Let Me Be Your Shadow
A/N: Naruto Universe Property of Kishimoto
A/N2: It's been a really long time since the last chapter, and the manga moved into a different direction since then. I reorganized the plotline and mark this story as AU after the Chuunin Exam, since it deviates from Kishimoto-san's plans
"I'm going to tell you to stop staring at me again, but I don't think you guys are going to listen to me."
It was approximately ten in the morning, and I was lying amid a frightfully large number of pillow propping me up like a pregnant woman in the hospital bed. My limbs felt like they were made of rubber, only they stung too. They gave me something for my pounding headache, which faded from a violent throbbing to a weak hangover. Around me stood four ANBUs with their masks on.
They told me what happened, but I had a horrible time remembering it. The story goes that Temari of the Sand tricked me into drinking poisoned sake and was going to either kill me or take me back to Wind Country as hostage. I remembered nothing beyond passing out in the restaurant as she sipped her drink right out of the bottle. One thing that stood out in my mind were her dark blue eyes fixated on me through thick lashes, her cheeks were glowing like a sunset as those soft lips moved against the porcelain vessel.
"Something isn't right about your analysis," I murmured, knowing that they won't reply. Through the entire duration of my meal with Temari, I hadn't sensed a bit of malice from her. If anything, she was unusually gentle and demure.
Thinking back, Temari's demeanor was open and cordial, and her smiles felt genuine. She must be a hell of an actress to have outsmarted me and slipped poison in without noticing…how did she drink it down without being poisoned herself? Perhaps she had a resistance to it. Was she so fast that I couldn't see her hands at all? Or maybe she administered it through other means?
My mind was swirling frantically when the door slipped open and closed again quietly. From the corner of my eyes, I saw a swirl of blue, and felt my pulse pick up speed suddenly.
"Megumi-san," I said without looking up, sweating a little.
She glided to my bedside in a flash, clasping one of my limp hands in hers. "I came as soon as I heard!" Her eyes were like limpid blue pools, just like the descriptions in mother's trashy romance stories. I couldn't look too long into them without wanting to have a heart attack. It was getting ridiculous. I didn't understand why I responded so strongly to her. She was beautiful; her personality was like clear water, so pure…and bland. Her presence makes me want to die, and yet…It was something that I've never experienced before, I had no idea what to make of it.
"From what they told me," she shot an accusing glance at the silent ANBUs, "you were on the brink of death. They had to let out a lot of your blood to cleanse it of an unknown poison."
"Wow," I turned over my left wrist, and noticed new bandages there for the first time, "no wonder I feel like over-cooked ramen."
She ran a delicate finger against the inside of my wrist, saying lightly, "I can't believe she did this to you…"
One of the ANBUs suddenly stepped forward, causing Megumi and I to start a little. "What did you say?" Asked the ANBU expressionlessly. From the voice, I recognized that it was Haruno Sakura, a genius medical-nin that headed the Rescue and Retrieve Squad. Her mask was a delicate design of a falcon, and her green eyes showed through the slits on the mask.
Megumi turned her head and looked up at Sakura through her lashes, "I was just saying that, I can't believe she nearly killed Shikamaru-kun." Her voice was quiet, but like steel underlying cool water.
Sakura gave a curt nod, and stepped back.
Suddenly I noticed that my throat was very dry. "Sorry to trouble you Megumi-san, but could you please get me a glass of water?"
"Of course," she stood and left the room quickly, her steps as light as a dancer's.
As soon as the door snapped shut, Sakura was at my side in a flash.
"Let me take your pulses," she said in the manner of a demand, resting a finger against my throat. After a few moments, she let the finger trail up the side of my neck and across my jaw line.
"Hey, hey, easy there," I narrowed my eyes in annoyance, but didn't move away. Whatever she was doing, it was methodical and precise, as if she had a purpose. It was a little unnerving when she took her mask off and leaned in close to stare into each of my eyes in turn. There was a tense look in her eyes.
"It seems that the effects of the poison are resurfacing a little," Sakura informed me as she took out a small porcelain bottle from her pouch and handed it to me, "your heart rate picked up, and you're sweating like a pig. Your pupils are dilated abnormally, and your skin is a sallow color. You're not in any danger, but take the strengthening tonic Hinata and I mixed together to gain your strength back."
She stepped back very quickly and put on her mask. I unstopped the tonic container and began to drink just as the door reopened. Megumi stood for a moment at the door, and for a split second, I felt something like a hazy web drift over me. It was this stifling sensation that was like strong liquor going to my head. I finished the light green liquid in one long gulp. It tasted nice, a cool drought of mint and herbs combined with liquor. My head cleared a little, and I drank the water down greedily. Megumi smiled as I finished all the water, her fists clenched tightly in her lap. I placed the empty glass down on the counter, and was quite startled to see her close in the distance between us.
"Shikamaru-kun," as she leaned in close, I smelled a peculiar fragrance drift from her hair. My eyes fluttered shut as she placed her arms around me and gave me a quick squeeze. "Please get well soon."
With that she left, leaving behind an almost sickly sweet scent of rotting flowers all over my hospital gown.
"Formidable," Sakura remarked out of the blue.
"You were running a Spider Web Jutsu on the floor weren't you?" I glanced at the ANBUs, all four of them standing in an arrangement that I recognized. "The four of you passed a thin layer of chakra onto the tiled floor so that when a ninja walks on it his feet would stick to the floor and tear the web to signal you. Of course," I added dryly, "there's no need to attack this time."
"Correct. Only skillful shinobis can avoid it without either tripping a little or ripping pieces of it out and what not. "She went over it as if she was walking on bare land."
"Only," I interjected, feeling my anger mount little by little, "she's not a shinobi. Her inner-coil system is so weak that her parents had to send her to the Water Country for a while as the Konaha ambassador while trying to ease the pain of her disease."
Sakura paced several times through the room, "Is that so?"
"Yes!" I tried to throw my arms up, only to flop them a little on the pillows, "we already caught our culprit, why are you suspecting everyone?"
"Not everyone," the ANBU behind Sakura spoke up, his cold voice emotionless.
I raised by eyebrows, "Ah, Sasuke. And over there must be Naruto and Hinata."
The ANBU with the fox mask scratched the back of his head while the one with a curious butterfly design looked down. Sakura signaled for all of them to take off their masks and gather around my bed. "Because she's a new arrival to the village, we have a reason to suspect her if only for that," she exchanged furtive glances with her team before continuing, "please understand that we're not singling her out for any reason."
With that, she gave another signal with her hands, and they began to leave.
"Since Temari is caught already, we won't be watching over you now. Please get well soon and return to duty." Sakura was the last to leave the room, her cool green gaze was a bit unnerving as she gave me a last, hard stare before closing the door.
There was definitely missing pieces to the puzzle. There's something that they weren't telling me. I put my hands together and tried to take it apart in my mind, but it was too different from battle tactics for me to figure out with pure logic. There were too many things that I didn't know, and I was still exhausted. Pretty soon, my eyes were aching and the headache returned. I closed my eyes and went to sleep.
A/N: And the plot thickens! Everyone is suspicious, and not everyone's right. Try to figure out my clues…if you can :-P