She had a plan. Kindabutnotreally.
It was rough, yes, and was only really there because she couldn't think of anything better, but dammit, it was better than nothing.
"Sasuke," she said quietly. "Remember that mission where we delivered all those birds to that little village? And Naruto tripped and all his birds flew away?"
He looked at her, all quiet eyes and mild curiosity. "Yeah."
"That was fun. We should do it again soon."
He kept looking at her even after she turned away, and she felt satisfied. He knew her well enough to differentiate when she was just feeling sentimental and when she was really trying to tell him something. If she had been taken prisoner with Naruto she would have been utterly doomed to rot in this hell, chained to a sofa, which, face it, was one of the worst possible ways anyone could ever die. Luckily she was with the more mature of her two teammates...and he got it.
The thing about Uchihas was that they were just sneaky – naturally or otherwise. Maybe this gene had skipped over her when it was her turn, since she got her kicks shattering mountainsides, but Sasuke certainly hadn't missed out. So when their psychotic widow of a kidnapper came to inject them with their hourly dose of chakra-no-more, he was caught entirely unawares when Sasuke's foot snaked out and caught his ankle.
He stumbled a little, and his fingers fumbled the two vials. They slipped from his hand and smashed on the floor, sending tiny bits of glass everywhere. He righted himself and stared at the little puddle on the ground, apparently stunned.
"I'm so sorry," Sasuke said blandly. "That was entirely unintentional."
He blinked a couple of times, slowly, and Sakura tensely wondered if he was going to have an outburst. But then he just smiled, a little self-mockingly, and murmured, "It happens." Then he jumped to catch the edge of the trapdoor and pulled himself out. Sakura waited, heart pounding in her ears, wondering how much chakra she could muster in the one or two minutes it took him to come back. Not a lot. Enough? Probably not. Oh, shut up.
He wasn't gone long, less than a minute if you asked her, and there was no way he was going to fall for the gosh-what-an-accident trick again. Sakura let him poison her like the good little girl she was, focusing inward. This was going to hurt like a bitch and she knew it, but that was okay. She was more preoccupied with just making it work...if it was even possible. Experimenting with anything regarding poison was the biggest no-no in the book, but she frankly wanted to live. She and Sasuke needed to get out of here.
She waited until he left, then placed her palm flat on her thigh, eyes closed. To her desperate relief she felt some tiny shred of energy gather. It was already dissolving, whatever they were being injected with was extremely potent, but she clutched it and held it in place. Then she pushed it in.
It was strange. She had never been this low on chakra before, and she wasn't used to the feeling that it could float away at any second. The poison was slippery and hard to catch and spreading fast, but she caught it, forcing her minuscule chakra to stretch to its fullest extent and encase it, dragging it all to one spot. Then she pulled out.
It took a lot of effort not to scream, or at least swear. It had looked painful when she was doing it to Kankuro, but this was a hundred times worse. There was no medium, water or otherwise, to soften the transfer. She was forcing it through her skin and it was unnatural and wrong wrong wrong, but she would make herself do it because they needed to get out. She could feel Sasuke watching her and knew he didn't dare say anything, and almost felt triumphant for a second. Who's saving who now? Then it was out and done and she was holding a suspended, watery ball of drugs and blood in her hand.
She made herself not drop it, even though the small task left her feeling exhausted. She dumped it under a couch cushion instead. Sasuke shifted closer to her, his heavy chains dragging loudly across the floor.
She smiled and reached out, taking his hand in hers.
Sakura had gone through this routine six times (after each injection) and had just finished her seventh when she cleared her throat and looked at him. He glanced at her, then where she was pointing. Her thigh was an inflamed red, somewhat bloody and infected looking. His eyebrows creased with displeasure, then he realized there was no way their kidnapper would miss that.
They needed to move.
She motioned him closer and he did the best he could. A few second later he understood why she had been contorting her face; it fucking hurt. But it was over almost as soon as it had begun, and he would rather have that shit out of his body anyway. She let the drugs drop, and they splashed all over the floor.
