VVVVVV

The forest was, as far as Sakura could tell, turning to mush. She was sweating, the ambient humidity was at about a billion percent, and her dearest wish was to teleport to somewhere cold where she could catch hypothermia and die peacefully.

"What the hell kind of disgusting swamp are we going through, here?" she asked irritably, almost slipping off of her current branch because of the slimy moss covering it.

"Can't tell you where we are."

"Well we're obviously somewhere near the Country of Water -- don't think bands of Mist nin go wandering anywhere else."

"Can't slip anything past you."

"So is this where you come from? Explains a lot," said Sakura as she squelched cautiously to the next branch.

"What's that supposed to mean, kunoichi?"

"You're stinky and slimy and you ruin my shoes."

"Haw. I also make you sweat, apparently," said Kisame, who turned to the flushed and steaming Sakura and favoured her with his best leer. He swiped a finger down her throat and her collarbone, following a beaded trail of perspiration down, down, down --

"Nice, kunoichi," he said, and withdrew his hand just before Sakura could break his finger off.

"I'm not from here, anyway," he continued, as if he had not just been completely obnoxious and sent Sakura's heart racing at two hundred beats per minute (out of fear, and disgust, that is -- nothing else, okay, goddamn it). "Country of Water is an island. We haven't crossed a body of water."

"Unless you count the Pool of Death back there."

"Please. That was a puddle. Geography's not your strong point, huh, sweetcheeks?"

"Nope. And don't call me that you, you smug piece of crap."

"On a related note, sweetcheeks…"

"What?"

"How do you feel about boats?"

"… I hate them with a passion, especially those that go to the Country of Water."

"I'm just asking to make conversation, not because you actually have a choice in the matter," said Kisame, grinning down at Sakura, six feet of blue wickedness. "You'll love it. We're travelling first class."

VVVVVV

The swampy forest gradually gave way to salt marshes, dunes, reedy beach, and then -- the sea.

Being brought to an isolated island Country could only mean bad things for Sakura: those searching for her -- if there were any left searching for her -- would not find passage to the Country of Water easy to obtain. And the entire Country was formed of hundreds of clusters of misty, unmapped islands dotting the slate-grey sea. How the hell was she supposed to be found?

Sakura wondered whether now would be a good time to break up this party. Which was the same question she had asked herself every day since she had been captured. And every day the vigilance of her captor did not fluctuate one iota -- his eyes were always on her, his Samehada always threatening to divest her of her only means of survival, and then there was that cursed bond…

Speaking of which…

"Gah. Can't you loosen this up?"

"I like it tight," answered Kisame, with a smirk and a tug at the chakra bond. Sakura was limited to a two-foot radius around him, and needless to say, that felt like an extremely short leash to the Leaf ninja.

"But it wasn't like this five minutes ago --"

"Kunoichi, guess what? Shut the hell up."

Sakura sank into silence and a very bad mood.

"We're heading to the port. 'Bout fifteen minutes away. It might be a busy place. You know what that means?"

"I'll be on my best behaviour," said Sakura morosely.

"Good," answered Kisame. "And also -- this."

"… Sonovabitchgoddamnyoutohell!"

There went Sakura's chakra -- sucked up by Samehada like a friggin' cherry slushie.

"Can't risk you pulling anything, shortstuff."

"Don't talk to me," hissed Sakura, hopeless, weakened, and pissed off.

"I love you too."

VVVVVV

The little port appeared through the mist before them like a rustic scene from a post card… a post card of a place visited by only the terminally depressed. Sad small boats rocked to and fro on a choppy sea, a few impoverished sailors and dock workers idled by dry nets and unused anchors, and Sakura longed for someone to look her way so that she could give some sign of her distress…

So, of course, Kisame steered her carefully away from anyone and kept her determinedly out of speaking range.

"Excited, kunoichi?" asked Kisame, looking towards the boats with something akin to happiness.

Sakura looked at the little boats heaving up and down on the grey waves.

"Just looking at them is sapping my will to live."

"Hope you have pills for seasickness. Don't want you hurling on my cloak."

"I'm a medic-nin," huffed Sakura. "I can take care of myself. Remind me where we're going?"

"We're going to give you nuclear wedgie."

