Naruto grit his teeth as he tied the knots he was working on with a bit more force than was strictly necessary. He and the others had taken down the bandits who, bereft of the illusion of numbers created by their Bunshin no jutsu, had fallen to the enraged male genins. But between beating the bandits faces in, making sure they were unconscious, backing up their teammates at the rear and tying up the bandits to keep them from following them and/or becoming a problem for any other travelers, time passed. Time that swept the girls farther and farther away down river. He was not liking the situation.

He wasn't the only one. All the jounin sensei were worried about their missing female students, but immediate priorities came first. Securing the bandits topped the list, and by the time that was done, three hours had passed. Kakashi tried to keep their spirits up by reminding them that they were all well trained, which Gai had echoed instantly, but Kurenai still looked worried, not mentioning how Tenten and Ino didn't like Sakura.

Or, more specifically, the boy in Sakura.

To top it all off, it started to rain...

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The Cursed Log Book 1:

Kurt-kun In Konoha

by Shadow Crystal Mage

6th Incident: Down The River…

Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto, someone else does. And I guess that's all I need to say.

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Darkness. Kurt lay in darkness, very relaxed. He wasn't worried, wasn't rushed. A strange warmth lay over him, one he had never felt before. For the first time in his life, he was completely still. No muscles moved. His eyes didn't twitch, fingers didn't move, lungs didn't inflate…

Hey, that wasn't right…

Kurt suddenly became aware something was very wrong. Yet, he couldn't tell what it was. The vice clamping down on his chest was making it difficult to think…

A weight suddenly began to press down on his chest, between his breasts, pushing down with deliberate force. Once, twice, again, then the pressure was gone, and someone was holding his nose shut. There was pressure on his mouth, warm, wet pressure, and hot breath went down his throat. It happened once, stopped, twice, stopped, again. Then the weight on his chest was back, and...

Wait a minute... Breasts? Down his throat?

It was then Kurt realized something was seriously wrong...

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Ino was scared. Very scared. As a child, she'd had a very traumatic experience with water. While on a class trip, she'd accidentally fallen into a stream. The water wasn't very deep, but she'd been knocked unconscious and had nearly drowned, her head submerged under the shallow water. They'd managed to revive her, but ever since then, she'd harbored a secret fear of the water. Which was why she'd never learned how to swim. Few knew about her inability and she preferred it that way.

Now, however, her inability was coming back to try and kill her. When someone grabbed to back of her outfit and lifted her out of the water, she was extremely grateful. She concentrated on Hinata's voice, focusing on the sound more than the words. As they started moving towards the general direction of dry land, Ino turned towards her rescuer, ready to thank Tenten.

She found Sakura instead. Or, more accurately, Kurt in Sakura's body.

That was all she had time for. A jutting piece of log knocked her rescuer out immediately thereafter.

It was dumb luck. Sakura had been holding Ino in her left had, using her right to keep afloat. Hinata had been following behind on Ino's side, keeping her calm. None of them saw the log hanging over the water until it clipped Kurt-Sakura on the side of the head. Ino dropped into the water, slipping under the log in the process. Hinata barely dodged it, clipping her scalp on the wood.

What happened next was a deliriously panicked blur to Ino. She was back under water again, and suddenly she wasn't. She remembered holding on to a chain while Tenten pulled her out of the water, Hinata hanging on to her waist with one arm as the other held on to Sakura– Kurt?– and telling her to pull. Eventually, she found herself on firm ground on her hands and knees, panting her lungs off.

"Sakura-san! Kurt-san!"

Ino looked at Hinata. She was kneeling next to the pink-haired girl's body, which was laid out on the ground on its back, dripping wet and not moving. Not breathing.

Hinata was slapping at the girl's face, trying to wake her up when Ino told her to step aside. Deliberately, she began to perform mouth to mouth. Her accident, while keeping her from learning how to swim, had made her want to keep what almost happened from happening to anyone else. She'd known how to do this since she was four years old.

Eventually, the girl she was working on began to cough, water gagging at her throat. Quickly, she turned the two-in-one's head, allowing her to spit out the water, then stepped back.

Kurt– Sakura?– began to get up, turning over on her hands and knees as she kept on coughing, spitting out water from her lungs. She remained in that position, coughing and coughing until all the water in her lungs should be gone, until she was dry hacking. Finally, she rose shakily to her feet, wiping at the corner of her mouth.

"Well, that was fun. Let's never do it again," Sakura– Kurt? ARGGG!!!– said. She was rubbing her head with both hands, face contorted. After a while, she said, "Arigatou, Ino-san. We're grateful for the revive. Guess this makes us even."

Ino smiled tightly. "You bet."

For a moment, they all just lay there. Tenten was sprawled out on he rocky ground, panting hard. Hinata looked about as bad. White eyes closed, the Hyuuga heiress was leaning against a handy rock, catching her breath. All of them were soaked to the skin and shaking from cold.

"Damn, I'm cold," Ino said, shivering as her body tried to warm itself.

"Anyone have a fire jutsu handy?" Kurt– definitely Kurt, Sakura wasn't that sarcastic– said.

