Escape From Akatsuki Castle

Author's Notes- Already posted this on the chuunin community, but forgot to upload it here. Extremely cracky Akatsuki, Sakura and Sai-centric fic. Very mild parody of the "Sakura-is-chained-up-and-subjected-to-Akatsuki's-horrible-kinky-games" genre in some parts, but not much. Any feedback is very welcome.

Disclaimer- I don't own any of the recognisable characters or concepts. No copyright infringement is intended, and no profit is being made.

- - -

In the Secret Akatsuki Hideout..

Everything was normal. It was, by Akatsuki's standards, a cosy night in. Sasori was enucleating a pile of corpses, and tossing the spare bits to Zetsu. Deidara was working on his ultimate masterpiece, a perfectly sculpted clay toothbrush so realistic that Itachi would never notice until his head was blown off. Hidan's head was slowly gnawing its way out of the freezer while Kakuzu was attempting to stuff the rest down the disposal unit in the sink, whistling cheerfully to himself. Tobi was in his room rocking fretfully back and forward in the corner after reaching for some strawberry ice-cream and nearly losing three fingers to Hidan.

Konan was in her study doing paperwork, it being an unfortunate fact that evil organisations were as susceptible to bureaucracy as anything else. This was all Kakuzu's fault, since he was apparently convinced they could become tax-exempt and potentially receive government funding if they were careful about the exact wording of Akatsuki's function and aims.

Currently, Konan was on the Equal Opportunities form.

First question. Were Akatsuki's headquarters accessible for the disabled? Konan glanced out of the window, down a sheer drop of several hundred feet, into an ocean of impenetrable tides. She optimistically ticked the box. They had managed to get several heavily disabled enemies into the Akatsuki headquarters, and even right down into the dungeons. In fact, it was easier to get them inside once you chopped off a few limbs. All they could do then was bite and wriggle furiously.

Next question asked if there were any non-heterosexual members in the organisation. Truthfully, none of them really seemed that fussy, but Konan was unsure whether it would look good to claim that 90 of the organisation had the same sexuality. She neatly printed "Kakuzu likes men" (not adding "Big hairy ones with mullets" as some people may have done, because that was not very dignified behaviour for angels of God), thought about it a moment, and then added "And I am giving serious thought to lesbianism.". The sort that involved not having to put up with the rest of Akatsuki, not the sort that involved Pein hijacking a pneumatic blonde's body.

Disabled members was easy. Itachi was legally blind. They could always chop off one of Hidan's legs if an Equal Opportunity officer came visiting. And Kakuzu was definitely going to end up disabled next time Konan saw him. But between him and Itachi, they could say they represented a fair range of age groups, which answered the next question. As for gender, Konan was sure Sasori wouldn't mind paralysing Deidara long enough to get him into a dress, and bring the male-to-female ratio down if anyone called round.

Three pages into detailing the exact heritage of every Akatsuki member (a task made particularly difficult since Kisame's mother was a haddock and Zetsu's grandfather was a begonia), Konan screwed up the forms. Into a perfect origami replica of an origami man, which she then made commit origima-seppuku with an origami-katana, before squashing the paper back into her arm, and then glancing down, irritably. She had been doing that too much with paperwork recently. It was beginning to go to her hips.

Downstairs, Itachi too was up to something very mundane. He was doing the laundry.

He did not particularly enjoy doing the laundry. It was not what he had pictured for himself when he murdered almost his entire clan and became one of the most notorious missing-nin of all time. Still, his face was impassive as he carefully separated colours and whites, remembered not to tumble-dry Konan's bra, and added a scoop of fabric softener so Hidan didn't whine that he could fracture skulls with one hard blow from his underpants. For someone who survived dismemberment on such a regular basis, he could get surprisingly upset about scratchy clothing.

