Color Theory

Prompt: Fortune favors the bold

Red was the color of passion, womanhood. Pink was the shade of little girls and delicate things. Next to Karin, Sakura felt like a washed-out imitation.

The rhythmic click of her nin-sandals on the dusty road before her was beginning to grate on Sakura's nerves. Dry soil was wafting up, swirling around her feet and leaving them gritty and tan. Wiggling her toes a little and frowning at the pale film over her pink toe nail polish, she promised herself she'd stop at the next village. She sighed and adjusted her med-pack, scuffing her feet a little as she trudged onward.

The slight weight of a pair of scrolls strapped on her thigh made her shift her weight a little, allowing the sticky skin beneath them to breath a little better. Though a summoning method was much easier than toting around her actual battleaxe and the coded mission scroll was necessary, the hot July weather made even the slightest things miserable. Tossing a sweaty lock of her pink hair back from her face, she cursed its length.

Pale strands fell about her face in a spiky style that was flirty and cute but were just short enough to make an efficient ponytail impossible. Knocking the errant piece back once more, she shifted her hiate-e and soldiered on. Maybe she'd let it grow out a little more. Even as the thought entered her mind, she knew she wouldn't. Sakura's short hair was a pointed statement, after all. She refused to be the simpering, feminine little kunoichi she had once been. Her hairstyle, she told herself, was a symbol of that. But, as another maverick bang slipped past her forehead protector, she wondered if it was really worth this much trouble.

At last, close to an hour later, a town appeared on the heat-hazed horizon. Letting her head fall back in relief, Sakura grabbed her water bottle and allowed herself a triumphant gulp of lukewarm water. Grimacing at its temperature and swiping her hand over her mouth, Sakura sped up her pace. She wanted to make it there by noon, before the sunlight became unbearable. When her tank top slid a little over her back, she felt the beginnings of a sunburn forming on her exposed neck and shoulders. The tight, hot sensation of the effected skin was going to be annoying. She was looking forward to a rest in the village, it would give her time to heal the burns and let the hottest part of the day pass. That thought fresh in her mind, she hurried a little more.

Sakura knew the moment she walked into the town that something was wrong. It was dead silent. Only a stiff wind whistled as it whirled down the deserted main street. Casting critical green eyes over the seemingly normal storefronts, she slowly reached for her axe's scroll. As she slowly unclasped the roll of parchment, she edged warily toward the nearest building. The gently swaying sign clearly read 'General Store.' Pushing her way swiftly through the swinging doors, she instantly drew a kunai. A blurred movement and the large man attempting to bash her over the head was cleanly disarmed and thrown back into a check-out stand. The heavy pan he'd been wielding clattered to the floor at her feet as she fell into a half-crouch.

Pointing the sharp tip of the weapon threateningly toward the prone form of the man she'd just thrown, the Leaf kunoichi bit her finger and activated her scroll. Once the massive form of her favored axe was firmly within her grasp, she sheathed her knife at the base of her spine. Still not dropping out of her defensive stance, Sakura hefted the sheathed battleaxe onto her shoulder in a position that made cleaving the massive blade easy. With an even but forceful tone, she asked, "Who are you and why was I just attacked?"

A loud groan sounded form the rubble that had once been a counter as the man slowly responded. "I own this shop! I thought you were one a them bandits that the guards seen comin' so I made to defend my store." Shakily lifting himself to his feet, the middle aged man yelled, "Now get! Ninja or no, you ain't gonna rob me blind!"

Sakura swung the enormous form of her axe onto her back, allowing it to hang from her by its strap. Extending her hands in a placating gesture, she soothed, "I'm a Konoha nin, I didn't come to do anything but rest for a little while and restock my supplies." As the man's hostile posture began to relax, she cautiously reached into her pack, producing a small stack of ryuu. "I need some water, sunblock and something to eat. Can you sell me those things?"

Staring back and forth between the kunoichi's honest stare and wad of money, the man hesitantly nodded. "Y-yeah. I got those things." As he bustled around the darkened store, gathering the things she'd requested, Sakura tried to repair the crushed check-out lane as best as she could. When the man returned with her items in a small basket, she blushed a little sheepishly. "Sorry about your counter. I'll reimburse you once I get home. Can I get your mailing address?"