Sakura made quick work of their chains, taking them in her hands and simply twisting them in two with a quick flick of her wrists, but to Sasuke it looked like it had taken more effort than she was letting on. Her chakra definitely wasn't up to par, then. It would take hours for him to regenerate enough of his own to be useful. This was going to be tough.
But then, they were Team 7. Story of their damn lives.
"I can't sense him," she murmured, narrowing her eyes at the ceiling. "But I mean, we never could before, so..."
They ended up with her balancing precariously on her shoulders. Her boots hurt like hell, but he wasn't about to say anything. She tentatively pushed the door open and then hauled herself up, then reached down to help him. If it had been any other time he would have declined, but he was feeling shaky and unstable from lack of food and chakra. They had been stuck down here for at least a day, maybe more. Dehydration was more likely than not to set in soon.
He silently replaced the door and they stood. They were in a dimly-lit hallway of what looked like stone. If he had to guess he would say they were underground.
They hesitated, because they could go either right or left and both ways seemed an ominously stupid choice. He eventually jerked his head left, and she followed his lead. If they were going to do this blind they might as well be original.
It was slow going. Neither of them was at their peak performance, and it took more effort than it should have to be quiet. Sakura was limping, and that bothered him more than anything. It was fine now, but if they ran into a situation where they needed to run...
She slowed down and then stopped, just barely panting. "Sasuke," she whispered. "Maybe I should jut knock out a wall. It might lead out."
He shook his head. "Maybe it'll lead to his bedroom."
She bit her lip and he wondered if she was going to argue with him. Or just knock down the wall anyway.
"It's just...my leg's really messed up. I pulled the poison through too many times, and I...I think some of the muscle is...falling apart."
He stared at her. Then he swallowed.
"...all right. Which wall do you think..."
But he cut himself off and grabbed her, jerking her behind him as two senbon whistled past the space her head had been. She stumbled a little and sucked in a pained gasp. Their kidnapper stared at them flatly.
"Did I say you could fucking leave...?"
Then the ceiling exploded.
As many times as Sakura had witnessed things exploding, it was still a disorienting experience. She and Sasuke backtracked fast, leaping away so they wouldn't be crushed under the debris. Her leg buckled under her weight when she landed, but Sasuke shot out an arm to steady her, not taking his eye off the unfolding pandemonium.
Nin were pouring through the gaping hole that used to be solid stone, waves of them. Most of them were nimbly leaping around the pile of rock, assumedly to whoever was on the other side. A couple broke off from the general mass, approaching them. Sasuke tensed.
"Uchiha Sasuke? Haruno?"
Sakura opened her mouth to reply, either that yes she was or to stay the hell away from her, but then she recognized Kakashi straightening himself and brushing dust off his vest. Shikamaru and Naruto followed after him. They did a quick scan of the situation and then spotted her and Sasuke, and started towards them. Unconsciously her eyes trailed behind them, looking for someone else.
Gaara was there too.
He was dressed all in black and for once didn't have his arms crossed, instead holding them awkwardly at his sides like he wasn't quite sure what to do with them. It made him look more vulnerable and yet more dangerous all at the same time. His hair seemed redder, somehow, maybe it was all the black. She locked eyes with him and started running without realizing it, completely bypassing the other three men.
They crashed together awkwardly. She collapsed against him, actually, because her leg finally gave out, but that didn't really matter. His wiry arms wound around her to keep her from falling, then he was crushing her to him, lifting her off her feet. She wrapped her arms around his neck and pressed her face into his shoulder, mouth contorting into weird shapes that she didn't really know existed. Medics were queuing around her, asking if she was okay, and she could hear her kidnapper screaming hideously in the background, but you know, that was all just going to have to fucking wait because this was more important.
"Thought you were dead," he mumbled at her, arms tightening.
She laughed and it caught in her throat. "So did I."
