A/N: Look at it! It's semi-normal! A blessing from the Lord! The rating is for language and theme, and for possible cuddling later on. Just cuddling, mind you. I don't do hardcore. For your fix, please go read Magnetized.
Also, guys…don't ask me to update when the story says 'complete.' xD That means it's over. No more. Just wanted to throw that out there.
By the way, I almost forgot. This fic is for KorinaCaffeine/Fallacy, because she was the first one to make me read a YamaSaku, even though I didn't really want to, and because she deserves a present! She secretes awesomeness from her pores.
Wild Goose Chase
Chapter 1 – Honored
When he looked back on it, he should've suspected something from the very beginning. And in fact, he almost did.
"Yamato, you have to get up!"
"Yamato, it's really important!"
But why would he suspect anything from her? She certainly didn't make it a habit of going around and deceiving others just for the hell of it, most importantly not him.
"The Hokage told me to give you this mission scroll. It's for ANBU."
Suddenly more awake, he had snatched the scroll from her hand and flipped the paper onto his palm, skimming the lines with a sleep-fogged critical eye. An enemy encampment just south of the border? A mission to gather information on their future aspirations? Sounded generic and low-level, and not nearly as fun as sleeping on Sakura's couch. But a mission was a mission.
Of course, he had neglected to remember or care that only the Hokage handed ANBU missions out, and in person, that Sakura hadn't become the Hokage's emergency mission messenger recently, nor would she ever, because the position didn't exist, and that an enemy encampment in another country wasn't really Konoha's business anyway.
He sat up; rubbing at the lines imprinted on his face from the raised couch pattern, Yamato looked up into the face of one determined Sakura, clutching his uniform in impatient hands.
"Come on, come on! I already have your little costume ready! That encampment isn't going to wait for you forever, you know."
He slipped into the grey and black fabric like it was a baggy second skin, and in need of a wash to boot. But something had been off about all this…
"Sakura, how do you even know that's what my mission is? Sneaking peeks at the scrolls? That's against protocol."
He pursed his lips at her in mock disappointment.
"It's—um—well, what are you going to do? Besides, the Hokage gave me this scroll herself. So your tattling will fall on irrelevant ears."
Yamato slipped on his mask, shook his arms a couple times to let his metal guards shift into place. The apartment looked normal, he noticed when he glanced around. Nothing out of ordinary to make this odd outburst become any less…well, odd, than it was to begin with.
"So," he turned to her, and she had her fists on her hips this time. "So the Hokage makes it a point to read all the Anbu missions to you before she hands them out? You must feel very honored."
"Now you're just being an ass, Mister Goody-Two-Shoes."
She blew a saucy kiss at him and tossed a katana in his general direction, which he easily plucked from the air and tied to his back. Eyes fixated on her curiously while he snapped the sword into place, she in turn never took her gaze from him, chewing her lips with anticipation.
"Well, better get going. I'll go and tell the Hokage you left."
He walked to the front door and paused with a gloved hand on the knob.
"Are you absolutely sure you're all right? Normally when I have to leave, there's a lot less shooing and a lot more hugging."
"Do you want a hug?"
So she gave him one. And it was suspiciously short before she opened the door over his hand and nearly shoved him out into the hallway.
"Bye! Try not to get lost in the woods and stuff!"
He should've known.
Back inside the apartment, Sakura smiled to herself giddily.
"Wow," a familiar voice drawled from her living room window. "That was really pathetic."
She strolled to the ledge and smirked at the man outside, ecstatic at the look of utter disappointment on his face.
"Well, Kakashi-sensei, it was sloppy, and I almost blew it there for a minute, but I guess he just trusts me too much for his own good. I hope he doesn't hate me when he comes back."
Kakashi turned around and stuck a leg inside Sakura's apartment, inviting himself in without a second thought. His shoes made soft sounds on the rug as he made his way to the couch, the indent from Yamato in the last stages of re-shaping itself, and he sank into the plush fabric, slinging arms across the ridge of the back.
"Yeah, that was just about the worst acting I've ever seen, but I really didn't expect him to actually fall for it. I'm kind of sad now. Maybe I should suggest mandatory gullibility tests for everyone above chuunin rank."
