Chapter 1: Acceptance

Disclaimer: If I owned Naruto, Itachi, Deidara, Sasuke, Kakashi, Shikamaru and Naruto would walk around naked all the time. And Sakura too.

Just keeding.

[well, just about Sakura.

Any part of the story that is written in first person means that Sakura is the one narrating.

This is the sequel to Defining Evil. You don't have to read Defining Evil to understand this story though, but sometimes there'll be referrals to things in the previous story.

When he woke up, he found that all of his limbs were separated from his body. Of course, Kisame did what people would normally do when they wake up to find themselves in five pieces; he freaked out.

"What the fuck happened to me?!" Kisame yelled.

"Shut up Kisame, you're giving me a headache," an irritable voice snapped.


"Shut up and hold still, I'm trying to sew you back together."

There was a sharp pain in Kisame's left stump of an arm as a thick white needle pierced his rough blue body. Swearing inwardly, Kakuzu cursed Kisame for having such tough sharkskin. As if his life wasn't miserable enough already, now Leader-sama was making him sew everybody back together like some pathetic nursemaid.

"I thought…I thought I died," Kisame murmured in confusion.

Kakuzu let out a snort and scoffed, "Unfortunately, you're alive. If only Deidara's aim was a little off…"

The pain was unbearable. It was like somebody was yanking each of his limbs from his body- wait, they were already gone weren't they. Despite the pain, Kisame managed detect another presence standing in the corner of the room.

"My aim is never off, Kakuzu," a blonde artist interjected.

Deidara sat on a wobbly chair beside the wooden table all of Kisame was spread across. He leaned back and picked up a blue right arm, tossing it into the air effortlessly like a tennis ball. Kisame watched in morbid fascination as his own body part rose and fell. It was strange, he mused, to see your own arm flying around without you.

"Deidara, don't play with that. If it gets infected I'll have to re-sew it," Kakuzu grumbled.

With a sigh, Deidara set Kisame's arm down. Kisame turned his head to look at Deidara and asked, "What happened to me?"

"Leader-sama made me stage your death, yeah. I don't know why though, so don't ask me," Deidara answered curtly.

"We should have just left him in the fridge. Itachi's not even back yet," Kakuzu muttered darkly.

"You put me in the refrigerator?" Kisame blurted out indignantly.

"We would've had to buy another freezer if we put you in it because you're so big. Nobody was really using the fridge anyways and it's better than wasting money," Kakuzu stated, knotting a black string.

"How long have I been like this then?" He demanded angrily.

A long silence fell.

Deidara's eyes were squinted in thought as he tried to recall exactly how long Kisame had been left in the fridge. He eventually shrugged and answered, "Don't remember. Over three months I think."

"Why didn't you sew me up earlier then?" Kisame asked.

"I was busy," Kakuzu answered.

Kisame would have slammed his head against the desk in frustration, if he was in one piece and not five. As memories from three months past returned to him in a slow, meticulous trickle, the haze over his mind cleared. He and Itachi had both been condemned to execution but…where was Itachi now?

"Where's Itachi-san?"

The shoulders of the blonde haired artist tensed at the mention of the Sharingan master's name. His jaw clenched for a moment before he released it again, controlling his usually explosive temper and answered, "No idea. The bastard's been in and out, yeah, but Leader-sama's been giving him lots of missions."

Feeling returned to Kisame's left arm and he experimentally twitched his thick blue fingers. Kakuzu began on his right arm and he steeled himself as the needle pierced his skin again.

"Kakuzu, you know what the Uchiha's doing, yeah?" Deidara glanced at the sewing man who shot him a flat look.

"Stop calling me Kakuzu. We aren't friends," he growled, "It has something to do with the Kyuubi and the information he got from Konoha during the mission he and Kisame were sent on."

"We weren't sent on a mission to extract information from Konoha," Kisame's brow furrowed in confusion, "Itachi-san asked for leave for a few days to go to Konoha and we were caught by ANBU…"

Deidara's sapphire eyes glinted. "That's what you think, yeah."

Realization slapped Kisame in the face like ice cold water. He murmured, "So you mean that getting kidnapped by Konoha ANBU and being executed was all…"

"A joke. It was a mission Leader-sama planned out so that he could get information on Konoha and the standard of nin, basic stuff," Kakuzu finished, tearing off a thick black string with his teeth.

"It was kind of funny how you reacted, yeah. 'Hikari, Hikari, I'm not a monster!'" Deidara mimicked Kisame in a high pitched tone.

"Deidara-san," Kakuzu warned him, glancing in his direction.

With a loud, exaggerated sigh, Deidara sank into a chair and kicked his feet onto the top of Kisame's table. He began, "Anyways, that's not why I'm here, yeah. Leader-sama wants me to fill you in on the new plan to capture Kyuubi and the war that's about to go on between Sound and Konoha…"

An hour later, Deidara was out the door on another stupid errand given to him by the stupid Leader.

Perhaps he shouldn't have gone back to the hideout, the blonde artist mused. It seemed as though every time he did, the fact that he was Akatsuki's slave boy was rubbed further and further into his face.

He realized that it was that Uchiha's fault that he was the one who was always given packages or letters to give to important people. If only that prat had never told Leader-sama that Deidara wasn't the fastest long distance travelling member of Akatsuki, then maybe Itachi would still be delivery boy. Deidara's cocky smirk gradually faded as he thought of the Uchiha and the corners of his chapped lips dropped into a disgusted frown.

His body felt cold but he ignored the chill of windburn that seeped into his bones like a disease. His trademark cloak was hidden in a storage scroll somewhere in the depths of his bag. He almost laughed at the irony, just eight years ago everybody thought that the red and white clouds were trendy cloak patterns but eight years later they were the most feared logo in all five shinobi countries.

He suddenly looked up, sapphire eye and bronze scope flashing, as his sensitive ears picked up the irregular beating of his creation's strong wings. Instinctively, he adjusted a dial on his heat sensitive scope and the world bled into reds and greens as he tried to pick out irregularities in the trees below him.