There was a clap of thunder, and water started to fall from the sky.

"I'll take that as a cosmic 'no'."

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They managed to find shelter in a nearby cave. Tenten dragged some wood in before it got too wet, and they were currently trying to get a fire lit.

Tenten silently cursed as she tried to get a piece of flint to spark on her kunai. And spark it did. Problem was, it wasn't catching.

"Hurry it up," Ino whined, shivering as she tried to get warm.

"I'm trying," Tenten growled, nearly cutting herself.

Sakura– very hard to think of her as Kurt– sighed, reaching into one of her belt pouches and pulling out a lighter. "Will this help?"

Tenten glared as she dropped what she was using and grabbed the offered lighter. "Why didn't you say something earlier!" she said as she turned back to the wood.

"The exact reasons are, 'Shut up and get some rest'," was the dry reply, which was more than could be said for everyone else.

Tenten grimaced as she remembered she had said that. The wood still wasn't catching. "You wouldn't happen to have any kindling on you, would you?"

Wordlessly, Sakura-Kurt took out a few small pieces of wood.

Tenten raised an eyebrow. "Lighter fluid?" She figured it was worth a shot...

A bottle was produced.

Ino finally blew up. "You had all this and you didn't tell us!"

Shrug. "No one asked, and I thought she knew what she was doing."

An Ino rant and a few spurts of lighter fluid later, they had a fire going.

"And not a moment too soon," Ino said, trying to get as close as possible. "Hypothermia's not good for your skin."

Sakura-Kurt opened yet another belt pouch, pulling out a package she handed to Ino. "Here. Thermal blanket. It's supposed to be for emergencies, and this probably counts." She handed one to Hinata and Tenten as well.

Tenten looked at the unopened package for a moment before turning to Sakura-Kurt, who was wrapping her– them?– self in a blanket as well. "How come you have all this?"

The pink-haired kunoichi gave a toothy smile. "I went nuts in a store after a mission."

Tenten raised an eyebrow. "Oh."

"What's to eat?" Ino said in her whiny voice, and Tenten's eye suddenly developed a tick. Before she could tell the annoying girl they'd didn't have any food because they'd been too busy trying not to get hypothermia to look for any, another item was removed from a belt pouch.

"Here," their cherry-blonde companion said as she handed Ino a ration bar. "Anything else for you to keep quiet? A lock Sasuke's hair, maybe? A pair of his boxers?"

Thankfully, the blonde didn't answer, too busy trying to tear open the packet. Shrugging, Saku-Kurt handed Tenten and Hinata a bar each as well, before opening one of her own.

Tenten looked at the bar before she opened it. "How nuts did you say you went?" she said, taking a bite. Hmmm, peanut butter.

"I needed Kage Bunshin to carry all the stuff I picked up to the counter," Kurt– Tenten was sticking with Kurt– said as she took a bite from her ration bar.

"Ah..."

For a while, they all sat in silence, absorbed in their own worlds.

"So," Kurt said, "what now?"

Tenten and the other two looked at him.

"Don't you have all the answers?" Ino said sarcastically.

Kurt glared at her. "I'm just a guy in Sakura's head. You're the experienced ones here!"

For a moment, the two glared at each other. Tenten sighed. This would be a while.

----------------------------------------

The rain did not abate, effectively trapping them in the cave, since it wasn't safe to be wandering around in that downpour. They knew that the merchant train would be stopped as well, since the horses pulling the wagons wouldn't probably be able to walk effectively in the mud this would make.

"Besides," Kurt said, "I really don't see our jounin sensei just leaving us like this."

Kakashi had better not! Sakura said.

For a moment, everything was quiet again.

"Pervert," Ino said suddenly.

Kurt gave her a look. "Hey, do you think I like being inside a girl?"

Ino sniffed. "You're still a pervert."

Kurt rolled her eyes, while Sakura was fuming in indignation in his behalf. "Why am I suddenly getting an Akane Tendo vibe here?" he muttered to himself in English, which only Sakura understood.

"What's that?" Ino said.

"Nothing, I just said you were cute," he said. Sakura, knowing perfectly well that wasn't what he said, did the mental equivalent of rolling her eyes.

As Ino continued looking at him suspiciously, Kurt sighed, while Sakura shot her mental dirty looks, reached into one of their pouches and took out his sketchpad and the picture he was copying. It was almost finished, lacking only color. He'd have to take care of that when they finally got back to Konoha, since he'd left his colored pencils behind because they took up too much space. Grabbing a pencil, he started working on the details of Naruto's jumpsuit.

"Th-that's v-very gu-good," Hinata said, looking over their shoulder.

Kurt smiled reassuringly at the shy girl. "Thanks. If you want, I could draw Naruto for you."

Why? Sakura asked, and Kurt snickered internally. What's so funny?

That's my little secret, Saky, Kurt responded.

In the real world, Hinata blushed. Kurt just grinned, flipping over a page and tearing out a picture of Naruto he'd already made and colored. "Here," he said. "Just a little something for keeping me from going completely under. Although we're not even. I'll still have to save your life."

