Title: For I Can Touch The Sky

Author: ZukoKrazy (me!)

Rating: T

Summary: Taken by the Akatsuki in order to lure Naruto to them, Sakura is forced to cope with some of the most dangerous men in the world. She must learn to fend for her safety and she must learn to close the door to her heart…and throw away the key. Akatsuki x Sakura. You decide whom she ends up with.

Special Thanks To:

A/N: A YEAR!!!!!! My reviewers and friends, I am SOOO sorry!!!!!!! Work and school and relationships all found a way to consume so much time in my life this year, and I didn't have the time to update!! Not to mention the serious writer's block I had for about half a year. Writing more songs for the guitar didn't help at all either. I am so sorry reviewers, could you please find it in your hearts to forgive me? I have a way to make it up to you though. All you have to do is scroll downwards…

----

Itachi walked silently into the room Sakura was sleeping in, expressionless once more. He walked over and towering over the blanketed girl, formed seven hand signs, careful not to wake any other members.

"Time transportation technique," he whispered and shuddered as the world spun around him.

It was the day before. Itachi hadn't done anything to Sakura yet.

A knock on his door forced Itachi to open his eyes: he was in his room.

"Come in," he said, almost shakily. Would this work?

Sakura, the pink-haired kunoichi, walked into the room, frowning. "Itachi-san…" she began uneasily, eyeing the only bed.

"I will be sleeping on the bed," he replied, tossing her a sleeping bag, ignoring the icy glare given to him by the kunoichi.

A few hours later, Itachi sat in his bed and Sakura was on the floor, fast asleep. He thought about what he had done to her in the other time.

But why?

Itachi thought back to that afternoon…

Flashback

"Itachi-san, we should probably get going," Kisame muttered almost nervously.

Said Uchiha looked up from the papers given to him on the subject he was to kill. They were still in the small coffee shop bordering Kumogakure. He noticed Kisame's eyes darting back and forth from a group of hunters crowded in the corner, scowling at the two Akatsuki.

"Kisame, go take care of them. They are a distraction," Itachi ordered quietly, returning to his papers.

Kisame frowned at the younger member's order, slightly annoyed that he was ordering him around, but gripped Samehada anyways and stood.

"Hey you!" one of the hunters shouted at the blue man. "Akatsuki scum! You killed my wife!" The hunter stood and drew a large bow and a quiver of arrows.

Kisame glared at the group. The other six huntsmen stood as well, drawing their swords, bows, and spears, among other weapons.

The other people in the coffee shop either looked scared of the fight or like they would just as soon jump into it.

One of the huntsmen threw a kunai at the offending Akatsuki and a large explosion took place in the coffee shop.

Itachi sighed and gathered up his papers and stood as well. Obviously he wasn't going to get any peace and quiet in this shop.

Kisame jumped over the various objects thrown at him and sliced Samehada across one man's throat, taking both his chakra and his life.

Itachi flew forward, kunai in hand, slicing three men's stomachs.

Two men still stood. Kisame and Itachi stood next to each other and advanced towards the two huntsmen. The two huntsmen looked at each other and nodded. One took out a small exploding kunai and threw it down, causing the shop to drift into a smoky darkness.

Itachi glared through the smoke with his Sharingan, but the men were nowhere to be seen.

There was a slight whistle in the air and Itachi caught a kunai destined for his heart. He flipped it in his hand and looked around once more.

There was a slight sting in Itachi's arm and Itachi looked down and saw one of the huntsmen crouching beside him.

Itachi merely looked at the man and slit his throat. He thought nothing of that slight sting.

Kisame and Itachi looked around. No one had survived the battle except the two Akatsuki. The other customers lay dead, as a result of the explosions and stray kunai.

Itachi drew three coins from inside his cloak and threw them down on a small, cracked table, a grim joke in the face of death.

The two Akatsuki formed a hand sign and disappeared in a cloud of smoke.

End Flashback.

Of course. That small sting. It was the sting of a needle in his arm. Itachi quickly formed some hand signs and passed his glowing hands over his body. Finally, he located the poison and drew it out.

Judging by the look of it, the poison was one that would first enhance sexual desire, and then slowly drive him mad, and finally driving him to kill himself.

