Summary: (AU) Sakura is the sole heir to a multimillionaire firm, but when she starts receiving death threats, she is forced to hire Gaara, a dark and antisocial bodyguard to protect her. Will they be able to put aside their differences for a common goal? (GaaxSaku)
Well, here's my shot at a GaaraxSakura AU fic. I must warn you that this is not a fic for Sasuke lovers, so keep that in mind.
Thanks to all of you who reviewed my 'Sand Glass' one shot, I really appreciate it.
Disclaimer: I don't own any of the characters of Naruto. This story was meant for entertainment purposes only.
Hope you enjoy:)
I wouldn't know what to do with another chance
If you gave it to me
I couldn't take the embrace of a real romance
It'd race right through me
I'm much better off the way things are
Much, much better off, better by far, by far
So keep on calling me names, keep on, keep on
And I'll keep kicking the crap till it's gone
If you keep on killing, you could get me to settle
And as soon as I settle, I bet I'll be
Able to move on
Fiona Apple – The way things are
Chapter one – Threats to the Pink Girl
Sakura woke up to a start, coming awake instantly. As her eyes focused on her surroundings, the images of her dream started to slowly fade. The feeling of unease which it had caused, however, was more difficult to dismiss. Sitting up quickly, she placed her hands on her neck, massaging it roughly. Moments ago, someone had been trying to strangle her in her dream, someone with a dark, evil face. But try as she might, she couldn't make herself remember her attacker's face. A morose, depressive feeling permeated her dream, as if she had had no option but to let herself be killed.
Banishing such disturbing thoughts from her mind, Sakura got out of bed, stretching lazily as she went to her window. She opened the curtains, letting the sunlight in. The magnificent view of her 5th floor apartment never ceased to amaze her, being the principle reason why she had bought it in the first place. The whole expanse of the city spread out before her, shining in all its glory with the morning sun.
The city of Konoha had been built at the base of a mountain, growing and budding under its protective shadow. What had started as a small business district had spread in all directions, leaving the urban neighborhoods up on the mountain side. Here was precisely were Sakura had bought her 3 room condo after her parents had died. Not wishing to live by herself in the large mansion where she was raised, Sakura had donated the big house to an orphanage, knowing the children would find a better use for it than her.
Being the sole heir of Haruno Pharmaceuticals, the largest drug company in the country, she was forced to take over the business at the young age of 17. Sakura's mother had fought a hard battle against cancer for 5 years, finally succumbing to her illness. Her father, completely heart broken, followed his wife 2 years later. Sakura could only watch as the two most important people in her life left her, slowly disappearing. Once she was alone, she suddenly realized she was now the owner of a very large firm and at the same time, a freshman at medical school. Not being one to break under pressure, she took up the challenge head on, never bowing her head before anyone. Relying on her parent's high quality personnel, she relayed responsibilities while she finished school, but was always on top of things.
Some years later, she graduated with record timing and with her medical degree in hand, she took full hold over the company. HPhar, as it was commonly known, was at its best moment, economically dominating over all other drug firms and it was all thanks to its 25 year old manager and her vision.
She sighed loudly as she remembered how tough it had been. The days had been extremely busy, with her studies and management responsibilities taking up every available minute. At night, once she got home completely exhausted, sleep was never easy to achieve. She would cry herself to sleep every night, mourning her dead parents, waking up every day with bags under her eyes. It had lasted for some time, until she managed to place her past behind her, where it belonged. It was a difficult decision, but one she was proud to make, knowing her parents would approve completely.
She was happy, with her life spread out before her, taking her along for the ride. Living had become almost peaceful then, except for the disastrous personal relationships she had involved herself in. In truth, it had only been one relationship… one horrible, destructive and abusive man.
Sakura shook herself clear of such thoughts, refusing to dwell upon them at all. That was in the past, very far away from her, with no influence whatsoever on her present.