"Try it and I'll cut your balls off."

"I love it when you talk dirty to me."

"…I'm going to hurl on you on purpose, you bastard. Where's our boat?"

"Bit further out because it's a bigger ship, can't see it because of the mist."

Sakura squinted to where Kisame was looking, unable to see anything through the dense white fog.

"You said first class, right?" asked Sakura hopefully.

"Yeah. Not that we're paying for it or anything," answered Kisame. "Ready, kunoichi?"

"Not paying? Ready for wha-- gah!"

The next thing she knew, Sakura was under water, clasped to Kisame, and drowning.

No wait. She was not drowning, because she was breathing.

But she was under water. So she must be drowning.

… or maybe she was in some giant bubble of Kisame's creation and moving swiftly with the receding tide towards the larger ship off shore.

"Holy crap!" said Sakura as the steely-grey underwater world opened up before her eyes, slightly distorted by the bubble that protected her from it. Clusters of rocks, schools of fish, and long strands of kelp raced by underneath her, and above her, waves broke and reformed and broke again in spumes of foam.

"You like?" asked Kisame, holding Sakura to him with one strong arm while the other maintained this chakra bubble.

"I -- oh my god, is that a shark?"

It was indeed -- sleek, grey-blue, all streamlined angles and sharp teeth, and keeping up effortlessly with the speed of their movement through the water.

"Relative of yours?" asked Sakura, unable to keep the tremor out of her voice at the sight of the large killing machine keeping pace with them.

"How did you guess," answered Kisame flatly, fixing the creature with an unblinking pale stare identical to its own. "He thinks you look tasty."

"Tell him I taste like piss and vinegar, and to go to hell."

"Haw. I already know you taste good, kunoichi."

"Mmf."

"And smell good."

"Right."

"Look pretty good."

"Pretty good?" exclaimed Sakura in a surge of feminine pride.

"Don't want to get myself too excited here," said Kisame, rolling Sakura around so that she was facing him in his one-armed hug.

"Right. I'm totally ugly anyways."

"I can barely stand the sight of you," agreed Kisame with a critical look at her face.

"Okay. Thank god."

"Yep," said Kisame, even as his eyes travelled down Sakura's face like he was trying to decide whether to eat her or…

"Quit it with that look," warned Sakura. "We are under water in a weird bubble and being followed by a a shark. This is not the time to have me kicking your butt."

"That's not very intimidating, coming from a chakra-less shrimp."

Sakura set her jaw dangerously. Which was all the warning Kisame got when she proceeded to execute the top-secret ninja technique of Nipple Twist No Jutsu with breathtaking rapidity.

"What the f--?"

Kisame was not amused, almost loosing control of his bubble in his irritation. Sakura giggled unrepentantly.

"That's for pinching my ass earlier."

"That was a friendly pinch," said Kisame. "Allow me to demonstrate what an unfriendly ass-pinch feels like --"

Sakura caught his hand before it could slide any lower. "Don't think so."

"That nipple twist hurt like a mother, kunoichi."

"I know, right?"

"It's going to bruise."

"Good."

"You're going to heal it for me when it does."

"Nuh-uh."

"It wasn't a request."

Sakura sank into pouty silence and fixed Kisame's collarbone with a glare of death for the last few minutes of their underwater journey. Out of the grey waters ahead of them loomed the hull of an equally grey ship, some kind of large cargo vessel whose name Sakura could not make out.

Kisame held Sakura to him and propelled them out of the water and onto a thin steel ladder fixed to the side of the hull.

"Sixth porthole up," he directed, and favoured Sakura with an encouraging smack on the butt. "Get climbing."

"I swear to god if you slap my ass again I will --"

"Climb faster or I'll do worse," said Kisame, dragging his hand up Sakura's thigh.

Sakura started climbing pretty damned fast after that, thanking the heavens for the piece of fashion sense that had always guided her to wear her training shorts under her skirts.

Kisame nevertheless commented about the view, and almost got Sakura's sensible two-inch heel implanted in his eye for his troubles.

"Sweetcheeks for real," said Kisame to Sakura's butt from a safe distance.

"Go to hell," said Sakura, unlatching a porthole next to the ladder. "It was this one, right?"