Speaking of pants, they had to be sorted. Without the slightest change in expression, Itachi picked up a pair of bright orange pants with a cheerful little train on the front, followed by a bright blue pair with a little sailboat motif. Into Tobi's laundry pile. The biggest pair of Y-fronts anyone had ever seen. Into Sasori's laundry pile. Akatsuki all agreed that a giant sneery Hiruko wearing nothing but oversized Y-fronts was one of the most sinister things they had ever seen, but the new regulations were strict on hardcore nudity, and those missing external genitalia were not excluded (an amendment made after Hidan had attempted to test the rule for loopholes, but as an aspiring deity himself, Pein did not care how much it did please Jashin to look unto the world and see Hidan's pale white ass running around stark bollock naked)

Asbestos-lined. Into Itachi's own washing. It was getting increasingly difficult to see just where Amaterasu was going these days. A pair made out of heavy duty leather. Into the Kisame laundry pile. It was not that Kisame was particularly kinky, just that his rather abrasive sharkskin ass tended to triumphantly burst through any mere cloth pants within minutes. Saucy yet practical black knickers that would not unexpectedly disappear up one's backside in the middle of a particularly acrobatic jutsu. Into Konan's washing. Saucy and horribly impractical black thongs that probably made all known, non-Jashin deities weep, into the Hidan pile. A pair of bright red boxers patterned with sticks of dynamite and the legend "SEX BOMB". Itachi's famous composure may have broken very slightly as he dropped those into Deidara's laundry.

He picked up the basket, turned away from the machines, and fell over something squashy.

Itachi impassively picked himself out of a pile of scattered underwear. For the most part, he managed to pull off being a legally blind ninja with a surprising amount of dignity. This was not one of those times.

The pile of laundry he had just fallen over made an indignant HHHHHRRRrrrGRRRUMPH! sound at him.

It wasn't unusual to find various tied-up victims in the dungeons. It was, after all, the most practical place to keep them. It was not the most practical place to keep the washing machine, the ping-pong table and the freezer, since that meant that Akatsuki's victims did often seem them at their most mundane, up to the ass in the freezer, trying to find the last choc-ice in an endless sea of empty fish finger boxes. Still, it didn't matter too much. Not many people would leave the dungeon to spread the word that Itachi Uchiha had just accidentally boiled Konan "Angel of God"'s entire bra collection alive (the little settings on the machine were so hard to see), or that Zetsu really liked a nice choc-ice to follow a raw, often still wriggly human corpse.

He would therefore have ignored the prisoner, except up close, he realised it was her.

- - -

None of Akatsuki knew exactly how a pink-haired medical ninja ended up in their dungeons so often. But they were currently standing around in a circle, wondering what to do with her, since this was the first time she was still actually chained up.

The first time she had appeared, she had leapt out from behind the freezer and left a permanent dent in Zetsu's head using only a ping pong bat. Zetsu had only wanted to rummage through the freezer to see if there was anything more delicious than those orange ice lollies that had been there since Kakuzu was in knickerbockers.

The second time, no one was sure what she had done to Kisame as she fled from the dungeons, but he had muttered something about it being a very good thing that he had another set, shortly before he passed out.

Considering that none of Akatsuki remembered bringing her home, they had previously concluded that she must be some kind of lunatic who broke in only to tie herself up in the dungeons. This was something that she hotly denied. Akatsuki had then concluded it was probably part of that sinister jutsu that often made illogical things happen. The time they celebrated Christmas, despite having no idea who Christ was and why they should enjoy his Mas. When Deidara turned into a wacky, fun-loving sort of guy who just really enjoyed fireworks, rather than an insane terrorist with a possible case of Narcissistic Personality Disorder. The time Itachi had spent thirty straight hours sobbing all over Kisame about what a horrible, bad person he was. Sasori's tendency to regrow body parts he had thrown out without a second thought years ago.

"-And I will never tell you anything!" the pink-haired medical ninja was still ranting. "And I would rather die than take part in your horrible, kinky games!"

There was a long silence.

"Fine," Kisame said. Not that he'd kick her out of bed or anything, but she'd have to at least buy him a drink first, after the last time they met.

Sasori hissed and retreated as far back inside Hiruko as he could go at the thought of going near people when they were naked and sweating and panting and.. oozing.

Deidara was fairly nonchalant. He could always do what any red-blooded man- or woman- would do if they were packing three extra mouths.

"She is my brother's love interest," Itachi said, monotonously. At first, Sakura wanted to hit him- seriously, it was a bit rich to murder everyone your brother cared about, ruin his life, and then say but you wouldn't go so far as to steal his girlfriend- except she then noticed the love interest part and stopped wanting to hit him. He couldn't be that bad an older brother if he'd had those sorts of talks with Sasuke, clearly.

"What are kinky games, Zetsu-san?" Tobi piped up.