A haze of red covered the forest, flitting about in blurry human forms from tree to tree. He touched a button on his scope and the lens extended, allowing him to see the darting Sound ninja. He pretended he hadn't noticed them but subtly continued looking through his scope, watching as the ninja (eight in all) came to an abrupt halt. They all pulled out weapons and waited for him.

A calloused hand slipped into his clay pouch ever so carefully. The sickly sounds of chewing and gnashing teeth followed, resulting with an army of small explosive spiders. They scuttled around impatiently, vibrating with chakra, and his selfsame smirk returned in anticipation.

He didn't have a plan, but then again, when did he? Art was a quick, fleeting burst of beauty and was built on sudden instinct or inspiration; something he had applied to his fighting style. Itachi (he inwardly cringed in disgust at the name) was always twenty steps ahead, however whenever a rare mistake occurred, the Sharingan Master's intricate plans shattered into pieces. It seemed as though the mistakes were becoming more and more frequent and Deidara was being forced to help out more than he would have liked. Deidara was proud to be Itachi's complete opposite and took everything in stride, improvising as he went. Although the explosives expert's lack of preparation wasn't always the safest bet, he somehow always managed to escape alive.

Two minutes until he reached his ambushers. He swooped down low and very carefully dropped his deathly spiders into the forest canopy. He quickly rose upwards again and glanced through his scope as the tiny red pinpricks sped towards the unsuspecting Sound nin.

As they latched onto the nin, he formed a one handed seal. He was powerless to resist his growing confident smirk as he hissed, "Katsu."

Oranges and reds bloomed below in contrast to the emerald eye that watched them from above proudly. He heard the screams of pain and felt nothing but instead waited for the instantaneous heat to subside so he would be able to see his surviving enemies. Grey smoke blurred his vision and he pulled a kunai from his holster, waiting.

His blade clashed against another nin's in a flurry of white hot sparks. The bird beneath him trembled with the force of the blow but as the man was distracted, Deidara forced one of his hands onto the man's exposed neck. There was a sickening gnash of teeth as the nin tumbled to the forest, howling in pain and grasping at his bleeding neck. The mouth on Deidara's left hand shuddered as it spat out an indiscernible lump and licked its bloody lips gleefully. Deidara grimaced at the revolting mess it had made.

Through his eyepiece, he found three more figures approaching him. He instantly nosedived and in the confusion, two of the nin accidentally killed each other. A small clay bird finished off the third nin with a bang (he smiled a twisted sadistic smile at that) and then he swore colourfully as he was forced to manoeuvre the bird through the trees.

The sharp rustle of paper he carried in his bag made him realize that he didn't have enough time to play around with the Sound fools. Leaning forwards and securing his feet with chakra, the bird sped forwards in an enviable burst of power without ever once crashing into the surrounding foliage.

Heat sensitive spiders scuttled away from him and he turned his head slightly to watch them through the glass of his scope. They exploded when they came into contact with two larger forms that then fell to the forest floor like rag dolls. Energy drained out of the motionless human shaped lumps like trickling water.

He smirked in satisfaction.

The bird gradually flew out and over the smoking trees and after he had focussed his long distance lens, he could pick out faint, glowing structures. The village wasn't the one he needed to get to (that was still another four or five days away) but he longed for a good night's sleep. He was ahead of schedule and could afford to lose a few more hours.

Landing just before the forest's end, he swathed his hands with bandages, much to his kekkei genkai's distaste. The mouths on his palms tore and ripped the bandages in protest until eventually, he forced a disgusting pill into their mouths that instantly stopped their movement. A smoky green yukata covered his mesh ninja wear so as not to arouse suspicion and he slung his bag onto his shoulder. He cast a genjutsu on himself that turned his hair brown but decided his eyes were safe.

He removed the bronze scope on his eye with some difficulty, having to pack it away and wrap it in his Akatsuki cloak to protect it alongside his marked hitai-ate. His eye watered at the unfamiliar pure sunlight and he rubbed at it as he walked.

Damn it, those persistent Sound ninja. They were really starting to piss Deidara off, it was just ambush, ambush, ambush the moment he went out into the open. Although he hated Akatsuki (the Leader and everyone in it), he really wanted them to do something about Sound.

You know, you'd think after three months, I'd have gotten over a guy I'd somehow managed to fall head over heels hopelessly in love with. Even if he said no more than eight words at a time (ten if you were lucky), obviously didn't return your feelings, was one of your greatest enemies, ruined your first love's life, was out to kill your best friend and – oh yeah – he just happened to be dead. That about tied everything up nicely with a red bow.

Oh, the sarcasm, somebody kill me now, I thought.

Alright, maybe I sounded a little bit jaded. But hey, watching the supposed love of your life dying in front of you never was chicken soup for the soul. And maybe, I was a little depressed. Depression was an illness, wasn't it? Ha, rich that, I was one of the top medic nins in the whole country and couldn't even heal my own sickness. Whoop-dee-fucking-doo.

So how've I been these past three months?

Well, if you're really naive and can't take a hint- it's been shitty. A little bit of an understatement that, but it wasn't like the world would stop turning for one Haruno Sakura. Sometimes, when I was feeling selfish or shitty, I'd wish it would, and then think about those haunting red eyes and the world would come crashing down on me instead.

Life had fallen into a boring routine. Wake up at six, eat breakfast, go to the hospital and work until three in the morning, go to sleep and then everything started again. Most of the time, Naruto had to actually come to the hospital and stop me from working myself to death. More often than not, I'd hate him for dragging me away and curse and struggle to the point he'd have to carry me home. Composure and reputation could go screw themselves for all I cared anymore.

If Naruto wasn't so into Hinata, I'd probably have married him. He was my constant pillar of strength, always there in a heartbeat and (surprisingly) patient. I felt guilty about treating him the way I did; be it the two in the morning phone calls, the times I've screamed at him and shouted until I eventually burst into tears or the way he'd always pick me up from my crumpled pathetic heap of me.