She pulled back because she wanted to look at him. His eyes, a shade lighter than hers, studied her face intently, then he pressed his mouth hard against hers. Her fingers tangled in his hair and she kissed him back, shutting her eyes to hide from all the nastiness that she was dimly aware was going on.
"Oh come on, we came to rescue you too."
She broke away and laughed, and Gaara set her on the ground, though he didn't let go of her. She turned awkwardly in his embrace to hug Naruto, and Sasuke too since the blonde had dragged him over. Kakashi stood passively by, not physically joining in but somehow part of it anyway. Shikamaru had his hands shoved in his pockets, looking like he might want to get closer to her but not necessarily Gaara.
"Geeze, Sakura," he said instead. "What did you do to your leg?"
Which led to Naruto freaking out. "Holy shit, get a medic!"
And that led to every medic in the room who wasn't already right beside her rushing forward, all pressing to heal her.
Gaara stayed right by her side the entire time.
Which, honestly, was all she had ever really asked for.
In retrospect, they definitely should have thought this out better. Neither of them were trackers, never had been, never would be. But Gaara had practically taken every tracker in the village with him. So what had he left his brother and sister with? Nothing. Granted, he probably didn't expect his brother and sister to follow him, but whatever...
Kankuro sighed and rubbed at his eyes with his shirt. His makeup was melting into them, and it burned like hell. Temari sighed too. Neither of them would admit they weren't entirely sure where the hell they were or where they were going, but...
Well. It was pretty obvious.
"Kankuro," she said finally. "We're lost."
"We know we're near Suna."
She gave him a don't-even-fucking-start look. "We're lost."
"Fine." He threw his arms up. "We're lost!"
He blinked and swivelled his head around. If he saw correctly, that was...Naruto, running towards them, wasn't it?
The boy skidded to a halt in front of them, panting. "What the hell are you guys doing out here?"
He laughed, and then turned around and started yelling again. "Guys! Guess who I found!" He turned back to Kankuro and Temari. "You'll never guess where that guy had them...he'd built like, an entire house underground..."
"I...wait." Temari stuttered. "You found her?"
"Yeah, we found them. Look, they're over there...damn slow..."
And then in the distance, and getting bigger by the second, marched Gaara's miniature army. Gaara was at the front, partially supporting Sakura, and Shikamaru was on her other side. Temari started walking to meet them halfway. Sasuke and Kakashi strode a little ways behind them, more hard to discern because they mixed with the various other nin Gaara had brought along.
Naruto's eyes sparkled. "You really missed out. It was awesome."
She was leaving.
It was only for a few days, actually, until she could get permission to leave and come live with him, the way things should have been, but she was leaving all the same, and it grated on him. After that last incident he was hesitant to let her out of his sight for five minutes to use the shower...let alone days on end where he couldn't reach her.
She was standing in front of him while her friends stood a little ways behind her, waiting for her to say goodbye. Sakura was avoiding his eyes, tucking invisible strands of hair behind her ear and biting her lip. He was making it a little hard on her by staring at her so intensely, he'd admit, but, well, she was leaving. She finally looked at him, blushing a little and clearing her throat.
"It's just a few days...I'll come back as soon as possible."
Gaara didn't give her a break, just frowned a little more deeply. She sighed.
"...are you mad at me?"
"No," he said finally. He considered telling her he just didn't want her to go but pushed that thought aside. Too sentimental.
She seemed to figure it out on her own, though, and her expression cleared. He was grateful. "Good." Then she leaned on her tip-toes to peck him on the cheek and tried to hug him. He just stood there for a few seconds (okay, maybe he was kind of mad at her), but then he gave in and held her to him, resting his chin on her head. Naruto was snickering, the little bastard, and Sasuke didn't look particularly happy. She sighed, and he felt her smile.
"Will you wait for me?"
He stared unhappily at the group of people shamelessly watching them, not even pretending to be interested in something else.
"You know I will."