Blushing, Hinata accepted the proffered drawing.

Is that why you drew Naruto nearly completely naked? Sakura said. To scar Hinata?

Indeed, Hinata was blushing at the picture of Naruto covered only by smoke.

Still don't get it, huh? Kurt said cheerfully, going back to his drawing. And girls are supposed to be so perceptive.

What's that supposed to mean?

Look underneath the underneath and find out.

Argh!

----------------------------------------

Kurt jerked awake as thunder boomed in the distance. Blinking, he wondered when he'd fallen asleep. Inside, Sakura was snoozing away, which meant both of them had been out for a while.

Feeling paper under their face, boy-in-kunoichi hastily stood up, only to have someone grab them from behind, covering their mouth in the process.

Before he could get to biting, Tenten's voice hissed in his ear. "We've got trouble. Some of those bandits you washed overboard with that water jutsu of yours are around. "

Kurt's blood ran cold at those words. Inside, Sakura stirred, as she sometimes did when she had a bad dream. This probably counted.

When Tenten was sure he wasn't about to scream, she released his mouth. "How many and how far away?" Kurt whispered.

"Too many and too close," Tenten said.

"Can't you just take them on?" Kurt asked.

Tenten gave him a withering look. "You must have me mistaken for my teammates. I'm good, but I'm not that good."

"How about if all four of us took them on?"

Tenten made a sound of disgust.

"What?"

"You were too busy doing your jutsu to pay attention, but that Yamanaka girl isn't that good, and Hinata is nothing like her cousin."

"Point," Kurt conceded. "Plus I'm no great shakes at taijutsu myself."

"I kinda guessed that," Tenten said dryly.

"So I take it we run?" Kurt said.

"We run," Tenten confirmed. "You wouldn't happen to have anything to help us with that, do you?"

"Makibishi, smoke bombs and incendiaries sound useful?"

"They'll do," Tenten nodded. "Help me wake up the others. Quietly."

Quickly stuffing his papers and stuff back into their pouch, Kurt went to rouse Ino by default, since Tenten was already working on Hinata. Nudging her shoulder, Kurt felt a flash of irritation she didn't stir. Thankfully, she wasn't snoring, so the bandits couldn't hear her.

Kurt nudged her harder, then had a flash of panic as she did start to snore. Quickly, he clamped his hand over her face, muffling the sound.

That woke her up. The snores died as she opened her eyes. Kurt opened his mouth to explain the situation, but the next thing he knew, his head was ringing and his cheek stinging as her slap connected with his face. Inside, Sakura was jerked awake by the impact, murmuring a sleepy what? as she roused.

"Pervert!" Ino growled, a kunai in hand. "You tried to take advantage of me while I was asleep!"

Wincing, Kurt rubbed their sore face. "Tenten-san, could you please explain the situation to her? Somehow, I don't think she'll listen to me."

Nursing their injury while Tenten quickly explained the problem to the other two girls, Kurt wondered if all anime females were this pervert-trigger-happy. That slap had hurt!

Kurt darkly wondered if the bandits would leave them alone if they gave them the Yamanaka girl…

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The four ran through the rain, trying to be as quiet as they could. Tenten led the way, somehow becoming unofficial leader because of her seniority. She was followed by Hinata and Ino. Bringing up the rear was Kurt, who kept looking nervously over their shoulder, trying to watch out for bandits. He really hoped none of them would remember he was the one who'd been blasting them with the jutsu. Inside, Sakura was worrying and reviewing their stock of jutsus, chakra and gear in case they had to fight– and knowing their luck, they'd probably have to.

As rain fell on their face, Kurt wished he'd thought to buy a pair of goggles to kept the rain off. He'd taken the liberty of tying back their hair in a tail to keep the strands from sticking and distracting them, over Tenten's protests that it could get them killed in a fight (to which he'd countered that Ino did it and considering how lousy he was at taijutsu– compared to the other boys and locals, anyway– he'd probably be dead long before he'd have to worry about someone grabbing him by their hair), but the water was pretty distracting.

As all of them tried to make as little noise as possible, Kurt kept a 'feel' out for bandits. It had somehow come up that he had better chakra senses than anyone else when he'd commented they better stay away from a certain area because he'd felt bandits there. That had earned him looks, since said area was about thirty feet away. At first he hadn't seen what the problem was, since he'd always assumed everyone could sense chakra that good and had taken it for granted. It turned out not to be the case. So here he was, acting as the group's chakra 'radar' while Hinata kept an eye out with her Byakugan.

As they ran, Ino looked over her shoulder and glared at them, causing Sakura to mentally grind her teeth and Kurt to sigh. No matter how many times he'd protested to the contrary, Ino wouldn't believe that he wasn't leering at her rear. And he wasn't. Was it his fault that Tenten had told Hinata to stay close to her so that she'd know when the Hyuuga 'saw' something? Nnnoooo. Blame it on Ino for not having any useful skills for the scenario.

He rolled his eyes at her, and she sniffed, muttering about perverts under her breath as she turned back ahead. Kurt was very tempted to bite her.

You bite? Sakura said, amused.