I don't think I've said more than twelve words to anyone who was not Naruto. It was so much easier talking to him because he knew what it was like to lose someone the way I had, to watch somebody you had known and cared for ripped away from you in a second. People avoided me now, which would have been quite a laugh a year back. Whenever I spoke to people, it was always the tentative, polite 'hello's or 'how are you's and I'd reply with another hello or 'I'm fine' when really, I just wanted them to take a good look and scream at them that I was nowhere near fucking fine and hadn't been in months. Oh, lovely angsty me.

So, to stop me from killing myself, Tsunade-sama decided to send me as the representative of Konoha to Tea. I was due to leave in a week. The council kept reassuring everyone that the war between Konoha and Sound wouldn't happen and all the people in the know were tight lipped, but you'd have to be seriously stupid or blessed not to realize that the war was obviously coming. It didn't come to me as a shock at all when I was told I'd be discussing a treaty with Tea with the Daimyou about the possible funding of Konoha's army.

Sitting in my own private office, I wondered whether sending me away to Tea was an excuse to get me away from Konoha so that everyone didn't need to see my pathetic self anymore. They probably didn't want me around and, who wouldn't want me around anyways?

A flash of blonde caught my eye outside my second storey window and I went over to it, glancing through it. As expected, Naruto was there but he was speaking with Ino. Ino was probably the first person I fell out with and the first person I stopped talking to. I opened the window a fraction and caught fragments of their conversation.

"…do you put up with Sakura? She's been like this for three months and she's not going to get better, so will you give it a rest already?"

"You don't know her like I do. She always pulls through, Sakura's strong. She's one of my precious people and I'm not going to just 'give it a rest'."

"She's changed, Naruto, you know that better than anyone! Stop trying to bring back the old Sakura, she's not coming back!"

"Shut up Ino, I don't give up on my friends because I actually have to make sacrifices-"

"Have you even thought about the rest of us? About Hinata? She smiles and pretends nothing's wrong and that she's perfectly fine with you running off to Sakura all the time. But we can all see she's hurting inside, all of us except for you because all you can see is Sakura's hurt and nobody else's-"

I shut the window sharply. Maybe Naruto looked up, maybe he didn't, but I couldn't care less anymore because I was out the door and running.

Tsunade was shocked when I asked if I could leave for Tea immediately, but let me go nonetheless. I couldn't stand it in Konoha anymore and as much as I hated to admit it, Ino was right. I was ruining Naruto's life and couldn't bear to hurt the last person who was trying to help me.

So I was out the gates without so much as a goodbye and finally on my way to Tea. The mission was simple, but crucially important to Konoha. I had to go to Tea and ask the Daimyou for financial support in the soon to be declared war against Sound. Tea had no ninja village of its own and was very dependent on Konoha when it came to military issues. It was in Tea's best interest that Konoha won the war, because if Konoha lost, then that would mean Sound would most likely attack Tea. Stories of Sound's brutality had reached all of the Countries and nobody wanted to be on the receiving end of it.

My trademark pink hair had been covered with a black hat, every last strand forced inside it so that nobody would be able to recognize me. I didn't think there was anything I could really do about my eyes but maybe I'd ask Tsunade for a pair of colour contacts next time.

When I finally reached Tea, I headed towards an inn named 'Classy Comfort'. It wasn't very classy, the entire thing looked like it was going to cave in any minute and the place had a black door. A black door! That literally screamed the place was hostile and unwelcome. The door jingled cheerfully (how ironic) as I opened it and I walked towards the receptionist.

She greeted me with a smile that was a little bit too wide to be genuine and asked, "Room for one?"

Suddenly, the door slammed open and a flustered looking brown haired man rushed in. His blue eyes searched the room hurriedly, finally coming to rest upon me. I stared at him in surprise.

Then, a large smirk spread across his face as he walked towards me. He said loudly, "Oh, honey, I was worried that you'd left me behind. It's good that you told me which inn we're staying in or else I would have been running around Tea like a headless chicken, yeah."

My left eye twitched. Who the hell was this? I had never seen him before in my life. Maybe he had gotten it wrong, maybe his wife was still outside. But then again, how could he possibly mistake his probably normal looking wife for somebody as strange as me? This couldn't just be coincidence, I decided.

"Excuse me miss, we'll have a room for two," the man told the receptionist, putting an arm around my shoulder too familiarly.

I almost flinched at the contact and felt a sharp stab of pain in my chest as Itachi's face jumped to mind. I wanted to throw this man off of me, preferably into the next rubbish dump and leave him there until kingdom come. But I couldn't throw him off without causing a scene and the last thing I wanted to do was draw attention to myself.

I stiffened like a stick and forced a smile to my face. Through my teeth, I managed quietly enough for only him to hear, "What the hell is this?"

He too began to smile and also replied through his teeth, "Just play along woman and I'll explain later, yeah."

"That will be three hundred dollars then," the woman said.

The stranger and I both froze, smiling artificially at the woman. Neither of us made a move to pay.

Low enough just for the man to hear, I hissed, "I'm not paying for your room."

"It'll be cheaper for the both of us if we split and share the room, yeah," he replied back through gritted teeth and a fake smile.

In a frustrated whisper, I snapped, "I don't even know you!"

"That doesn't matter, I'll be gone before you know it."

"That's not my problem, I don't want to share a room with some random stranger off the street who could be trying to rape me-"

"I'm sorry, is there a problem?" The receptionist smiled up at us in confusion.

One hundred fifty dollars were put onto the countertop and the hand on my shoulder tightened to the point that it was painful. After a long moment's hesitation, I reached into my wallet and pulled out another one hundred fifty dollars; slapping them on top of the stranger's loudly. As the woman processed the money, she slid a key across the glossy brown wood with our – our?! – room number etched into it.