Itachi drew in a shaky breath and looked at the sleeping kunoichi. He shook his head and lay down in his bed, congratulating himself on being able to figure out what he had down and why. Itachi was asleep before his head even hit the pillow.

----

Sakura blinked at the bright light invading her eyes.

"Wake up, kunoichi," came the rough voice of Kisame.

Sakura sat up and rubbed her eyes. "What happened to Itachi?" she asked, noting the empty bed.

"He gets up early." Was the only response Sakura go to the question. Kisame threw a sack of fresh clothes at her and left the room without another word.

Sakura opened the bag and found a pair of regular black ninja pants, a black shirt, and a black trench coat. She dressed quickly and quietly, for today would be the day that she received her test to get into the Akatsuki.

----

Sakura opened the door and walked into the hallway and was surprised at the person standing right outside her door.

"Deidara!" she squealed, throwing her arms around the older member.

Deidara showed off his famous grin and said, "Good morning Sakura-chan."

Remembering the ANBU attack, she quickly let go of Deidara and asked the time in a panicked voice.

Deidara raised an eyebrow and said, "Seven o' clock, un."

Sakura frowned and said, "What are we going to do about the ANBU?"

Deidara merely chuckled at the worried expression on Sakura's face. "We'll do what we've always done. Fool them, and if they don't believe us, kill them, un."

Sakura closed her eyes and nodded, trying to compose an excuse to the ANBU if they indeed questioned her.

Deidara, as if reading her thoughts, looked at her and said, "Of course, you won't be in the house, since the ANBU member might connect you and the girl he met last night, un. You and I will be taking the horses out and leaving the area until otherwise commanded by Leader-sama, un."

Sakura nodded to show she understood. She then proceeded to walk towards the exit- only to turn around and find herself in a different corridor, farther away from the exit then before. Sakura sighed and grumbled, "I'll never understand why they must make every place they live in so damn confusing!"

----

Four dark hooves pounded on the dirt road at a brisk pace. With Sakura on his back, Daybreak trotted merrily, straining at the bit to go slightly faster. Sakura looked around her happily, taking in the beautiful meadows on either side of the worn dirt path.

Four lighter hooves clomped along sluggishly after the four darker hooves. With Deidara on his back, Twilight trotted halfheartedly, with an annoyed expression in his dark, liquid eyes. Deidara kept his own eyes on the ground, with a grumpy look on his face. Riding was not his sport. With every time the horse put his hoof down, Deidara would bounce and land on his already-sore backside. Twilight had started off merrily enough, but soon he slowed down into the state he was currently, due to Deidara's obvious lack in riding experience.

"Sakura-chan," Deidara called out in a forced-calm voice.

"Yes, Deidara-kun," said kunoichi looked around at her disgruntled partner.

"Can we walk, un?" Deidara whined.

Sakura laughed and nodded, easing Daybreak into a walk.

Twilight stopped and turned his head to Deidara, as if to say Thank you!!

Sakura slowed her horse so that Daybreak and Twilight were neck and neck, allowing Deidara and Sakura to speak easier.

"Sakura-chan," Deidara began.

Sakura looked at him, confused. He seemed to have an almost hesitant look to his face.

"Yeah?" she asked.

"I know how much you want to join Akatsuki, but your test to get into the Akatsuki will undoubtedly be extremely hard, and you should be warned, that if you think the test will be too hard, don't do it, un. I won't be able to stand losing you," Deidara whispered the last part.

Sakura looked away, not wanting the older Akatsuki member to see the single tear that was making it's way down her pale cheek. The truth was, Sakura thought, that Deidara reminded her painfully of another blond she knew. Another blond who betrayed her. The jade eyes, which were formerly swimming with unshed tears, hardened at the thought of her once-friend.

"Thank you for your concern, Deidara, but I am going to take the test, I am going to pass, and I will become a part of the Akatsuki," Sakura stated coldly.

Deidara sighed, it was too late to change her mind. You see, once Sakura makes up her mind, there is no changing it, no matter how cute your puppy face is.

Sakura tightened the reins on Daybreak and spurred him into a canter, leaving the disgruntled blond behind in the dust.

Deidara sighed and shook his head. What Sakura didn't know was that no one had passed the test since himself. And no one had lived long enough to tell others about their failure.