"They aren't very fun to play," Zetsu said, patiently.

"Are they like Hungry Hungry Hippos?"

"No, Tobi."

"Are they like Duck Duck Goose?"

"No, Tobi."

"Are they like Twister?"

"No, Tobi, they are not- well, perhaps just a little."

"Tobi likes playing Twister, Zetsu-san. Can we play kinky games later?"

Zetsu's black side twitched. And "Let's just torture her for information," the white side suggested.

"Like what?"

"Like the location of the jinchuuki. Where is Naruto?" he asked her, fiercely.

Sakura gave him an odd look. "Travelling with Jiraiya. Everyone knows that."

"The secret way into Konoha!"

"There isn't one. Do you think we'd be stupid enough to have hidden tunnels right into the village?" Sakura laughed. Kisame discreetly kicked a rug over Trapdoor #47 into the Akatsuki headquarters.

Kakuzu suggested they try holding her ransom, in exchange for Naruto. And lots of money, though he didn't add this part out loud. Pein cleared it via telepathy. Sakura demanded to speak to their leader. Zetsu tuned into Pein FM (24/7 World Domination, Godly Teachings, and whatever irritating song Pein had stuck in his head that week), and suddenly-

"Where am I?" Sakura asked. The dungeons and all Akatsuki had disappeared. She was standing, unchained, in the middle of a blank landscape. An oddly flickering outline stood before her.

"Inside your mind, Sakura Haruno," the outline said, mysteriously.

A naked Sasuke casually strolled past.

Sakura blushed. Pein studiously examined the skies until the Sasuke apparition had ambled out of sight, and then resumed as though nothing had happened.

"I trust your time with Akatsuki will be comfortable," Pein said. "I have given orders that you shall not be harmed or restrained-"

Sakura thought about living with free-range Akatsuki members in their natural environment, and- "That dungeon seemed nice," she offered.

- - -

"Right, try to look scared."

Sakura was trying, but it was really hard. The couches in the Akatsuki headquarters were really comfy. And really squashy, and really chintzy, and whoever had made those adorable embroidered cushions wasn't helping.

"Alright, Itachi, you get in the photo too. Try to look scary. Not like that, you look like a goddamn cheesy movie vampire. Alright, Kisame, let's try you. Snarl a bit. Damn it, how'd you look even more fake than Itachi? I'd expect a Made in Taiwan stamp on that ass. Zetsu- nah, forget it, I forgot it was flowering season. Tobi, get out the way, the serious criminals are busy-"

Zetsu's black side growled. "Give him a chance.

No one was really sure how Tobi managed to suddenly emit such a sinister air that the swirly orange mask and cheerful scarf no longer mattered, but the resulting photo sent chills through everyone who looked at it. It backed up Deidara's theory that there was something very odd about Tobi, something that had previously been dismissed due to the small matter of Deidara being a complete headcase at the best of times, and it generally being best to ignore everything he said or did (unless he was seen to suddenly take off at a run, in which case it was sensible to pay attention, drop whatever you were doing and don't fall behind)

Hidan was busily labouring over the ransom note. He had been known to swear for half an hour non-stop without repeating himself once, and he had already managed to fill ten pages of A4 with all kinds of vile things that would happen to Sakura if they did not send Naruto in exchange.

"Hidan, she doesn't have one of those-"

"Kakuzu can give her one just so I can rip it off, yeah?"

"And people only have two lungs, you've already used up both before the fifth page-"

"Well, what else can I rip out her goddamn left eye socket?"

"How about a kidney?"

"I already jammed those up her nose two pages ago-"

"How about just one kidney, Hidan-san?"

"Would you rather have one or two kidneys shoved up your fucking nose, Tobi?"

"One, Hidan-san. But you could pull them out her left eye-socket before you try to fit them up her nose-"

"Tobi, you're a goddamn genius."

"Hidan, there's a mistake on the second page. You can't strangle her with her own spinal cord before you crucify her, she'll just slide right out. Save that for the end."

"Actually, the humerus doesn't really have enough structural integrity for that. You'd probably have more luck using my own femur to crack open my ribs. And this bit would kill me by page three- go for the frontal lobes, they're sort of optional-"

"I'm writing your goddamn ransom note, you keep out of it."