Breathing deeply to reassure herself, she made her way to the bathroom, undressing quickly and jumping into the shower. The hot water calmed and relaxed her, but she suddenly started thinking about the strange dream she had woken up to. The fear she had experienced had been paralyzing and she could almost feel the strong, rough hands reaching for her throat. Shampooing her short pink hair, she decided she would tell Hinata about her dream today; her young friend and personal assistant had a knack for generating insight on things like these.
Drying herself quickly, she went into her room again. She stepped into her large closet, choosing what she had nominated as a "work outfit": dark elegant trousers and a long sleeved blouse. She had hundreds of combinations for these. Buttoning her blouse she looked herself in the mirror, satisfied with what she saw. It seemed that her visits to the gym after work had started to pay off after all.
Of course, she would never admit this to Naruto, her childhood and lifetime friend, who was the one who had nagged her into joining his gym. Being a martial arts world champion, he had become quite the exercise junkie. She had refused to go every day, like he did, and finally agreed to 3 visits per week. Naruto had been overly happy with her decision, probably expecting her to refuse entirely. Sakura was glad to please him, but deep inside she still preferred her afternoon runs to all that weight lifting.
Eating a quick breakfast of cereal and toast, she skimmed through today's paper. Finding nothing of immediate interest, she looked at the microwave clock, deciding it was time to head out. She packed her gym clothes into her backpack and made her way to the elevator. Once at her building's underground parking lot, she walked up to her sleek dark blue 645 BMW. If there was something Sakura loved, it was her car. It was her cherished baby and she always smiled every morning when she saw it.
Turning on the engine, she reveled at its sound. She had always enjoyed her morning ride, since she simply loved to drive… and fast. 'Well, if you have the engine, you have to use it!' she thought to herself, as she sped away towards work. Arriving at the office in the record timing of 12 minutes and 32 seconds, she parked her car in her private spot on the first underground parking level of the building.
Taking the elevator to the 9th floor, the management headquarters of HPhar, she sighed to her lonely self.
"Yet another day at the office", she said quietly. As the elevator doors opened, she braced herself to face the day.
"I had a very strange dream this morning, Hinata," Sakura said anxiously.
Her friend looked up from her latte, a questioningly look on her face.
They were sitting in Sakura's large office, sitting on the comfortable couches she used for private meetings. Placing her cup on the round coffee table in the center of the sofas, the pink haired manager stood up quietly, walking up to the window.
Hinata followed her with her eyes, saying nothing, waiting for her friend to talk when she was ready.
"In truth, the dream wasn't strange… it was terrifying," Sakura said, more than a little disturbed.
This time, Hinata stood up and joined her. "Would you like to tell me about it?" she prompted.
"I don't remember any of the details. All I remember is a dark, evil man towering over me. His hands are around my neck, squeezing it tight. As he tries to strangle me, there's a feeling of victory emanating from him. But the most disturbing thing is, I don't try to fight him, I don't struggle against him. It's as if I have resigned myself to die and a depressive feeling fills my entire being. It's as if I have no option but to die at his hands."
"That is disturbing," Hinata agreed, looking out the window for a moment, as if thinking over the words she was about to say. Without further hesitation, she spilled them out.
"Let's get something clear first. Do you think this has anything to do with Sasuke?"
Sakura's eyes darkened at the mention of the name, an angry frown on her lips.
"No," she said firmly. "The fear Sasuke made me feel was completely different to this. He belittled me so much, I was just a fragment of the person I truly was then. He made me believe I wasn't worth anything, and since I was foolish enough to believe it at the time, I did not have any strength to fight back. This dream is completely different. I feel entirely like myself. It's as if I have the choice to fight against him, but I choose not to do so. I choose to die at his hands."
As she grew quiet, Hinata examined her face. Nodding to herself, the black haired girl took her friend by the arm, leading her back towards the sofa. Sitting down, she took a breath, giving her opinion.
"I'm not sure what the dream exactly means, but I think we can make something out of it. The fact that you want to die at the evil man's hands could be considered some sort of surrender. Maybe there's a dark part of yourself you aren't acknowledging or aren't too happy with. Maybe you need to let it out and suffer a small 'death' at its hands for you to be at peace."