Deidara shook the reins in hope of getting Twilight to canter like Daybreak had, but Twilight only snorted loudly and trotted sluggishly again. Deidara grumbled and shook the reins again. Twilight decided he had enough and kicked his back legs out, causing a flailing Deidara to land in a heap on the ground. Deidara's eyebrows creased together in annoyance.

----

Deidara and Sakura slowed to a walk when they reached a small, but busy town. By then, Sakura and Deidara had both used Henge to turn into Saiki and Satsuki once more.

Sakura looked around at the villagers, a slight frown on her face. Deidara glanced over quickly then, surprised, did a double take.

"Satsuki?" Deidara asked quietly. "What's wrong?"

Sakura blinked, as though coming out of a trance, and looked over at Deidara. "What?" she asked in confusion.

"You were frowning, un," Deidara stated simply.

"Oh," she said in response. She leaned closer to Deidara and muttered, "Look at the villagers. They won't meet our eyes and they look like they're all scared of something."

Deidara looked around him. What Sakura had said was true. The villagers gave the two riders a wider berth than necessary and they all had the same exhausted, tense look on their face.

Deidara looked up from studying the villagers when Sakura spoke. "Look, Saiki, a grain shop."

Deidara looked to where she was pointing and noticed the small shop with a horses' head on their sign. "Wait outside with the horses," Sakura told Deidara, dismounting off of Daybreak and walking towards the door. "Stay right there Saiki-kun," Sakura smiled as she walked through the wooden door.

Sakura walked into the small shop, observing. She walked over to a large bag advertising horse pellets. She looked at the other choices, but decided on the pellets for Twilight and Daybreak.

She picked up the heavy, 50-pound bag easily, walking steadily towards the counter.

"Well, isn't that such a big bag for such a little girl," a smooth voice said from the shadows in the near corner.

Sakura looked around with a startled look on her face. Out of the shadows walked a man in his early twenties. His hair was long and black, hanging in his face. He had a black shirt and dark jeans on. He was taller than Sakura, around the same height as Deidara. His eyes were a dark green, almost brown, but his hair mostly obscured them. He had the look of one who could be a rock star, slightly bedraggled but handsome all the same.

Sakura lower the bag slightly, suddenly very conscious of the state her hair and clothes were in. She her head slightly to the side and said, "I'm stronger then I look, trust me."

The stranger walked up to her anyways and picked up the bag for her. Sakura was slightly startled by the man's kindness, but flattered all the same. She followed him up to the counter and looked around for an attendant. The man put the bag on the counter and turned to face Sakura.

"What's your name?" he asked her.

"Satsuki," she replied.

"My name is Satoshi," he said, extending a hand, grinning broadly.

Sakura shook it hesitantly. Something dropped to the floor. She looked to the floor and saw her silver bracelet, given to her by her father. She bent down to pick it up.

Suddenly, she felt a foot in her side, pushing her down. Then, in a flash, Satoshi was on top of her, brandishing a knife and rope.

Sakura let out a yelp of surprise, but quickly bottled the scream that was coming when Satoshi said, "Don't yell. You don't want her little brother over there to go hurt, do you?" To emphasize his point he pressed the knife against her ivory skin.

Looking up, Satoshi nodded to an unseen person, who slit the throat of the store attendant, whose body fell heavily to the floor. Two other men walked towards the two on the floor. Sakura couldn't get a good look at them, since her face was smashed against the floor. The three men quickly tied up Sakura and stuffed a gag into her mouth, tying it around her head.

The men then picked up a flailing Sakura and walked out the back door.

Deidara perked up when he heard Sakura yelp. He was almost at the door when he heard the body of the store attendant hit the ground. He pulled open the door just in time to see the back door close. He looked around for Sakura and cursed when he realized she wasn't in the store.

He ran to the back door and flung it open, racing into the street once more. Deidara stopped suddenly. When he had left to go inside, the street was busy and crowded. It was now completely deserted. He listened intently and heard the sounds of a struggle from a dark alley a little ways down.

Deidara raced to the alley, his Henge deactivating on the way. He skidded to a halt at the entrance of the alley and charged down it, drawing a kunai on the way down.

