Edit: ff.n is in the bad habit of mashing together words indiscriminatly and eating my formating. If you spot any please let me know so I can try and smack some sense into it. I've already spotted some errors of my own, but ff.n is taking forever to admit that I fixed them. Please bear with me.
A/N: I would just like to start out by giving my betas/sounding-boards a huge thank you:
Fallacy/Korina Caffeine, Chaos Dragon, hellssamaritan, Quantum Reality, and Landlady of the Universe. I couldn't have done it without you, guys.
…okay, maybe I could have, but I'm sure it would have sucked horribly and never seen the light of day. Ya'll are the best. :D
Notes: Slight AU, TWT (Timeline, what timeline?)
Summary: (KisaSaku) Good and evil, black and white. Amidst a brewing war, Sakura comes to realize that they're just names for sides… and there's always more than meets the eye.
Sakura was officially annoyed, and, privately, more than a little worried.
Her abductor hadn't said a word the whole time they'd been traveling, which meant she had no idea of his identity other than what she could glean while blindfolded.
He was a tall man, and one with an indecently hard shoulder, if he was going to go transporting her around like a sack of rice. She found the angle slightly odd though; instead of being braced on her stomach with her legs draped down his front for balance, it was the lower half of her ribcage just below her breasts that was subjected to the hard muscle and bone. They were moving through trees at a high velocity, and every landing had knocked the breath from her until he'd gained a better grip and modified his pace somewhat.
A tiny inner voice compared it to riding a horse: he'd started out in a jerky trot, but had shifted to a smooth, easy canter once he'd gained the desired speed.
Sakura giggled madly--if silently--at the thought, then mentally shook her head and continued analyzing the situation.
The angle had to mean that he was transporting something on his back that he didn't want her to touch. A large scroll, or weapon of some kind? There was a wide leather strap across his chest, but not the right kind for a supply pack. So it had to be a weapon.
She could hear the distinct sound of fabric flapping in the wind, but that didn't help her much since many shinobi wore cloaks of some kind.
He wanted her alive and healthy, that much was certain. He'd knocked her out and restrained her, but hadn't directly injured her.
Even if she hadn't been blindfolded and trussed up like a turkey, the odd jutsu he'd caught her in guaranteed that she couldn't move a muscle, much less escape. She was only slightly peeved that he hadn't underestimated her like most people-- it actually stroked her ego a bit that he thought this much caution was necessary.
But the thing that really pissed her off was the fact that he'd used a medical jutsu on her and she couldn't break it.
The jutsu itself sent the victim's body into hibernation, and was normally used short-term while transporting high-risk patients. It slowed down their heart and respiration to reduce blood loss or the spread of unknown poisons, as well as leveling off their chakra until they were removed from a battlefield or put under the care of a full medic-nin. Thus sustained, she was unable to mold enough chakra to escape.
The jutsu was used to save lives, and this person had used a longer-lasting variation to keep her docile while he abducted her.
When she could move again, she was so going to kick his ass, because damnit, this wasn't supposed to happen! She wasn't a weak little girl anymore!
Seething, Sakura almost missed the subtle veil of chakra that washed over them, because a niggling voice suddenly started screaming at her to run, to escape, to getawaybeforethemonsterateher!
But then they passed through it and the feeling was abruptly gone, leaving her momentarily breathless.
The bastard hadn't reacted at all, which meant he'd been expecting it. Most likely a genjutsu to deter wandering shinobi. An extremely strong genjutsu. One that most of the special jounins she knew couldn't put up, much less anchor like this one seemed to be.
With a sinking feeling, Sakura finally accepted that she was in way over her head.
Her abductor's pace suddenly slowed to a walk, and from the way his footsteps echoed, they had to be in a tunnel of some sort. The air was cold, and held an earthy scent of soil and darkness.
Sunlight abruptly filtered through her blindfold, and instead of the sharp sound of sandals on stone, it was the rustle of grass. Outside again? Where the hell was he taking her?