Sakura looked at her personal assistant with amazement, surprised at the useful insight she was providing. Deep down inside, she was extremely glad she had found a friend like Hinata. She could share her strangest and darkest thoughts with her, without being judged in return.
"It's either that," Hinata continued, "or this dream could be a warning of something approaching. Something dangerous."
Sakura nodded, mentally digesting the information she had just been giving. After a few moments, she turned towards Hinata.
"Thank you so much, my friend, I really don't know what I would do without you." She then leaned over on the couch and hugged the other girl.
Being the shy girl she was, Hinata's cheek blushed a pale pink as she answered, "It's the least I can do".
Sakura smiled, as she leaned back on the couch. She had a lot of thinking to do if was to solve this mystery.
In that moment, Sakura's cell phone started ringing. She walked over to the opposite side of the room, where her large desk stood. Looking for her purse on the bookcase behind her chair, she finally found her cell phone.
Flipping it open, she answered, "Moshi-moshi." A pause. "Why, hello Naruto!", she said giggling.
At the mention of the blond's name, Hinata's cheeks turned an even redder shade of pink, as she put her hands on her knees nervously. Just thinking about him made her feel this way. She reprimanded herself for her behavior, thinking that if she behaved like this at the mere mention of his name, she would never have the courage to actually go up and talk to him in person. Not that they hadn't ever talked before, of course they did. But Sakura was always there, a human buffer between them. Hinata didn't think she would be capable of talking to Naruto if Sakura wasn't present… it would just be too overwhelming.
As she was lost in her thoughts, Hinata failed to notice Sakura's amused expression from across the room. She was fully aware of her friend's feelings for the loud blond, having thought of a few ways to bring them together. The opportunities hadn't presented themselves lately, but Sakura was sure she would have the chance in the future. She would play at match maker indeed.
"Yes, yes, I'm going to the gym after work… No, I can't go now, I'm working! I still have an hour and a half to go before I'm done here... Go out for a run if you want to exercise right now!"
Hinata could hear the rumble of Naruto's loud voice clearly through Sakura's phone. He always had such a vibrant way of expressing himself. She knew other people sometimes found him annoying because of it, but Hinata loved him for it. He was exactly her opposite. She sighed giddily as she lost herself in thoughts about him.
Across the room, Sakura was about to blow a vein at Naruto's insisting pleas for her to skip work and go to the gym with him now. 'He just doesn't know what responsibility is!' she thought to herself.
She ended the conversation with a forced goodbye, telling him she'd meet him there once she got out of the office.
Sakura sat at her desk with a loud sigh, turning towards her computer, eyeing the reports she was checking. Quietly, Hinata picked up the empty coffee cups, making her way towards the door.
"Hinata," Sakura said, "Thanks again!"
Her personal assistant smiled at her, but said nothing as she walked through the door.
Banishing all thoughts of her dream at the moment, Sakura immersed herself in her work.
Breathing deeply, Sakura let the cool evening air wash her face. After an hour and half's work out, the fresh air was very welcome. Sometimes, the gym would get extremely hot, as most people came in after work, just like she need. It could get really stuffy in there on some days, reminding her of why she'd avoided coming here for so long. Naruto wouldn't hear any of it though, and once she had agreed he would never let her back out.
Just as she was thinking about him, the loud blond followed her out the door, saying his noisy goodbyes to the gym's personnel. 'He really should just move in,' Sakura thought.
"Oi, Sakura-chan, that was a good work out, wasn't it? I feel like I really managed to get some proper back work done," he said enthusiastically.
"Naruto, you always get your back work done properly," she replied "You work your back more times a week than I can count!"
"Hehe, you're probably right," he said sheepishly, rubbing the back of his head with his hand. As he was doing so, his stomach decided to make itself heard, growling its protest due to hunger.
Sakura laughed as Naruto's cheeks tinged pink. "Gomen, Sakura-chan. It's that, I haven't eaten anything since midday," he said, rubbing his stomach. "Say, how about some dinner? Let's get some ramen!"