Hidan ignored the rest of the suggestions, finished writing, and slammed the pen down on the table. Twelve pages of increasingly horrible things that would be done to Sakura, followed by a list of demands from Akatsuki. One Kyuubi vessel, preferably pre-incapacitated. A large sum of money that Kakuzu added on to "cover kidnapping overheads". A pony, preferably a nice one with a silky mane. Hidan crossed that part out, and cursed the idiot who let Tobi near the ransom note.

- - -

Sakura was pretty much free to roam the Akatsuki headquarters. Unfortunately, while she was tied up, Akatsuki had managed to get a chakra suppressor on her that eliminated her original plan of 1) punch large hole in side of building, and 2) walk out through resulting large hole, down side of hideout, and across sea to safety. She could, of course, simply jump out the nearest window. Then she would fall several hundred feet. Then she would land on jagged rocks. Then her remains would be swept away by the vicious currents. Then they would be eaten by sharks. Then they would be eaten by Zetsu. Possibly. She wasn't sure what order the last two parts would take.

And she had already been warned that attempting to remove the suppressor would cause her head to explode. This left her with a few options. One, find some kind of light aircraft to pilot out of the headquarters. Two, build a functional parachute and seaworthy vessel, preferably complete with full crew to get her out of the whirlpool around the base of the building. Three, find another way out.

There were plenty of hidden tunnels throughout the building. It was just that they tended to come out in the oddest places. First, Sakura crawled out into thick undergrowth, cheered because she thought she had found the way out, and frightened the life out of Zetsu who was busily watering the petunias in his greenhouse. Then she came out half-way up a chimney, inside a laundry cupboard, and in Tobi's wardrobe.

After several hours busily crawling through the tunnels, Sakura emerged in yet another cupboard, jumped out, and found herself in the kitchen. She ignored Deidara, pocketed some of the most interesting cutlery, and went to examine the refrigerator.

There was food. Some of it was edible. Some of it was body parts in Tupperware. Some of it was body parts out of Tupperware, and still oozing. Some of it was still moving. Some of it was still moving and calling for help.

Well, she had to keep her strength up. Sakura helped herself to anything that didn't seem to be of obviously human origin, and resumed the search for weapons. A spatula. A tea strainer. A cheese slicer. Deidara was too near. She discreetly slid a pastry brush into her pocket, fully prepared to jam it through his one visible eye if necessary.

He didn't seem to have unfriendly intentions. He was, in fact, currently struggling to open a jar.

Sakura took it from him, and neatly twisted the top off with two fingers.

"You softened it up," she added, kindly, as he gave her a murderous look. Deidara didn't like to be beaten at anything. It didn't matter what that anything was. Art. Jutsu. Hungry Hungry Hippos. Getting the top off a jar of Nutella.

"You're going to be killed soon anyway," he said childishly, and paused. "For now, would you like some chocolate spread?"

"Yes," Sakura decided. "I would."

"Anyway," Deidara said, moodily, staring at the jar with intense dislike. "I have to look after my hands. Can't ruin them opening jars. I need them for art."

He showed her. Sakura touched the deep scars in the middle, interested. She was going to ask how he got them, when the scar suddenly opened up and her finger was in the middle of a giant leering orifice, and oh, it was going to take Deidara a long time to get that chocolate out of his hair.

"They're not just good for blowing things up," Deidara said hopefully, with a complete lack of subtlety. Sakura informed him of this, and Deidara sulked. "Well, it's not like you meet many girls in Akatsuki, yeah?"

"Do you know what the answer to that is?" Sakura asked, helping herself to a spoonful of chocolate spread.

"No," he looked hopeful.

"Stop blowing up hundreds of innocent people," Sakura informed him. "I wouldn't touch you with a barge pole. Even if you had ten extra mouths."

She took the last of the chocolate spread from a bemused Deidara, and wandered out of the kitchen.

- - -

Some hours later, Sasori came out of his room to find Sakura sat on the steps, patiently squeezing poison out of her ankle.

"I was bitten," she said. "By your.. uh, guard Kazekage."

It clacked its jaws together eagerly. Sasori absently patted it on the head, and passed Sakura the antidote. "And why were you trying to enter my rooms?"

She gave him a withering look. "I was going to hide inside one of your puppets. Then when you summoned it outside, I'd be taken with it."