Sakura laughed and walked towards him, sat at the opposite end of the cushion, and picked up her telephone, methodically dialing her second-favorite number, sticking her tongue out of her mouth from habit.
"Well, don't get your feelings hurt or anything, but I'm calling Naruto over to help me. I have a feeling you won't be a very good party planner."
"Mmm. I'm just here for the food. You told me that, remember?"
True to his reputation, Kakashi was already drifting off into his own little world, wrapped up in the adventures of Jiraiya's warped idea of good fiction. But no matter. If he wanted to sit right in that very spot for the rest of the night, well, that was perfectly fine.
"Hey, Naruto, just calling to let you know it worked."
Ha, ha! What a loser!
"Oh, don't be mean. You would've done exactly the same thing, you jerk. You probably would've believed me if I had told you that Tsunade just named you her successor."
Well, she'll do that anyway, so I don't have to worry.
"Right. So I'm going to the store now to get some things. What can you do?"
I can invite people, I guess. Who do you want me to get to come?
"Oh, just people. I tried asking Kakashi the other day if he knew anyone that knows Yamato as a close friend or anything, but you know how helpful he is with stuff like that."
"I already told you, Sakura. It's ANBU. No one has friends in ANBU. It's an emotional dead zone."
"Well, that doesn't mean you have to uphold the standard when you're out. You're a dead zone yourself most of the time."
"A ninja must always—"
"Oh, go make yourself a sandwich. I put the meat in the fridge."
Kakashi stood and walked into the kitchen. The fridge made a slight popping noise as the man opened the door to examine the contents. Sakura sighed and resumed her conversation.
"So yeah, that's how he contributed."
That's Kakashi for you. I'll bet he's excited and just refuses to show it. You know, when September comes around we should spring this on Kakashi, too.
"Ha! He definitely wouldn't fall for it after all this. It would have to be a normal party. And we'd probably have to nail him to the floor to get him to stay, or, the horror, socialize with people."
"Actually, I am quite adept at handling myself in social situations, thank you. You're out of mustard now, by the way."
"You're buying me some more. That was my favorite brand of mustard."
Well, you sound busy, so I'm going to go now. Do you think Ibiki would want to come?
"Umm…I'll just leave you to it."
Okay, see you!
"Ibiki? Why, I imagine he'd be thrilled to come," Kakashi quipped with a mouthful of romaine and turkey.
"Don't you be mean either, Kakashi-sensei. I want this to be a fun time for everyone, so cut down on the sarcasm just this once."
"All right, just for today. Do you have some milk?"
Sakura hung up the phone and walked briskly into her bathroom, brushing her hair back for the third time that day.
"I have some soymilk, is that okay?"
"I'll get you some."
"No, I got it."
She walked out of the bathroom and into the kitchen, where Kakashi was surreptitiously arranging his lunch, now complete with water, chips, and an orange. Or maybe he always made his lunch like that.
He placed them on a mat just so on her tiny kitchen table, and then folded his arms and regarded the pink-haired woman blankly. Sakura scrunched up her nose.
"You're never going to let me see your face willingly, are you?"
"Well, you already know what's under it. Another mask."
"Hmmph. So how long do we have until Ten—Yamato comes back a furious chunk of ANBU?"
Kakashi tilted his head at her.
"So he finally cracked and told you his name? It was getting ridiculous there for a while. I think he just did it to screw with your head."
"Yeah, he sure did. So I had to resort to underhanded measures."
"Don't tell me you peeked at the files."
"I might have," she smiled brightly and sat down in her other table chair, scooting it next to Kakashi, and took a drink of his water. Kakashi watched her balefully, pried it from her fingers, and replaced it on his left side.
"So when did you spring it on him?"
Her wicked smile unnerved him a bit.
"Last night, when we were—"
"Okay, okay," Kakashi held up his hands and chuckled nervously. "In that case, I don't need to know."
"So you read porn but you don't want to talk about it?"
"Well, no…it's not exactly polite conversation if I remember correctly. And I try not to think about other people having sex if I can help it. And, come to think of it, now you're the one being mean."
He glared at her halfheartedly, and she smiled innocently back at him.
"All right, then, no more," she groaned dramatically, but stood up from the table, the chair making soft squeaking noises as she pushed it out, and then back in.