The man eyed her a little shrewdly, as if he wondered rather he would really see any compensation but decided it was worth a try. He grumbled an affirmative and slipped a sheet of paper with the information on it into her bag. Taking her offered money, he told her, "Watch out for thugs on the road outta town. Scouts said they seen em comin' through. They wasn't sure if they was just passin' by or stoppin' to start trouble."

Blinking at his gruff advice, Sakura thanked him. She began to walk out when something made her ask, "What did they look like? The bandits, that is."

Looking up from his work on the shattered check out, the owner frowned and replied, "They was kinda odd. One ninja lookin' guy with a real big sword and a loud, red-haired lady friend. Soon as they saw the look outs they disappeared, though. We figure they were gettin' back to the main group to let em know they'd been spotted." The man shrugged as he finished, not noticing the strange look on his customer's face. "Like I says, just look after yer self and you'll be alright." Grunting and rubbing his back he muttered, "Sure did a number on me, doubt they'd be able ta get much over on ya."

Sakura smiled a little forcibly and laughed. "Yeah. Yeah, you're right." Waving a little and turning back toward the door, she called, "Thank you! I'll mail the rest to you soon." At the man's absent wave, she exited the shop to the sound of a little overhead bell. As she strolled down the lane leading out of town, she thought to herself.

One possible shinobi with a large sword and a red head did not mean that Team Hebi was nearby. Laughing a little at herself, she settled down on a shaded bench toward the edge of the little village and pulled out the food she'd bought. She was just being paranoid. Honestly. Munching thoughtfully and watching a few young women quietly chatter and work in a tailoring shop across the street, Sakura reflected on what brought her to this little town.

A C-rank mission from Tsunade-shishou to even up her resume for her Jounin exams, this assignment had been a boring solo escort for a paranoid damiyo's daughter. Annoyance made her roll her eyes as she remembered the utter peacock of a girl she'd been working for over the last two weeks. The arrogant heiress was just positive that her embittered rivals were plotting her murder after her engagement to a local lord was announced. Sakura had just spent fourteen days of her life listening to vain monologues and enduring mind-numbing shopping sessions. The trip to pick a wedding kimono, have it fitted and brought back to her client's family estate had dragged beyond belief. She was happy to see the last of the noble girl and be on her way home.

The scraping sound of a traditional shouji door sliding open made her glance up just in time to see a young boy slip out of the seamstress' store she'd been watching earlier. The child looked hardly old enough to walk and was tottering unsteadily from the low porch in front of the storefront. Sitting indecisively for a moment, Sakura stood when the boy climbed down and started toward the little park that butted up to the forest outside of town. He obviously wasn't old enough to be out by himself. She would just grab him and return him to his mother then be on her way. Hastily shoving her supplies into her pack, the kunoichi jogged after the toddler.

A flicker of movement in the treeline behind the child made her blood slow to a creep in her veins. When she sped up, still watching the place she'd seen a glint of metal hawkishly, Sakura had almost reached the child when her fears were affirmed. A blur of movement coalesced beside the boy. As her eyes finally made out the shape that had appeared, she gasped at what she saw. The tall Mist-shinobi who traveled with Team Hebi had his enormous blade propped cruelly in front of the child and was squatting down, half concealed behind it in a mock game of peek-a-boo. A sharp toothed grin was enough to frighten the boy into wailing at the top of his little lungs.

Sakura didn't think she'd ever moved so fast in her life. Before she really remembered telling her legs to move, she was scooping up the toddler and cradling him into her side. Twisting her posture to keep her entire body between the nukenin and the child, the kunoichi began to slowly back away. The still scared little boy was clinging onto her top and screaming when the shinobi processed what had happened. Foggy grey eyes narrowed and he taunted, "Be a little more careful about lettin' your kid wander around, lady." Swinging his large weapon onto his shoulder, he grinned pointedly, "You never know what could happen to him."

The Leaf kunoichi was about to respond when a sudden jerk nearly made her loose her grip on the little child at her hip. Spinning and kicking out furiously, she hugged the toddler to her belly with both arms as she repelled their attacker. A feminine grunt was heard as the assailant, a red headed kunoichi, was tossed back. Ducking to avoid the Mist-nin's swipe, she rubbed the boy's back consolingly as she sprung toward the relitive safety of the town.