It was not a bad plan, except it had been several years since Sasori needed to summon anything besides Hiruko. Plus being yanked through a loophole in space and time and rearranged at the following end could not be a hundred percent guaranteed to work when there was a hijacker unexpectedly coming along for the ride. Sasori imagined his beloved Kazekage puppet with pink hair, or a leg randomly sticking out of its head, or a bosom.

Sakura limped off back down the steps before Sasori noticed the damage from the potato masher she had used to pry open the puppet's jaws. He didn't follow. But someone else did. Someone's shadow was cast on the wall, of someone creeping up behind her, waving a weapon-

She turned around, and found Hidan standing behind her brandishing his scythe.

"Sorry," he said. "Nothing personal. I just need you for a ritual."

"I'm not a virgin," Sakura said hastily.

"Seriously?" Hidan looked genuinely surprised. Sakura was strangely.. offended. First none of Akatsuki seemed interested in capturing her to take part in horrible kinky games, and secondly, they didn't seem to think anyone else would be interested either.

"Anyway, I don't need a virgin for this one," Hidan said. "Just give me one of your spleens, yeah?"

"I don't have any going spare," Sakura told him, edging away. "Humans only have one-"

"I've taken three from Deidara," Hidan said, swinging the scythe. "Just give me the fucking spleen-"

"No offence, but Deidara has extra mouths," Sakura said, still backing away down the corridor. "I don't think he's representative of normal human anatomy-"

She was cut off by a large scythe heading rapidly in the general direction of her spleen. Sakura screamed, dived into the corner, and struck what she hoped wasn't too dramatic a B-movie victim pose.

"Woe is me," she said, dramatically. "I have been overpowered. Alas, I have no choice but to hand over my spleen-"

Acting had never been her strong point. Still, it seemed enough for Hidan, who grabbed her wrist and began dragging her down the corridor. Now, you could go on all day about ninja honour, but Sakura tended not to extend that to religious maniac criminals who had their sight set on her internal organs.

She slid the cheese slicer from her pocket, and with a medic nin's precision, used it to stab Hidan in the back, severing his spinal cord. As he fell over, she swung the scythe and decapitated him as he landed on the ground.

With Hidan thus incapacitated, Sakura jumped over him to run to her rooms. The dismembered head bit her viciously in the ankle. Sakura turned around, enthusiastically kicked it what would have been the full length of a football field if some idiot hadn't put a wall there, stepped over the rest of him, and picked the scythe up again.

"Let me give you an anatomy lesson," she said, swinging the scythe thoughtfully.

- - -

Some time later, Kakuzu was coming down stairs when he slipped in a large puddle of blood. He landed on the floor quite hard, and found himself looking at someone's patella. A few feet away, there was an adrenal gland. Beyond that, a kidney. He was getting short on those. Kakuzu pocketed the kidney, followed the trail of body parts, and peered around the corner.

A heavily bruised, bitten, but presumably triumphant Sakura was currently swinging something knobbly and purple in the air.

"What is this called, Hidan?"

"Duodenum," Hidan's severed head answered, sulkily.

"And this," Sakura picked up something that was unmistakably Hidan's spleen. "How many of these are there?"


"So if Hidan has one spleen, and Sakura takes it away, how many spleens does Hidan have?"


"And if Sakura has a spleen, and Hidan tries to take it away, how many spleens does Hidan now have?"

"No fucking spleens. Ma'am."

If Kakuzu had not long ago replaced his own heart, he might have felt a tiny flutter there, because truly, this was a bloodthirsty and evil woman after it. Perhaps literally.

- - -

Sakura was trying to escape, again.

She had managed to get into the ventilation system, only to find it was nothing like popular media had lead her to believe. For one, it only barely admitted a slim fifteen year old, and there was no way a burly international secret agent would be able to crawl through one, and still fight off anything that came after him. For another, it was full of spiders, and she kept alternately getting blasts of cold or steaming air up the ass, depending on which part of the house she was crawling through.

She was currently somewhere over Kisame and Itachi's side of the headquarters. The smell of strawberry-vanilla shampoo drifted up through the steamy air from someone's bathroom. Probably Itachi. Sakura remembered how difficult it was trying to keep long hair all shiny and pretty while out on genin missions, let alone S-class criminal missions.

..Well, just a look wouldn't hurt. It was espionage, of a sort. Who knew what sinister things Itachi might get up to in the shower? She opened the vent, and peered out into the bathroom.