Satoshi turned and pulled his knife away from Sakura's throat just in time to block Deidara's incoming kunai. Deidara formed his right hand into a fist and punched Satoshi's stomach unmercifully, stepping aside as he fell to the ground. Deidara snatched up Satoshi's knife and charged towards the other men, slitting their throats easily.

Deidara grabbed Sakura by her stomach before she fell to the ground, for she was unconscious after one of the men had hit her on her head. He leaned her up against the alley wall before turning to Satoshi, who was shakily getting up.

Satoshi faced Deidara and said without an ounce of surprise in his voice, "Akatsuki. I should have been more careful. Someone was bound to catch and kill me sooner or later." Satoshi shrugged. "At least it was you and not the ANBU."

Deidara simply snarled and launched forward, cutting a deep gash across Satoshi's stomach. As Satoshi crumbled to the ground, Deidara threw his knife into Satoshi's chest.

"Yeah, you should have been more careful, un," Deidara growled, walking away from the body.

He picked up Sakura and whistled. The two horses were soon cantering up the alley to where Deidara stood. He woke Sakura up, untied her, placed her on Daybreak, mounted up on Twilight, and together they cantered out of the deserted town.

----

As Deidara and Sakura trotted up the long, worn path that led to the current hideout of the Akatsuki, they saw many bodies of various ANBU littering the path, and they knew the worst had happened.

They started to trot faster when they saw Kisame standing in the doorway, beckoning them to quicken their pace.

"They didn't believe us," Kisame said as soon as they arrived. "Get your things, quickly, we're moving out." He turned to Sakura. "Leader-sama wants you."

Sakura looked at Deidara and Kisame said, "Alone." Sakura's eyebrows knitted together as she dismounted; shooting Deidara one more puzzled glance, Sakura started inside to go see the leader.

Sakura sighed as she entered the cool, dark hallways. She navigated her way into the base and soon found herself at the door of the leader. She knocked once, and entered when commanded to.

"Sakura, it was once every member's turn to take a test to get into the Akatsuki. It is now your turn. You will face extremely perilous conditions, and you might die. No one has passed this test since Deidara, and your challenger will undoubtedly be prepared for you," the leader stated from the shadows.

Sakura sensed that the leader was going to assign her a completely impossible mission, and she was not disappointed.

"Years ago, Orochimaru left the Akatsuki. He took with him the ring that marks him a member of the Akatsuki. If you can acquire that ring, you will become a member of the Akatsuki."

Sakura nodded to show she understood. The leader turned away and Sakura took that as a sign she was dismissed. She walked to the door and was pulling open the door when the leader spoke again.

"Sakura, you're journey may take you time, which we don't have. The Akatsuki will be moving to a different hideout, and if you cannot find us, you are on your own. This will test your tracking abilities as well as your ability to evade ANBU and various minions Orochimaru will send after you. Good luck, Sakura."

Sakura walked out into the hallway and slid the door silently into place behind her. She started walking towards her room, only to soften her steps when she heard Zetsu and Kisame talking to each other in the kitchen.

"…-We going to make our base next?" Kisame asked, his voice muffled by the food he was currently stuffing in his face.

Zetsu visibly winced at the specks of food flying everywhere and said, "Most likely somewhere with water. It's your turn to have your element, isn't it?"

Kisame gave a strangled cheer and continued shoveling in food.

Zetsu stood up with a look of disgust, grabbed his tea, and stalked out of the room.

Sakura continued on her way to her room, thinking about what she had just heard.

She walked into the room and looked up to see Deidara sitting on the bed. He looked up when he say her enter and smiled grimly.

"I've just been given my mission," she said softly. Deidara closed his eyes and nodded, for he expected that. He rose, walking towards Sakura. For an instant, he enveloped he in a hug. He let go and picked up a bag with her personal belongings.

"The rest are in Daybreak's saddlebags," he said, placing the bag in Sakura's hands. "You'd better go quickly, un."

Sakura smiled and hugged him quickly again, before bolting out of the room.

"Good luck, Sakura-chan, un," Deidara whispered sadly before turning back into the room.

Sakura found Daybreak in his stall, tacked up and ready to go.

She led him out of his stall, mounted up, and moved him into a lively trot. She glanced back once at the base before she was in the forest and the tress swallowed her up.

