By Yellow Mask
Spoilers: 309 and beyond
Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto.
"When a small pebble drops into a serene pool of water, it causes a ripple in the water in every direction, even disturbing distant still waters."
-ScienceDaily (Jan. 29, 2007)
'Tsunade said my compassion would be the death of me,' Sakura reflected bitterly. 'I just never thought she meant that literally.'
Sakura had been sent to a village in Fire Country to deal with an outbreak of a particularly nasty strain of measles. It wasn't much of a concern to mature, healthy adults, but several toddlers had contracted the disease and later died from it. It had taken a few days, but she'd managed to isolate all those infected and those suspected of being infected, planning to let the disease run its course in those who were otherwise healthy and strong. The young children – the danger group – she'd performed healing jutsus on to cure them.
Unfortunately, such complete healing was very draining, and Sakura had set off for home with very low chakra – mistake number one.
Then, when she'd heard the sounds of battle and cries of distress on the road ahead of her, she'd sped forward to help without really considering the consequences – mistake number two.
In short, a few mistakes that had led to her current predicament – battling with a bunch of Sound ninjas in an attempt to liberate a group of travelers they were in the process of kidnapping.
A battle she was swiftly losing. Her chakra was low, she was exhausted, and she had leapt into a battle with twenty-plus enemy ninjas without really considering the consequences.
'Good thing you can't be criminally stupid, or I'd be judged guilty as charged within five minutes.'
The fight had gone from 'help the people they're kidnapping' to 'try not to get abducted yourself'. She didn't know why they were being so indiscriminant about the people they were grabbing up, but all their attacks had clearly been meant to incapacitate her, rather than kill – maybe Kabuto needed people for his experiments or something...
Sakura danced backwards, avoiding a spray of darts that were undoubtedly tipped with some kind of poison...and discovered she'd forgotten to take the position of the river into account when she moved.
'Another sign you really weren't up for this battle,' she told herself as she let her body go limp so the tumble down the steep bank wouldn't break any limbs. 'You're not even thinking straight! Idiot!'
The plunge into the water nearly winded her, but Sakura had enough presence of mind to refrain from breaking the surface instantly. Instead, she yielded to the current, hoping it could carry her out of danger before the breath in her lungs ran out.
She took a moment to be thankful it was the rainy season – thus, the strong current – and that the river was deep.
When Sakura finally broke the surface and clambered onto the grassy bank, she allowed herself to hope for a moment that she'd eluded them...until she heard the shouts, and the sound of many people crashing through the forest.
Whatever position these ninja held in Sound, stealth was not their strong point.
Unfortunately, she'd reached a lull in the river – the current would not sweep her along very fast here, and it certainly couldn't take her far enough away from them in time. She could run, but Sakura doubted she'd get very far. Or she could fight...and die in a blaze of glory.
Frankly, Sakura preferred the option of fighting – at least that way she wouldn't end up at the mercy of twenty-plus shinobi without morals or scruples, but...
Naruto would never forgive her. More importantly, Sakura would never forgive herself. She'd seen the despair that hovered over her friend like a cloud after their disastrous meeting with Sasuke and she wouldn't – couldn't – excuse taking another friend from him.
No matter the cost to herself.
So she mentally revised her plans. 'I'll have to get caught – for a while, at least. I'm so exhausted right now, I'll have a better chance of escaping after I've had some rest. Even if it means spending a night or two as a captive.'
She wasn't stupid – she knew she was inviting a lot of variables into this plan by enabling her capture...but it was currently the best idea she had.
So, scraping together the last of her chakra, she performed a transformation jutsu.
She wasn't going to be captured as Haruno Sakura, because that was just inviting all kinds of trouble. She wasn't even going to be captured as a woman – something told her it wouldn't be a good idea to be a female captive.
The pulse of energy in her body died to a low-level hum, and Sakura leaned out over the water to check her handiwork.
A teenage boy gazed back at her, his skin a few shades darker than her own, with short brown hair that fell in bright green eyes.
For some reason, a change in eye colour was hard to maintain in a transformation, and as Sakura had no idea how long she would be expected to keep up this charade, she felt it was better to err on the safe side.
Hearing her pursuers closing in, Sakura swiftly shed her skirt so she would appear to be clad in unisex clothes and discarded any and all ninja trappings, shoving them into a particularly dense patch of reeds.