"Right. Get in. Don't move. I'll meet you there."

"Meet me there…?" asked Sakura, half-in and half-out of the narrow porthole.

Kisame's answer was to shove the rest of her into the cabin and seal the porthole from outside.

Sakura collapsed onto a narrow bunk and took stock of her surroundings: she was in quite possibly the tiniest room known to mankind; the bunk had a larger square footage than the floorspace, which was saying something, and the attached bathroom and shower had by all appearances been conceived for dwarves.

However, there was a door. Which led, presumably, to the rest of the ship -- and a cargo ship this large was bound to have hundreds of passages and dozens of decks and machine rooms and places where a skilled, if chakra-less, kunoichi, could quite satisfactorily hide from S-class missing nin.

Sakura moved with determined strides to the door and reached for the handle -- and the door was slammed open in her face.

"Goddamn it, you scared the shit out of me!"

"Going somewhere, sweetheart?"

"Absolutely not. Just wanted to test the handle." Sakura fixed Kisame with a blank, perfectly innocent look.

"I see. Guess what?"

"What?"

"We're in cabin 69," said Kisame, pointing at the faded numbering on the door. "Nice."

"Disagree. It's not nice. I thought you said this was first class."

"First class on a cargo, babe. I'm travelling on a budget, here."

"But we're not even paying! You could have found a cruise liner…"

"I got connections on this ship," said Kisame. "No one's going to mess around with me. Plus, they're carrying an illegal shipment -- so they're going to be taking the backways to get to the Country. Which suits us just fine, since we want to be discreet."

"What's the illegal shipment?" asked Sakura, almost not wanting to hear the answer.

"Sixty two tons of Viagra."

Sakura stared at the ceiling.

"Why, god, why."

"Some men have trouble getting it up," Kisame said, answering Sakura's rhetorical question. "I don't."

Sakura rolled her eyes and occupied herself with an inspection of the midget bathroom.

"Demo time?" asked Kisame from behind her.

"I'm aware that you have no trouble whatsoever getting it up," said Sakura darkly.

"It could be fun," said Kisame, and he moved towards Sakura with a large and frightening smile.

"No."

"Why?"

"Because…!"

"That's a shitty reason," said Kisame.

"Speaking of shitty, this toilet is disgusting."

"You want I hose it down?" asked Kisame after having looked at the thing over Sakura's shoulder with a similar expression of distaste.

"… okay…"

Kisame tossed Sakura his cloak and cracked his knuckles.

Those water jutsus sure did come in handy, reflected Sakura as the bathroom was treated to a thorough blasting that washed the nastiness into the bilges.

"You should open a car wash or something."

"I prefer killing people."

"... okay. I guess that's cool."

Sakura perched on the single bunk, using Kisame's balled-up cloak as a backrest, and watched the sea and sky outside slip by. "How long are we boating for?"

"We'll get there in the morning," replied Kisame, emerging from the bathroom dripping wet from his cleaning project. He whipped off the black and mesh shirt that was sticking wetly to him and turned to the sink to squeeze it out.

And Sakura was so not looking at how the muscles in his back moved as he did this.

Because he was blue.

And a killer.

Okay?

Okay.

Meanwhile, Kisame was taking off his pants.

And, oh god, his boxers.

Sakura stared fixedly out of the porthole, as though the wispy grey skies were the most interesting thing she had ever seen in her life.

"Where'd I put my stuff?" muttered Kisame as he ruffled among their belongings for dry clothes. "Kunoichi! Where's my pack --"

Sakura whipped around reflexively when called -- and got an eyeful.

"Goddamn it! Put your junk away!"

"Haw," said Kisame, who had finally found his stuff. "No claspers?"

"No claspers," breathed Sakura, feeling a blush spread across her cheeks, ninja or not.

"Sure you don't want a closer inspection?" offered Kisame.

"No."

"Suit yourself," said Kisame, pulling on new boxers and pants.

Sakura stared out of the window until the creaking sag of the bunk informed her that Kisame was sitting next to her.

"Jeez -- how much do you weigh? You're going to break this thing."

"Dunno. Wouldn't be the first time I broke a bed."

"No kidding. I remember."

"Good times, kunoichi."

Sakura couldn't hold back a rueful smirk at Kisame's complete lack of remorse.