The man turned his head and I went stone rigid as he pressed his lips against my cheek. My mind became a long string of screaming protests and I nearly shivered. There was some part of my mind that noticed his lips were very soft, but I tried not to think as he led me off up the wooden staircase.

"If you're trying to rape a defenceless woman, it's not going to work. I know self defence," I threatened him.

He pulled a face and growled, "Don't flatter yourself, yeah."

I opened my mouth to yell something back at him, but he covered it quickly with his own bandaged hand. I tried to bite his hand yet my teeth smashed against something hard, something that couldn't be flesh. Alarm bells began ringing in my head, if that wasn't skin his bandages were covering up then what were they hiding? He removed his hand from my mouth and pulled out the room key, slipping it into the lock and turning it quickly. He placed a hand on the small of my back and pushed me into the room with a little more force than was necessary, shutting the door behind him.

"Okay, I want answers. Who the hell are you and what the hell is this?" I demanded, crossing my arms over my chest.

The brown haired man sat on the edge of the white double bed and I took this moment to look at him, really look at him. The features of his face were hard, from the angle of his nose to the stubborn chin, but there was no denying that he was very, very handsome. His sapphire eyes glittered humorously at me and the crooked half smirk on his face was a bit too sexy. Alright, he was hot but he was still a dick.

"My name is Arashi. Atari Arashi," he introduced himself.

It wasn't a name I had heard of before. My brow furrowed and I asked, "Are you a ninja?"

"Yeah, a jounin from Amegakure," he produced a forehead protector as evidence and I glanced at it for a few, indecisive moments.

There was no mistaking that forehead protector and no ninja in their right mind would misplace their hitai-ate. But then, maybe this man was a high ranking ninja and killed a ninja to steal it. Or he could have been a subordinate of the Akatsuki's; they were in charge there, weren't they? All the possibilities began to whir through my head like a spinning carousel, making me dizzy thinking of all of them until I eventually stopped.

"Why're you sharing a room with me then? Don't you have team mates?" I asked in annoyance.

"Nah, solo mission. You're on one too, yeah?" he questioned, leaning back on his bandaged hands propped behind him on the bed.

Surprise crept into my features. I hadn't even told him I was a ninja, how the hell did he figure that out? I said dumbly, "What?"

"You walk too gracefully to be a regular person and too quietly to be a dancer. There's a slight bulge under your left sleeve where I think you keep a kunai and your left pant leg is thicker than your right, meaning you keep something in there, yeah," he explained, the crooked smirk growing on his face again.

I allowed him some little satisfaction, "Not bad. Still doesn't explain why you've decided to room with me."

"Well, I want to make a detour to Fire Country to see my sister who works in Otafuku Gai but I won't have enough money to go there if I don't save up," he explained with a faraway look in his eyes

"How do I know you're not lying?" I snapped, eyes narrowing dangerously.

He looked back at me and his sapphire eyes were much deeper than they had been seconds ago. His voice was soft but serious, "You don't, yeah. You'll just have to trust me."

And for some weird reason, I wanted to trust him. He reminded me too much of Naruto, with those sparkling bright blue eyes. Although the rational, smart part of me was screaming not to trust this guy, I was tempted to listen to the bigger part of me and go along with this.

After a long minute of hesitation and struggle, I unfolded my arms and sighed. I told him, "Okay, fine, but don't get any ideas. If you try anything, I'll make sure you regret it."

"Just try to control yourself, woman."

"Konoha's probably going to declare war on Sound pretty soon," a gruff voice observed, navy ninja shoes crunching on the uneven dirt trail beneath them.

His partner inclined his head slightly in acknowledgment but refrained from speaking any further. It hadn't escaped his notice that the luminescent moon was absent from the inky black sky. Without the moon, the sky seemed empty and the stars lacklustre.

"Should we hurry up and catch the Kyuubi?" Kisame continued, towering over his companion by at least a head. The gigantic sword swathed in bandages strapped onto his back would have made a lesser man struggle with such a weapon.

His partner shook his head this time.

Kisame then began reluctantly, "You know what Leader-sama will do if we fail again…"

A pair of crimson eyes glimmered like rubies in the starlight as a velvety voice answered firmly, "I am aware. Leader-sama will not be disappointed."

"I don't feel like going out, Ero-sennin," Naruto complained as the white haired man dragged him out of his apartment.

"Stop calling me that, damn it, you aren't thirteen anymore," Jiraiya snapped at him irritably as the Kyuubi container tried to wriggle away.

Naruto pulled a face and moaned, "But I want to wait for Hinata…"

"She's not coming back for another week, so suck it up," the sannin growled at him and his student threw a longing look back at the now empty apartment.

Finally, Naruto let Jiraiya pull him to a near empty sake bar and was forced into a squeaky barstool. There was another man, a civilian he guessed, sitting at the other end of the bar chatting to the bartender. Naruto found it ironic that Jiraiya was the same man who told him the three ninja vices, women, gambling and alcohol, but here he was insisting Naruto take another cup of sake. An hour later, Naruto was piss drunk and Jiraiya looked at his student, really looked at him, and sighed inwardly.

He really did feel bad for his student. Naruto had a depressed best friend, his girlfriend was away and he had just been cut off from all missions and banned from leaving Konoha. For a ninja, to be cut off from missions was like a devoted Christian being cut off from God.

"Ero-sennin…I don't feel so good…" Naruto mumbled.

Jiraiya laughed at him and pointed out, "Well, you've had a lot to drink."

"No, I mean-" Naruto began but suddenly he turned around in his barstool to vomit loudly.

The toad hermit chuckled and took a sip of his sake. When Naruto raised his head again, Jiraiya glanced at him out of the corner of his eye and became increasingly alarmed when he found blood dribbling from the side of the blonde's mouth. His dark gaze fell to the floor where Naruto had vomited and felt a chill run through his spine as he realized Naruto had vomited blood.

