Thanks so much to all the reviewers and those still adding me to favourites or alerts. This would not have happened without you.

Extra thanks to Blacknami to chasing me up. Your email was very encouraging and not what I deserve for abandoning this so long! I was finding it so hard to realise what I could do with this story, but I've found a second wind! Also as you all know, life is sometimes too busy. Hope you're still all out there!

Sorry this has taken so long to get out, basically I totally lost direction and motivation.

RECAP: (as it's been a while)

Sakura was blackmailed to save Sasori in the cave, and been held with him ever since. To pass time while she healed Itatchi (Which she tried to drag out for as long as possible) she started to learn the basics of puppetry. Practicing only with little artist dolls she slowly progressed into making her own puppet, learning to respect and appreciate the artfrom/weapon. The time spent with Sasori has made them more accepting and comfortable with each other leading to the point Sasori protects her somewhat from the other members although he allowed her to fight and defeat Kisame with mainly her puppet, Mai, but finishing neatly with a chakra scalpel next to his heart. Meanwhile Naruto's ability to never give up seems to be working as he has a lead from a herb seller in a small town. Will he discover them before Saori takes her to Orochimaru's spy.


One morning when Sakura woke up, Sasori's area seemed very empty. She shook it off to the leftover dregs of a dream she couldn't remember and went to shower.

While she was under the warm spray she thought of the hug and suddenly she realised she really missed the companionship of other people. While she had being kept here she hardly spoke, hardly did anything compared to the way Ino always used to walk with their arms hooked, Naruto's one armed hugs across her shoulders just before she'd blast him with her fist. That was more tradition now, not born out of any real desire to hurt him. She leaned her head back and the warm water shot over her face merging with tears she didn't realise were there.

These emotions were making her weak. Sakura tried again to put them back into a dark corner of her mind where it wouldn't effect her but they refused to go. As she dried and dressed her throat was clenching with suppressed tears. She just about got her emotions under control and went to practice her puppetry with Mai.


Sakura was making Mai move round the room like Ino used to do, waltzing around with large strides because Ino's endless legs and impatience made her move constantly. Only Shika could get her to sit and look at clouds for a while. The thoughts all came flooding back and how much she really missed all the rookie 9. Were they even looking for her? Sakura looked up and blinked furiously so the tears she could feel would stay trapped. The door swung open and Sakura dropped Mai in surprise.

It was Sasori and he looked at Sakura with undisguised curiosity. She seemed different today, her eyes were shining brightly and her damp hair seemed to curl around her head and shoulders.

"Good morning,"

"G' morning Sasori-danna," Her voice caught on the first word and was a lot deeper than normal at the effort to get it past her strained throat muscles. Sakura wanted to use her healing chakra to loosen the muscles but not only would Sasori become aware something was wrong, it would probably cause her to cry and she wasn't about to be weak in front of Sasori.

"How are you today, Sakura?" Sasori could see something was wrong. He wasn't completely in the dark. The way she wouldn't keep eye contact with him as if she was scared he would see inside.

"I'm... fine." Sasori wondered if being captured had finally caught up with her, she had been very accepting up to now. He moved over to where she was standing and stood right in front of her with only a little gap between them.

"No you're not."


"Look at me Sakura." Slowly Sakura lifted her head with her eyes still directed down. "I said LOOK at me," he ordered, aching to move her with his chakra threads that were still loosely attached to her. Luminescent green eyes looked up hesitantly and the movement knocked a single tear from the lid and across her cheek. Sasori didn't like seeing her so upset and wiped the tear away without realising and left his hand on her shoulder.

"What is the matter?" Sakura wanted to reach forward and hope he would embrace her so she could feel what it was like. She fought the urge because it wouldn't be right. The effort of trying to cope with everything alone was the last straw and she covered her face with her hands as tears streamed down. She stood like that for a moment, the two people in silence until she felt arms go around her and she was against him and buried her head under his chin. Neither knew whether he controlled her movement or she did.