"This place needs more furniture," she declared after they had sat in silence for a while and she felt too close to Kisame. Who was, as she could tell from the blue expanse that flashed at the corner of her eye, still shirtless. And leaning back on his elbows. And looking at her.

"You're welcome to sit on the toilet," said Kisame.

Also, still a jerk.

Sakura turned to glare at him and say something pissy -- and then burst out laughing.

"What's so damn funny?"

"Your hair!" snorted Sakura. "It's all messed up!"

"Yeah, well --" said Kisame, brushing a hand experimentally among the blue strands to assess the damage. "I got wet."

"Lemme fix it."

Kisame eyed Sakura warily as she leaned in, a mischievous laugh lingering in her eyes.

"Let's try a side part," she said, running a hand through his hair sideways.

This attempt resulted in another scream of laughter from Sakura, who kindly informed Kisame that with his hair like that, he looked like a total dweeb.

"No shit, kunoichi," said Kisame, batting away her hands irritably.

"Okay okay -- wait. I'll do it properly," said Sakura, biting her lip to keep from laughing as she drew his hair out of the side part and upwards to its usual gravity-defying state.

"No wait. Now it looks like an afro."

"You are the worst hairdresser that has ever touched my hair. In my life."

"Liar. I'm probably the only thing approaching a hairdresser you have ever had touching your hair in your life," retorted Sakura.

"True."

"Really?…"

"Yeah. So?"

"I dunno," said Sakura. "That's just… weird."

"You think missing nin visit hairstylists on a regular basis, kunoichi?" asked Kisame, eyes half-closed as Sakura drew slim fingers up and through his hair.

"I guess not…" answered Sakura, twisting a strand of Kisame's hair pensively. "Though that Deidara guy had amazing hair."

"Yeah well. We can't all get contracts with Pantene," muttered Kisame grumpily.

"Your hair curls!" exclaimed Sakura suddenly. "How adorable!"

Kisame favoured her with a glare before brushed his hair sharply upwards because he held curls to be effeminate.

"Aww," said Sakura. "What did you do that for?"

"Too girly."

"I thought it was cute."

"Don't give a damn what you think," said Kisame with a large grin.

Sakura punched him in the gut.

She had no chakra.

It was completely hilarious.

Sakura muttered about Kisame's Teflon abs and the injustice of it all.

"Teflon? Nice," said Kisame, inspecting his (disgustingly well-defined, in Sakura's opinion) abs with pride.

"How about my pecs?" he asked.

"Horrible. Saggy. Granny boobs."

"Liar."

"Nope."

"Hey, I give you compliments all the time. Let's make it mutual, kunoichi."

"Nothing to compliment you about," said Sakura, trying to hide a grin because Kisame was twitching his pecs in the most ridiculous fashion. "Except your hair when it curled, but you ruined it. So there."

"I have pretty amazing biceps too, I must say" said Kisame, completely ignoring her. "You need a license for guns like these."

"Whatever."

"I'm totally ripped."

"Whatever."

"I can lift my own house."

"Please."

"Okay, maybe not. I could lift you with one hand, though."

"With those noodle arms?"

"Noodle? Excuse me? Lemme show you."

"Do not even think about it."

Sakura squirmed away from Kisame's seeking hand, which he had by all appearances intended to wedge under her butt to proceed to lift her.

"Speaking of noodles," she said when she had successfully avoided the attack and Kisame had lost interest, "I'm starving."

"Me too," said Kisame. "Very hungry."

"Why are you looking at me like I'm a friggin' bowl of noodles?"

Kisame grinned.

Sakura glared.

Someone's stomach rumbled like an incoming storm.

"Alright," said Kisame, getting up. "I'm going to find out what kind of crap they serve here. You don't move from that spot. Or I kill you."

"Okay. I promise," said Sakura with her best serious face on.

Kisame's eyes bored into hers like pale flint.

"You're full of it," he said, and proceeded to rope Sakura to a protruding rail with a decisiveness and speed that enraged her.

"I wasn't going to do anything," said Sakura. "You shithead. See if I ever fix your hair for you again."

"Heh. Hey, thanks for keeping my cloak warm," said Kisame, unravelling Sakura's erstwhile backrest and putting it on. "Mm. Smells good."