Naruto began shivering uncontrollably and his white hands closed tightly over the edge of the counter in a frail attempt to calm himself down. A cold sweat broke out on his brow and the blood was rushing away from his face until he was a ghostly pale. He vomited once, twice, and a third time but by this time Jiraiya was helping him to his feet.

Jiraiya could tell that the boy had been poisoned, but by who? His eyes darted to the panicked bartender. Where had the other customer gone? Suspicion settled in but Naruto vomited again before coughing and spraying blood spittle everywhere. Right now, he needed to bring Naruto to Tsunade.

Forming a seal, the disappeared in a puff of smoke and then reappeared in Tsunade's office. The Godaime looked up at them in annoyance but when she laid eyes on Naruto, she stood up sharply. Her chair screeched on the floor.

"Bring him to the medical room three doors down to your left and lie him on the bed there," she told him sharply and Jiraiya set off with a sense of urgency about him. Tsunade's clacking heels followed closely behind.

As he laid the blonde haired man on a cast iron twin bed, Naruto gagged and blood bubbled forth in his mouth. At this rate, Jiraiya realized, Naruto would end up choking on his own blood so he quickly turned him onto his side. The stench of blood was awful and he grabbed one of the many plastic bowls for Naruto to vomit into. Since Naruto was incapable of holding the bowl himself, the sannin held it out for his student.

"Get me two bowls, one filled with water and an empty one, and then get a cloth as well," Tsunade ordered Jiraiya, leaning over the cerulean eyed ninja.

Jiraiya darted to the cupboards as fast as his legs would carry him and grabbed a cloth hanging on the side of the large deep porcelain sink. He filled up a bowl with clear water and put it down beside Tsunade. The water sloshed over the sides of the light blue bowl and splattered onto the bloodstained floor. Crimson ribbons sashayed throughout the transparent liquid, seductively calling to death.

Tsunade formed a large yellow bubble between her fingertips and he didn't ask her if Naruto would be okay. She would get angry and Jiraiya wouldn't ever find out from her if Naruto would be fine until he saw an inscribed gravestone or the boy healthily face to face.

Her brow creased and she forced the murky bubble into Naruto's chest. A hoarse scream of pain erupted from his throat and he struggled to break away but Jiraiya instinctively pinned him down. As Tsunade withdrew the bubble, a clear pink tinged liquid swirled within it. She came to the conclusion that the poison must have been colourless and extremely lethal so that Naruto would have been able to drink or eat it undetected.

"What were you doing before he was poisoned?" she inquired, letting the yellow bubble fall into the empty bowl with a plop. She created another yellow bubble quickly and drove it into Naruto's chest, drawing forth another sound of pain.

"I took him to a sake bar five minutes ago and he drank quite a bit. I thought he just couldn't handle his alcohol when he started vomiting but he started vomiting blood. Then he started shaking and couldn't even walk properly, even though he was sweating a lot. There was a suspicious man sitting at the other end of the bar who disappeared after Naruto started vomiting," Jiraiya explained, muscles straining with the effort it took to hold down the insanely strong demon container.

Tsunade's jaw tightened and her voice was cold as she told him, "Go find the assassin and bring him to Ibiki."

A soft, deep voice reached my ears and woke me. I kept my breathing deep and made no movement, pretending I was still fast asleep.

"…so the bastard came back? I thought he'd drag you off immediately to go on a mission, yeah."

Another voice, tinny and muffled, answered, "He's always talking to Leader-sama about something. Would it kill you to be a little faster getting the scrolls? I'm getting bored."

There was an annoyed huff and Arashi spat, "Well, it's not my fault that the great Itachi-sama can't get anything done. He's always dragging me into his plans, why the hell can't he get the scrolls himself?"

Itachi? The sound of the name made my heart quiver and stop for a moment before I remembered to breathe. Arashi noticed my gasp and the bed shifted as I felt his intense sapphire gaze upon the back of my neck.

"I don't know. He probably would have made me do it, but since I was in pieces…" the voice trailed off.

"I've got to go, yeah. My room mate just woke up," Arashi murmured quietly and there was a soft squelch and a loud zipping sound.

I let my eyes flutter open and fixed my gaze upon the area where the wooden floor met the white washed wall. I was very glad that my back was to Arashi because I didn't think he was too happy with me eavesdropping on his conversation.

In a quiet voice, I asked, "Were you talking to someone from Ame?"

"Yeah. He got hurt in a mission so I was checking up on him," he replied smoothly.

I swallowed hesitantly before questioning, "So…is Itachi his team mate?"

There was a sudden silence. Quickly, Arashi recovered and answered, "Yeah. He's a real dick though."

"Do not flatter yourself by thinking that one such as I would look at you," Itachi retorted coldly.

Yeah, well my Itachi had been a real jerk too. Pain snatched at my mind and overwhelmed it, there was crimson blood on the floor that spread like a sickness and a lifeless body being hauled away like a rag doll-

The bed shifted as Arashi stood up. Wait, what was he doing on the bed…?

"What the hell, did you sleep in the bed?" My voice rose hysterically and I sat up suddenly with the realization.

Arashi's sapphire eyes gleamed strangely and a slight smirk played at the corners of his mouth. He shrugged and said, "The floor was cold. I paid for this room too, yeah, so it only makes sense I get to sleep in the bed as well."

"Well, how do I know you didn't rape me in the night, yeah?" I snapped at him.

His smirk became a goofy grin and I let out a quick shriek, pulling the blankets around me tighter. He clapped his hands over his ears to drown out the sound and he tried to calm me down, but all I could was his hand coming towards me and my boobs-

"Don't touch me!" I screamed and punched him as hard as I could.

He slammed into the wall opposite with a whoosh of air and went straight through, spraying pale rubble as he went. When he didn't get up, I started getting very scared that I had killed him. Would that mean Konoha had declared war on Ame? Wait, if they couldn't find the body then nobody would know any better! I'd burn it and scatter the ashes, I decided. Searching frantically for a lighter, I stopped when the rocks suddenly moved. Arashi emerged with one hand holding his head as he limped towards me in pain, covered in white powder.

