Knights in Shining Armour

A/N:- Ever since Sasuke ran off to Orochimaru (stupid snake pervert) for power, I have been besieged by dozens of plot bunnies, all concerning teamwork, togetherness, fluffy friendship, and general Team-Seven-ness. I am way deep in denial, and don't even try to get me out.

I wrote this between 4 and 11AM, my usual sleeping hours. That's my excuse for its general platitude, and also for any inanities you might find.

Disclaimer:- I'd like to own Naruto. I'd also like to sprout pretty wings and fly. Another item for the book of Never Gonna Happen.

Sakura was dirty; sludge and grime from a wade through one of the Earth Country's bogs still clinging to her. She was tired, completely worn out from the numerous assassination attempts and robberies that they'd had to fend off while escorting the Feudal Lord. She was annoyed, because Naruto had insisted that they stop at this bar before beginning the long trip home. And she was frustrated, because in the slot of time that it had taken her to go to the restroom, her companions had disappeared.

As such, the hand that was currently pawing at her ass didn't do much to alleviate her strung-out and annoyed temperament.

Barely suppressing a snarl, she turned around to face her would-be molester. Foul, tepid breath puffed into her face, emanating from a greasy cavern of a mouth lined with crooked, stained teeth. The scruffy, bearded man leered at her, and Sakura frowned, and sighed. She really, wasn't in the mood.

"Hey, darlin'. You looking real pretty."

The medic decided to simply ignore him, and continue on her way. She wanted to find those two and get the hell out of here. When she tried to side-step the thick, solid man, however, he blocked her movement. Sea green eyes slit, pale pink brows furrowed. She tried again, and this time, a large paw grabbed her around the collar and pushed her against a wall. Sakura bared her teeth in chagrin, scowling. This had gone too far already.

To her credit, she was only vaguely alarmed when her punch was easily deflected, and her kick blocked by a thick knee. She allowed herself a brief moment to contemplate exactly how much strain the last battle had put on her muscles. It had been tough, and she'd expelled a large amount of chakra. She didn't expect herself to be this weak, however. Mildly irritated with herself, she resumed glaring at her assaulter, not allowing the tinge of fear she felt to creep onto her countenance.

The ruffian grinned, looming closer.

"Tell ya what, honey. Name's Tatsuya. Why don't ya come with me? I got a room upstairs, some money in my pockets, and I'm feelin' reeeeeeeaaal generous." A lascivious wink.

Sakura scanned her surroundings. The bar was large and badly-lit, and they were fairly secluded. No one had noticed her predicament so far. This was just peachy.

Briefly, she wondered where the hell Naruto and Sasuke were when she needed them. The thought was instantly dispelled, though. She wasn't the same girl from five years ago; a burden, nothing but something to be protected. She could take care of herself. She didn't need them, or anyone else, especially for something as paltry as this.

Returning her gaze to the assailant, she growled,

"Why don't you fuck off, asshole?" She hoped she sounded tough. She usually had the bite to back up her bark, but the fatigue, satisfaction and complacency of a mission completed had been on its way to settling in when he'd caught her. Not only that, but the taxing assignment had apparently taken its toll on her body. In this weakened state, she had to grudgingly admit that she was fair game.

Tatsuya cocked an eyebrow.

"Hey, hey missy, that's quite a mouth ya got on ya. Wouldn't be flingin' it around like that if I's you."

In response, the pink-haired girl jerked her knee upward.

A thick palm grabbed her thigh at the last moment, but she still managed to do some damage. Whether that was in her favour or not, well…… she was trying to decide. His grip on her shirt had loosened, but not quite enough for her to endeavour to slip away. And now, he wasn't looking very pleased. Dark, murky eyes narrowed.

"I wouldn't have done that if I's you."

Sakura gave a short, explosive gasp as a knee inched betwixt her thighs, and a hand travelled up the line of her body to grope a small breast. The limpid emerald of her eyes enlarged, and anxiety barraged her. This was definitely Not Good. She squirmed and struggled valiantly, but he had retained his firm grip on her shirt. Warm breath rife with sake assaulted her right ear as Tatsuya leaned in far too closely. She imagined she could feel the moisture on his breath as he whispered gruffly,

"If ya wont, we can start this right here, right now."

Sakura stared at him dead in the eye, gulping surreptitiously as her mind flipped through her options. She sneered at him, albeit not as intrepidly as before, and brought her hands up, performing a succession of seals in competent alacrity. Her assaulter looked on in hebetude, and a modicum of curiosity.

The kunoichi's flailing spirits sunk a little lower when all she produced was an ashen, pallid bunshin who looked incapable of standing, much less doing anything in remote resemblance of useful. Her chakra reserves were piteously low; that was now evident. She supposed that meant it would be impractical to attempt the Doton no Jutsu she had been planning on following up with while the clone distracted Tatsuya.

So. This had just escalated from Not Good to Even Worse.

Her assailant glanced at the replication, laughed coarsely, and proceeded to blow wetly on her ear.

Panic raced along her veins in a frenzy, but she still refused to call out for help. Think, think, think, she commanded herself. One of her hands slithered down her side to her kunai holster, as a sloppy wet kiss was pressed to her neck. Sakura grimaced, and tried at the same time to be unobtrusive in her actions. Just as she was about to undo the clasp, a grubby paw encircled her wrist and slammed it against the wall above her head. The other arm quickly followed.

Okay. So if Sasuke and Naruto happened to decide to show up right about now, she wouldn't exactly be displeased.