Sakura toppled out of the ventilation shaft headfirst with a screech that could be heard all over the Akatsuki headquarters. Kisame grabbed the nearest towel, which would have worked if it wasn't really more of a flannel, and the nearest weapon, which would have also worked if it wasn't really more of a rubber duckie. In hindsight, it did look rather unfortunate.

Kisame, for his part, was rather miffed. He would concur that the sight of his scaly blue ass might come as a bit of a shock, as might the fact that his species were more.. pant-ally abundant than most. But compared to the man with the plant on his head, or the freak with three spare orifices, he had a comparatively normal physique.

Itachi was unsure what the most dignified way to handle this situation was. He was already feeling quite silly having burst in to find Kisame wearing a flannel, brandishing a rubber duck, and looking rather hurt by the whole thing. Perhaps it was best to just forget this whole undignified incident. He activated the Sharingan.

"You can't just hypnotise her-" Kisame protested.

"Yes, you can," Sakura cut in, frantically.

- - -

Three days after Sakura was captured, and she still hadn't found a way out.

In despair, she had started spending time in the extremely large library, reading through every engineering book she could find. After a day of studying, she could just about make a spice rack. Sakura wondered if Akatsuki would keep her around long enough that she could work up to building a boat.

She crawled back through the ventilation system to her room, very out of breath after another day's hard work, trying to out-filtate an evil fortress. Today, she had fallen into three spiked pits, almost been crushed by two rolling boulders, and nearly lost her head to a sentient Venus flytrap in the greenhouse. She rolled out of the air vent, landed on her bed, yelped in surprise, and only avoided decapitating the stranger because she was attempting to do so mid-bounce, using a coffee spoon.

Sakura landed on the floor. The stranger was still sat serenely on her bed.

"Hello!" he said, as Sakura was retrieving the mixing bowl she had hidden beneath the floorboards (admittedly, she could only think of two ways to kill someone with this particular utensil, due to the lack of corners, pointy bits or any real structural integrity). "My name is Sai."

"Are you with Akatsuki?" she said, still on her back on the floor, clutching a coffee spoon.

"No," he said, beaming. "I'm from Konoha. I've been kidnapped!"

He sounded almost excited about it. Sakura told him so.

"Sorry," Sai said, apologetically. "I've never been kidnapped before."

Sakura swore. Now she would not only have to find a way to turn her spice rack into a ship, but she would have to take him along with her too. She supposed it would look rather bad to turn up back at Konoha and explain that the village was still minus its idiot.

"How long have you been here?"

"Three days," Sakura said. "And yes, I'm fine. And no, they haven't tried to play any horrible, kinky games with me-"

Sai beamed proudly. "They tried with me!"

Sakura grabbed her coffee spoon and mixing bowl and marched out the door, abandoning all subtlety and just deciding to massacre her way out through any Akatsuki members she happened to meet on the way.

- - -

Another day passed. Sai did not appear to be interested in trying to escape. Sakura was just surprised he was actually still alive after getting into several discussions about the nature of art with Deidara. On several occasions, she had hastily crawled into the deepest hidden tunnel she could find, listening to the explosions rocking the building above, hoping that when she crawled out everyone would be dead. The headquarters suffered severe structural damage. Kakuzu forcibly sewed shut every single mouth Deidara had. But Sai was always found perfectly well and unharmed somehow.

However, he was getting along with Tobi disturbingly well. Sakura spied on them from yet another hidden tunnel, watching the pair of them sat on the floor, surrounded by scattered crayons.

"But Tobi is a good boy-" Tobi was saying indignantly, in response to something she hadn't heard.

"Then why did you join Akatsuki, Tobi-san?"

"Tobi likes the uniforms very much," Tobi confessed. A pause. "I like your shirt as well, Sai-san. Why are you a ninja for Konoha?"

"They have very good health insurance," Sai said politely.

"Akatsuki doesn't have very good health insurance. Luckily, Tobi is never sick," Tobi said, dolefully. "Kakuzu-san is very mean with money. Tobi thinks perhaps no one loved Kakuzu very much when he was young, and so now he-"

Sakura saw Kakuzu rapidly approaching, and scrambled back inside the hidden tunnel. She returned some hours later to find Sai and attempt to get the pair of them out of here (she thought she was beginning to get somewhere with Deidara's clay birds- she had spent almost five seconds sat on one before it had attempted to self destruct), only to find they were still going.