"Screw you."

"Okay, kunoichi -- but later," said Kisame with a broad wink as he disappeared into the hall, slamming the door behind him.

VVVVVV

The door re-opened noisily about ten minutes later and Kisame entered, bearing instant noodle packages and a large kettle.

"First class dinner service," he said, plucking Sakura's restraints off as though they were strands of seaweed.

"Finally. I'm starving. I'd eat that shark from earlier if you killed it."

"You can eat this shark," said Kisame.

"I don't think you look very fresh," sniffed Sakura.

"Don't knock it before you try it," said Kisame, dropping his supplies on the bunk and pushing his face into Sakura's. "Have a taste? Just a small one."

"I don't think so."

Kisame drew his mouth into a sulk.

"Fine. You know what? No noodles."

"You're blackmailing me?"

"Absolutely."

"Well I'd rather starve," said Sakura, even as she salivated at the thought of that spicy chicken noodle package that was lying a hand's breadth away.

"You sure?"

"I…"

Holy crap, she had never seen him this close-up before.

And holy crap, she was hungry.

"Fine," said Sakura.

And she pressed a tiny kiss on Kisame's cheek, their forehead protectors clinking together lightly as she did so.

"That's it?" asked Kisame.

"That is so it."

"Shitty deal," said Kisame, and he backed off and tossed a package of noodles at Sakura's head.

"… this is the wrong flavour," said Sakura grumpily as Kisame filled the kettle.

"What flavour do you want?"

"The spicy chicken…"

"You know what to do," said Kisame. Lots of teeth. He could totally work with this.

Sakura fixed him with a stare that would have killed a lesser man.

She stared at the package of Meat Surprise! noodles in her hand.

"I hate you," she said as she tossed the package aside and strode up to Kisame.

Two fists grabbed the high collar of his cloak, two svelte arms forced his face down to her level, and Kisame received the most fierce and angry kiss that Sakura had ever given in her life.

Needless to say, he enjoyed it very much.

"Mmf-- sexy when you're mad," whispered Kisame to the corner of Sakura's mouth.

Sakura's jaw tightened and she whispered just as low: "spicy chicken. And don't overcook them."

They remained fixed in a staring match for a few moments, until Sakura decided that she had totally just proved that she had a pair -- figuratively speaking -- and stalked away.

"Yes ma'am," said Kisame, running his tongue thoughtfully over his lower lip as Sakura backed up to the bunk in a huff. The movement was not lost on her, and her green eyes darkened dangerously at Kisame.

She was totally going to wipe that smirk off of his face one day, she reflected a few minutes later as she slurped up her hard-earned fare.

Also, he made a damn good bowl of noodles.

"What did you put in here?" inquired Sakura.

"Drugs," said Kisame flatly.

"No, I mean really."

"Piss and vinegar."

"Ugh."

"Extra soy sauce. Not hard, kunoichi."

"Oh…"

They finished their meal in companionable silence, and Sakura felt the wave of sleepiness that always accompanies a hot dinner wash lazily over her.

"I got desert," said Kisame, holding up two granola bars like they were gold ingots.

"Score!"

"They're only for me, unfortunately," said Kisame, unwrapping one of them and demolishing it as he spoke. "I need my energy."

"What? I just got completely sapped of my chakra this morning, here -- if anyone needs energy, it's me, goddamn!"

"You want to convince me, kunoichi?"

"No. Don't make this a habit, please."

"I think it's a great habit to cultivate. Best idea I've had all month," said Kisame, contemplating Sakura as he chewed. "You're so damn skittish."

"I'm not skittish -- and besides, anyone in their right mind should be skittish around you. Jeez."

"So you are skittish," said Kisame as he casually unwrapped the second granola bar.

"Whatever. Seriously. Aren't you going to share?"

"Nope. Hey. I got a bruised nipple."

"Kisame," said Sakura as the granola bar made its way to his mouth. "What's blue and does a three-sixty?"

"Dunno," said Kisame, and he raised an eyebrow.

"Your other nipple if you eat my granola bar."

Kisame slowly drew the bar away from his mouth and pinned Sakura with a look of death that quite rivalled one of her own.