Then, though it was difficult to do, she sprawled herself out on the bank like a lizard sunning itself, trying to act as though she was completely unaware of the ninja closing in on her. With a bit of luck, she could pass as a boy lounging carelessly on a river bank. They'd come along, and she would...well, she was fairly certain most people would run for their lives upon encountering a group of ninja.
She tensed as they came closer, finally looking up when the Sound shinobi burst from the trees.
Sakura painted her best look of wide-eyed disbelief and shock on her features, before she scrambled to her feet and tried to run. She didn't have to fake running at civilian speeds – her exhaustion, coupled with having to maintain her transformation, and she was already so tired she thought she could be outrun by a geriatric snail.
So she wasn't surprised when her arms were grabbed and twisted sharply, forcing her to her knees.
"Boy!" one her captors hissed, his fingers clenching in her hair and pulling her head back. "Did you see a pink-haired woman come by here?"
Sakura shook her head wildly, trying to act as though she were scared speechless.
"Who cares?" another of them snapped. "We can meet our quota with this one – take him!"
Sakura found herself hustled back towards the road they'd initially tangled on. The travelers she had tried to help had been strung out in a long line, their hands bound in front of them, roped to each other by nooses around their necks. In fact, it looked a lot like...
Sakura froze as realisation hit. This was a slave line!
Of course, she shouldn't be surprised. Sound was so corrupt it came as no shock to her that they would either use slaves or profit from their sale.
Sakura allowed herself to hope they would simply be sold at some market in one of the less hospitable countries – it would be far easier to escape from there than from a Sound stronghold.
Not to mention, she might encounter...
Sakura shook her head, driving all thoughts of Sasuke out of her mind. She needed to concentrate on her own survival, first and foremost.
By the time the straggling slave line had reached Sound, Sakura was truly furious at the world. She was furious at herself for being stupid and getting involved in a battle without considering the consequences; she was furious at the fact that she and the other prisoners were being taken to a Sound base instead of a slave market somewhere; and she was definitely furious at the shinobi who were 'escorting' them.
Of course, they were probably pretty furious with her, too. In the three days since she'd been captured, Sakura had gained a reputation for being a resistant troublemaker. She'd tried to escape a total of four times, and been recaptured and dragged back each time. Her back still stung from the canings she'd been given in punishment, though the wounds had stopped bleeding.
All her failed escape attempts had done was driven home the message that she had to play ball – at least for now. She couldn't escape if she was beaten half to death, could she?
She darted a compassionate glance at the people in front of her. After three days of captivity, sprinkled with constant threats and her own public punishments for her attempted escapes, the travelers seemed well and truly cowed. It was almost ironic – her whippings had more of an impact on them than they'd had on her.
But then, she was a kunoichi – she was used to pain. It wasn't pleasant to bear, but it was something she could deal with.
The line halted at what appeared to be a solid cliff face...until one of the shinobi rapped sharply on it – Sakura memorised the pattern: two soft, three loud – and a hidden door opened in the rock.
Sakura didn't know what was happening, but the slave line moved forward in stops and starts. Her first thought was that they were being processed somehow, and trepidation welled in her at the thought of what that process might involve.
When it was her turn to be shoved through the doorway, Sakura set her jaw and squared her shoulders, determined to face whatever awaited her...
To find it was a thin, weedy man wearing the Sound headband and holding a collar and what looked like brown clothing. Sakura thought she could make out others behind him, but the change of lighting from the bright forest to the dim stone corridor had bright spots flaring in her vision as her eyes adjusted.
Someone grabbed hold of her hair, and she resisted the urge to lash out, settling for flexing her bound hands in frustration. The man in front of her raised the leather collar...then frowned.
"I can sense strong chakra from him," he murmured, making a vague motion behind him that Sakura didn't catch in the low light.
The collar he brought forth made Sakura's blood freeze solid in her veins, thickening to jelly. It was leather, yes, but there was a strip of metal adorning the middle, with a long needle protruding from it. And it wasn't a simple strap that secured it, but what looked like some sort of lock.
And Sakura knew she didn't want that collar anywhere near her. She had no idea what it was going to do, but that needle didn't look like it would help her in any way, shape or form.
So she bucked against the hold on her like a wild horse, trying futilely to twist away from the collar. Someone kicked her in the back of her knee, forcing it to bend and sending her lurching to the floor. Hands gripped her shoulders, keeping her down as her hair was wrenched forward so sharply she felt tears prick her eyes, baring the back of her neck.