He grinned slightly. Yeah. It's one of my more childish impulses. I feel very tempted to bite people who annoy me.

What are you, part Inuzuka? Sakura laughed.

Kurt rolled his eyes internally, keeping an eye out despite Hinata. You have no idea how many times people have said something like that to me.

Up ahead, Tenten raised her hand, signaling for a break. The three bringing of them bringing up the rear immediately stopped, doubling over huffing and puffing. Healthy as Sakura's body was– healthier than his natural body, anyway– Tenten's pace still left it– and him– breathing hard, although both he and Sakura were glad to see that Ino was breathing harder than they were.

Gesturing for silence, Tenten pointed at something on the ground. Kurt craned their head to look. What were clearly footprints were visible in the mud. Even Kurt, who'd only taken a twenty minute crash course on tracking with Iruka, could tell they were fresh.

A chill ran down their spine as Kurt and Sakura looked, and he extended his chakra senses as far out as he could, but thankfully didn't feel anything but the four of them nearby.

Unfortunately, most traps don't have chakra.

Ino shifted her feet a little, and there was an audible 'twang'.

"LOOK OUT!" Tenten yelled, before things went down the road of good intentions in a hand-basket…

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Later (he and Sakura had lost track of time in the confusion), Kurt leaned against the trunk of a tree, trying to catch their breath as silently as possible, keep their footing on the wet, mossy branch, and watch out for bandits all at the same time.

Now I know why Kakashi and Gai are nuts, Kurt internalled.

Why? Sakura replied.

If going on lots of missions like these is the reason they're so powerful, it's no wonder they snapped.

Sakura chuckled weakly at his joke, and he smiled. Although anyone would say he was insane for having a voice in his head, at least it helped now. He was able to lift his spirits up a little with jokes, and if Sakura found them funny, they'd lift her spirits up, which would lift his spirits up, so he'd come up with better jokes to lift her spirits up...

Let's stop there.

After Ino had inadvertently activated the trap, things had gotten, to put it mildly, confused. They gotten into an argument (actually, Tenten and Ino) of whether they should run or fight, an argument that became moot when the bandits caught them. They'd tried to make a stand, but the numbers of their opponents, their lack of both experience fighting together and knowledge of each other's capabilities, not to mention Ino's distracting complaining, had caused them to become separated, and it had quickly become a case of every girl (and in his case, boy-in-girl) for herself.

Kurt had been liberal with the mini-kibaku fuda, senbon, shuriken and eventually bombs. Although initially reluctant to use the certainly fatal explosives, he'd eventually run out of options, utilizing them to clear path for escape, and hoping he'd only crippled people and not killed them.

He hadn't seen any of the (other) girls (not that he'd really looked that hard), and had quickly been preoccupied by pursuit. It seemed the bandits had taken exception to being blasted or thrown off the bridge, and wanted to take their frustrations out on them. Some had even recognized him as the one responsible for the jutsu, and were pretty ticked about it. After a lot of makibishi though, he'd eventually managed to ditch his pursuers using the Kakuremino no jutsu (one of the thermal blankets had sufficed).

Now what?

Now what do we do? Kurt asked the obvious as they climbed and jumped– carefully– as high up the tree as they were willing to dare.

Sakura didn't bother with the 'why are you asking me?' game. They both knew they were trying to think of what to do next. He was just making conversation, trying to make things feel normal.

She settled for playing by the rules of the 'conversation' game. I suppose our best bet is to keep heading towards the bridge and try not to run into any more bandits.

Kurt nodded, wishing they had a hat or cap on. Their long hair was tied back enough to keep it from their eyes, but that didn't stop the water from getting annoying. He had to blink them constantly, wiping the excess moisture that didn't take the hint off their face. Yup, goggles were definitely a good idea. I think we better keep to the trees. Those bandits don't seem able to reach that high, although that would put us in danger of slipping and falling to our dea-

He cut off as he squinted their eyes, staring into the dark. He thought he saw…

Abruptly he and Sakura both groaned, but only one of them had the satisfaction of being able to drop their face into their palm in exasperation.

She didn't… Sakura groused. Not even she'd be that stupid and careless…

"Apparently, she did and she was," Kurt muttered, wiping their face again. He took a quick inventory of their gear, wincing at the thought of so many gone, even though it was a relatively small amount. Pack rat mentality.

Sighing, he listened as much as he could over the sound of the rain, extending their chakra senses as far as they would go, before finally climbing down and walking towards where they had seen the flash of yellow and purple…

Bloody, frickin' village unity…

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Yamanaka Ino growled as she vainly tried to pull her leg out from under the tree that had fallen on it. Why was she the one who was unlucky enough to set off all the traps this evening? What? Did fate have it in for her or something? Was it jealous of her good looks? What? Did it hate her or something? The only thing worse that could happen would be if the pervert-

"Need a hand?" a once familiar voice said somewhere to her left.

She directed a glare that way. Speak of the devil…

The pervert in Sakura's body was standing to one side, looking very unattractive, soaked to the skin as she was and with her hair pulled back like that. Ino conveniently overlooked the fact that it was a variation of her own hairstyle. "Stay where you are, pervert!" she said, pointing at her.

