A/N: This is just a reposting.

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Tsume darted through the trees, branches tearing at her face, arms, and legs. Her breath was ragged and her body ached. She could hear her pursuer behind her, crashing through the undergrowth after her. Fear gave Tsume a fresh burst of speed, and soon she could no longer hear the man who had been following her. Breathing heavily, Tsume leaned her back against the trunk of a wide tree, wincing only slightly from the various cuts and bruises on her body. Tsume put a hand to her wheezing throat, fingers pausing as they always did on the scar that spanned her neck.

"I can't call for help." The thought came to Tsume just as a weight slammed against her, shoving her harshly back against the tree and making her gasp in pain.

"Gotcha!" the man hissed in her ear. Tsume's breath hitched as she felt the cold steel of a blade press against her throat, barely a hair's breadth above her old scar. "You thought you could escape, eh?" Tsume turned her head away from the man's face, hating the lust was almost tangible on his hot breath. "Answer me!" the man snarled, pressing the knife closer.

"I can't," Tsume thought, tears stinging the corners of her eyes. "I can't answer you! I can't speak!"

But then, without warning, the man went limp against her, and his weight was removed from Tsume, only to be replaced by a much greater one. "Well, waddaya know, Itachi?" a rough, male voice said above Tsume. "That idiot thief had a plaything." Tsume pushed vainly at the man, her weak efforts only making him chuckle. A rough hand caught Tsume's chin, bringing her face up. Tsume found herself looking into the shark-like face of a blue-skinned man. Below his slitted eyes were what looked like gills. His eyes were black, looking down into Tsume's scared, amber orbs curiously. Tsume knew at once that the two men were shinobi from the forehead protectors that they wore, though she couldn't make out the symbols on the metal. "What's your name, onna?" he asked.

Then a distant voice called out. "Tsume?" the voice called. Tsume's eyes went wide as she recognized the voice. It was Aya, a girl from the village in which Tsume lived. "Tsume, where are you?!"

"Another witness," a voice said close to Tsume. It was probably the Itachi that the shark-like man had spoken to.

Tsume's eyes widened even further, and she began to struggle more violently. She couldn't get a young girl involved in this, not someone like Aya. Tsume wanted to scream, to tell Aya to run. Tears streamed down Tsume's cheeks as she clawed desperately against who had to be Kisame. "Please!" she screamed inwardly. She raised her eyes to Kisame's face, looking pleadingly into his face. "Please, just leave Aya out of this! She's just a kid; she hasn't done anything wrong! Do what you want with me but don't hurt Aya! Please!"

Kisame looked down into Tsume's desperate face. Tsume shook her head from side to side. She thrashed about in Kisame's arms, gasping when his hand went around her throat. Even though she knew that Kisame could snap her neck like a twig, Tsume still struggled. She couldn't let Aya, who was getting closer and closer by the second, get involved. Tsume's breathing became ragged against Kisame's hold.

"What would you do to save that girl's life?" Kisame said, grinning down into Tsume's face.

"Anything!" Tsume wanted to scream. She didn't want to think about what might happen to her, but she couldn't get anyone else involved in her own problems. All she could do was nod, tears still falling from her eyes. She heard the sound of a sword being drawn from a sheath, and she rasped hoarsely, all she could do in the way of a scream. "No!" she mentally pleaded. "I'm begging you, please!"

Then one arm snaked around Tsume, pulling her up against his chest. "She hasn't seen us yet, Itachi," Kisame said. "We'll just take this one and leave. One less body."

Itachi looked hard at Kisame for a moment, and then at Tsume who quickly looked away from him. "Tch. Fine," he huffed, putting away whatever weapon he had drawn. "Let's go." With those words, both Kisame and Itachi launched into the trees, quickly leaping from branch to branch to branch. If she had been able, Tsume would have cried out in fear. But as the wind rushed around her, she had no choice but to cling to Kisame's chest, fingers clenching into fists around the fabric of whatever garment that Kisame was wearing. She heard him chuckle above her, his hold on her tightening slightly. Tsume easily knew that Kisame was strong, and that her life was literally in his hands. He could do anything he wanted with her, and she was powerless to stop him. But still, Tsume was grateful that he and his companion had left Aya alone.

"You still haven't told us your name, onna," Kisame said as he pushed off from another branch, breaking Tsume from her thoughts.

Tsume blushed slightly. She reached out hesitantly and found Kisame's other hand. Tsume waited a moment before bringing Kisame's hand up to press his fingers against the scar that spanned her throat. She flinched slightly as Kisame ran his fingertips over her neck. "Now he'll know," Tsume thought.

"I see," Kisame said, dropping his hand back to his side. He raised his voice slightly as he continued, just enough so that Itachi could hear him. "Your throat's been cut; you can't speak."

Her hands returning to grip at Kisame's chest, Tsume nodded, thankful that Kisame didn't pry further. Then she felt Kisame's arm come back, but this time to wrap around her, hefting her higher against him. Now Tsume was cradled against Kisame's chest, both of of his arms around her. And somehow, she shark-nin's hold was oddly comforting. The exhaustion that had been held back suddenly crashed down on Tsume, robbing her of all strength. She went limp in Kisame's arms, her eyes closing and sleep enveloping her senses.

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Tsume was awakened by the sound of someone speaking. "I still don't know why you brought her along, Kisame," it said. "She'll only be a hindrance to us."