She rolled her eyes at his predictable food preference, but nodded her assent since she was starting to feel hungry herself.
They made their way to Naruto's favorite place, Ichiraku Ramen, conveniently located only a couple of blocks away from the gym. Sakura knew this wasn't coincidence, but she was left to wonder which one Naruto had discovered first, the gym or the restaurant. His preference, which bordered on obsession, for both food and exercise was evenly matched.
Naruto went up to the counter to order their food, one bowl for Sakura, three for him. As she sat at one of the nearby tables, she was amazed, not for the first time, at the large quantities of food he could consume in one sitting.
"Do you ever worry about your weight?" she asked once he had joined her with their food. Sakura knew it was a useless question and was already expecting the answer she received.
"Well no," Naruto answered between mouthfuls, "I actually get hungry after I exercise. But once I eat, I just want to train again… so, I get hungry once more. I guess you could say it's a vicious cycle," he finished laughing.
'And that's his life in a nutshell,' Sakura thought, 'as simple as that. I guess it doesn't matter as long as he keeps up with his training program. It's not as though he's as big as Chouji.' Eyes brightened in remembrance, she continued out loud.
"Hey, have you heard from Chouji, recently? I haven't heard anything from him for a while."
Naruto looked up at her, scrunching his eyebrows in thought.
"The last thing I heard," he replied after a moment, " was that he'd quit the Sumo wrestling school. I mean, he wasn't that big after all, and he can be really fast when he wants to. So, he joined a boxing school, a very prestigious one at that, participating in the heavy weight category. I heard he was doing really well. Don't know when he'll come visit though since the boxing tournament season is starting soon. I think some fights will be held here in Konoha, but the committee hasn't decided yet."
'Trust Naruto to know everything there is to know about the fighting world,' Sakura thought amazingly.
"How about you? Any tournaments coming up?" she asked.
"There's one being held in around a month," he replied, but then finished quickly, "but I'm not sure I'm going to participate."
Sakura knew he was trying to avoid the subject, but naturally, she wasn't going to fall for it. "Why not?" she insisted.
"Well, you know," Naruto said, a bit too casually. "I just thought I'd back out for a few competitions, give the others a chance to win a few titles, that's all."
Recognizing the blatant lie for what it was, Sakura wasn't about to let the matter drop. Naruto was the most competitive person she knew and he would never decline the chance to test his strength against someone else.
She looked him directly in the eyes, clearly stating she wasn't buying his excuse. Sure enough, he broke down after a few moments, nervously playing with what was left of his food and looking anywhere but directly at her.
Defeated, he breathed out loudly. "Alright," he reluctantly said. "The truth is we received a challenge from another dojo and I really don't want to have anything to do with them."
"Which dojo?" Sakura asked slowly, dreading the answer.
"Sound's Shidokan", Naruto answered quietly.
Sakura swallowed hard. After a moment, she looked up at her friend, who was in turn looking at her. Without doubt, they were both thinking about the same person, but neither of them wished to utter his name.
Intent on ending the subject, and sorry she had pushed Naruto into talking, Sakura answered as cheerfully as she could.
"Well, it's still some time away. I'm sure you'll make the right decision."
He smiled back at her, nodding his head.
Sakura stretched herself, leaning back on her chair, dismissing the previous discussion completely. She was starting to feel tired and after having eaten, sleep was slowly creeping up on her. She patiently waited while Naruto finished his last and third ramen bowl, distracting herself by thinking about work. She had some important business meetings coming up and she had to plan some presentations as well…
"Augh, I'm so full!" Naruto exclaimed, patting his now swollen tummy. "Time we called it a night, don't you think?"
"Yeah, I'm starting to feel sleepy already," she answered as she got up from the table.
He quickly followed her, thanking the cook with one of his characteristic shouts. The cool air touched Sakura's face once more, as she stepped into the night.
"Want me to drop you home?" she asked the bouncing blond.
"Nah, I have to get back to the dojo for a bit. Kakashi-sensei called for a meeting tonight. I have no idea what it's about but he said we couldn't miss it. It isn't that far, so I'll walk."