The pervert raised an eyebrow. "If I do that, I wouldn't be able to help you," she said, sounding annoyed, as Ino figured she'd be. Well, Ino wasn't going to let her get away with what she probably had in mind.

"Don't give me that," the blonde said. "You're here because you're going to take advantage of the fact that my foot's stuck to molest and do all sorts of unspeakable, perverted things to an innocent young girl like me."

The pervert shrugged. "Fine them. Well, so long. You obviously don't need me," she said, already turned around and waving good bye as she spoke.

Ino blinked. "Hey, wait!" she tried to yell as quietly as she could. "Where are you going?"

The pervert looked over her shoulder. "Leaving. Have fun being– how did you put it?– being 'molested and having all sorts of unspeakable, perverted things' done to you by the bandits!"

"You're going to leave me to that?" Ino cried– quietly– not realizing 'til then that maybe beautiful wasn't such a good thing in that situation.

The pervert shrugged. "Well, you're the one telling us to leave…"

"Get me out of here!" Ino said, trying to stay quiet, even though she thought she was a tad loud that time.

Apparently, the pervert thought she'd been loud to. Moving quickly but quietly, not bothering with any more snide comments, she rushed towards where Ino's foot was stuck. She grimaced. "How'd you get stuck like this, anyway?" she asked as she started trying to tug Ino's foot out from under the tree trunk.

"Ouch!" Ino yelled. Quietly, of course. "Don't you think I already tried that? And if you must know, a trap went off."

The pervert thankfully stopped pulling on her leg and stepped back, looking at the situation with a critical eye. "You're either very lucky, or… okay, there's no 'or', you're very lucky."

Ino's leg was caught in a hollow between the two tree trunks. A little bit less clearance either way, and she'd be looking at a crushed ankle. Very lucky.

Reaching into one of the pouches, the pervert handed her a dark brown ball. Ino recognized it as a bomb. Fortunately all such weapons were water proof. "Here," the pervert said, as she handed it to her. "If a bandit pops up, throw it at him or drop it and kill us, whichever you want. Just don't tell me which, okay?"

So saying, the pervert started trying to roll the log off of Ino's leg.

"Huh?" Ino said intelligently.

The pervert grunted as she tried to find the optimum position to trying pushing the log off. "I think we'll both prefer death to whatever the bandits do to us. I don't know about you, but we're not deluded enough to think we have a snowball's chance against the Kyuubi."

Taking a deep breath, the pervert started to push, her feet sleeping on the wet ground, sliding back as they did so. The position was made more awkward by the fact that the pervert couldn't get a good grip on the trunk of wood.

Ino blinked at that, before smirking. "Then you're a weakling, then. Even Hinata must be stronger than you."

"Hinata's a Hyuuga," the pervert said, not bothering to look at her. "Of course she's stronger than me."

Grimacing, the pervert jumped over Ino, landing on the other side of the log. Moving towards one end, the pervert gripped the few limbs jutting and started pulling, as if she could make the trunk roll that way.

Ino glared at her, not having anything to say to that.

After much pulling, grunting and slipping, the pervert finally conceded that way wasn't going to work either. Growling in frustration now– the pervert, not Ino– she walked off a little ways and picked a thick piece of fallen branch that was almost as tall as she was. Jamming it between the logs, the pervert braced her feet and pulled.

She nearly went flying as the branch snapped, and Ino fended the pieces away from her leg as the pervert fell into the mud.

"Ouch," the pervert muttered.

Ino glared down at her. "Any more bright ideas, pervert?"

She heard the pervert muttering something, although all she could make out was the words for clouds. "What was that?"

"I said stand back and stay still!" the pervert said, turning around and doing a succession of hand-seals. A flickering glow began to emanate from her hand as a sound slowly began to rise. It was like a crackling, one Ino tried to place, with no success.

The pervert was looking at her hand critically. "Well, it's bastardized, but it should work…" she muttered. "Cover your face and get back!"

Wondering how she was supposed to do the latter, Ino covered her perfect features– in her opinion, anyway– and moved it as far away from her leg as she could. A few seconds later, the high pitched sound rose to a peak, followed by a cry of "Raikiri!". Immediately afterwards, there was the sound of wood being pulverized. She could feel a strong static field close to her leg for a split second as the wood around it seemed to disappear. Quickly, she pulled her leg, feeling it come loose from where it had been trapped, more out of instinct than anything else.

Risking a look back, she saw that the log, now cracked and splintery in a lot of places, collapsing on the spot where her leg had been. The pervert in Sakura's body stood close by, the crackling, lightning-like glow around her hand fading. Breathing heavily, the pervert lowered the now-shaking hand to her side, and turned towards her. "You alright?" she said, sounding winded.

Ino tested her foot. It was in perfect working order. "Yeah, I'm fine," she said, then glared. "Hope you're not expecting a kiss. I'm reserving those for Sasuke-kun!"

The pervert seemed to shudder. "Like I'd want one," she said.