From the quiet murmurs they were heading toward, they were no longer alone.
Her captor stopped walking and grunted a greeting to the others.
'What do you know, it can talk! Kind of.'
The arm across her thighs suddenly loosened, and her limp body was placed on what she could only assume was a large boulder.
The hibernation jutsu keeping her docile was suddenly removed, and it was all she could do to not react visibly. With the average patient, it took a few minutes for their body to come out of it, but because Sakura was a medic-nin, she recovered almost instantly.
Careful to not attract attention, she sent out an extremely fine chakra net, greedily taking stock of the information supplied to her:
One. One man other than her abductor stood next to the boulder at her side. Both blazed brightly with restrained chakra. Powerful, very much so...
"But power does not equate immortality," she reminded herself. The incident with Gaara attested to that.
Two. They were in a clearing that was abundant with trees and other plant life. Relatively close to the terrain she was used to, which would work in her favor when she came up with an escape plan.
Three. The area itself was in a large valley that was ringed with steep cliffs on all sides, which explained the need for the tunnel. It also cut down on escape routes. Joy.
Sarcasm, thy name is Sakura.
"Oi, you were supposed to pick up that kunoichi, not a geisha." The voice came closer, and it its owner tilted her face up; she continued to play dead, breathing deep and even. "She's cute though, un."
"This is the kunoichi. She was on a mission."
"Yeah, right. She looks like a civilian, un. Sure you didn't screw up?" He sounded skeptical. Good, maybe she could still get out of this without too much trouble.
"She was carrying enough weaponry to supply a small village."
Or not. Maybe they'd been looking for someone else?
A low whistle. "What kind of ninja has pink hair, un?" She could tell from his tone of voice that the man was wrinkling his nose.
"Hell if I know. The kind named 'Haruno Sakura'?"
...Shit. So much for this all being a misunderstanding.
The man laughed derisively, "You can't be serious, un. That, or her parents hated her."
Her abductor started to say something, but a large hand that definitely didn't belong to Sakura suddenly tugged at the collar of her kimono, and she felt very justifiably distracted.
'Okay, screw a planned escape. The element of surprise works for me.'
The ropes binding her arms and legs gave with a satisfying snap as she broke free. The thin folding paper fan tucked into her obi found its way into her hand, and a flare of focused chakra later she was slashing a sharp, glowing tessen through the air where the offender had been standing. Her hair ornaments easily became impromptu senbon-- all of her real weapons had been confiscated early on.
Her still-active chakra net picked up the duo's movements easily as they split up. For whatever reason, they'd wanted her alive and healthy; hopefully, that still held true.
Flipping to her feet, Sakura shot forward and attacked the nearest chakra signature-- the guy that had called her cute. She heard him curse as he dodged a swipe, then again as she landed him with a foot sweep and darted away before he could grab her. Her abductor laughed mockingly.
'Bad move, mister.'
Re-orienting on their voices, she quickly estimated heights, then twisted in mid-air and kicked off her sandals. They shot in opposite directions towards where they were trying to cage her in. The men both dodged more easily than she liked, but Sakura still wished she could've seen their faces when the weighted geta each smashed through a tree.
While they were distracted, she shaped a subtle genjutsu around them and took off quietly into the trees. Her chakra net lit up each branch neatly, so Sakura didn't waste time with pulling off her blindfold; she was more worried about trying to escape, and quite honestly refused to release the few weapons she had in hand to do so.
Of course, had she removed the cloth, she might've seen the odd vines creeping towards her when she paused a moment on a wide branch to re-orient herself; they certainly didn't register as a threat until they were already latching on, coiling around her body in an unbreakable grip.
Muscles straining desperately against the hold, Sakura tried to wrench an arm free, something, but the vines only tightened in response. Writhing and cussing under her breath, she almost missed the quiet thumps of the two shinobi in the trees around her.
A shifting of something undefined, then the sharp prick of a blade at her throat.