----

Hiro looked up from his plow to wipe his brow, shielding his eyes against the harsh sunlight. The horse pulled the plow nickered softly, and Hiro patted her side gently.

The horse nickered again, more urgent, and she pulled at the harness.

Hiro frowned and looked to the sky, expecting a storm, which frightened the usually calm horse. Nothing. The sky was clear.

The horse tossed her head and reared slightly, obviously wanting out of the harness. Hiro grabbed the halter on her head and pulled her down, whispering soothing words, although he was greatly puzzled by the strange behavior of his best working horse.

Suddenly, an enormous explosion rocked the forest and fields around it.

The horse went wild and reared completely, knocking Hiro to the ground with her flailing hooves.

She surged forward, and the plow's blades whipped over Hiro's body and face, partially severing his head from his body, and lacerating the rest of his body. Needless to say, Hiro was beyond repair and died quickly.

Miles away, Deidara grinned, hearing his explosion echo so nicely. He was blissfully unaware, however, of the damage that his explosion had just caused.

However, if he had known, it would have just given him more the reason to grin even more broadly.

----

Sakura bent low over Daybreak, who was racing through the woods. She formed a couple of hand signs and performed a jutsu that silenced Daybreak's hooves.

Sakura reined in Daybreak. She had arrived. After three days of hard travel, she had arrived at Orochimaru's current lair. It was a building that was hidden in the forest, protected by a tall fence with barbed wire covering the top of the fence. The place looked like it had been deserted for years, but Sakura looked closely and found security cameras moving ever so slightly, indicating they were still working.

Sakura dismounted silently, and performed Henge. She was the same age, but her pink hair was now black and in now in a long ponytail. Her emerald eyes were also now black. Half of her face was covered in a black cloth, similar to the one Kakashi uses. She had a black, long-sleeved shirt on and long black pants. Two katanas were strapped to her back and multiple kunai and shuriken were in a small pouch at her waist.

She tied Daybreak to a tree nearby, but out of sight of the cameras. She looked up through the trees, noticing the sun starting to set. Sakura had decided that she would sneak in at night, hence all the black.

She decided it would be about an hour before it was completely dark out. So she set to the task of untacking, feeding, and grooming Daybreak.

The next time Sakura looked up from her task, it was dark out. She grinned and pulled up her mask.

----

A slight thud on the roof alerted the guard. He picked up his broadsword and walked into the light from the lantern that he had hung on a pole. He narrowed his eyes and looked around for an intruder.

Lights suddenly burst before his eyes as someone cracked him on the head with the pole holding the lantern. He fell forward, not dead but unconscious.

Sakura put the pole back in its place. Hearing footsteps racing towards the roof, she quickly blew out the light and slipped back into the shadows. Two other guards raced over to the first guard and checked his pulse, unaware that Sakura had slipped through the open door leading down from the roof, closed and locked the door behind her.

She came to a dark and deserted hallway. She quickly used her chakra to climb onto the ceiling and commenced to crawl towards another source of light. She looked through the open door, only to shrink back in terror.

Inside the room, Kabuto was mixing two chemicals together intently. He looked up suddenly as he heard Sakura accidentally bump her head on the ceiling.

Kabuto put down the two beakers and strode to the doorway, looking out into the hallway, first left then right. He narrowed his eyes and closed the door behind him as he retreated back into the room.

Sakura sighed inwardly and continued on. Soon came a fork in the hallway. Sakura took the right hallway, for another source of light was present down the hallway.

Sakura poked her head into another room and quickly backed out, blushing up a storm. Inside the room was a bathroom, which held a shower with clear glass shower doors, allowing Sakura to accidentally see things she didn't want to see.

She hurried away from that room and came upon a closed door. She peered through the crack at the top of the door and was delighted and terrified to find Orochimaru in the room, sitting at his desk.

She narrowed her eyes and looked at the room closely. Then, suddenly, she spotted it. She wrinkled her nose in disgust. It was there, a severed hand. She looked closer and noticed the Akatsuki ring glinting in the candlelight.

Sakura closed her eyes and dropped to the ground silently. She pushed open the door and slipped inside before Orochimaru had even looked up. She threw a kunai from one corner, causing the door to shut.