Ino glared further, and slammed her foot down with the intention of stomping her way towards the strawberry-blonde when her foot slipped, causing her ankle to twist in the mud just as she put her full weight– and then some– on it.

Her cry of pain echoed through the trees.

----------------------------------------

Kurt slapped their hand over Ino's mouth, already braced for the bite he knew would follow, head turning in all directions as he watched out for bandits. No way anyone wouldn't hear that!

He winced as her teeth bit down, but didn't cry out, for all the world it felt like their hand was being crushed in a vice. A sharp vice. Instead, he glared at her. "Stop being an idiot!" he hissed. "Someone heard that! We've got to get you out of here! Look, we'll take out our hand if you promise not to scream and bring all the bandits around on our heads, alright?"

She glared at them, but loosened her death-grip on their hand. Kurt decided to take that as a yes.

Remember to get vaccinated when we get back, Sakura advised. She's probably carrying rabies or something.

If she were, I don't think getting a shot will do any good at this point, he said, grimacing internally at the state of their hand. The little minx had drawn blood!

Ino, for her part, looked to still be in pain. When Kurt touched her ankle, there was a barely choked down cry. "I think you sprained it," he said, familiar with the injury. "It won't be a good idea for you to get on your feet for a while."

As he said this, the sounds of approaching people were heard. Frowning, Kurt and Sakura concentrated, feeling chakra coming their way. A chill went up their shared spine. The bandits had been nearer than they thought. "We have incoming."

Ino paled. "You're not going to leave me here, are you?" she somehow managed to combine hissing and shrieking.

"We're very tempted to," Kurt muttered audibly, waving their injured hand in front of Ino's face. The blonde went paler.

You know, we could do it… Sakura suggested evilly. No one else would know…

Don't tempt me any more than I already am, Kurt said.

Sighing, Kurt picked up the blonde, who immediately started protesting. "Hey, what do you think you're–!"

Suddenly, Ino found her personal space invaded as Kurt pushed their face towards hers. "Look, we're already going out of my way to help you. Sakura has been suggesting we leave you behind and make a clean getaway. I'm very tempted to do as she says. So shut up and don't give me any reason to, got it?" he hissed.

Not waiting for an answer, Kurt got a better grip on Ino, very thankful for Sakura's shinobi conditioning, and with a little difficulty, took to the trees.

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Ino tried to keep her mouth shut, tried to keep as still as possible as the pervert carried her through the trees. He threatened to stuff her hitae-ate in her mouth if she made so much as a peep, and while she really didn't think he was too serious, she didn't want to chance it. Instead, she focused on trying to listen for bandits as she'd been told. Her ankle throbbed with pain every time they moved, making things difficult.

After what seemed like hours, they finally dropped back down to ground level, and Ino found herself being unceremoniously placed on the ground, her sprained ankle prevented from falling by the pervert's grip on her calf. She was let go rather quickly and she winced as another throb of pain telegraphed itself up her leg. She barely bit back an exclamation.

The pervert collapsed against a nearby tree, limbs shaking. Drawing his knees up to his chest, he bowed his head, clutching said knees weakly. "Note to self," she heard him mutter. "Carrying a girl looks easier than it actually is… don't rub it in, Sakura-chan… she probably wasn't that heavy…"

She sent yet another glare his way, but he didn't notice, to busy shaking and talking to himself– or perhaps, she thought, poor Sakura, trapped inside her own body with a pervert at the reins.

Abruptly, the shaking stopped. Raising his head, the pervert took a deep breath and let it out, than shakily got up to his feet and made his way to her on jerky legs.

Ino fumbled at her thigh holster, trying to pull out a kunai, but that sudden motion aggravated her leg, and it was all she could do to grit her teeth as the pain shot out again. Dimly, she realized she still held the bomb in her other hand, and wondered if she could thrown it such that she wouldn't get hurt but the pervert would be knocked senseless…

The pervert was reaching into one of the pouches at his waist. Ino 's mind raced, wondering how she could knock out the pervert without bringing bandits down on her head and killing Sakura. She was still in there, after all…

A rolled bundle of bandages came out. "Take off your sandals," the pervert said tiredly but firmly, his tone and the line of his mouth brooking no argument. "We have to get your ankle supported or else it might get worse. No, correction, or else it's going to hurt like crazy."

Crouching down next to her, he reached for her ankle, but she jerked it back, although at the price of her feeling like it was on fire. She hissed. He sighed tiredly.

"Look you can be stupid all you want, but do it on your own time," he said, grabbing her leg– gently– and starting to undo the sandal's catches. "But right now, we're in the same mess together, and much as I'd like to just dump you here and save my own skin, my conscience won't let me, so you'd better get off whatever high horse you're sitting on and start helping me keep the two of us alive, you've got that?' he snarled, his tone at odds with the gentle way he was taking off her footwear. Taking the now wet bandage in hand– it was still raining– he gently began to bind her foot.

She briefly considered kicking him with her other foot, but the way she was holding her injured appendage– gently but firmly– disabused her of that notion. Maybe after he was done.

"Kick me, and I swear, I'm tying your feet together," he said, not looking up.

On second thought, maybe that wasn't such a hot idea.

