Rating: PG-13, for serious subject matter
Disclaimer: Naruto belongs to its creator and publishing companies
Pairings: None especially, SasuSaku interaction
Summary: It will be Sakura's first real solo mission without her teammates. She regrets that she ever looked forward to it.
"Tell me the truth," she says. "What would you give up, to keep us safe?"
He stares at her with liquid-dark eyes, and does not answer.
The Fifth stares at her, from across the desk. Her words ring in Sakura's ears, and the pink-hair girl's face goes ashen. Beside her, Sasuke and Kakashi-sensei go still.
He likes girls.
It had been a clever plan, Naruto's kidnapping. Put a sedative in his ramen, his very last bowl, make it a slow-acting poison so Naruto will make it home easily and not arouse suspicion, and then take him in the cover of night, after the drug had knocked him out.
The Akatsuki attracted too much attention, so a mercenary band had been hired. Clever, quick thieves to steal away the Fourth's legacy.
Clever, quick thieves to steal away something precious and hide it away.
Tsunade is still staring, looking a bit sad, maybe, but hiding it behind a wall of determination.
The leader of the mercenaries... he likes exotic-looking girls. And he likes them young.
Sakura wishes her hair was black.
Information gathering is a necessary skill for a ninja. Wars are not fought without spies; battles are not won without people behind both lines.
Every ninja learns about it in the academy. A whole section of the Chuunin exam is dedicated to it. There are techniques upon techniques to do it.
Sakura remembers learning about flower arrangement, about wearing a kimono, about everything a normal girl would know.
Ino was best at those sorts of things, at seeming like a simple, everyday girl. Sakura had learned, but she was too critical, too logical too really play the part well.
And then, the skills their teachers saved for later, the things a young girl that age should never have to know. They took that class a few years later.
Some men will tell anything to a lover.
They wait in silence, Sasuke staring off into space and Sakura sneaking glances at him. Every day, they wait for Kakashi-sensei. It is a familiar routine, and one they've grown accustomed to.
Maybe one they've learned to like.
She scrapes her foot along the bridge shyly, looking at his dark hair and perfect features. He's beautiful, she thinks distantly, but cold. Even so, still masculine and it never leaves her cold to be with him. She'd do anything to be with him.
Kakashi-sensei appears, and she shakes herself free of her thoughts of Sasuke. Every day, she and Naruto yell the same phrase at the same time, a double angered accusation.
Only this day, she realizes suddenly, the echo is not there.
Naruto is not there.
"Liar," she whispers.
Tsunade is speaking now, again, but Sakura only half listening. Her mind works feverishly, she was not the top of her class for nothing. The plan is good, she knows, very good. As good as the one that took him from them, if it works.
It all depends on her. Her looks, her skills.
Kakashi-sensei is asking the Fifth questions about the mission, trying to find a hole in Tsunade's logic, a reason to come up with a new plan.
It will be Sakura's first real solo mission without her teammates. She regrets that she ever looked forward to it.
"It is a good plan," she says quietly. Kakashi-sensei looks at her in alarm. Tsunade smiles sadly.
Sasuke's face is as cold and distant as ever.
She stares at him, standing in the doorway to his dark, empty house. "You know why I'm here."
He looks at her for a long time, his hand tense on the door. "I know."
"Will you let me in?"
His hand grips the wood even tighter for a long moment, and then finally relaxes. She wonders if that look of regret in his eyes is for what she must do, or what she is asking.
He lets her in.
They have one or two more days before the mercenaries leave the neighboring town and move onto the rendezvous point. They have to find Naruto's location before then.
The Fifth goes over the details one more time, apparently completely aware of Sakura's earlier inattention, and she nods along with the older woman.
Kakashi-sensei is drawn tighter than a bow, unhappy but understanding. He feels responsible for her, feels responsible for not being there when Naruto needed him. He is the first to leave the room when they are dismissed.
Sakura stays behind for a moment, looking at the other woman seriously. "Never tell Naruto about this. I don't want him to know."
They all know that he would not understand. To Naruto, it is his job to protect her, not her job to protect him. And he would never understand the price Sakura was going to pay to do it.
Tsunade is quiet for a moment, and then says, "Do not give him your first. No matter your mission, you will regret it."
Sasuke is lingering just outside the door, and Sakura stops to stare at him. He does not look at her. Her eyes close for a moment, and then she looks at him again. He could not have failed to hear.
They walk out together.
She cannot believe Naruto talked her into going out for ramen with him. Fifteen years old, three years after they first were assigned a team together, and he only manages to convince her by promising it was a just-friends date. That, and after three years of refusals, he's worn her down enough to give him just this one.
It is easy to love Naruto. Most never get close enough to realize it, but it is. He might be annoying and loud and completely exasperating, but he digs his way under your skin so quickly that more often than not, you love him before you like him.
She frowns at him when he finishes his fifth bowl. "Aren't you done yet?"
"Just one more!" He beams at her, his blond hair shining. She can't help but smile back.
When she waves goodbye to him and walks away a few minutes later, she doesn't look back to watch him head home. Later, she would wonder if she had, would she have seen him stumble? Would she have seen any signs of the drugs he'd consumed in that sixth bowl? And if she had, would she have recognized them for what they were?
She should have looked back.
She walks in the cold house as Sasuke closes the door behind them. She turns back to look at him, and he walks past her further into the house. He doesn't turn on any lights.
She follows him all the way back to a large, open room. There is a bed, neatly made, and across the room, she can see a picture she recognizes.
She walks over to look at it, a soft light in her eyes. She reaches out a finger to touch Naruto's grumpy, twelve year old face. He'd changed a lot in three years.
She'd changed a lot in three years.
She turns to look at Sasuke. He's already looking at her, and her hands come up to fiddle with the zipper at her throat.
"Tell me the truth," she says. "What would you give up, to keep us safe?"
He stares at her with liquid-dark eyes, and says nothing for a long time.
She pulls the zipper down, and steps out of the dress.
Notes: Err... Written in less than two hours. First time in years that an idea has came to me suddenly, and I absolutely needed to write it out. That's really odd, especially since this is one weird fic. Second Naruto fic, second fic focused on Sakura, second fic written this week. Oddly enough, Sakura's not even one of my absolute favorite characters. I like her, but not that much. It just seems as if she's easy to write.