The ruffian spoke again.

"Ya gettin' me mad, pretty. If I's you, I'd just calm myself down, and accept this fo what it's gon' be."

Her eyes flickered over his shoulder, and she swallowed. Anytime now……

A dark, sinister laugh, laced with lust and virulence rumbled from his chest.

"Who's am I kidding? If I's you, I'd jus' be reeeeaall scared."

Her sharp shinobi eyes picked out a vague blue blur in the darkness of the room behind them. Relief flooded her. She eyed the ruffian, and smirked.

"I could say the same to you."

In the next second, the would-be rapist was slammed up against the wall, a pale, muscular hand closing in around his thick neck. Sable depths bubbled to a malevolent red behind a fringe of navy locks. The ruffian choked on an exclamation of shock, and his feet flailed a foot above the ground.

"Sorry," the Uchiha addressed Sakura quietly, not diverting his livid gaze from her assaulter, who was sputtering and stammering. Piqued, he tightened his grip, the black blades within his irises spinning. "The idiot picked a fight with a customer, and they took it outside. I just came back inside to get you." His eyes leapt to hers for a short second. "If you couldn't handle it, why didn't you call for help?"

Sakura was too heady with relief to take much offense in his last comment. She wasn't up to answering it either. She didn't want him to know she had endangered her life just to try and save face. She didn't want to admit just yet, that in this situation, she'd needed help.

Sasuke regarded Tatsuya thoughtfully, cocking his head to one side, seemingly trying to figure out what to do with him. He glanced at his team-mate inquisitively, silently asking if she was up to it. After some contemplation, she nodded. She was sure she could summon up enough strength for that.

Tatsuya, meanwhile, seemed to gather some resolve, and stopped blubbering. Managing a haughty, mocking sneer, despite the death grip that threatened to cut off his air supply, he said derisively,

"So wass this? The knight in shinin' armour here ta rescue the damsel in distress?"

A rush of wind, a snarl, and Naruto was there in a blinding flash of orange and blond, a vulpine growl echoing on his lips as he slapped thick arms to the wall. The long, curving knife that Tatsuya had been concealing clattered to the floor. Sakura grinned at her team-mate; Sasuke gave him a surly blink.

"You're always late, Naruto," he muttered.

However, the Kyuubi vessel's cerulean pupils, beginning to bleed crimson, were all for the man whose arms he had ensnared. Claws dug into flesh, drawing rivulets of blood and yelps of pain.

"That'd be knights," he said, almost blithely. His intonation was deceptively innocuous. "And no, we're just here to hold you down for her." He nodded at the pink-haired medic.

Before Tatsuya had a chance to ponder upon what was going on, a tight fist connected with his face. At full strength, Sakura could have done much more debilitating damage, but the snap that indicated his broken nose was satisfaction enough for her. The ruffian's thick body crumpled to the floor in a folded heap as Sasuke and Naruto relinquished their holds on him.

Sakura grinned a tad sheepishly as two pairs of vermillion eyes trained themselves on her; one in mild vituperation, the other in concern. Soon enough, though, they reverted to their natural onyx and azure. Her beam faded into a wan smile, and she opened her mouth to express her gratitude. They both stopped her, indicating that it wasn't necessary. Nodding, she threaded an arm through each of theirs, and led them away.

"Sorry about that, Sakura-chan," Naruto began. "I had a little….er…. business outside. Some guy insulted Konoha-nin, and I couldn't let him get away with that."

"Of course not," Sasuke spoke dryly. "You had to go and be as much of an asshole as he was being."

Naruto couldn't reach his team-mate to punch him, and nor did he want to disrupt the good mood Sakura-chan seemed to now be in by picking a fight with the dark bastard (no matter how much he was asking for it). So he settled for sticking his tongue out behind Sakura's back.

The Uchiha survivor rolled his eyes.

"You're seventeen, Naruto. Anytime now would be a good time to start acting like it."

"Come, come, Sasuke-kun," the petite medic between them chided. "Don't spoil the mood." She was feeling good right now; a lot foolish, but in any case, better than she had been before. She grinned at both of her boys, and drew them closer. Naruto snuggled happily into her side, and despite himself, Sasuke could only muster a tiny scowl.

Outside, the crisp night air splashed over their faces. The trio got a few dark looks from a couple of guys standing near the street light (the ones that Naruto had had his 'disagreement' with, Sakura surmised, judging from the copious amount of blood and bruises that decorated their bodies), but otherwise, they were left alone.

When they were some distance away, Sasuke looked down at the kunoichi, obsidian eyes penetrating and discerning. He repeated his earlier question.

"Why didn't you call for us sooner? I didn't know the mission had tired you that much."

She looked down, scuffing the dirt with her sandals as they walked, her face flushed in silent embarrassment.

"I don't know…… I just didn't want to…… I wanted to prove……"

"Sakura." He cut her off wearily, exasperation prevalent in his voice. "You are not a burden. We know this. You have proven yourself time and again. It is not through obligation that we protect and look out for you. You are……"

He faltered, coughed uncomfortably, and glanced fleetingly at Naruto. The blond picked up without missing a beat.

"You're our friend," he declared. "And no one messes with you."

Sakura tilted her head, finding her smile again. They were right. She had come a long way. And even though these days, she didn't usually play the part of the damsel in distress, when it mattered, when it was called for, they would always be her knights in shining armour.

A/N: - Disregard Tatsuya's ludicrous accent.

And gosh, if you've made it this far, you might as well tell me how much this sucks/doesn't suck.