They stayed like it for a while as Sakura cried out all her frustration and loneliness until she took note what she was doing and tried to stop herself again, causing her to get hiccups. She could feel a soothing hand running through her hair and panicked. She couldn't believe what she had just done.

"I'm so sorry, Sasori-danna! *hic* I didn't mean too, oh *hic* I'm so stupid." Sakura whispered quickly, full of shame.

Sasori didn't know what quite to do as it happened but it seemed just holding her was enough. "Ssh. It's over now."

"But I've got *hic* you all wet!" Sakura exclamed leaning back and seeing the dark patch on his top.

"Don't worry, I'm varnished." Sakura's hiccups stopped in surprise and she started to laugh. She didn't think he meant it as a joke to cheer her up but she found it hilarious. Tears and laughter are closely combined, they were controlled by the same part of the mind she thought, as you can cry with laughter or start laughing with shock even at terrible news just because you don't know what to do. Sasori liked the fact he had stopped her crying and then made her laugh. There was something so sincere about her. She was not afraid to show anyone who she was and he, Sasori, could affect her. It made him feel necessary.

"So what made you so upset?"

Sakura looked up at him and noticed how close they were, instead of pulling away she sighed and stayed exactly where she was.

"I miss this, just-" She paused trying the think of an appropriate word, "-connecting with someone. Did you never get lonely with just your puppets?"

Sasori didn't know what to say. He had been lonely as a child but his puppets made up for that, Sasori was connected to puppets in more ways than one. He didn't need anything more than that. He had adapted so well he preferred them. Only the kunoichi in his arms could ask him that without him retaliating.

"No. But when I was a child and my parents died I felt abandoned. I replaced attachments to others to my puppets because they never leave or lie."

"I understand. I don't think I can though."

"Because you are a much stronger person than I am."

"That's not true. I just broke down."

"You seek to stay yourself. I hurt so I changed everything about me until it no longer did. You are strong to stay yourself and try to overcome obstacles."

"You are strong in your own way Sasori-danna. I don't think I could change even if I wanted to. I tried so hard to accept what is going on. To adapt to my new environment but I just can't. I'm used to seeing everyone I know, I'm used to being free to go outside and do what I want. It just hurts to think about what it used to be like. I don't think anyone is looking for me. Maybe they're glad I'm gone. The thing is I just don't know and I wish I did." She shut her eyes and tried to believe she was in Konoha and she would go outside in a minute and it would all be normal. She opened her eyes and saw the workroom she had seen every day for months and inadvertantly clung to Sasori tighter.

"Am I going to be here forever?" she muffled into his chest.

Sasori looked down at her and sighed inwardly. "I can't answer that. I don't know."


The bond between them had changed again. From captor and captive to teacher and student to almost friends. Sasori had seen Sakura at her weakest and pulled her together again. Not the way the other Akatsuki wanted. They wanted her to break and to reform her into their puppet to do their bidding but somehow Sakura had regained a piece of herself she had lost before. When she smiled it was with her eyes as well instead of a painted facade.

When Sasori was called to discuss any progress he disagreed with their designs. Sakura was best the way she was.

"I feel she can help us on our search for Orochimaru,"

"Why would the tasty little Konoha medic help? She is the apprentice of the Hokage after all," Zetsu stated in his voices.

"Because she wants to save the konoha traitor, the Uchiha boy from him."

"So you feel it is an avenue to exploit, a way to control her." Sasori grimaced. He didn't want to treat her that way but it was true although what the other members didn't realise is that she knew what he was asking and saying to them. Sakura was in complete agreement. At a stretch Sasori would say she trusted him. He hoped they would let the two of them meet up with their spy in Orochimarus ranks.


Inner Sakura was finally back. After the fight with Kisame, the prideful voice returned. Sakura didn't realise that it had been fading from her because she had be trapped n lying to herself for so long. She wanted the power to catch up with the likes of Naruto and Sasuke. Sasuke even chose to abandon his home to do it whereas Sakura had no choice, she might as well make the most of it. It was a bit sickening to realise how much her priorities had changed since the battle in the cave and her perceptions of everything around her.