She still struggled, but there wasn't much she could do, and she couldn't help crying out when she felt the needle slide into the back of her neck.
But the pain of needle was nothing compared to the sensation that jolted through her body as the collar was snapped closed, like a powerful electric shock. She didn't know what that needle was doing, but it somehow interfered with her chakra. Sakura struggled to maintain the transformation as the world blurred before her, her limbs folding like green twigs. Every ounce of energy in her body went towards maintaining the illusion of a dark-haired, tanned male...
And it seemed to work. Certainly there were no shouts of shock or anger that would signal the illusion being undone. As she was yanked to her feet again, Sakura became aware that the collar had done something to her chakra. She didn't know what, but it felt...restricted. As though the transformation was all she could maintain.
'It's probably meant to restrict chakra somehow,' she told herself as she was handed a simple brown shift and shoved in the direction of the other slaves with orders to get dressed quickly. 'The needle must deliver some sort of toxin.'
She knew it was probably meant to keep chakra at a civilian's level, but she was lucky in that respect – she was already drained, so the chakra the man had sensed wasn't her true chakra level. In other words, the restriction they'd placed on her probably wouldn't restrict all her chakra when she managed to recover it. It would make fighting in a battle difficult, but she'd certainly have more chakra than they would expect her to have.
At least, assuming the collar was set to a specific level.
Freed from her bonds and left with the other slaves, Sakura set about trying to change into the shift and surreptitiously use the remains of her old clothes to bind her chest flat. Transformation was all well and good, but she needed to make sure there was no physical hint of cleavage.
In the end, Sakura's chest wasn't completely flat, but certainly flat enough to get by beneath the shapeless slave shift. She could pass for a male physically, but she'd need to modify her behaviour to a certain extent as well. On the journey, she'd been dredging up recollections of her teammates in en effort to emulate masculine behaviour. Of course, given that her teammates were Kakashi, Naruto and Sai, the other prisoners probably thought she was crazy, but it was better than thinking that she was a female in disguise.
Placing her back against the stone wall as the other captives milled around in confusion, Sakura took stock of her surroundings. This seemed to be another of Sound's underground hideouts, though she couldn't guess at how big it was or if it was one of the main ones. For all she knew, this could just be a pit stop before they reached their true destination.
Sakura had to remind herself to turn to the boy who had addressed her. She'd introduced herself as Haru, on the grounds that it sounded like a male name, and since she was already accustomed to answering to 'Haruno' when she was summoned, it wouldn't be much of a stretch to respond to it.
"Yeah, kid?" she asked.
"What do you think is gonna happen to us?"
"Don't know," Sakura admitted, trying to sound unaffected even as her heart broke for him. "Maybe they're trying to figure out-"
Sakura jerked automatically as one of their captors bellowed at them, his voice reverberating across the stone walls.
"Someone didn't get their coffee today..." she muttered under her breath. The sarcasm and bravado was helping her cope with her situation; as long as she was defying them in some way, she could pretend her immediate future wasn't about to be decided by corrupt sadists.
"You have brought in a good crop..." The soft voice from the shadows sent a tremble rippling through Sakura's frame.
Apparently they had been brought to one of Sound's main bases, after all.
Their captors bowed, and the snake summoner stepped into the light...with Uchiha Sasuke at his side.
Sakura tensed, her heart suddenly slamming against her ribs like the kicks of a wild horse.
"Well, are there any that catch your eye?" Orochimaru asked Sasuke, as though they were discussing a group of cattle.
"I don't need a slave!" Sasuke snapped.
And he didn't. The slaves at Sound always made him uneasy, their bowed heads and empty eyes always stirring something within him. Something that he told himself was contempt, but that was dangerously close to pity.
Orochimaru ignored his outburst, however, and a flare of rage burst in Sasuke's gut.
"Take your pick," the sannin shrugged. "Since you seem so averse to the slaves already working here..."
Sasuke skimmed his eyes over the ragtag group – apparently a family of travelers that had been waylaid on the road.
And now, they were looking at a lifetime of servitude.
Sasuke shook off the cloud of sympathy that threatened, forcing himself to feel nothing but disgust at the obvious fear in their eyes, the way they cringed back against the wall like mice cowering from a cat. Their spirits were already bending.