"Alright then. Take care Naruto, see you tomorrow."
"You too, Sakura-chan. See ya!" he replied, waving as he hurriedly walked away.
'He's probably late already,' she thought, shaking her head as she watched him leave.
She slowly walked back to the gym's parking lot, where she'd left her car. Absorbed in thought, thinking about all the things she needed to ask Hinata to do tomorrow, she failed to notice the envelope on her windshield. She saw it only after she was already seated at the wheel. Thinking it must be a flyer of some kind, she opened the door and shook it free of the wiper.
It was a black envelope, with patches of white here and there. It had been painted carelessly with a black marker, as if whoever had decorated it was in a great hurry.
A cold horrible shiver ran through her spine, as if caused by simply touching the paper. Sakura suddenly experienced a very bad feeling…
Opening it slowly, she found a single sheet of paper folded inside. Taking it out, she realized there where letters, from newspaper clippings, stuck to the paper. It took her a moment to decipher the message:
An ode to the girl with the head of pink
A perfect life is hers, she likes to think
But a perfect existence has its toll
For by my quick hand her head will roll
Utter, silent shock spread through her. Staring intently at the letter, it took some moments for the message to sink in.
Sakura wanted to scream. Terror, raw instinctual fear, crept up her whole being, consuming her rational thought. She threw her car door open, flinging the death note away from her. Wild eyes looking everywhere around her, expecting to see her killer right behind her, she wrung her hands in her hair, fighting back a shriek. She fell to her knees shortly after, staring at the paper laying face down on the pavement.
Breathing hard, she controlled herself, her quick thinking mind stepping in. She needed to go somewhere safe, she couldn't stay out here in the open, where anyone could walk up to her. She had to go home… and NOW.
Picking up the letter, she rushed into her car, turning the engine on. She literally raced out of the parking lot, driving faster than she had ever done in her life.
Once her car was out of sight and hearing range, a dark figure on the gym's roof stood, looking in the direction she had gone. Smiling wickedly, he started to chuckle, jumping down to the ground. Immersing himself in shadow, he walked down the street, vanishing into the night.
Once she reached her apartment building, Sakura looked around first, making sure there was no one around. She ran to the elevator and the few seconds it took to reach the basement were excruciatingly slow. Arriving at her door, she opened it quickly, slamming it behind her as she leaned back against the wall, breathing fast and irregularly.
She couldn't believe what was happening. She couldn't believe this was real. There was someone out there who had been watching her and was now planning to end her life.
Sakura collapsed in her living room couch, hands wringing her hair once more. She needed to think things through, she needed to be rational about this. A foolish move and her life would be over. But the whole situation made absolutely no sense. Who would want her dead? She didn't have any known enemies and she had always made sure to treat people nicely, as they deserved, especially in her business ventures. She couldn't think of a possible person who would do this to her.
Some type of terrorism? Most likely. But if someone had been planning to kidnap her for a ransom, they would have done so already, especially at the gym's parking lot where she had effectively broken down. From what the letter said, the person who wrote it knew her, knew the life she led. Somehow, they were aware of her every day existence and envied it so much they wanted to kill her.
Sitting up, she brought her knees to her chin, hugging her legs closely. Sakura had never felt so violated… this was a direct attack to her personal space. To think someone had been watching her made her feel invaded and to say she was uncomfortable with it would be a very large understatement.
She stayed in that position for a quite some time, calming herself down. A part of herself said it might be a prank, some sort of sick joke. Maybe this was the perverse pastime of some psycho, someone who saw her everyday. Someone who got a thrill by causing fear in people, but didn't intend to truly kill them. It could be anyone, even someone from the gym. Someone who envied her and in their sickness, found it amusing to cause her fear and dread, but was in truth completely harmless.
Convincing herself of this idea more and more, she managed to compose herself enough to get up and take a shower.
