Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto…plus I got no money to sue for LOL
Fiction Rating: PG-13
Genre: Romance/Humor/Action (I am going against the norm and this story will NOT be dark! It won't be the typical kidnapped-Sakura story either, but that's a bit later.)
Pairing: Main Sasori x Sakura, side Sasuke x Sakura x Sai
Why do I like this pairing, you ask…? Because, I consider Sasori as the only dude who's ever seen Sakura at her best (and that meaning her best while not doing it solely for Sasuke's sake). Plus…this pairing actually makes an interesting love triangle…or square or whatever it is…as you'll see if you keep reading. I hope.
He was ignored.
The blonde came over to his side, sliding down to seat himself cross-legged against the damp cavern wall beside him.
"Man, I'm bored. Isn't there anything to do around here!? How long are we supposed to effin' wait until our next assignment anyway?"
The red-head peered up with one glassy eye, the one he was currently adjusting with the tiny instrument in his hand.
That, admittedly, startled Deidara a bit. He gave an involuntary cringe and his face contorted in disturbance before he soothed his expression. Seriously, sometimes the blonde couldn't understand why something so undignified could be considered art.
Sasori's voice was his usual, impatient light rasp. "Hidan, something seems different about you, today."
Deidara's jaw dropped incredulously. DID HE JUST GET MISTAKEN FOR THAT OBNOXIOUS, WHINING SONOFA-!?
The blonde swiped off the eyeball staring blankly up at him from the floor. He suppressed a shudder and popped the darn thing into the empty socket of Sasori's puppet.
"WATCH IT!" came the puppet-master's angry response.
"It's Deidara! Deidara! Un! Tell me you haven't forgotten me already, Sasori-danna!"
That was the only reaction Deidara received. Sasori went back to tuning up his joints.
Something seemed a bit off, but before the blonde could put a finger on what it was, Tobi burst through the tunnel on the other end of the cavern. Oh crap.
"Ughhh!" Deidara tried and failed to mask an indignant scowl. Shit, if Tobi caught up with him again-
"Sasori-danna!" the blonde hissed whisperingly. "You've got to hide me, un!"
Without glancing up, Sasori said back with a growl, "No, I have better things to waste my time on."
"TOBI CAUGHT YOU!" the masked man cried triumphantly, getting dragged along the floor as he clung to one of Deidara's legs.
"GET OFF ME! UN!" the blonde tried unsuccessfully to pry Tobi off of him. "Now that Sasori-danna is back, GO BOTHER SOMEONE ELSE, YEAH!"
The swirly-masked man inhaled what sounded like a gasp.
Slowly, Tobi cranked his head towards the puppet-master's direction as if trying to force himself to see if it was true.
"T-T-Tobi is too good to die!"
Deidara rolled his eyes.
"B-bu-but Tobi thought Sasori-sama was dead! That's why Tobi took his ring!"
"Well," Deidara had to agree with a smirk, "You sure took a long time recovering, yeah, for not being dead, hm… How did you manage it, Sasori-danna?"
"A puppeteer should know the importance of keeping backups," the red-head man said simply. His concentrating eyes observed carefully as he flexed his fingers.
The puppet-master reached both hands together, touching fingers, and then drew them apart.
Not good. He could see the faint blue of his chakra strings between his fingers, but they weren't sustainable enough to be manipulating any battle puppets.
It was a spare, after all.
Sasori reached to touch the area beneath his cloak where the new centerpiece was inserted.
"By the way…" He waited until the blonde paused in trying to get Tobi away from using him as a shield. They both looked to him in askance.
"Was this one of my bodies left like this since I was gone?" Sasori asked lazily.
For some reason, Tobi gulped from behind Deidara.
"Umm I guess…is there something wrong, hmm?" Deidara guessed with one arched brow.
Already impatient with all this, the red-haired puppet-master got up from the ground. He extended his arms before him and tested the various mechanisms on his body.