Then his eyes landed on the boy standing in the back. He, too, was leaning against the wall, but it was a posture closer to that of a casual slouch than a cringe. He, too, was averting his eyes, but it wasn't in fear – on the contrary, it was more an act of disinterest, as though even Orochimaru was beneath his notice.
And the collar; the leather secured with a metal lock...Sasuke had seen those kind of collars before. They were only used to restrain those who could manipulate chakra – those who'd had training as ninja.
Sasuke's curiosity was piqued. The boy couldn't have been much older than him...a genin who'd somehow become separated from his teammates, perhaps?
As though sensing his gaze, the boy's gaze flickered to hold his own, and Sasuke found himself staring into bright green eyes. Eyes that were fierce and spirited, and were certainly not the eyes of a broken man.
There was something strangely familiar about those eyes. Something that tugged at the back of his mind, teasing him with whispers of recognition and echoes of memory.
"Him," Sasuke said bluntly, pointing to the green-eyed boy.
Sakura bit her tongue to keep herself from swearing. As soon as the purpose of Sasuke's visit had been made clear, Sakura had tried to make herself as unobtrusive as possible, praying for good luck, that he wouldn't pick her. She didn't need a large bucket of emotional upset on top of her current problems. She'd even averted her eyes, remembering that eye contact was a sure-fire way of gaining someone's attention.
And he'd picked her anyway.
'Great. Just great.' Even her thoughts were sarcastic.
"Sure you wouldn't like one of the women?" Orochimaru murmured. "The males might be physically stronger, but the females can take care of...certain needs. Though I suppose you can use males for the same purpose, if your desires are such."
Sasuke paid him no mind.
Sakura, for her part, was on the verge of screaming. How was she supposed to escape when she was going to be around Sasuke all the time? She refused to admit that some part of her was glad; for god's sake, if he'd been prepared to kill Naruto, he certainly wouldn't hesitate when it came to her.
A swift wrench on her shoulder pulled Sakura from her horrified thoughts.
"Go to Lord Sasuke," her thuggish captor barked.
Sakura rolled her eyes (unobtrusively – it wouldn't do to go asking for trouble) and obeyed.
Sasuke turned and strode away down the corridor without looking back. Assuming she was supposed to follow, Sakura hurried after him, glancing back at the small group of new slaves being inspected by Orochimaru before she had to turn a corner and they were blocked from her sight.
She shadowed Sasuke through the corridors, trying to memorise their layout for when she made her escape. When they reached a heavy door at the end of the corridor, Sakura assumed they'd reached their destination, and she was proven correct when Sasuke opened the door and entered without preamble.
Sakura strolled in behind him, a little taken aback at the size of the room. Her apartment wasn't this big!
Sasuke jerked his head in the direction of a bare corner. "You sleep there. If you want any sort of bedding, get it yourself."
Apparently Sasuke was a bastard to everyone, including his slave. "Someone's pissy..." Sakura breathed, too low to be heard.
But she had reckoned without the stone walls that amplified sound or Sasuke's keen ears. "What was that?"
"Nothing," Sakura denied automatically.
She doubted that Sasuke would pursue the line of inquiry – he probably considered it beneath him – and was surprised when he turned to her, black eyes sharp and seeking. She felt the urge to step back but stood her ground determinedly.
"What's your name?" he asked suddenly.
"Haru," Sakura said.
"Last name or first name?" Sasuke interrogated.
"I don't think I want you to know," Sakura snapped, feeling off-balance and a little nervous. What was Sasuke playing at?
Sasuke stared at the boy, half intrigued and half exasperated. Haru was either completely ignorant of his situation, or he possessed a lot more guts than Sasuke had first estimated.
Even if the defiance made him want to hit the kid, it was still a nice change from the usual brand of slaves toiling in Sound.
But Haru wasn't even paying attention to him anymore; his eyes were darting around the room in what someone less perceptive might have taken for fear. But Sasuke could see the calculation in his face – the slightly furrowed brow a sign of concentration rather than unease – and knew he was scanning the windowless room for obvious weak points or escape avenues beside the door they had just come through.
"You're already planning an escape," Sasuke noted, just to see how Haru would react at the idea that his plans were discovered.
"Wouldn't you, in my place?" the slave snapped.
'Play it cool, Sakura,' she urged herself. 'Play it cool, play it cool – you can do this, you can do this...'
Sasuke smirked. "I'll never be in your place."