"Ah, Sakura-chan, I was wondering when you would show up," Orochimaru chuckled softly.

Sakura froze. Orochimaru turned to face her, despite the fact she was covered in black and hiding in the shadows. Sakura frowned and drew one of her two katanas.

"I've come for the ring, Orochimaru," Sakura spat out his name with a ring of disgust to it.

"Oh?" Orochimaru raised an eyebrow. "And what purpose would you have to possibly steal it? Surely, the Akatsuki didn't employ you?" Orochimaru laughed cruelly at the thought.

When Sakura didn't respond, he raised his other eyebrow. "Why would the Akatsuki want you? You are just a small girl with no strength. That's right Sakura, Sasuke-kun has told me all about you," he added when he saw her shocked face.

"Why would Sasuke-kun be here with you?" Sakura spat out in hate.

"You haven't heard?" Orochimaru laughed horribly again, actually closing his eyes and leaning back in his chair. "Sasuke-kun left Konoha to come and train with me. He left his old home, his old teachers, his old lovers, all to come live with me."

Sakura bristled, furious at this man for spewing such lies. "You are a lying bastard, Orochimaru," she growled.

"You think I'm lying?" Orochimaru questioned. "Sasuke-kun! Come here for a minute!"

The door opened and Sakura whipped around to face the person opening it.

Sasuke.

"What is it, Orochimaru?" Sasuke asked, annoyed.

"I'd like you to meet an old friend," he said, turning to the corner.

Sasuke looked to the corner and activated his Sharingan. What he saw merely made him raise one eyebrow, then narrow his eyes. "Aren't you dead yet?"

Sakura's eyes widened and she grabbed the shelf behind her to steady her, for the room was tilting violently.

Orochimaru chuckled once more and threw a dart at her, causing Sakura to fall to the ground completely, knocked out. A cloud of smoke enveloped her as the Henge deactivated.

"Kabuto," Orochimaru called out. Said medic appeared in half a second. "Take the girl and put her in the dungeons."

Kabuto nodded and picked up Sakura by her waist, hauling her out of the room.

"What do you think, Sasuke-kun?" Orochimaru asked, turning to the young man.

Sasuke shrugged. "She was annoying then, and I bet she is just as annoying now. The only thing that has changed is her outfit." He then proceeded to walk out of the room, ignoring Orochimaru's chuckle.

"What you don't know, Sasuke-kun, is that our little cherry blossom is aiming for the Akatsuki," Orochimaru chuckled to himself. "And she might just make it."

----

Sakura woke up to the sound of heavy breathing.

Sitting up, she noticed that she was in a cell. She looked around. One toilet, and one bed, which she was currently laying in, was what consisted of the cell. She looked to the left and saw an empty cell. She looked to the right and discovered the source of the heavy breathing.

To her right was another cell, an exact copy of hers. In the bed, however, lay a boy.

The boy was Sakura's age. His golden blond hair was long and hanging in his face. His clothes were that of a ninja and were ripped and filthy. He yawned and rose from the bed, rubbing his eyes, which were a light blue. He looked over at Sakura and grinned walking to the wall of bars that separated their cells.

"Hey, another prisoner! My name is Asitaki. What's yours?" the boy asked lightly.

Sakura rose from her bed and walked over the wall as well, sticking out her hand. "My name is Sakura."

"So, Sakura-chan, what are you in for?" Asitaki asked, sitting down on the floor, indicating for Sakura to do so as well, which she did.

"Breaking and entering," she mumbled, looking away. She glanced up Asitaki when he laughed.

"That's all? I killed everyone I came in contact with and tried to murder Orochimaru!" he laughed again.

Sakura smiled shakily and rose, tapping the bars with her finger, testing their durability.

"It's no use," Asitaki said glumly. "They're too strong."

"Is there a guard around?" Sakura asked, not facing Asitaki.

"No," Asitaki answered, sounding surprised.

Sakura concentrated, gathered her chakra to her hands, and lifted the cell door off the ground and its hinges, and threw it onto the ground.

Asitaki cried out with shock.

Sakura smiled wanly and walked out, pausing to strap her katanas onto her back, and her kunai and shuriken onto her waist.

"Sakura, you have to let me out," Asitaki pleaded. "I'm on death's doorstep!"