Tobi fainted at the sight of the metal tubes which pointed out at them from the center of his palms.
Good…at the very least, he could control his own body well enough.
"Where are you going, Danna?" Deidara called to the red-haired puppet-master.
Sasori of the Red Sand glanced back with his steely eyes in a way which foretold of bloodshed.
"A part is missing from the assemble. I am going to retrieve it."
He didn't elaborate on what part it was. Definitely not, even if he only had a vague suspicion on where it could be.
It was his one major weakness. He wouldn't simply give that secret away to even the Akatsuki members.
But that kunoichi knows.
Regardless if she hadn't been cautious enough to take that part of him to make sure that he'd never rise again, he had to deal with her. If she was still alive.
Then, he'd need to find a way to restore himself to his full power.
"I'll be back soon."
"Deidara-senpai," Tobi whispered up from the floor as soon as the red-haired puppeteer was gone.
"Methinks we need to ask Zetsu-san where that went."
Stage One: The Foreshadowing
What was he doing here?
That was the question which spun round and round in her head as the kunoichi backed away, carefully, as stealthily as she could, along the wooden fence on the side of the road.
She watched as the man nonchalantly sheathed his sword as he gazed down indifferently at the motionless, masked ANBU members at his feet.
Maybe he hadn't sensed her there. Maybe she could get far enough to warn someone – anyone! Her shishou, Tsunade!
His voice was a cool caress to her ears. Her breath hitched in her throat.
Sakura glanced up with wide eyes at the calm exterior of the still man turned sideways to her.
She knew she shouldn't be looking. Shouldn't be sucked in by his enchanting red eyes.
"Sasuke-kun…" the pink-haired kunoichi found herself whispering.
Her heart made a skip in her chest. It was the first time she'd seen him since-…since that time in Orochimaru's lair. Yet, it hadn't been the right circumstance for her to look at him properly.
The boy had grown so much. He was even taller than Naruto, who was taller than her.
Struggling to not become distracted by such trivial thoughts, Sakura forced herself on guard, clenching her fists at her sides.
"Wh…what are you doing here?" she asked suspiciously. Out in the backstreets of the very village he abandoned. In broad daylight.
She startled as he made a move, a tiny step which brought him closer. Wordlessly, one hand rose lightly, as if to reach for her.
He flashed out his sword in time to parry the katana aimed at his head.
"Sakura-chan." Her teammate Sai was suddenly before her, shielding her away. "I've already alerted the ANBU," he informed her, snapping her out of her trance.
"…Heh." Sasuke returned his sword leisurely to his side. "This is getting a bit troublesome."
His blood red eyes skimmed over to the two, resting a moment on the pink-haired kunoichi behind Sai.
"Since there is no hurry…I shall return another time."
But he was gone. It could've been a special jutsu, or maybe a genjutsu, but all traces of his chakra was gone.
"…" Relaxing slightly, Sai glanced sidelong at the kunoichi beside him. "What did Uchiha Sasuke want from you?"
"Sakura!" Sai called after her, but she didn't stop to glance back.
She clenched her teeth as she sprinted along the rooftops, her pink hair fluttering as she scanned from side to side with her jade-green eyes.
He had been so near. Why hadn't she been able to find words?
He had left so peacefully. Why hadn't she tried to stop him?
'Isn't it because you're actually afraid of him, now?' a voice in the back of her mind chided her mockingly.
'And to think…once you childishly believed that you were the one who could understand him best.'
Wrong. Wrong. It wasn't like that-!
'Pffft… People do change, ya know…'
"Shut up!" Sakura yelled out, squeezing her eyes shut and skidding to a stop, panting.
She wanted to see him again. She had to.
She pivoted at the sound of that voice.
And there he was, haphazardly laid back against the base of a water tank on the same roof. His luxurious black hair was slightly longer than back then, their darkness contrasting with his ivory light skin. The captivating irises of his Sharingan were redder than ever before, and a tiny, knowing smirk tugged at the corner of his perfectly formed lips.