He looked up, meeting her gaze. "You were thinking of kicking us, weren't you?" He chuckled darkly. "You're some piece of work, girl. You were going to kick and possibly kill– I know you still have that bomb I gave you– the only person who could help you get out of this alive just because he happens to be stuck inside a girl's body. MAN, you're some piece of work!"

His voice dropped down, muttering something in a language she didn't recognize, although from the tone, it probably wasn't complementary. Unconsciously, her grip tightened on the bomb.

Wrapping the last length of the bandage around her ankle, he secured the fabric and gently started to fit her sandal over it. "Set that off, and we both die."

Glaring at him one last time, Ino sulkily stuck the bomb into her hip pouch, wondering if he was going to ask for it back. For a long while, they just sat there in the mud, rain dripping all over them as the pervert fit her sandal over her foot, and her bearing it in stony silence. Only one person noticed something was really wrong with that picture.

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Sakura boggled. Tried to rub her eyes and remembered she didn't have voluntary muscle control any more. Boggled some more.

Finally, she said, This is the longest I've ever seen Ino quiet.

Really? Kurt said, not really interested, still braced for whatever attack Ino decided to make on their person as he just about finished putting the sandal back on. Hmm. Imagine that.

Are you paying attention to me? Sakura demanded, a bit put off at being ignored by someone in her own head.

Not really, Kurt answered honestly. I'm kind of waiting to get hurt here.

Well, you can stop, Sakura said. Ino likes to put speech before violence. If she's not talking, she's not going to do anything else.

You won't mind if I take measures just in case? Kurt said, making one final adjustment before letting go of the sandal and bracing them to be hit anywhere. He couldn't cover all points, but at least their face, chest and… down there… would be covered if necessary.

They waited. Nothing happened.

Tentatively, Kurt opened their other eye–he'd closed one in case she did get a face shot in– watching the Yamanaka girl. She was still sitting there in the mud, her arms crossed, glaring at him– them, really, but he knew it was meant for him– glaring while seated in the mud. Well, at least she wasn't kicking or making noise.

Cautiously, he stood up, futilely trying to wipe the mud off their clothes, a useless gesture at best, incriminating for the wrong reasons at worst. Ceasing that, he crossed their arms. "So, do you think you can stand, or do you have to be picked up again?" he said, hoping for the former. For someone so light, she sure got pretty heavy.

It turned out she could stand. But the way she was putting all her weight on them, they might as well have carried her anyway.

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"Okay, we need a break," Kurt said as the tell-tale shaking in their arms rose to such a level that they couldn't be ignored any more. Dropping back down to ground level after a cursory visual and chakra sweep, he put down Ino as gently as he could beneath a tree and collapsed onto the ground, waiting for the shaking and aching to subside.

"You just had a break," Ino hissed, arms crossed in front of her chest in annoyance.

"You try carrying someone for long and see how you like it!" Kurt snapped back quietly.

Ino sniffed. "You're so weak! I'm sure my Sasuke-kun could carry me longer without any problem!"

Kurt rolled his eyes, ignoring the responses Sakura wanted him to throw at Ino, most of it involving the incendiary and edged objects in the pouches. "Of course he could! Sasuke is a guy and thus has more muscle mass and upper body strength than a girl with as much or less training- and Sakura definitely has 'less'."

"Hah! I knew Sakura was a weakling!" Ino declared.

"She could still beat you senseless," Kurt said, standing up for his host and himself. It was technically his body too, after all, even if he was a 'he'. "You're too light to have any actual muscle on you. Man, what do you eat, grass and air?"

"At least I'm not a pig like you," Ino sniffed.

"Are you talking to me, or Sakura?" was the dry reply. Ino's only response was to shake, rubbing her shoulders for warmth and glaring at them.

Man, it's cold, Sakura said suddenly.

Well, it is raining and we are soaked to the skin, Kurt pointed out.

We need to stay warm, or else we might get hypothermia or something!

Pause.

This isn't one of those times when someone suggests we cuddle up to exchange body heat, is it? Because I'm fairly certain she'd stab me, Kurt said.

LIKE I'D WANT TO DO THAT WITH INO-PIG!

Okay, just checking…

Blink, and Kurt strained his ears, listening. What was that…?

A second later, something he'd been too distract to notice while talking to Ino and Sakura finally hit Kurt's chakra senses, and the boy-in-girl scrambled to his feet, hands darting for kunai as he moved to stand in front of Ino. A second after that, he wondered what the heck he was doing…

They were bandits, and they were armed, much to Kurt's trepidation. The three were wearing bandoliers, fishnets and bandanas, obviously more ill equipped to deal with the water and cold than the kunoichi were. They were, however, better armed. One carried a length of chain, another carried a sickle and the last carried an honest to goodness katana!

"HEY! It's the bitch that threw us into the water!" the one with the sickle said, gesturing towards Kurt and Sakura. Luck seemed to be enjoying hitting them on the head with bad.

"Oh, frick…" Kurt muttered, jaw clenched tightly, hands shaking in more than cold as he held the kunai tightly, eyeing the three in front of him as they moved to flank him and Ino. "A little help here?" he hissed towards the girl behind him. "Please…?"