Sakura reflected there was something oddly comforting about the fact that Sasuke's arrogance hadn't changed. "Whatever you say..."
She hoped her remark would end this weird conversation. Why was Sasuke bothering to talk to her? For all he knew, she was a young male slave with a smart mouth who he didn't want to have serving him in the first place.
What she did know was that she didn't like the look on his face. As though he were staring at a jigsaw puzzle that hadn't been finished, and he was trying to work out what the complete picture was. As though she intrigued him, and he wanted to figure her out.
And frankly, her escape was going to a lot more complicated if Sasuke was going to be watching her like a hawk.
When she wanted his attention, she never got it and now, when she didn't want his attention, he was giving it to her in spades. It was kind of funny, in a way...and also kind of painful, but Sakura wasn't about to dwell on that.
"You stink, go clean up," Sasuke ordered, turning his back on her.
Sakura might have been offended, except she knew he was telling the truth. Between three days of traveling in the wilderness, one escape attempt that had led her into a swamp and the dried blood that was making her back itch even now, Sakura knew she must smell something awful.
And she wasn't going to turn down the offer of a shower. At least, that's what she thought he was ordering her to do.
So Sakura moved towards the door at the other end of the room, the door that she was fairly certain led to a bathroom, as Sasuke was already rooting through a closet like she wasn't there.
Five minutes later, Sakura decided she loved whoever had invented indoor plumbing. Loved them completely, utterly and unconditionally. Loved them, loved them, loved them.
A hot shower had never felt so good.
But it did sting the welts on her back, making the water at her feet tinge pink for a few moments as the blood spiraled into the drain, some of it old and brown, some of it new and bright from where the wounds had reopened. Sakura grimaced at the sight, gingerly feeling her injuries and turning the possibility of infection over in her mind. On one hand, she was young and fit, and she ate well, got plenty of sleep, and in general kept her immune system in good health. On the other hand, she was tired, under a lot of emotional stress (with only more to come), and the injury had been given many long hours of exposure to dirt, dust and grime.
Infection was a definite possibility. Maybe not serious, but certainly debilitating and annoying – plus, she wouldn't put it past Orochimaru to just kill any sick slave on the spot in lieu of medical attention.
Sakura stood under the water and considered what she could do. She could let Sasuke know about the injuries if they became infected, but she had no idea how he'd react. Besides, even if he did decide to get her treated, that would involve being poked and prodded by Kabuto, which Sakura was rather keen to avoid to all costs. Both him and Orochimaru, come to that – she had faith in her skills at transformation, but she wasn't about to assume her disguise was foolproof against the likes of them.
Of course...she could always try to heal it herself. The collar limited her chakra, but it didn't block it precisely. Sure, she'd probably get her ass handed to her if she tried to start a fight, but she probably had enough to knit the marks on her back together without much trouble.
Then again, she didn't know what the collar would do if she tried to perform another jutsu while maintaining the transformation.
With that thought in mind, Sakura twisted her head until she could glimpse the mirror out of the corner of her eye. She'd avoided it when she entered (not out of vanity, more because it was just plain weird to see a man looking back at her), but now she thought she had some use for it. With a careful alignment of eyes and mirror (and pulling a few wet strands of hair out of the way, of course) Sakura got her first good look at the back of her collar.
It was a small band of metal not unlike the lock that held it closed. Except this was rounded and slightly raised, and she wondered if there was some kind of toxin in it. It would explain the needle, and also the way the area had gone slightly numb.
And, assuming there was only a limited amount of the toxin contained in the collar, that meant that this restraint had a use-by date. There would come a time when it would no longer function.
Of course, with the way her luck was going, that use-by date was probably ten years from now.
Sakura poked and prodded the collar, wincing when she yanked a little too hard and the thin needle shifted in her neck. Apparently there was only so much the toxin numbed; if someone ever grabbed it and used it to shake her, it would hurt like hell.
Silently vowing not to allow anyone to touch her collar, Sakura finally decided to take a chance. It couldn't hurt just to try a little bit of healing...just see what she could get away with...
Besides, it wasn't like she needed to heal them entirely – just enough to close them and deal with any infection that had already set in.
With a deep breath, Sakura pressed a hand against her side, gathered her chakra...and took a gamble.
It left her light-headed, slightly dizzy and a little nauseous (though that could have been a result of the dizziness), but the welts healed to the point where they had firmly scabbed over, though they were still red and angry.