"You got a death wish, kunoichi?" he asked, snapping the bar in half and flipping one part into his mouth.

Sakura smacked the bunk's thin mattress in exasperation as he chewed. "Ass. What kind is it?"

"Horse shit and spider guts."

"Mm. My favourite."

Kisame swallowed and contemplated the final piece of granola bar. "Naw. Chocolate chips and marshmallow."

"Chocolate chips and marshmallow?" Sakura almost started to cry. "What do you want me to do, you blackmailing son of a… shark…"

Kisame's response was to flip off his cloak and pull off his shirt.

"No," said Sakura, backing off of the bunk. "Keep your damn clothes on, and your damn granola bar too -- I am not some kind of a--"

"Chill, babe," said Kisame. "Just want you to fix this nipple bruise you gave me. Tweaks every time I move."

"Oh," breathed Sakura. "Can do."

She perched next to Kisame with a wary look before inspecting the damage.

"Damn, I'm good!" said Sakura. "Textbook nipple twist. A plus."

Kisame twitched a pectoral in response. Which would have been funny and sexy on any other man at any other moment, but in this case it was accompanied by a stormy look that just made Sakura get on with it.

"You realize that I've only regenerated about ten percent of my chakra since you stole it like a jerk this morning?"

"So?"

"So I'm about to waste it on you."

"Good. You got your priorities straight."

"If I could kill you, I would," said Sakura.

"Likewise."

Sakura reflected that she was a filthy liar.

Kisame reflected that he was a filthy liar.

They kept these thoughts to themselves.

Sakura charged her palm up with healing chakra, its green, beneficial light just a shade off the colour of her own eyes. With significantly less gentleness than she would use on a regular patient, she glided her hand over Kisame's pectoral, stroking the bruising away.

"Ooh," said Kisame. "Tingly."

"Yeah. I can't really tell how much of the bruising I've reduced -- because bruises are blue, and you're blue. How's this feel?" Sakura accompanied her question with pressure from her thumb on the area in question.

"Really good," said Kisame. "Keep doing it."

Sakura snapped her eyes to his. "Don't tell me you have a healing fetish."

"I'm in the process of developing one right now," Kisame answered with a lazy look towards her.

"Gah!" cried Sakura in exasperation. "We are done here. Where's my granola bar?"

"In my pants," said Kisame, hooking his hands behind his head and leaning against the wall behind the bunk. "Come get it."

"Go to hell," replied Sakura.

Kisame grinned. "Not that granola bar -- which is, by the way, way bigger. Yours is in my pocket, dumbass."

"Well -- hand it over!"

"Naw."

"Hate you," said Sakura as she lifted herself towards him and jammed a hand into his pocket, making very sure to not go anywhere near the big granola bar. "It's not here."

"Other side."

"Goddamn!" said Sakura into Kisame's face as she leaned over to his other pocket. Kisame watched her at it, his expressionless face belied by the highly amused light in his eyes. Sakura's jaw tightened significantly.

"Take your time."

"No thanks. Got it."

Sakura retreated to the porthole so she could enjoy her prize in silence, and not pay attention to the infuriating missing nin who was watching her with an unnerving intensity.

She chewed thoughtfully, elbow propped up on the porthole frame, as she watched clouds of fog roll by in the night, obscuring even the sea just below her with its white density.

"Hey -- there's a light out there!" she said suddenly as a small yellow flash briefly illuminated the darkness.

Kisame strode over to the porthole, scouring the mist with eyes that were used to seeing through its billows and curls.

"Port light," he stated. "We must be dropping something off."

A sudden stillness ran through the ship, and Sakura guessed that the engines had been turned off.

"Aw, I know where we are now," said Kisame, having studied the black shoreline in the brief intervals that the light flashed. "Rat hole of an island, even by Mist standards. Brothel town."

"Lovely," said Sakura. "I hope we don't all catch pubic lice and herpes."

"Good point. We should inspect each others' --"

"Holy crap, no," said Sakura, biting back a laugh with difficulty. "Anyway, we aren't getting off. Right?"

"What do you mean by getting off?" asked Kisame into Sakura's hair.