Sakura looked torn for an instant, and then faced Asitaki. "Sorry Asitaki, but you would only get in my way."

Sakura bolted away before Asitaki could make another sound.

Sakura whipped out her two katanas and brandished them before her, then she stopped and kicked down a door. Not Orochimaru. She moved on to another door and kicked it down. Not Orochimaru,

Finally, just as Sakura was starting to get frustrated, she kicked down another door and recognized it as Orochimaru's study.

She walked in, looked around, and charged up to the severed hand. She looked down at the ring and reached to take it.

Suddenly, the severed hand clasped hers to the table. Sakura gasped and drew a kunai with her left hand. Twirling it in her hand, she stabbed the hand, and grinned as it loosened its grip, limp once more. Sakura slipped the ring into a hidden pocket in her pants and turned to leave.

She stopped as she saw Kabuto blocking her exit.

"Not so fast, Sakura-san," Kabuto said quietly.

"Out of my way, Kabuto," Sakura growled.

Kabuto only assumed a fighting stance. Sakura sighed and drew several kunai.

"Don't make me use what Kisame taught me," she said, holding her two katanas in one hand and her several kunai in the other.

Kabuto said nothing, only looked at her.

Sakura growled and sprinted forward. She threw the kunai and was unsurprised when Kabuto deflected them.

She took one katana in one hand and the other katana in the other hand and thrust them forward.

Kabuto blocked one, but failed to block the other seeing as he had thought it was a single sword. His eyes widened as the sword traveled into his gut, his mouth opening in pain and shock.

Sakura pulled the sword out and kicked Kabuto to the ground before sprinting out of the study, into the dark halls.

She took a turn and was thrown backwards as an arm caught her around the waist.

"Where are you going in such a hurry, Sakura?" Sasuke asked, whispering the question into her ear.

Sakura whipped around and kicked Sasuke in the groin with all her strength, her kick chakra-enhanced. She stood over him as he doubled in pain, falling onto the floor.

"Home," she answered before walking away.

----

Sakura burst out of the door to the roof and ignored the cries of the guards as she raced past them. Sakura whistled shortly before throwing herself off of the building. Daybreak's hooves clattered on the pavement as he raced under Sakura's falling body, allowing Sakura to land on his back.

Seconds later, they were off into the night, a slight smile on Sakura's face once more.

Inside the lair, Kimimaro happened upon Sasuke doubled over in pain, clutching his groin. He said nothing, only turned away and walked off in the direction he had just walked in from.

----

Sakura studied the ring that sat in her palm. It was much too big for her. Sakura frowned and wondered why the ring was so important to Akatsuki members.

Sakura shrugged and looked up when Daybreak nickered softly. Sakura dismounted, sticking the ring into her pocket once more.

She and Daybreak had been traveling for a week, searching every body of water they came upon for the Akatsuki and their newest hideout. So far, no luck happened upon them.

Sakura patted Daybreak and allowed him to take a drink from the small lake they had happened upon.

Sakura looked up sharply when she heard a twig snap.

She looked into the brush and saw something move past her line of vision.

Sakura opened the brush further and saw a sight that nearly made her cry with happiness.

In a clearing, a handsome dark bay horse was trotting around obediently, obviously ridden by a good rider.

Sakura looked at the rider and gasped as she realized whom it was. The rider stopped the horse and dismounted smoothly. He patted the horse and allowed it to thrust its head forward and start eating the leaves of a tree.

The rider walked over to Sakura, helped her to her feet from the spying position she had been in, and wrapped her in a hug.

"Congratulations, Sakura-chan, you found the Akatsuki hideout. Welcome home, un," Deidara grinned down at the kunoichi.

"You know what, Deidara? It's pretty good to be back," Sakura laughed.

----

Sakura walked the dark, cool hallways of the new hideout, unsurprisingly similar to those of the old hideout. She knocked once on a door and entered, not one trace of an emotion on her face.

"Did you acquire the object?" the leader asked Sakura.

Sakura reached into her pocket and held out the ring for the leader's inspection.

The leader chuckled slightly and said, "Keep it. You'll need it." Sakura nodded and closed her fist around the small object.

"Welcome to the Akatsuki, Sakura."

----

In exhaustion and satisfaction,

-ZK