Sakura toweled herself dry, dressed in the brown shift that she was beginning to think was the mark of a slave in Sound, and started to leave the bathroom...
And managed to stop herself just before she broke her nose against Sasuke's chest.
"Whoa!" she couldn't help exclaiming, darting backwards and then kicking herself as she realised her movements had betrayed reflexes and graces civilians simply didn't have. Sure, the collar was a mark that they'd sensed strong chakra, but for all they knew, she could have been some civilian kid who was simply more in touch with his chakra than most.
But she'd just revealed that she'd had formal training. Sasuke probably couldn't guess as to the extent, but the fact that he knew she'd had it was cause for concern.
"What were you doing in there?" Sasuke asked in a low, menacing voice. He'd felt a sharp spike of chakra from the room, muted – obviously by the collar – but still enough for him to sense. It hadn't been enough to be a threat, so he'd waited until Haru had emerged to confront him about it.
"Taking a shower," Haru said in a surprisingly even tone. "I assume that's what you meant when you told me to clean myself up."
"I felt a spike of chakra," Sasuke said bluntly, his eyes beginning to bleed into the red and black of bloodline ability. "What were you doing?"
Sakura hoped she wasn't about to break out in a cold sweat. There was a dangerous edge and intensity to his voice, like a blade of sharpened steel held against her neck.
But Sakura was a kunoichi – more specifically, a medic-nin, who often had to work on patients who were dying even as she worked on them – so she was used to thinking fast under pressure.
'If I lie and say nothing, he'll see right through it,' she realised. 'So, I'll go with...'
"If you must know, I was trying to see if I could get the collar off," she said, shrugging carelessly to cover her unease. "Now are you going to beat me or something in punishment or can I go root around for a blanket?"
Sasuke simply stared at her for long moments – so long, tension was beginning to coil in Sakura's muscles as she prepared for...something. Some kind of reaction from him; possibly violent.
But it never came. Sasuke simply strode past her into the bathroom, the soft click of the door closing signaling an end to...whatever that had been.
Sakura arranged the blankets she'd found in a small nest in the corner, uncomfortably aware of Sasuke's eyes on her. He hadn't said a thing, and the silence was making her edgy.
"So...what am I supposed to do?" she asked eventually. She was fairly sure slaves shouldn't be asking their masters anything, but she couldn't take this silent observation anymore.
Sasuke's expression didn't so much as flicker.
"I mean, what work are you going to have me do?" Sakura elaborated.
Sasuke shrugged – a small, economic movement of his shoulders, as though loathe to waste energy. "Keep the room clean, keep my weapons in good shape and do whatever I tell you to."
Sakura turned away to bundle up one of the blankets in something resembling a pillow, rolling her eyes the minute her back was to him.
As though he had been given some invisible, unheard cue, Sasuke strode to the door and left the room, pausing only to instruct her not to leave the room as he departed.
Sakura had no idea what to make of that (maybe he was going training), but she wasn't about to waste this golden opportunity.
She proceeded to slowly and carefully rummage through Sasuke's room, meticulously cataloguing what she had access to, just in case. When deep in enemy territory, you never knew what you might need.
It took less time that she had thought it would; Sasuke's room was large, yes, but rather spartan in terms of furniture and equipment. He had a bed, a closet, and a rack where he kept his weapons...and that was it. His bathroom supplies consisted of soap, shampoo, toothbrush and toothpaste.
The more Sakura looked at it, the more it looked like a guest room. The sort of things you'd take on a camping trip; only the bare necessities, because you weren't going to be there for very long. But then again, Orochimaru moved from base to base every few weeks, so it was probably safe to assume Sasuke moved with him.
Better to assume that than to tell herself that Sasuke had only ever intended his stay in Sound to be temporary.
Assured that she had made a mental list of everything she might possibly need, and feeling that it was probably late at night (hard to tell in the underground, but Sakura's circadian rhythms were demanding sleep) she nestled in her blankets. Sasuke wasn't back yet, but if he wanted something, he would just have to wake her up!
After performing a quick jutsu trick Tsunade had taught her – a way of ensuring that the transformation was maintained while she slept (requiring some very fine-tuned chakra control) – Sakura curled in on herself and shut her eyes, telling herself to rest up before she attempted to escape.
"It is in your moments of decision that your destiny is shaped."
AN: Thanks to justcallmefaye, who is an absolute angel of a beta - she even wrote the summary for me!