"Tobi drew a cat!" Tobi said excitedly, as Sakura dropped out of the air vent and landed between them.

"What a lovely cat, Tobi," Sakura said indulgently.

"I drew you," Sai cut in, holding up his picture. She wanted to pat the pair of them on the head.

"You drew me?" Sakura asked, touched, taking the sketchbook from Sai. "What a lovely picture.. of me picking my nose," she finished, flatly. She flicked over to the next page to see if there were any better, and then she choked.

"Sai, you can't draw that!" she hissed, looking around frantically. "I'm sure that was a very private moment between Hidan and Kakuzu-"

Speak of the devil, and along he will swish, waving a comically oversized scythe and perhaps still bitter about being sneakily stabbed in the back with a cheese slicer and dismembered with his own weapon. And damn it, this was an evil villain hideout! Where was the 'taking over world' strength paper shredder? The flamethrowers? The dragons chained to the walls?

Ninja were often required to do strange, distressing, and sometimes downright degrading things in the name of duty. However, Sakura had never expected to find herself eating a piece of softcore pornography. She smiled around a mouthful of paper as Hidan walked past. He gave her a suspicious look, and carried on his way. For now.

"Do pictures taste good, Sakura-san?"

Sakura turned around. Tobi was stuffing his cat picture beneath his mask expectantly.

- - -

After three days, Sai came wandering up to Sakura as she was using a ladle to work on the tunnel she was using to dig her way down through the ocean floor and out to Konoha.

"Would you like to escape today, Sakura?" Sai asked her politely.

"No," Sakura replied, with heavy sarcasm. "I thought I'd spend another few days dodging traps until these deranged S-class criminals finally get bored of keeping me around, and decide to send me back to Konoha piece by piece."

"Oh, okay then," Sai said, and began strolling away.

"Wait," she said, turning on him. "Were you serious?"

"Yes," he said, cheerfully. "I'm actually a member of ANBU. I was sent here to rescue you. I think I have enough information on Akatsuki now."

Sakura gaped at Sai, unable to reconcile him with the image she normally had of trained killers who could murder someone in ten different ways before they hit the floor, using only an assortment of objects commonly found in the average person's pockets.

"So all this was.. just an act?" she asked.

"All what, Sakura?" he asked, looking bemused.

She shook her head. "Never mind. How do we get out?"

He gave her a smug smile. "I've incapacitated Sasori. We can escape hidden inside his puppet. It can navigate most terrains, I think."

"How did you-"

Five minutes later, they were crawling through an air vent so Sai could show her.

Sasori was in his innermost workshop, minus Hiruko. Sakura looked away guiltily. It was easy enough to want to put her fist through Sasori's face when he was wearing a giant sneery puppet. It was harder when he looked like he just needed a hug and a lollipop and a plaster on his knee to make everything in the world alright again.

"I tipped sand in through the ventilation system," Sai whispered. "He needed to get out of Hiruko to relubricate his joints."

"How long do we have?" Sakura whispered, as they began crawling back towards Sasori's main room.

"Plenty," Sai assured her. "I poured Superglue into the lubricant."

"I'm taking the front," Sakura insisted, when they got there. She opened Hiruko, and only an astonishing leap up to the light fixture saved her from the shower of poisoned arrows that flew out. Sai beamed at her, from where he was currently sat on top of the bookcase.

"Good," she breathed. "No one hurt."

Sai moved his hand away. "Actually, I think I'm bleeding quite a lot."

Sakura removed the arrow and stopped the worst of the bleeding with some quick bandaging. She'd pocketed plenty of Sasori's antidote, but without her medical jutsu, there was very little else she could do. He would need medical attention at some point soon.

"Sai, did anyone ever tell you that you're a complete freak?" she asked, as she patched him up as best as she could.

He thought about it a moment. "Yes!" he assured her, with a wide smile.

Sakura climbed into the front of the puppet. Sai stepped in behind her. This was going to be awkward. Hiruko was designed to contain one small, pre-pubescent, possibly flat-packable puppet. And it was meant to be controlled by chakra strings spun by an expert puppeteer. It was not meant to contain two healthy-sized fifteen year olds, clomping along inside it like a pantomime horse. A pantomime horse packing enough artillery to obliterate a small country.