"Getting off the boat," clarified Sakura, and she elbowed Kisame quite sharply. "I swear, sometimes…"

Silence followed as they watched boxes being unloaded into little rowboats that surged through the mist. Sakura supposed that Viagra deliveries were an essential part of the brothel business.

"Where are we going?" asked Sakura, looking at Kisame's face next to hers in the reflection of the glass.

"Hm -- what?" asked Kisame, whose eyes had been locked on the triangular dip above Sakura's collarbone, watching her pulse beat for reasons known only to him.

"Never mind. Also, I'm buying a turtleneck at our next stop. Jeez."

"Can't allow that, sorry," said Kisame, completely unembarrassed.

Sakura slipped out from between him and the porthole with an irritated huff. "I'm going to bed. I call the bunk."

Kisame looked sceptically at the narrow floor space. Sakura followed his gaze.

"I guess you can sleep in the fetal position -- if you put your head in the bathroom you should have enough space." Sakura delivered this thoughtful advice with as straight a face as she could muster.

"Yeah. Uh. Not happening," said Kisame with decisive finality. "We get to spend the night spooning again, kunoichi."

"No way. I'll sleep on the floor."

"I had such a great dream last time we did --"

"I so do not want to hear it," said Sakura, flipping out her bedroll grumpily. It would not even lie flat, curling up against a wall or a door at every side. Sakura kicked and shoved at it and finally curled up in the middle, completely uncomfortable but feeling extremely mulish.

Kisame stretched out as best he could on the narrow bunk and smirked at her. "I'll try not to step on you at night."

Sakura turned around to ignore him, soundly bruising both kneecaps on the bathroom's doorframe as she did so. "Damn it!"

"Why so stubborn, kunoichi?"

"Shush, I'm sleeping," replied Sakura.

Silence fell as the two ninja stilled and tried to slip into much-needed slumber.

Two hours alter, only one of them was successful.

As for the one on the floor, she hated everything in the whole world and if she could flush it down the toilet, she would.

Sakura rose, feeling antsy, cramped, and full of a slight febrile energy as her body worked to restore her stolen chakra while she was at rest.

She went to the porthole, looking out on a world of black and billowing greys that drifted by like an illusion under the hesitant light of the moon.

A movement below caught her eye -- at first she thought it was the shadow of a wave, but as she focused on it she made out a sharp black fin slicing the water.

And another one.

And another.

And half a dozen more.

Sakura did not know if the chilling, silent school of sharks was endemic to the waters of the area -- or if they were following because of the shark-man who she was currently sharing a cabin with. Either way, those waters were death -- and Sakura let go of the few half-formed plans of chaos and escape that she had formed since arriving on the ship. It wasn't the right time yet.

With Kisame as her captor, it was never the right time. He was too fast, too strong, too careful, too everything. And he could sap away the one thing that made her strong with one touch of that damned sword.

Sakura levelled a look at Samehada where it was leaning on the wall next to her, neatly wrapped in its white bindings. Thoughts of vandalism struck her, but -- what was she supposed to do with it when touching it reduced her to nothing?

She settled for observing the thing carefully as it rested, inoffensive as a plank of wood, against the wall. She thought it was an illusion brought about by the curls of fog that drifted past the moon but -- it seemed to be moving slightly. The bindings tightened and released a fraction of an inch at almost the same rate as…

Oh, god. It was breathing.

Sakura recoiled from the sword, simultaneously horrified and fascinated by the weird quasi-sentience of it.

"Kunoichi."

It took every atom of Sakura's self-discipline to not jump out of her skin when Kisame called her from the shadowy bunk.

"Y-yes?" she asked brightly, her heart in her throat.

"What are you doing?"

Kisame's voice was cold and low, and Sakura felt very glad that her only offence had been looking at his prized weapon -- and nothing else.

"Couldn't sleep," answered Sakura. "Too cramped. And -- chakra building up again."

"Come here."

The tone brooked no argument, and Sakura wisely followed the command.

"Lay down."

Sakura lay down next to Kisame, who lifted her bodily and placed her firmly on her side, then tightened the chakra bond that had been laying slack until Sakura was huddled against him.

"Don't try anything with my sword. If it doesn't kill you, I will," said Kisame into Sakura's ear.

"But I wasn't--"

"Sleep."

VVVVVV