The hot water was wonderful, and as she took her time under the shower, her previous theory held more truth to her, or so she thought. She efficiently silenced a small part of her who said she should call the police. Drying quickly, she got ready for bed, making her way to her room. She lay down, breathing deeply, trying to get the tension out of her body.
'It's all some sick joke', she thought. 'There couldn't possibly be a person who would want to harm me in such a way.'
Holding on to that thought she closed her eyes, trying to summon blissful and forgetful sleep to her.
But it was long in coming and when it did, she kept her bedside lamp on.
"Sakura, is something wrong?" Hinata asked worriedly. "You've been staring off into space all morning and your face looks like you didn't get any sleep last night."
'I didn't, the little sleep I had was filled with horrible and dark death nightmares,' Sakura thought to herself.
"I didn't sleep very well, that's true. But I'm fine," she said out loud, forcing a smile to her lips. "Thanks for asking."
Hinata didn't seem convinced but respected her friend's privacy. "Tanaka-san called a while ago, wanting to schedule next week's meeting. I told him you'd call him back, since you were taking care of this deal personally."
Sakura stared at Hinata, as if trying to make sense of her words. After a moment, their meaning finally got through and the fact that she had a lot of work to do suddenly hit her.
"Thanks Hinata, I'll call him right now," she said. "Also, did you get those presentations done?"
"I'm still working on them but I'm almost finished," the shy girl answered.
"Good, cause I've got to add some figures to them. I'll send them to you after I talk to Tanaka-san. We also need to plan those dinner meetings. Could you choose one of our usual restaurants and make a reservation?"
"Sure, for how many?" Hinata asked, writing everything down.
"For three, since Tanaka-san is bringing his partner. I'll have to take both of them out."
"For three it is, then. Anything else you need?"
"No, not at the moment," Sakura said, tapping her lip with a pen.
Hinata made to leave but Sakura interrupted her. "I'm sorry if I worried you by acting so strangely."
"It's alright," the black haired girl smiled, "as long as you get some proper sleep tonight."
"I promise I will."
As her assistant and friend left her, Sakura shook her head quickly, trying to dispel her morose and worried mood. She had a company to run, she couldn't be lurking around imagining killers behind every shadow. Picking up her phone, she started calling her future business partner, immersing herself in the rhythm of corporate life.
Days passed without any other incident and Sakura was convinced it would never happen again. She decided to stay away from the gym for some time just to be safe, which brought a tide of complaints from Naruto, especially when she wouldn't tell him why. But she wouldn't budge under his tirade, and in the end, he finally accepted her decision.
Sakura used the extra time she had to stay and work extra hours, finishing off all her pending tasks for the upcoming meetings. She was disappointed however, when Tanaka-san called one afternoon, saying his partner had taken ill and they would be forced to re-schedule. Knowing this deal was important for her company, she accepted without complaint, but was left to wonder what she would do with all the free time she now had on her hands. These meetings had been her sole goal for months and she couldn't continue with her plan until the contracts were properly signed.
She left her office late that day and it was already dark by the time she stepped into the elevator. Sighing deeply, she pondered if she should go out tonight. She hadn't gone out for a drink in quite a while, absorbed in her work as she was. Sakura was pondering who to call when she stepped out from the lift into the building's basement parking.
As she was approaching her car, she heard the engine of a motorcycle start. Her heart skipped a beat as an ominous chill ran up her spine. The parking lot was empty… there shouldn't be anyone here at this hour. Turning towards the source of the sound, she experienced the following events as if they were happening in slow motion.
The motorcycle sped directly towards her, coming at full speed. Sakura couldn't move and she knew she had no chance of running. Glued to the spot next to her car, she couldn't do anything but stare as the moving vehicle came closer and closer. When she prepared herself for the eminent impact, lifting her hands in front of her face, the motorcycle came to a stop, sliding a few feet with momentum. It stopped a short distance away from Sakura's trembling figure.
The driver was dressed completely in black; black trousers, black jacket, black gloves and black helmet. Sakura couldn't see their face through the helmet's glass and therefore couldn't tell if it was a man or a woman. They stared intently at each other for a long terrifying moment. Then, the motorcycle's occupant began to laugh… a mirthless shrieking laugh that made Sakura's skin crawl. She'd heard that laugh somewhere, but she couldn't bring herself to remember where.