As she fled, the shinobi called out jeeringly, "Just give us the kid!" With a growl, she hopped onto the nearest rooftop and winced when the cries of the child she was carrying rose in pitch. The heavy slap of her battleaxe against her back was almost enough to make her shout in frustration. What good was her monster strength if she couldn't use it? The tiles beneath her boots ripped up at her abrupt halt as the kunoichi from before landed in her path. While she was holding the child, she didn't even have the option of doing seals. Cursing a little under her breath and jagging around the Hebi member, Sakura began to frantically plan.

Landing once more on the dusty street of the town, she noticed the frightened faces of the citizens staring at her from the windows. A loud scream made her glance toward the tailoring shop, where she saw a hysterical young woman being restrained by a pair of older ladies. Shooting the woman what she hoped was an encouraging look, Sakura tightened her grip on the crying boy and tried to make her way toward who she assumed was his mother. The huge blade of the Mist shinobi stopped her short as its long blade sank almost half way into the dirt in front of her. The nukenin alighted on the hilt, crouching down to croon, "Hand over the kid. He's just bait to get some supplies. We promise we won't hurt him...much."

Sakura set her plan into motion. A lightening fast strike freed the senbon she'd been working from her holster and plunged it into his bent knee. The Hebi member yelled and tumbled back from his perch as his entire leg went numb. Vicious curses fell from him as he stumbled, attempting to stand, only to collapse into the dirt. "You bitch!"

Sakura ignored him in favor of turning to fend off the kunoichi who'd been trying to sneak up on her. This time the girl expected her instinctive round house kick and caught her foot, leaving the Leaf-nin in a tight spot. A quick aerial twist that lifted both her feet from the ground was risky but ultimately effective. However, she didn't expect the kunai that the Sound-nin brought up to meet her landing and only scarcely avoided loosing an eye to the flashing blade. The little child she was still cradling screamed anew at her pained gasp as a long gash bloomed over her cheekbone.

Freeing one hand from its place beneath the boy's bottom, Sakura swung with all her might in a right hook toward the unprepared and unbalanced kunoichi's face. She had almost landed the hit when the sensation of her extended wrist snapping took her by surprise. A choked sob sounded from the toddler as a hard body pressed his terrified form more tightly against Sakura. The pinkette felt a tiny squeal of pain escape her lips at the feel of her bone breaking cleanly in half, the chakra gathered there refocusing itself on healing rather than magnifying her strength. Tilting her head up to see who had stopped her attack in its tracks, she felt her breath rush from her body.

Black, black eyes stared back at her. Without looking away from her watering green gaze, Sasuke intoned, "What is the meaning of this, Suigetsu? Karin?"

Suigetsu snarled from his prone position in the street, "We were gonna get some supplies, like you asked. Except the stupid village was on lock-down, so we figured we'd take a hostage. This bitch got in the way."

The red head spoke up, "I almost had her, Sasuke-kun! If you hadn't come--"

Still staring at his shocked former teammate, the Uchiha camly cut in. "You'd be dead." Releasing Sakura's wrist and stepping back, he added, "That punch was more than enough."

The Konoha kunoichi wanted to smirk, but her face was still stuck in an expression of shock. She knew for a fact that the punch she'd thrown would have rendered Karin's face concave. When her mobility returned, she began to slowly back away from the tall form of her former teammate. Still clutching the young boy who was sniveling, working himself up for another round of tears, Sakura tried her best to shield him bodily from the group of nukenin. She unthinkingly flinched when the child released another gale of cries, and Sasuke took the opportunity to flash-step to her side.

A large hand gripped her upper arm and a quiet voice spoke just over her head, "Return the child. Come back to this spot." At her hesitant nod, Sasuke released her and she walked quickly toward the still panicking woman she'd spotted earlier. The boy's mother was in tears and thanked the kunoichi profusely before whisking the child indoors. Standing awkwardly for a moment on the now deserted porch, Sakura slowly turned and made her way slowly back to Sasuke.

Stopping a ways before him, she stared down at her dust-covered toes and waited. When dark nin-sandals and shin braces cut into her line of sight, he spoke again. "What is your mission?"

Without looking up, she laughed a little and replied, "You know I can't tell you that." Even though she saw his feet blur toward her, Sakura did nothing to fend off her old teammate. At the cool touch of metal against her throat, the kunoichi remained stony. "Torture and threats don't change anything." Slanting the lean shinobi an unreadable glance, she added, "But it has absolutely nothing to do with you."