Sakura stilled. Genjutsu?
No, this was all too real; the sudden steady chakra signature that had appeared behind her proved that. It also didn't match either of the original two, so she couldn't even write it off as a kage bunshin.
Distracted with the newcomer, she almost didn't notice movement from the others, but a low hiss escaped her when she was summarily disarmed and patted down by now-familiar hands.
Sakura suppressed a shudder when fingers dipped into her kimono, but thankfully they didn't stray far. A jangle of metal clanking together, and her dog tags were pulled out from where they'd hung on a chain around her neck.
"Haruno Sakura, ID #012601, Blood Type: O, Medic-nin and Special Jounin. Konohagakure." Her credentials were listed off with a sort of wry irony. "I do know how to read a bingo book, Deidara."
Wait, who? ...Oh. Oh, shit. Sakura felt her heart take a sickening plunge while her stomach twisted itself into knots.
Things abruptly fell into place, little details that made her feel like an idiot now that the bigger picture was revealed.
When her blindfold was pulled down, Sakura was not at all surprised to find herself staring up into the sharp, shark-like features of one Hoshigaki Kisame.
"Damn, no wonder you were so heavy. I thought you were just fat."
Kisame eyed one of the felled trees when they passed through the clearing, and was glad he'd dodged instead of trying to catch the geta; it had smashed through the tree where his head would have been. Even blind, the kunoichi had good aim.
Said kunoichi struggled reflexively at the slight, growling obscenities as the small group moved inside.
Such a contradiction. The makeup and flowing silk kimonos made her look like something delicate to the casual observer, and even he had watched her longer than strictly necessary, just to make sure he had the right person. It wouldn't do to kidnap a real, civilian geisha. While pretty, they broke far too easily and didn't possess nearly as many connections as this woman did.
No, he'd had to be sure. So he'd followed her, observed her. It wasn't until he'd seen her perform a fan dance that he'd known for certain. She had a taijutsu-master's grace, a shinobi's swift accuracy, even as she telegraphed her movements for the audience. Every flutter of her fan or shifted stance held meaning to further her story.
It was the first time Kisame had sat through a professional geisha's performance in its entirety, but he could definitely see the attraction it held now.
After stepping into a secure room and depositing the kunoichi in a chair-- the vines shifted accordingly, wrapping around the sturdy wood as well as Sakura herself-- Kisame dumped out a travel pack on the room's only table. Various types of weaponry spilled out across the surface, as well as a bag of stage-makeup and a few scrolls; it was everything he'd confiscated from the kunoichi at the start of this little adventure. Casting Sakura an amused look, he added the folding fan and hair ornaments to the pile, only to receive a glower in response.
Skipping over the assorted armaments, Kisame performed a few exploratory jutsus on the scrolls to see if any were booby-trapped, only to discover that two contained information on medical theory, one was half-filled with scratchy notes, a fourth contained an obscene amount of clothing and girly things that didn't bear thinking about, and the last scroll was really no more than two slips of parchment rolled together. None were warded.
Curious, he opened the parchment and, after skimming the sheets, smirked and read the letter out loud for the benefit of the others.
I've arranged for you to fill-in for Tanaka Katsuki for the next three nights. When you have completed the attached list of performances, take the rest of the month off. I took the liberty of having Shizune pack for you-- everything you should need is in the accompanying transport scroll.
Find a beach with pina coladas and cabana boys or go on a tour of ancient monasteries, I don't care; if I see you in Konoha before your time is up, I'll have you playing nurse to the Academy brats for the rest of the term!
She had only just reached her dressing room after the last performance listed when she'd been knocked out and abducted... which meant no one would worry about her disappearance for another four and a half weeks. Sakura made a mental note to kill her shishou at the first opportunity, if she made it out of this alive.
At the assorted predatory and speculative looks she was given, Sakura set her jaw and mentally prepared herself for the worst.
'Vacation' my ass.'