It was disarming, that faintly amused expression on his handsome features. So much so that it took a long moment before she could completely absorb the whole picture.
Uchiha Sasuke was grasping onto his right arm, below the shoulder, with a blotch of red spreading on the fabric of his white, high-collared shirt.
He was hurt…! Did he run into more of the ANBU just now?
Her reaction must've been immediate. Sakura didn't even pause to give it second thought.
"Heh…" Rather than looking up at her as she placed both hands over the bleeding slash on his arm, Sasuke bowed his head slightly with closed eyes. "You will never betray me…Sakura…"
She froze, jolting abruptly as his words registered in her mind.
"Sas-" the pink-haired kunoichi started to say, but he interrupted her thought by rising up.
"This is my last favor to Naruto," his cold voice arrested her to the spot. "Warn him to not come after me anymore. The next time he and I meet, I will see him dead."
"Wait-!" As soon as Sakura tried to rise up, her muscles protested and gave in. She had been too distracted. It wasn't until then did she perceive the fine, diminutive currents of electricity coursing through her body.
He had made sure she couldn't follow by using a paralyzing jutsu on her.
"Sasuke-!" she called after him, straining with the effort.
Some of her desperation must've surfaced in her voice, for the obsidian-haired Uchiha boy turned back to look.
He stood there, balancing at the very edge of the flat roof, gazing back with his emotionless mask.
A question, so quiet and unexpected, she wasn't sure if she heard him correctly.
"…Do you want to come with me?"
All the air seemed to have escaped her lungs. Her green eyes enlarged with a mixture of disbelief and awe.
"…Hmph." Sasuke briefly closed his eyes, amused by her strong reaction. When he looked back again, he wore the same expression he did that time she remembered so well, back then when the boy had told her 'You're annoying'.
"I'll be back for your answer."
Her heart was still hammering against her ribcage as she stood before Tsunade's desk in her office.
"We don't know what he's really after, but Sakura-"
Sakura was betrayed into somewhat a jump as the Hokage's stern eyes fixed on her.
"You need to be careful."
The words her master didn't say were ones she didn't need to say, especially while in the presence of ANBU captains in the room.
'I know your weakness when it comes to Uchiha Sasuke.'
The pink-haired kunoichi lowered her green gaze.
She…hadn't been able to tell her everything. If Tsunade had asked specifically, then she wouldn't be able to lie to her master. But, of course the blonde-haired woman hadn't thought of asking her apprentice if the Konoha-defector had somewhat ambiguously offered to take her with him.
Somehow Sakura was having a hard time believing it herself.
"You, there!" Tsunade snapped at the nearest ANBU captain to her desk.
"Find me someone who is resistant to paralysis, immune to illusion techniques, and strong enough to defend Sakura until the ANBU can be alerted, you hear!?"
"But Hokage-sama…someone like that is-"
The golden-eyed Hokage slammed her fist into her desk, interrupting him.
"THEN GET TO IT THIS MOMENT!"
Her master turned back to face her.
"I will send someone suitable to guard you for now. Make sure you report your whereabouts to them at all times. Do you understand?"
Sakura bit her lip, but she understood the urgency of the situation. She nodded mutely.
The Hokage let out a long breath, massaging her forehead as the ANBU captains left the room to carry out her orders.
"He didn't say anything else?" Tsunade wanted to know.
"No," Sakura admitted. "I don't even think-"
"…Sakura," her master's voice warned. "…I'm not going to challenge what you believe in, but do keep in mind that Uchiha Sasuke has declared himself our enemy."
"Yes." Of course she hadn't forgotten. She had simply-…simply…
Once. Just once. I want to hear him say what I – what we – mean to him.
"The next time Sasuke shows up in Konoha," Tsunade's voice interrupted her thoughts, "we will capture him."
Sakura set her jaw in response, straightening her spine and fisting one hand into the other.