He hissed, "Damn you woman, I didn't touch you or anything! You're so paranoid!"

"If you had stayed on the floor like I told you and hadn't scared me like that, I wouldn't have punched you," I snapped angrily.

He opened his mouth to argue back but we both froze as the sounds of running footsteps reached our ears.

"Why did you break the wall, you idiot?! Now we're going to have to pay for it!" I hissed at him.

"I broke the wall? You were the one who punched me with your manly strength, yeah," he blurted indignantly.

I jumped out of bed quickly and grabbed my bag, pulling open the large screen window. It didn't matter that I was still wearing my baggy baby blue heart printed pyjamas, I sure as hell wasn't paying for the damn wall. Just as I crouched to leap out of the window, there was a blur of black and blue as Arashi rushed past and the window slammed shut behind him. I tried to open the window again but it was jammed no matter how hard I yanked it.

"Excuse me, miss," a sharp voice called my name and I stopped immediately.

Turning around stiffly, I forced a smile to my face. A none too impressed receptionist stood there, tapping her foot against the rubble with a hand stretched out for money.

"What do you mean I'm being moved?" Naruto shouted indignantly, his chair screeching on the white tiles behind him as he shot up.

Tsunade swore she could feel a migraine coming on. She said, "Somebody tried to assassinate you, Naruto. Your home is probably already being watched so we need to move you somewhere safer for the time being."

"Yeah, but I can protect myself. I'm an ANBU member," he snapped irritably.

"You're a special jounin, not an ANBU member. You were only sent on that one ANBU class mission because all the other elites were gone," she pointed out, trying to keep her hands from shaking with rage.

Naruto growled, "But I succeeded, didn't I?"

"It doesn't matter, even an ANBU member wouldn't be able to survive if they had an entire hidden village after them. You're being moved, whether you like it or not Naruto, and if you don't go willingly we'll have to lock you up in a cell," Tsunade hissed angrily.

"God damn it, you've already taken away all my missions and you want to take away my fucking freedom now?" he exploded.

"I won't have to take away your freedom if you go quietly."

"But I've no choice either way!"

"Naruto, just listen to her and go to the damn apartment. You're just being asked to move," a new voice joined the conversation.

Tsunade didn't even turn her head, as she knew Jiraiya was crouched behind her on the windowsill. Throwing his calloused hands into the air in frustration, Naruto was unable to form words because he was so overwhelmed by a new wave of anger. The floor didn't so much as shudder as Jiraiya's feet touched it silently and he moved to a pale wall on the right side of the room, leaning against it with arms crossed over his broad chest.

"It's not like she's asking you to stop going outside or something equally stupid. She's just asking you to go somewhere else out of the way because if you're in the middle of the city, people might get hurt or involved the next time there's an assassination attempt on your life," Jiraiya explained further.

"You don't want innocent people to get hurt because of you, do you?" he asked quietly, hazel eyes flashing.

For a few long moments, Naruto struggled with his answer. He knew instantly that he didn't want anyone to get hurt, especially because of him, but the way they were doing it was so unfair and he really had no say in the matter. Finally, he averted his cerulean eyes to the ground and they deepened in colour as his fists tightened.

"No," he answered.

"Then you'll move," Tsunade finished.

That stupid blue eyed pretty boy, with his stupid long brown hair and his stupid smirk and his stupid speed and his stupid…stupid…

Argh! I gripped at my black hat, staring at my empty wallet in desperation.

I had absolutely no money after paying for that stupid wall- that wasn't even my fault for breaking! If I ever saw that stupid Ame ninja again, I would rip him to pieces and then ship the pieces back to Amegakure in a tiny little box. Alright, maybe that was a little bit exaggerated, but I would make him regret the day he ever crossed Haruno Sakura.

Giving my hat another sharp tug of exasperation, I inhaled deeply to try and calm myself down. I had Konoha's future to discuss with the Daimyou of Tea in a few minutes and couldn't be thinking about stupid blue eyed ninja who stole money from innocent- gack, I was doing it again!

"Haruno-san, the Daimyou will see you now," a beautiful woman with a silken kimono murmured in a quiet voice.

As I rose to my feet, the woman pulled the screen door open wordlessly. My ninja stilettos clacked against the floor noisily as I approached the straight backed Daimyou of Tea. He sat at the far end of a long room bordered by intricate rice paper screens and glossy tatami mats underfoot. I sat down and pressed my forearms and forehead to the cool tatami mat, counting to five before I raised my head again.

"Daimyou-sama, I am Haruno Sakura and it is an honour to meet with you," I introduced myself as politely as possible.

Somewhere in the back of my mind, an annoying rain ninja was running around screaming yeah! over and over again.

The Daimyou inclined his head slightly. He was a slim man whose thin frame was hidden in his huge navy blue yukata. His long black beard had been braided and his even longer hair spilled freely about his shoulders. Wrinkles played at the edges of his solemn brown eyes and there was a tightness to his mouth that seemed off putting.

Swallowing nervously, I continued, "Hokage-sama apologizes for being unable to meet with you in person. The Sound attacks are making things very difficult for her and it's impossible for her to leave Konoha at this time."

"I take it that you have been sent here to discuss a treaty between Konoha and Tea?" the Daimyou asked, his face impassive.

I nodded and he held out a single, slender hand. For a few moments, I blinked at it stupidly before realizing he wanted the scroll with the terms of the treaty. Producing it from inside my medical pouch, I placed it in his hand and his fingers curled around it. There was a soft rustling of paper as he rolled it open and his eyes scanned the paper. As time passed, a frown pulled at the corners of his lips ever so slightly.

When he had finished, he rolled the paper shut and bowed. In a strained voice, he said, "We agree to Konoha's terms. Please tell Godaime-sama that we are pleased to be Konoha's ally in this time of war."

I smiled and bowed to him, feeling as though a great burden had been taken off my shoulders.