Sasori told Sakura the vital secret of all puppets. Inside were not hundreds of weapons but many summoning scrolls. All you have to do is flick a switch inside the puppets body that connects with it to set the scroll off. This way you could have so many senbons inside it would be nearly impossible for them all to miss and if they're poisoned - it's almost an unbeatable tactic.

The cost of captivity for so long had made Sakura used to spending her hours in unnaturally lit rooms. Used to the feeling of having threads constantly attached to her she felt like she had a safety net for once. Something that would catch her if she fell. Or when she fell. Sakura was always the weakest link. Yes she was smart, she could memorise books, work out the mathmatical angles for a perfect throw, she could heal people. She had no stamine, hardly any chakra, little or no ability compared to all those in her team. Constantly overshadowed by Naruto who was like a sun although he didn't mean too. Looking back Sakura had always had a grudging respect for the blonde. He was brass, loud and annoying to her but if she could trust anyone inexplicably it would be him. His Hokage dream seemed to get closer each day as he steady grew stronger.


Naruto came to a sudden stop. Not that his stamina was running low, but his motivation.


The older jounin paused. The usually loud grating voice seemed subdued and muffled.

"Yes, Naruto,"

"If we.. When we find her-" he corrected himself. "- I have to be strong enough to save her. I need to be stronger to save her. Sasuke isn't here you you have no reason to focus on him and.... Sakura... isn't here either. So I have to become stronger for the both of them. Please sensei train me."

Naruto had obviously thought about this a lot. Kakashi felt the stirrings of a guilt the council had laid on him by forcing him to fail all his teams so he would be able to train Sasuke. Forced to focus on Sasuke so he would become brilliant. Only for their stupid plan to backfired when the avenger left. Almost taking Naruto's life with it. The fact the proud orphan stood before him asking for help struck a chord within Kakashi, and he nodded solemnly only for Naruto to regain some of his enhusiam and speed off.


Sakura had a better bodyclock now, she could guess roughly to what hour it was. She woke at seven, worked out for normally an hour although sometimes longer, showered, dressed, ate. She practiced her chakra control, her puppetry and started mumbling medical knowledge to keep it fresh in her mind. There wasn't a lot to do. Sakura was starting to get thinner, paler, with her bubblegum hair looking more like dusty rose.

She now relied on Sasori to make her day more bearable. You can only cope with your own presence for so long. She knew she was depending on him too much and she was probably getting Stockholm's Sydrome. She denied it although inner Sakura was an angry voice in her mind screaming to be unlocked from where memories of her friends were.

She was sitting moving Mai with one hand and the small puppet with the other when Sasori returned. She was trying to make Mai catch the smaller puppet but it was hard because she knew where she'd move it to. But practice was practice and Sasori was pleased to she her working puppets so easily. She had picked it up very quickly he thought to himself. She was like him, attaching real personal bonds to the puppets, moving them like a natural. If she had learnt in any other situation she wouldn't be so refined, Sasori told himself, trying to think positive of her entrapment.

Sakura noticed him and smiled, the faint purple marks from stress and lack of quality sleep made her green eyes really stand out. He knew it was time, he couldnt keep her in here, safe, any longer. It was time to go to his spy with Orochimaru. Sasori had already missed one meeting with him, he could not miss another. And he could not leave Sakura alone here.

"It's time to go to search for Orochimaru, I have a meeting with my spy in eight days. You will come with me."

Sakura started walking towards Sasori her eyes open wide with shock, her smile dropping into a determined line. Mai picked up the small puppet in a wooden hand and drifted over behind Sakura.

"I have a something else to teach you, I must start before we go and continue as we travel. One is how to look as if through your puppets eyes." Sakura was staring at Sasori, almost as if she would burn holes through him, eager to be taught something new to make her a better ninja.

"Let us practice outside." Sasori turned and strode out expecter her to follow without needed to use his hold on her. And he didn't. Sakura fell into step beside him easily.

SORRY AGAIN! I'll definitely be quicker next time. Take care. x