Suddenly, the torturing cackle came to an end, and a package was thrown at Sakura's feet. Without saying anything, the black individual turned the motorcycle away, racing off towards the exit.
As soon as the bike's noise was out of earshot, Sakura slumped against her car, sliding all the way to the floor. Tears started to flow freely from her eyes, and as she hugged her legs, heart breaking sobs came unbidden. She had never been so afraid in all her life. Having experienced fear in its rawest form, her body wasn't responding properly and was shaking fiercely. Her teeth clattered between sobs and she was powerless to stop them.
As she cried, she looked at the package near her feet. It looked like a shoe box, painted all in black. On top of the box, she could see another black envelope, secured with tape. Knowing what type of message she would find inside, she started crying harder, burying her face in her hands.
She'd finally realized where she'd heard that laugh… she'd heard it in her dream.
"When did you receive the first threat?" Shikamaru patiently asked.
"Exactly a week ago," Sakura answered quietly.
"WHAT!" Naruto bellowed. "And why didn't you tell me anything!"
"Because I didn't want you to worry and I thought it might some kind of sick joke," Sakura countered, evidently distressed. Hinata placed an arm around her shoulder, giving her quiet support.
They were sitting in Sakura's office, just over an hour after the incident. As soon as she was able to compose herself, Sakura had gone up to the 9th floor, calling Naruto and Hinata immediately. Hearing only her sobs on the other end of the line, Naruto had come running, taking only 8 minutes to get there. Hinata arrived on his heels, an anxious look on her face.
She managed to tell them the whole story as both of them stared at her in shock. Hinata got up and called Shikamaru, their friend and detective at Konoha's police department. He'd arrived soon after and commenced his interrogation.
"Naruto, don't interrupt," Shikamaru said. "I need Sakura to tell me exactly everything that happened, every single detail. Even the smallest piece of information could help us solve this case."
Sakura breathed in deeply, asking silently for courage to relive those terrifying moments again. After an instant, she started spilling everything, from the note she found on her car to the stampeding motorcycle to the cruel and horrible laughter.
Shikamaru took it all in, taking notes on everything. Sakura had gone silent and he looked at her, as if trying to make sure she'd covered all the details. After a few moments, he spoke.
"Sakura, are you sure you do not have any enemies? Any business partners you stroke bad deals with or anyone you might have fired which could resent you?"
A look of concentration crossed her face, as if trying to remember someone. Eventually, she shook her head, not being able to come up with a single name.
Shikamaru sighed, hating to ask his next question. Even though he was reluctant to do so, he knew it was necessary.
"What about Sasuke?"
All three of them looked up at him with a look of horror on their faces. Naruto clenched his fist, but remained silent. Hinata in turn looked at Sakura, an extremely worried look on her face.
But a cold look passed through the pink haired girl's eyes, as she answered: "No, it is not Sasuke. He wouldn't so something like this. If he were planning to hurt me, he would have done so already, sneaking into my apartment or attacking me when I neared my car. He wouldn't play with me, he would be completely direct and kill me as soon as he had the chance. The person on the motorcycle wasn't him, I would have recognized his movements immediately."
Taking a quick breath, she finished, "Either way, he can't legally come within 100 feet of me in any direction, that was the verdict the judge gave him."
Shikamaru nodded, having been at the trial himself. "He could easily violate his restraining order, but if you're so sure it's not him, we will leave him out of this for now. Which leads me to my next question, have you opened the package yet?"
They all looked towards Sakura's desk where the painted black shoe box rested.
"No, I didn't have the courage to do so," Sakura admitted.
"Well, if that's the case, would you allow me?" Shikamaru asked. After a quick nod from her, he stepped up to the desk, putting some plastic gloves on.
He examined the box carefully, as if trying to memorize its appearance. Quickly, he took out a pocket knife, cutting the tape which tied the envelope to the package. Placing it on the desk, he then proceeded to open the top very slowly.