As I exited the room, a man in a dark cloak patterned in red and white outlined clouds breezed past me. I froze, finding it hard to breathe, and turned to stare at him with wide beryl eyes. What was an Akatsuki member doing in Tea? How had he managed to slip through Konoha into Tea? I felt as though I should attack him, but the Daimyou of Tea would be insulted and that might lead to them breaking the treaty. He was so close though, I could reach out and stab him in the back!

There was a strangled sound in the back of Naruto's throat as he tried to hold back his tears. "Kisame…he…he was…"

His entire body suddenly began to shiver as he buried his face in my shirt, pulling me closer. My shirt was growing damp with his tears but I didn't complain.

"He was human."

Guilt crept into my mind unbidden, hiding pain in its depths.

The Akatsuki member knelt at the ground in front of the Daimyou. I could only make out the tall, blonde ponytail at the top of his head (that looked suspiciously like Ino's) and he tilted his head slightly to the left. Just a little more and I'd be able to see his face…just a little…

The rice paper closed with a startling snap. I glanced at the woman who had closed the door, only to realize she was nowhere to be seen. Somebody else – or something else – had closed it and a chill raced down my spine as I turned to leave.

An hour later found me wandering the streets of Tea, without money, without an inn to sleep in and about ready to faint of hunger. How was I going to sleep? I didn't feel like roughing it, but more importantly, how was I going to eat? I sighed deeply before casting my eyes to the hospital not too far off. I'd probably have to do a bit of work.

"Excuse me, miss, I'm a medic ninja from Konoha and I was wondering if I could work here for a little money…? I ran out on the way here, I'm afraid," I explained sheepishly to the brunette working at the counter.

The woman narrowed her eyes and said curtly, "We don't let medical ninja work in our hospital. You'll have to find money elsewhere."

I protested, "But, I'm a very skilled medic! I'm sure I can help you with your more serious cases and-"

"No. Please leave the hospital," she said, her voice taking on an icy tone.

"Miss, please, I don't have any-"

"Oh come on, just let her work here, yeah? She really wants to and you'd have to be heartless to let her starve on the street," a smooth, deep voice interrupted.

I stiffened. Turning my head to face the speaker, I felt rage bubble deep inside of me.

"You!" I screamed, pointing at him angrily.

"Shit," he mumbled, turning quickly to leave the hospital.

I snatched Arashi by the back of his green yukata, my eyes blazing. I shouted, outraged, "If it wasn't for you, I wouldn't be in this position! Damn it, you owe me money so give it back to me or I swear I'll kick your ass!"

"Get off me, you crazy bitch! I don't owe you any money, yeah," he blurted indignantly.

"What do you mean you don't owe me money?! You ran off after you broke the stupid wall and I had to pay for it so I have no money right now," I snapped.

"I broke the wall? You were the one who threw me through it, yeah," he shouted.

I argued hotly, "If you weren't being such a dickhead, I wouldn't have thrown you into it!"

And then, very abruptly, we were thrown out of the hospital for disturbing the peace.

The brunette tried to slink off subtly but I caught up with him, hanging tightly onto the back of his yukata. He grabbed my wrist with a bruising grip and I instinctively sent a shockwave of chakra into his system, causing him to let go as though he had been scalded.

He punched me and I blocked it, wincing at the force of the blow. It made my teeth rattle in my skull and I managed to slip my foot behind his ankle. I pulled it towards me and pressed against his shoulder, causing him to fall to the floor. However, he sprang from the floor and his feet thudded into my chest. I stumbled backwards as the breath was knocked out of my lungs and landed on the hard ground unpleasantly.

I rolled to the side as his foot smashed into the floor where my head would have been had I not moved. I locked his knees with my own legs like scissors, pulling him to the floor again, and scrambled on top of him. I punched him and his head jerked to the side. With a loud growl, he threw me off of him and I landed on my two feet, much like a cat.

"Damn it woman, leave me alone!" Arashi yelled angrily.

"Not until you give me back the money you owe me," I said firmly.

He sighed loudly in exasperation and demanded, "How much do I owe you, yeah?"

"Four thousand dollars," I told him curtly.

"The hell?! I'm not paying you four thousand dollars," he refused blatantly.

It was time to pull out the big guns now, I decided. I let my eyes boil over with angry tears of frustration and brushed at my eyes. Course, the tears weren't too hard to force to the surface, thanks to the bastard in front of me and my untimely period. Glancing up at the sky, I swallowed with some difficulty and let out a dramatic sob.

He turned away and continued walking.

Blinking back my tears, I gasped indignantly at his nerve. What kind of a guy was he? Did he have no morals?

"He-Hey! Hey, you!" I yelled, running after him.

He stopped when I tugged at the sleeve of his yukata and shot me a piercing look. I crossed both of my arms over my chest and sighed in frustration.

"Look…what about we just room together or something? We get cheaper rates," I reasoned with him.

Arashi paused and stared at me for a long time contemplatively.

He then relented, "Fine. I'm not doing this because I like you or anything, but you're right that it is cheaper."

I grinned. He set off at a fast walk that had me taking two steps to his one, but I couldn't exactly ask him to slow down without the fear that he'd take back his offer or something equally as drastic.

For some strange reason, I felt…guilty. It felt like I was betraying Itachi somehow, no matter how much I tried to forget, even if he had died only three months ago and nothing had really happened between us except for the occasional kiss and, oh yeah, me falling in love with someone who probably didn't return my feelings- again. That was a definite damper on my mood.

We walked along in silence, me following behind him trying to make it look like I wasn't. It felt horribly, horribly awkward. I think Arashi could tell too because he was as stiff as a brick wall and when we finally turned into a sketchy looking inn, I swore I had never been happier.

When Arashi finally opened the door to our and we went inside, I realized there was one big problem. There was only one bed. I pulled my hat further down over my head self consciously, checking for any stray strands of pink, and stood uncomfortably by the door as Arashi went into the bathroom. Where was I going to sleep? I could only see one small twin bed and a lot of empty floor that didn't look quite so tempting. I shivered as a cockroach scuttled across the floor quickly.