Tsume groaned, her head suddenly aching as the voice seemed to echo in her head, louder then it should have been. It wasn't just her head that hurt; her entire body ached. She tried to curl away from the sounds, but quickly found herself unable to when memories of the previous night returned to her. She sat bolt upright.

Then another voice spoke. Tsume recognized it as the voice of Kisame, the shark-nin from before. "Well, would ya look at that?" he said. "Onna's awake." Tsume looked frantically around for the shark-nin, and jumped when she found him kneeling directly before her. Tsume gasped sharply, scrambling backwards. Kisame's arms snapped out and caught Tsume's arm, pulling her forward until she was pressed against his chest.

"The girl can't even speak, Kisame," the voice from before said. Tsume guessed that it was Itachi. "She's useless." Looking away from Kisame for a moment, Tsume glanced towards the voice.

A man with black hair—likely Itachi—was sitting several yards away, his back to Tsume and Kisame. He was clad in a black cloak with red clouds on it, and when Tsume looked back to Kisame, she saw that he was wearing the same thing. Tsume took another moment to look Kisame over. He was wearing a shinobi forehead protector. One from Kirigakure, with a deep slash across the metal. Out of the corner of her eye, Tsume caught sight of a massive sword leaning against the cave wall, the long, wide blade wrapped completely in bandages.

At the same time, Kisame looked Tsume up and down. She was petite; slender but well built. Her skin was pale, and covered with both healing and fresh cuts and bruises. Her hair was a dark brown, a color so dark that it was almost black, and it hung straight a few inches past her shoulders. Tsume's black t-shirt was little more then a collection of rags, her black bra easily visible. Her dark green capris were only mildly torn, and could be easily repaired.

Tsume felt Kisame's gaze and blushed, bringing her arms up to cross over her chest. She looked away, biting her bottom lip nervously. Kisame continued to stare unabashedly at the young woman, his head tilted to the side. Then, after a few more moments of silence, he spoke.

"Your name's Tsume, isn't it?" he said. Tsume nodded, still not meeting Kisame's gaze. The previous comfort that she had felt from him was gone, replaced by fear. Then Kisame spoke again. "So you really can't speak, huh?"

Tsume shook her head apologetically. Now more then ever she wished that she could speak again, to tell the man that she was thankful that he and his companion had not killed Aya, and that she was grateful that they had saved her before. But at the same time, Tsume realized that her fate with the two shinobi could be ten times worse then her fate could have been had they not come upon her. Then Tsume felt Kisame's hold on her loosen, and he set her down directly before him, hands on her shoulders.

"Look at me," he said. Still biting her bottom lip, Tsume complied, not wanting to give him any reason to be angry at her. One of Kisame's hands fingered the ragged remains of what had once been Tsume's shirt, and he sighed in slight annoyance. "Take it off, onna," he said, tugging at the shirt. Face flushing pink, Tsume did as she was told, removing the ragged garment and setting it aside. She looked up when she saw Kisame's hand delve into his cloak. "Here," he said, pulling something out.

He was holding a simple fish-net tank-top, likely one of his own, as it was much too large to fit Tsume. It wouldn't cover much either, but at least it was something. Tsume took the shirt from Kisame, nodding her silent thanks. She pulled it over her head, the straps quickly falling off her shoulders. Her blush deepened, and she hurried to fix the shirt, her hasty actions making Kisame chuckle lightly.

Tsume looked curiously up at the shinobi. She'd expected him to be rude and harsh. But Kisame's talk was polite, and there was some element of kindness about him. Tsume felt some of her fear easing away, but she remained wary. Even if Kisame was a shinobi, he was still a man, and most men usually wanted the same thing from women. At that thought, Tsume shivered slightly, unease creeping back into her mind and eyes. She brought her legs up against her chest and hugged them there, resting her forehead against her knees. She paid no attention as Kisame moved to sit beside Itachi.

Tsume wasn't sure how long she sat like that, listening as Kisame and Itachi talked among themselves. She didn't really listen to what they were saying, she simply sat there, huddled into a ball with her face hidden. She only briefly considered the possibility of escape. But her chances of getting away from these two were next to nothing. All she could really do was obey their orders and hope that she didn't anger or annoy them.

But soon, despite everything, Tsume found herself relaxing. It had been a long time since she'd sat with others like this. She'd been alone for almost as long as she could remember, and it was somehow comforting to have two other people sitting close to her, even if they were extraordinarily dangerous. Tsume lifted her head slightly to look at the two shinobi, and despite herself, Tsume found herself smiling softly. At least neither of them had hurt her.

"Oy, onna." Kisame's voice broke Tsume from her thoughts. "Come here." Biting her lip, Tsume rose to her feet, and walked over to stand next to Kisame. She kept her eyes lowered, and her arms wrapped around her chest. Kisame looked at Tsume for a moment before grabbing her around the waist and pulling her down into his lap. She gasped sharply, body stiffening as she came up against Kisame's chest. Kisame caught her chin with his thumb and forefinger, forcing her to looking into his eyes. Tsume was too scared to look away, her heart pounding in her chest. Kisame easily felt her racing pulse, and chuckled lightly. He shook his his head and brought both arms around Tsume, holding her firmly, but gently against his chest. "We're heading to the next town and dawn, onna," he said, tucking Tsume's head beneath his chin. "Get some sleep."