She tried to pull the lid down. It wouldn't quite go.

"Move up," she hissed at Sai.

"I am trying," he said, in a muffled voice. "But your bottom is so large-"

She slammed the lid down viciously. There was a muffled Ow from Sai, and a clink as it just about shut.

"Right," she said, sliding her legs into Hiruko's hollowed-out arms. Fortunately, the puppet seemed perfectly at home on all fours. "We'd better spend a few minutes practising.."

It emerged that the best they could do was make Hiruko swagger along like a drunken sailor. Sai had a tendency to go too fast, which meant the puppet would occasionally lose its balance and land face-first on the floor. Sakura would go face-first into the.. dashboard. Sai would go face-first into-

"I'm fine," Sai said, picking himself back up, yet again. "It's very soft and comfortable to land on-"

Sakura grabbed the nearest weapon (something that looked like a pitchfork and was apparently set to spring out of Hiruko's right ear) and reached backward to give Sai a good poke. He scuttled back as far as he could manage. Which meant, perhaps two millimetres of space between them.

"We don't have much time," she said. "We'll have to go. If anyone asks-" she paused, thinking. "Hiruko was badly damaged when I- Sasori- attempted to confront the prisoners- Sai and Sakura- as they escaped, three hours ago."

That should hopefully mean that Akatsuki would all run to capture the missing prisoners, upon seeing a wounded Sasori lurch dramatically out of his room. They would then be free to run the opposite way. Or to drunkenly stagger the opposite way, as the case may be. At this pace, they'd reach Konoha in a month at best.

"What about the Sharingan?" she suddenly remembered. It would clearly make out abnormal chakra patterns around the puppet.

"I stole Itachi's glasses," Sai said cheerfully.

- - -

Hidan was in the living room when he heard what sounded like a herd of rabid grand pianos charging down the stairs.

He shrugged, picked up the remote and turned the volume up. A second later, Sasori came smashing clear through the wall. Hidan jumped up to turn the television over to Blowing Shit Up In Babe City (he did not want to be caught watching Dancing With Dolphins on the Cute Animal Channel).

"The prisoners have escaped!" Sasori cried shrilly, in a strangely high-pitched voice.

"Ow," Sasori's ass contributed.

Hidan shrugged and sat back down on the sofa, unconcerned. Sasori gave him a very wary look, lurched around and began lumbering back out the room with all the grace of a ballerina. A morbidly obese ballerina that had downed a pint of tequila and was now attempting to perform on two broken legs, while wearing breezeblocks for shoes.

As they were almost out the room, Hidan stood up and called after them. "Hey, wait a minute-"

Sakura panicked, and slammed her fist down on every button and lever on the dashboard. Hidan was instantly pinned to the living room wall by three hundred and fourteen knives, swords, arrows, pitchforks, spiked clubs and pointy sticks, pierced in four hundred and seventy nine different places.

"Your copy of Practical Puppeteering arrived," he croaked feebly, and passed out from extensive bloodloss.

Sakura and Sai lumbered across the hall towards the exit, as fast as they could before anyone else appeared. Tobi came bounding out of one of the rooms, and screeched as he was run over and left for dead. They had enough velocity to smash clear through the door, except that opened onto a vertical drop and there was no time to stop and work out how to make Hiruko actually take off-

"Flying!" Sai said, ecstatically, as they plunged straight out of the Akatsuki headquarters and over the edge of the cliff.

"No, Sai," Sakura muttered, but there was no time to correct him with a "Not flying, nose-diving to a horrible crunchy and then drowny death". She was too busy hammering every single button and lever, until less than a metre to the ocean, Hiruko made an astonishing 170 degree turnabout to zoom up into the atmosphere, and the pair of them flew serenely away into the sunset.

And all ended well.

Sakura piloted Hiruko half-way home and then dumped it after Sai passed quietly out in the back, and then showed up at Konoha some hours later, carrying her would-be rescuer in her arms. Everyone exclaimed over what a very good thing it was that she had managed to escape before Akatsuki began with their horrible, kinky games. Lee was curious why Akatsuki were menacing her with a rubber shark in one of the ransom photos. Ino took a long look at first Sai, then the ransom photo with Itachi, asked where the Akatsuki headquarters were, and was later found attempting to plausibly tie herself up in rope.