Not waiting for a reply, or for there to be more opponent-to-opponent banter, Kurt threw one of his kunai at the bandits, before making some quick seals. "Kage Bunshin!"

At least fifteen shadow clones appeared around Kurt, surrounding them and providing cover. They charged the bandits, brandishing their kunai as Kurt reached into his pouch, pulling out bombs by the handful. "Fire in the hole," he said, merely because he'd always wanted to say it, before lobbing the bombs over handed at the bandits. It missed, not hitting them directly, but managing to stun the bandits and taking out the majority of the shadow clones.

Repeating the technique, he had them swarm the bandits, while he took potshots at them with shuriken, drawing blood.

The one with the katana, while not exactly a master swordsman, obviously had experience using his weapon. His wide slashes would take down at least on clone every sweep. The other two weren't doing so badly either.

Deciding to change tactics, Kurt made a fresh batch of clones and directed them to dog-pile the bandits, having them latch on to their arms and legs.

It was the chain wielder who fell first. Kurt and three of the clones kicked him on the head, knocking him out and probably giving him a concussion. He fell like a ton of bricks.

The tactic wasn't working on the others, however. Their edged weapons were more effective at taking down the shadow clones.

Making a quick succession of seals, Kurt gathered chakra to his hand, forming a crackling filed of lightning. Charging at the sickle wielder, he ducked under the attempted decapitation, loosing the last of his clones swarming the guy. Punching the bastardized Raikiri into the ground, he was rewarded with an explosion of dirt, the force knocking his target back and into the air. Quickly changing the punch into a handstand, he kicked upward, hitting the guy in the groin and the stomach and knocking him against a tree.

Flipping back to his feet, Kurt sent a rapid-fire barrage of punches, knocking the guy back. Narrowly getting missed by the sickle, Kurt threw a kunai into the guy's leg.

It was only a tickle in his chakra sense that warned him to dodge to the side, yet even that wasn't enough as a burning pain suddenly drew fire along Kurt's side, eliciting a cry of pain from Sakura and a barely stifled outburst from Kurt. Dodging away, he turned to face both bandits, trying to ignore the injury on his side. The sickle wielder was pulling the kunai out of his leg, grimacing while the other advanced, sword drawn and ready. There were no signs of shadow clones.

Get us out of here! Sakura yelled as she panicked, and Kurt began doing seals, drawing it out and waiting for them to attack.

The bandit charged, stabbing, and piercing their chest. There was a puff of smoke, and suddenly, his weapon was imbedded into a log. They appeared behind the sickle wielder and tried to kick him on the back of the head, but the bandit managed to doge, and they were barely able to avoid the farming implement, only to be back-handed unexpectedly and getting knocked into the nearest tree, stunning them.

Ow… he and Sakura chorused.

The bandit loomed over them as they struggled to move, but a kick to the midsection promptly made them loose their breath, their equilibrium and nearly what was left of the contents of their stomach. Raising the sickle to finish the job, the bandit was suddenly unable to do so as a katana blossomed in his chest. With a wet gurgle, he fell over, thankfully completely dead.

Ino, Sakura whispered, and Kurt looked over towards where they'd left the blonde girl, who was now slumped bonelessly against her tree, a glazed look in her eyes and her hand still in a position resembling some kind of window.

The last bandit looked down on them. "You okay?" he said, and the concern in the voice was obvious.

Coughing, Kurt nodded, getting slowly back to his feet and settling their guts as best as he could. Taking a few experimental punches, he said, "Turn that thing around and get out of it."

Ino twisted the bandit's face, but complied. When the bandit began to move in confusion, Kurt took that to mean Ino was out and landed a series of solid blow to the back of his head, knocking him out.

Panting and trying not to throw up–the sudden exertion had messed up their stomach again– Kurt dragged themselves towards were Ino lay. "Thanks," he said, collapsing down next to her and hunching over their stomach.

Ino looked at them sideways, lips pursed. "You're welcome."

The two fell silent, just sitting there in the rain…

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In the end, they had to move again. Recovering the sickle and katana, the former securely in Ino's grip and the latter in a sheath taken from the bandit and tucked into the belt pouch in Kurt's back, they headed for the general direction of the bridge.

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To be continued...

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A/N: If I got the details of drowning and mouth to mouth resuscitation wrong, my bad, but I don't have time for non-anime research.

They can pull off the Tajuu Kage Bunshin because of very good chakra control. Cheap evasion, I know, and a bit late, but better late than never.

This is an AU world, since everyone knows everyone, even though the chuunin exams haven't started yet, for reasons related to Sakura being an orphan. Just have to think of what those could be...

Oh yeah! Sakura's parents died, and since they were popular, a lot of people were at the funeral, even the Hyuugas. That's where Sakura met everyone, and everyone met everyone else. This was pre-massacre, so Sasuke was still in a meeting people mood.

Please review, C&C welcome. Tell your friends, put this in your favorites list, C2, please, I'm hungry for response on this fic!

Until next time, this is Shadow, signing off.