There was a plastic doll inside, its hair dyed a shocking tone of pink and its eyes carelessly painted green with a marker. It was clad in dress trousers and a blouse, exactly the same clothes Sakura wore to work. As Shikamaru lifted it from the box, the doll's head detached itself from the rest of its body, falling with a loud thump on the desk.
"These people have got to be sick," Naruto said, appalled by the sight of the grotesque artifact made in his friend's resemblance.
"I completely agree," Shikamaru said, examining the doll and picking up its head. "Well Sakura, it seems this package was meant as a representation of your coffin," he finished darkly.
Sakura held Hinata closer, holding the other girl's hand tightly, her eyes avoiding the doll completely.
Turning to the envelope, Shikamaru opened it slowly, taking out the paper inside. He read the message out loud:
When her pink head rolls on the floor
Her green eyes will see the light no more
"This person has a clear obsession with your hair, Sakura," he said after he finished reading. "They've mentioned it in both threats."
"Well, it is her most prominent feature," Hinata said quietly.
Shikamaru looked at the note, which was made up of newspaper clippings again. "Do you have the other note with you?" he asked.
"Yes, it's in my car."
"I'm going to need it. The next step is to take the evidence and run it through some tests to see if we can find anything. This is how we usually catch this type of criminal. However, while we do this, there's the chance you might get attacked again. So I recommend you come with me and I will relocate you to somewhere safe until we solve this."
"What do you mean somewhere safe?" Sakura asked, clearly not at all comfortable with the idea.
"It will most likely be somewhere outside the city, where the risks of an attack will be less."
"You mean to tell me you will take me up to a mountain house in the middle of nowhere and keep me locked up?" she said harshly.
"Well yes, if you want to put it that way," he answered, knowing where this conversation was leading. Women really were troublesome.
"I'm not the one who's supposed to get locked up, it's the psycho who's threatening me who should be put away!"
"I know how you feel Sakura, but…"
"No buts! I'm not going to give this guy the pleasure of seeing me run in fear, hiding somewhere, hoping he won't reach me. I have a business to run and I'm not going to stop living my normal life just because he wants me to wallow in fear before his threats!" she yelled, her temper kicking in.
"But Sakura-chan…" Naruto began to say.
"I said no BUTS!" she turned on him, eyeing him dangerously.
"Yare, yare," Shikamaru said, shaking his head. "Fine, if you're going to keep going about your everyday life as usual, you will need to get some protection, a body guard of some sorts. I will not let you go around without someone watching your back."
"A body guard?" Sakura asked, not liking the idea either.
"Yes, it's the only way I will let you stay in the city," Shikamaru said firmly. "There are many private companies which offer such service, I can get you their phone numbers."
Sakura nodded slowly, processing the information. She wasn't sure if she would welcome someone following her every step, shadowing her every move, but she knew it was necessary; they didn't know when another attack would come, and she didn't want to be alone to face it. Having someone around would prove very useful.
Naruto had gone unusually still, as if thinking about something deeply.
"Well, that's that then. I will escort you back to your apartment," Shikamaru said, placing the doll and note back in the box. "I also suggest you two spend the night with Sakura, especially Naruto. He's not a martial arts champion for nothing, it's about time we found a use for his skills."
Hinata nodded, rising from the couch. "If you want we can go in my car," she said to Sakura, "I'll have someone pick your car up in the morning and take it to your place."
Sakura nodded silently, a thankful smile on her face. As she was rising from her seat, Naruto's bellow pushed her back down on the couch.
"I KNOW WHO WE CAN GET!" he exclaimed enthusiastically, jumping about. "I know the perfect guy! He's a member of my dojo. He's out of the city right now, but he's coming back tomorrow. He's a professional body guard, Sakura. I'm sure you'll love him!"
Always suspicious of Naruto's "brilliant" ideas, she eyed him skeptically. Whenever he said she would love something, she usually ended up hating it.
On to the next installment:) Please review!