake yet," he pointed at Anko, "and I'm not even supposed to be in the Village. We're not exactly spoilt for choice here, pinky-chan." He explained, which brought Sakura to a very important point she'd been ignoring.

"Not that I'm not extremely pleased to see you, but why are you here?"

Anko snorted and murmured something like 'whipped' earning herself a narrow-eyed glare and a 'shut up, dango-chan', before Yuki turned to Sakura with a smirk. "It miiiight have something to do with the fact that I heard of a very pissed off Snake Sannin rampaging all over Sound and the Land of Rice Fields? And the fact that a certain Uchiha was going to face trial in Konoha after being brought back by his old teammate?"

Sakura paled. "Please tell me that's not common knowledge." She begged, sagging with relief when Yuki waved her off and patted her head reassuringly.

"Konoha is keeping a tight lid on it. Unless you've got feelers in all six major shinobi Nations, you wouldn't have heard of it." And he shrugged, as if having spies across the nations was just an everyday thing for him. "Now, get dressed, pinky-chan, we should ideally get out of the hospital before that nurse wakes up." And he winked at Anko, who, to Sakura's surprise, snorted.

When Sakura turned to Anko, her senpai shrugged. "The idiot was trying to give me morphine when I woke up. You don't drug disoriented jounin. It never ends well."

Sakura felt indignant on Anko's behalf, then noticed Yuki's gaze still on her. "What?"

"Get dressed, pinky-chan." He repeated, and Sakura let out a quiet 'oh!' and grinned apologetically, then tugged off her hospital gown. Yuki spluttered and even Anko made a slight choking sound, but Sakura had already checked that she still had her chest bindings and boxer shorts on, so she didn't see too much issue as she pulled on the dress and secured the kimono.

"Everything alright?" she asked curiously, noticing that Anko for the first time since she's known her looked awkward, while Yuki seemed torn between amusement and disbelief.

"There was a perfectly good paravan in the corner of the room." Yuki snorted, pointing. Sakura followed his gaze and then she couldn't help laughing as she realised what he was getting at.

"You think that after being partnered with boys or grown men for the last four years I have any place left for modesty? You're cute, Yuki-san!" she got out between giggles, and even Anko grinned at that.

"Alright, now that that's sorted, shall we finally get the fuck out of this hospital?" she suggested, wording aggressive but her grin never fading.

As one, Sakura and Yuki bent at the waist and gestured to the window. "Lead the way, dango-chan."


Inoichi, Shikaku and Kakashi stood behind the two-way mirror in one of the deepest T&I cells, while Ibiki, Tsunade and two ANBU were on the inside, a chained-up, one-eyed Uchiha Sasuke before them. Kakashi seemed deep in thought, gazing at his old student with something very alike despair in his eyes, while the other two jounin watched the proceedings in silence.

"Did you know she was going to do that?" Shikaku asked out of nowhere, voice quiet as he regarded the heavily beat up Uchiha. Tsunade refused to do any more but set his broken bones when he was brought in and no other medic was allowed in the cell, so he had no doubt the boy wasn't having the greatest time with all his injuries.

"You might need to be a bit more specific, my friend." Inoichi replied, equally quietly, as he too watched the Uchiha, whose determination to remain uncooperative was waning with every second he was down in the cells. "Do you mean the mutilation, excessive force used, or the fact that she found a way to seal up a dojutsu?"

Shikaku huffed with wry amusement. "I take it it's a no on all three?"

Inoichi shook his head, ignoring the way Kakashi's head had snapped to them when he realised who they were talking about. "Patient confidentiality, I'm afraid." He droned, then focused on Shikaku's mind, letting the familiar stream of consciousness and neverending thought surround him and –

'But I had my suspicions.'

Shikaku glanced at him, too familiar with the technique to truly startle, then nodded mutely.

Before either of them could react, the door to the dark room burst open and Elder Shimura stormed in, not pausing in his stride until he threw the cell door open too and ground the interrogation to a halt with his presence.

Inoichi saw Ibiki's face turn to stone at the sight of the Elder, and Tsunade looked flat out outraged even as she waved at her ANBU guards to stand down.

But Shimura didn't care, "His Sharingan was sealed?!" he snarled, visible eye raking over the seal marking the Uchiha's forehead, spittle flying in his rage. "I've already secured the traitor but this is treasonous-!"

"What traitor?" Tsunade snapped immediately, gaze flickering to Sasuke then to the glass, where Kakashi stood, tense as a drawstring.

"The girl that did this, but this is irrelevant, unseal him immediately-!" Danzo hissed, rounding on Tsunade but Shikaku was quicker, his kagenui shooting out, sneaking through the open door and immobilising the Elder, all within a millisecond.

Tsunade turned to the window once again, a terse "Hatake!" on her tongue, but Kakashi was already good, a mere poof of smoke to betray that he was ever there in the first place.

"I'd appreciate it if you didn't order me how to deal with my prisoners, Councilman." Ibiki said, deceptively calm, and Inoichi winced. He rarely heard Ibiki use that tone, and when he did, it never ended well. "And the Sharingan cannot be unsealed by anyone but the sealer as it's a blood and chakra seal. But you're familiar with those, aren't you, Shimura-san?"