I slid my bag underneath the bed and lay down on top of it, staring up at the ceiling. It was so weird that had met this guy again. I could have met anybody else, Shikamaru, Kiba, hell even Kankurou would've been welcome, but I had to bump into this Ame ninja who probably had no business in Tea. Sighing, I felt awfully homesick and didn't hear the bathroom door open with a click.

"Hey, what are you doing on the bed, yeah?" Arashi demanded.

I looked at him and sat up. I insisted, "I deserve the bed. You made me pay for the wall."

"Will you please stop talking about the stupid wall? I'm letting you stay here, aren't I?" he hissed.

I growled back at him, "What do you mean you're letting me stay here? I would be in my own nice hotel room if you hadn't insisted we share a room that night!"

"Shut up woman, your voice is giving me a headache. Let's just forget about all of that, yeah?" he said, rubbing at his temples with his fingers.

Eventually, I gave in. "Alright, fine."

I sat up on the bed, watching Arashi move around the room. He opened the narrow wooden cupboard in the corner of the room and produced a ratty looking futon, laying it on the floor. Turning away from me, he opened his yukata and threw it into a corner messily. I had a sudden urge to pick up the yukata and fold it; I couldn't stand untidiness. However, I was distracted by his exposed pale back, riddled with scars and stitches.

He turned around and I averted my eyes quickly, feeling like a criminal. His grey slacks rode low on his hips, revealing protruding hipbones and a lean, slender body. I fiddled with the edge of my hat again and could tell that he was somehow staring at me.

"Why don't you take off your hat, yeah? We're inside," he asked me bemusedly.

I paused for a moment and said nothing. He shrugged and for a moment, I looked at the futon. He was probably going to throw me off the bed any minute now and force me to sleep on the futon. It came as a surprise when he instead crawled into the futon wordlessly and curled into a ball. I almost felt bad for him, keyword being almost.

I waited for him to fall asleep and when his chest fell into a slow, steady rise and fall, I stood up. Removing my hat and shorts, I scrambled into the bed in my red spaghetti strap top and underwear. Truth be told, I was terrified Arashi was going to wake up and rape me or something, and the blanket was some little consolation against him.

It was actually really cold and I shivered, even under the covers. I let my eyes flicker to Arashi's motionless form on the floor and felt guilt prick at me like a needle incessantly. Closing my eyes, I told myself firmly that the bastard deserved it and fell asleep.

I woke up sweating and sweltering hot. At first, my mind blurred lazily with the heat until eventually my surroundings eventually registered.

I was in a hotel room.

I was in a hotel room, in a bed.

I was in a hotel room, in a bed, with a man.

I was in a hotel room, in a bed, with a- wait, what?

I squirmed as the warm body beside me shifted. What was it they told you in kunoichi Ed? If you're with a man, move slowly and make no sudden movements. Or was that for wild animals?

What the hell, same difference!

"Uhm…Arashi-san?" I asked quietly.

If I startled him, maybe he'd rape me. No, no, I definitely didn't want that. No raping for Haruno Sakura, I was to stay a virgin until I found the right man and some stranger who owed me four thousand dollars was not the right man.

I tried to move further away from him, but his arm wildly flayed out and grabbed my waist. I yelped and Arashi removed his hand like he had been burned, pushing his back against mine as he moved. It was so frustrating and I was feeling very nervous with a half naked man pressed against me while I was in nothing but my underwear and a skimpy top. I swallowed and the bed creaked as I tried to move away from him.

"Stop moving, yeah," his deep voice startled me and I went rigid.

I hissed quickly, "What the hell are you doing in the bed? I thought you were sleeping on the floor!"

"It's really cold down there and it's warmer here," he explained.

"Yeah, but I'm a woman and you…you're a man," I stuttered.

"Well done for stating the obvious."

I blurted, "It's not morally correct, I shouldn't be sleeping with a guy I don't even know!"

"Well then, why don't you get out of the room and go somewhere else, yeah?"

"Do you have to sleep in the bed?"

"I paid for the damn room, I'm not sleeping on the floor," he insisted indignantly.

I sighed and grudgingly accepted his selfish logic. Awkwardly, I asked, "Fine, but can you move away from me a little bit? You're too close."

"If I was any further away from you, I'd fall off the bed, woman," he stated.

"…and your point is?"

He let out a short exasperated sigh that made his body shudder. He really was too close and it was making me anxious, I could see his brown hair plastered to my collarbone with sweat, feel his warmth seeping through my shirt and hear his every inhale and exhale.

"Will you stop calling me woman all the time? My name's Sakura," I snapped irritably.

There was a soft silence and as I glanced at him quickly, I thought I could see the ghost of a knowing smirk on his face. When I looked again, his face was blank and eyes shut.

"Well, you didn't have very imaginative parents. A girl with pink hair and green coloured eyes with the name Sakura, yeah. You wouldn't happen to be the Godaime's apprentice?" he murmured.

Ah shit. I shouldn't have taken off my hat, much less worn a hat at all. Hair dye was definitely the way to go, I'd remember that next time.

Next Chapter Preview : Good Judgment

Pinching the bridge of my nose, I sighed and closed my eyes. Taking a deep breath, I told him, "Okay, let's calm down and try and sort this out. You just drank enough of that stuff to make the Kazekage want to hump a tree."

AHAHAH. first chapter down! This was actually meant to be split into two chapters. I don't know about you guys but I thought this chapter was damn boring. Itachi and Sakura don't meet for a while, I think, so Deidara's sort of stolen the spotlight momentarily. :) Just to clarify, Arashi is Deidara.
The next chapter is really fun. Well, I had fun writing it anyways.

Sorry bout the long wait! I'll try and make it worth it. :)

Selandora (the sickeningly emotional one you all must fear has finally gotten off her ass and written you some fic. Tally ho! Until next time! Or so Selandora says.)