Foreword: Written in about... 20-30-ish minutes? Something like that. I recommend VNV Nation's "Left Behind" for the soundtrack.

Smile Like Me

Three days from now, he was supposed to carry out a secret mission. It involved a traitor or two, a Jinchuuriki and two real teammates; one with a big forehead and the other with the twisted eyes of a truly dedicated member of the ANBU.

His name--not his real name, but it may as well be for what little is left of his life--is Sai. No family name, which is fine with him. He can't actually remember having a family in the first place; only sketchbooks and training and Danzou and the Jinchuuriki and...

And everything else that's all irrelevent now.

Freedom is within his grasp. He honestly can't imagine what it's going to be like, but that doesn't matter either. Soon enough, he will know. That is all he needs right now.

Ironically, it wouldn't matter if he wanted to live right now or not. Their team's medic-nin is refusing to even look at him right now.

Together, the four of them are in an alleyway. It's raining right now, and Sai believes that to be fitting. Why, he doesn't know, and as with so many things, he doesn't care either.

There is poison in his side; a kunai wound from an unseen, unnamed assassin. Perhaps it was a woman. They're more fun to draw for some reason, so it would only be fitting. Regardless, his life is literally bleeding out from the hole in his skin. If the medic-nin--Forehead Girl... Or Sakura, as she prefers to be known--were to swallow her anger and treat it, he would easily survive without so much as a scar.

But she doesn't.

"It'd be a waste of chakra," she replies when Yamato finally snaps at her. The only reason their resident Jounin hasn't physically forced her is because they are still relatively near a public place. Even ANBU cannot torture in perfect silence in such a setting.

"She's right," he says with the usual, forced smile.

In front of him, the Jinchuuriki--Naruto, he calls himself--is sitting with an increasingly angry look. Sai faces him with the smile still in place, even though it hurts just to move.

"What's wrong, Dickless Wonder?" He asks. At once, Yamato and Sakura look towards them, but Naruto doesn't reply.

Sai doesn't get it, but the look is starting to trigger something. It's a tingle in his gut; a feeling that differs from the usual sense of bland resignation and disappointment. Even as he feels this thing--this emotion--he can't quite comprehend it. It makes him want to drop his smile, bare his teeth and draw his sword. It makes him want to draw his lions to life and watch as they rend the Jinchuuriki limb from bloody limb.

As if reading him, Naruto finally screams. What happens next is too quickly for Sakura or Yamato to react. Sai knows he should catalogue these responses--in case he has to kill them--but he doesn't.

All he can do is focus on the Jinchuuriki.

On the fist coming in for his face.

When it finally hits, Sai's head is snapped back into the wall with enough force that he can feel something crack. The feeling--this spite--compels him to try and smile against the force of the knuckles grinding across his cheek.

But Naruto beats him.

When the blow is completed, the blond grabs Sai by his collar, stands and hauls him up to his feet. It's all happening so quickly that Sai shouldn't be able to register a thing, but he does. He feels that tingle change. What might have been anger becomes familiar, hollow resignation.

"Ya know why you piss me off so much?" The Jinchuuriki finally snaps at him. Sai turns his head to make eye contact.

The result is a headbutt. Forehead protectors clang against each other with such force that Sai's head is again driven into the wall. The pain is searing, but he ignores it. Something in the Jinchuuriki's eyes is locking his own to them, and all he can do right now is say a single word. It's a question, and though it aims itself at the Jinchuuriki, it may as well be aimed at the entire world.

"Why?" He asks. For all his former vindictiveness, all he can manage is a cheerful tone of voice to match the expression still shielding his face.

"Because you smile like me."


Sai doesn't manage a reply. All he can do is stare at Naruto, and at the corner of his thoughts--trained so thoroughly to be aware of all the people around him--he can register Yamato and Sakura doing the same thing.

"And if you die... If you have the fucking nerve to throw away your life..."

Naruto's face is starting to become damp. Sai can't tell if it's the rain or something else.

"I'll kick your god damn ass!"

The Jinchuuriki lets go. Then he turns, furiously, towards Sakura and demands that she undo the poison's work.

His words and actions hit like a punch that can shatter an ANBU mask.

With that, Naruto spares him one more angry glance and then storms off. He says he's going to find the would-be assassin, and Yamato, in all his still-wobbling control of the team, consents to follow in a few minutes.

Sai stares after him. He continues long after the Jinchuuriki is gone.

He isn't sure why, but he can feel something tugging at the corners of his mouth. His eyes are tingling, and his hands are shaking but...

"That's probably just the poison," Sakura comments as she kneels down to start treating the wound.

"... Yeah," Sai says.

He doesn't agree though. He doesn't agree at all, and he has no idea why.

Everyone's gotta smile sometime...

Author's Notes: ... Y'no o.o I've honestly got no freaking clue where this one came from. It's probably the closest thing I've got to a drabble within the past two or three years. In spite of that, I think I like it.

I tried to make this little pocket AU fit into the possible continuity of the manga as it is right now. I guess I felt compelled to write it because Sai is such a controversial character; at least half the fandom hates his guts right now and the other chunk is rabidly devoted to defending him. Here, I hoped to portray him as he(hopefully) actually is. I'm not particularly fond of the character, but he was begging to be written, so I wrote him.

Hopefully, I did good at it.

And yeah, I know. No backstory, no reason given for Sakura's behavior, blah-blah-blah. Just ignore that please. This is a snapshot, more or less. Draw your own conclusions about everything else.

Oh, and apparently this is the first Saific on FFN. I feel special.

Oh, and for those who didn't get it: The ANBU Mask thing is a reference to Haku.

The Sh33p