The shadows from his longer hair shifted a little around his mouth. "Good." Just as quickly as the blade had come, it went but he did not step back. "Come with me."

Intelligent eyes narrowed as Sakura analyzed the simple, high-handed order. Go with him? Scathingly, she hissed, "And become a traitor to my Village? No."

Darkness pooled in a dimple on his cheek, creating a sinister imitation of a smirk. "You weren't so reluctant once."

Raising her chin, the pinkette bit out, "That was a long time ago."

The Uchiha gave no indication as to what he thought of that. Instead he tilted a little closer, though his voice reamained flat as he murmured against her sun-warmed hair, "This is no place to discuss this. Come with me." He didn't give her an option as he wrapped one hand insistantly on her elbow and steered her toward the treeline. When his teammates made to follow, he quelled them with a glance. They turned back to the town, presumably to purchase supplies.

They walked a ways into the woods, stopping at last by a thin stream. When his touch at her elbow retreated, Sakura stepped over to the little brook, watching the clear water trickle over the polished stones. Eyes still locked on the stream bed, she told him, "I have to return to Konoha. I can't stay, I'm so--" The press of a blade at her vulnerable neck stopped her short.

"You have no choice."

Frustration bubbled up in the pinkette's chest until it gurgled and rushed like the little brook before her as she turned to face Sasuke. "I don't understand. You've always called me weak. What good could my traveling with you possibly do?"

The same, monotone voice answered, "You are a proficient medical-nin. I have decided I would like to live past the defeat of my brother."

A caustic laugh tumbled from Sakura. Rubbing her arms despite the warm weather, she ignored the kusanagi held to her throat when she jibed, "So now I'm useful. I see." She didn't expect any consolations and she didn't receive any. Instead, the elite-nin was silent. Narrowing emerald eyes, the kunoichi spoke again, "Fine. I'll heal you once Itachi is dead." The increased pressure at the hated name caused a tiny trickle of blood to slip down to her tank top. A minor concentration of chakra took care of the cut, and as the green light faded, Sasuke retracted the blade. Sakura wryly wondered if she'd passed whatever test he'd just conducted.

Her thoughts scattered to the winds as a cool touch ghosted over her cheekbone. "Heal this."

Blinking for a moment, she finally comprehended what he meant. She'd forgotten all about the gash on her face. Blood had dried from under her eye all the way down to her jawline in a rusty stain. It wasn't particularly deep, but it was still flowing rather alarmingly. Raising one hand to lightly brush the long cut, she slowly repaired the skin. Usually a heal like that would be quick, but facial skin was thin and notoriously easy to scar. Once she was finished, she glanced back up at the shinobi's impassive features.

He was observing her with a clinical expression, carefully studying the technique she'd used to heal the gash. As she noticed the tomoes of his Sharingnan spinning, she wondered if he'd copied the jutsu. Red faded to black before she could think too much on it and his tall form pivoted and began to walk deeper into the forest. A long moment passed as Sasuke continued into the underbrush and the pinkette remained unmoving.

At last, the shinobi paused and turned his head slightly as he rested one hand on his blade. The pose was both nonchalant and threatening. Promising, perhaps. Sakura simply wrapped her arms a little tighter around her torso and stumbled after her former teammate. It was fact that she couldn't take Sasuke in a one on one match with her chakra levels. Hugging herself a little harder, she acerbically noted that she probably wouldn't survive a confrontation at her full potential. As she fell into step behind the lean man, she reminded herself that she was just Team Seven's kunoichi tag-along.

Staring down at her pink toenails, she trailed behind Sasuke and toward the newest twist in her fate.

To Be Continued

Hey everyone! This is a gift fic for my friend, Miko-chan. :3 The next piece will be up soon, and the rating will change further down the line. (I'm planning a lemon! gasp!)

Fealty will be updated soon, I promise! The next chapter is being a little difficult, but I'm optimistic it will be out by Monday evening.

On a more somber note, it has recently been brought to my attention that another 'author' on this site had plagiarized my story 'Citizen Erased.' I've done my best to notify the authority of the 'TOS' and I hope that the issue will be resolved soon. However, no further Cyberpunk!verse fics will be updated until action is taken. I don't intend to punish my readers and reviewers, I just don't like to see my work stolen.

Anyway, MIKO-CHAN IS AWESOME and as always, thank you for reading and please review!