The doors to the dark room opened once again, and a pale man came in, boy really, little older than Shikamaru, in a top exposing his mid-riff and chakra cuffs on his wrists. When he entered the cell, Danzo snarled, the only movement Shikaku's jutsu allowed him. The boy bowed, and when he straightened, he stuck out his tongue.

On it, was a seal.

That close to the source, the chakra that emanated from the seal was undeniable.

"Shimura Danzo," Ibiki intoned, as more of Tsunade's ANBU walked through the door, the cell filling up considerably as gradually, the ANBU replaced Shikaku's shadow binds with their own. "you are under arrest for running your own paramilitary group, disobeying a direct order from the Sandaime which called for its dissolution, sabotaging your own Village's fellow shinobi, attempting to sabotage the Village's relations with our allies and subjugating orphaned youth to do your bidding by means of forbidden juinjutsu. You have the right to remain silent, anything you say–"

Inoichi exchanged a startled look with Shikaku, watching as the ANBU knocked the Councilman out and took him away. Then, the Uchiha, who had somehow been side-lined in all the commotion despite starting out as the main event, finally spoke.

"Orochimaru has one like that." He said flatly, though with a hint of curiosity as he turned his head to watch the door shut behind the ANBU. When he realised he had both Tsunade and Ibiki's attention focused solely on him, he frowned. "That seal. Orochimaru has one like that too."

Tsunade paled.


When they realised that all their usual places – Anko's apartment, Sakura's house or even Shikamaru's place – would likely be the first places where people would look for them, Sakura had an idea.

And, as she walked into Raido and Eri's house, picking up a toddling Kei as she went along and sitting him on her hip, Anko and Yuki on her heels, she couldn't help but laugh at the faces of the two jounin she brought with her. Anko was staring in obvious distrust at the toddler stuck to Sakura's side, while Yuki was torn between wary and constipated as Sakura walked up and gave the clearly civilian woman a warm hug.

"Sorry to impose on you, Eri-san, but we seem to have run into a bit of a situation." The rosette explained, gesturing to the two stupefied adults behind her and sharing a meaningful grin with the civilian.

"Don't be silly, Sakura-chan, you're not imposing! Do you mind if I leave Kei-chan with you while I pop to the market? I've got to buy some more food if I'm cooking for six." She teased, and with a wink, and a kiss on her son's forehead, she grabbed her bags and sauntered out the house.

Sakura delighted in Kei's cheerful "'Kuwa-nee!" and obligingly called forth the butterflies, putting a bit more effort into the feel and texture of the illusion since Kei was no longer as easily distracted.

Then she laughed at Anko and lightly elbowed Yuki in the ribs, and they got down to business.


Kakashi, of all people, was the first one to find them.

The double-take he did at seeing Anko, who had been in a coma for half a year, and then Yuki, who for all intents and purposes was a foreign-nin who had, over the course of his career, earned himself the nickname of the 'Terror', was disproportionately hilarious to Sakura. Then, as if drawn by her laughter, Kakashi's eye flickered to her and the child on her lap, and he sat heavily on the pouf, confusion writ clearly on the visible parts of his face.

"What." The word was far too flat to be a question, but Sakura found the sentiment appropriate nonetheless.

Still, there was a blatant lack of Genma's comforting obnoxiousness, so she grinned wryly and gave a half-hearted shrug. "Hey, all I did was wake up shackled to a bed. Ask them." And she pointed at the two arguably craziest, but some of the most reliable people she had the pleasure of knowing.

Yuki smirked, completely unrepentant. "I heard a Sannin found himself an Uchiha short, so I came since I had a suspicion pinky-chan was responsible. Saw the old coot who is apparently one of your Elders chakra-manacle her to a bed, then heard dango-chan beating up her nurse. Helped dango-chan with her nurse, then we realised pinky-chan was a common concern of ours so voila. If anything, I'm a saint in this scenario." By the end of his explanation, Yuki had three unimpressed glares directed his way, but Sakura couldn't help the grin that threatened to break out, at least until Kakashi asked,

"So, you know about Danzo, then?"

Sakura let Anko answer; "Only that he tied the kid to her bed with chakra-absorbing cuffs."

Suddenly, two more figures appeared, and Sakura was torn between confused and grateful at the sight of Shikaku and Inoichi.

"Anko?" was Inoichi's first word, then, "Sakura-chan, you certainly don't make yourself easy to find- is that Raido's son?!"

Shikaku sighed, sent his friend a meaningful look, then turned to the four assassins in the room.

"Elder Shimura has been arrested and will be tried for treason. As will the Uchiha." He focused on Kakashi and Sakura, who had both frozen at the news. "You may be asked to testify for both."

In the silence that followed the announcement, Yuki laughed and ruffled Sakura's hair.

"Well, this will be fun, hm?"


thoughts?

as always, thank you for the continued support for this story of mine and i hope you stick with it for a while longer :) much love!