"Hai, Tsunade-shishou. Leave it to me."
"Sakura-chan!" Naruto zoomed in on her the instant one foot was out of the door to the Hokage's office.
Oh no. Her heart did a little heavy thud in her chest. She hadn't had time to figure out exactly what she was going to say to him.
"What happened!? Are you alright!? I heard something happened and you got summoned to the old hag's office!"
Okay. Okay. Okay. So they had decided to keep this incident discreet. Simple enough.
Whatever excuse Sakura had forthcoming, it died in her throat when she forced herself to glance at his look of unmasked concern.
"…No, nevermind," the pink-haired kunoichi amended hastily.
"Huh…?" His true blue eyes blinked in confusion.
Sakura offered him a smile in reassurance, one which she hoped didn't come out too strained. "Really. It's been taken care of. What time is it?"
That question at the end was meant to throw him off. And him being Naruto, it worked.
"Huh...? Um…hm…let's see…errr hold on!"
She watched her teammate as he fumbled through the seemingly bottomless pockets of his orange overalls – really, no other ninja in the whole history of existence wore orange, the color which screams 'I AM HIDING RIGHT HERE! ARE YOU COLOR-BLIND TO NOT SPOT ME OR WHAT!?'
Bandage rolls, chopsticks, shuriken, cup ramen – don't ask – anything except a good ol' watch.
"Err…nevermind, Naruto. The sun's starting to set; I might as well head home already."
"Ah!" The blonde perked up. "I'll walk you home, Sakura-chan!"
Not that she still had that childish habit of turning him down in fear of raising his hopes, but Sakura didn't know how long she'd be able to hold up the act if he was next to her.
For better or for worse, the solution to her dilemma chose to present itself at that moment.
"Ah, there you are, Sakura. Naruto, too."
Naruto made a grimace at their dark-haired teammate as they turned to see him exit the Hokage's office.
"Don't worry, 'idiot' Naruto, I will escort Sakura-chan home," Sai declared with his typical host's smile as he approached the two.
"WHAAAT!?" Out of the two of them, Naruto's protest was the loudest. "What do you mean 'don't worry', you perverted bastard!? Who do you think you are!? And just who gave you permission to be walking Sakura-chan home!?"
"Tsunade-sama's orders," Sai replied simply, unaffected.
At this, Sakura's jaw dropped as low as Naruto's.
Oh, you got to be kidding me. HIM!?
"SAY WHAT!?" Naruto drew back in horror. "You-…old hag-…orders-…!?" he spluttered incredulously.
"Oh? You didn't hear? About Sa-"
At this point Sakura had clapped a hand over his mouth to prevent him from saying the forbidden name.
"You," the kunoichi growled lowly next to Sai's shoulder, "do not mention that in Naruto's presence."
Their blonde teammate was prone to overreacting when it came to Sasuke. If Naruto caught onto the drift of what happened, there was no way he'd be leaving her side for weeks to come. Not to mention that's exactly the sort of reaction which Sasuke's warning meant to prevent.
"Huh?" Naruto looked from one to the other in utter confusion.
"Sa-who? About what!?"
Sakura let go of Sai quickly, waving a dismissive hand. "Haha…what Sai meant to say is…uh…what did you mean to say, Sai?" the girl prodded him lightly, inwardly screaming at him to come up with something fast.
"…That is to say…" Sai complied with a deadpan expression while awkwardly going around the detail Sakura seemed to want to have left out "…Sakura and I are together now."
"NO!" she roared, horrified. "SAI! TWO PEOPLE WHO ARE BEING PUT TOGETHER DOES NOT EQUAL THEM 'BEING TOGETHER'! DO NOT EVER – EVER – CONFUSE THAT AGAIN, DO YOU UNDERSTAND!?"
"…Uhm…Not really, but-"
"JUST DON'T! ACK-! NARUTO!"
Naruto had already fainted dead away.