"I'm going out right now. So do you know about how long we have, anyway?"
"I'd say you have…five hours before he gets there, runs around in circles for a while, and then comes back a furious chunk of ANBU."
"Oh, even if the party doesn't completely cheer him up, I'm sure I can after everyone's gone."
"Once again, too much information." Kakashi looked down at his lunch longingly. "I want to eat my food now, so why don't you just go get the stuff already. I'll be right here guarding the parameter against anyone who might try to sabotage this joyous occasion."
It was hard to scowl at him when he smiled at her like that.
"…and so Sakura got this idea to have a surprise party for him, and we really want you to come. I don't know if you actually even know him, but there will be food."
Genma clicked his teeth on the senbon, the metallic tap comforting. He leaned on the pane of his apartment door and regarded Naruto thoughtfully.
"I have to bring a present?"
Naruto pursed his lips in thought.
"I didn't really think about that. I guess you could if you wanted to. I'm not sure exactly what Captain Yamato likes, so if you do bring something I wouldn't know what to recommend."
"Hn. I think I know what I could get."
"That's none of your business."
"Oh, come on. I won't tell anybody."
"I was thinking maybe some strippers or something. I dunno."
"What? That's lame. And this isn't a guy party, you know. I already told you Sakura's doing all this. Can you imagine what your corpse would look like after she found out you hired strippers for her boyfriend?"
Genma laughed snidely.
"Then maybe I'll hire some male strippers for her, then. And I thought he wasn't her boyfriend."
"Well," Naruto rubbed his head over the latest patch of bruises. "She doesn't like 'that term.' She says it's 'not official' and to start minding my own business."
"Right. Isn't he like living at her apartment or some shit? That's pretty damn official."
"They do go back and forth…so Genma, you'll tell people if you see them?"
"Yeah, I'll do that. Sakura's at seven, right?"
"So…yeah, okay, see you then." Genma pushed himself upright and retreated into his apartment.
"Okay," Naruto said to himself, slapping a fist into his palm. "Operation: Invite Next-Door Neighbor a success! I'm so lucky I live next to a jounin. So who next?"
He strolled down the hallway twirling a kunai thoughtfully, and paused when he reached the outside balcony. Quickly, he scanned the streets below, searching for a familiar face. Now who might know Captain Yamato…hmmm…of course! A squad of ANBU headed towards the Hokage tower, and Naruto heaved himself off the balcony and dashed after them.
They would probably know Yamato, being in the same shinobi class and all… But even if they didn't know him, now he had a bribing tool. Strippers!
Yamato sped through the forest, growing closer to his goal by the minute. Something still seemed off about all this, but it was Sakura. He should trust her, right?
Underneath his mask, he grimaced. The scroll felt and looked authentic, so there was no reason to doubt. No reason to doubt at all.
When he reached his second cross-reference point, he glanced around the perimeter briefly before reaching for the scroll again and opening it quietly. According to the summary, he was already halfway there.
Looking up at the sun, he guessed his return to Konoha to be close to nine or ten o' clock, depending on how thoroughly he could manage to stake out whatever operation was at hand here. He wouldn't rush, of course, but he wanted to see Sakura again. However strangely she had behaved earlier this afternoon, he still felt like he didn't spend enough time with her.
But as soon as he got back he would make changes on that immediately. Probably he would take her out to eat somewhere, and maybe ask her to just move in with him completely. They could both pay to have a bigger apartment, and—but she might think he was trying to control her, wouldn't she?
Females were so confusing. Most especially this one. For sure, though, she wouldn't reject going out to eat. For all of her obsessions over training and keeping medically fit, the woman had the appetite the size of a horse.
Yamato's cheerful and depressingly confusing musings were cut short when a kunai flew from the branches above and barely missed embedding itself into his jugular.
A cold blast of air swept around Sakura, chilling her to the bone, and at once, she resented the power of air conditioning. Really, it wasn't that hot outside. Where was the sanity of the people who owned this place?
Quickly making her decision, Sakura left the linens store, determined to find a decent tablecloth elsewhere. As she strolled down the street, grateful for the warmth of the sun creeping into her bones, she made a mental summary of her past fifteen minutes party-preparing.
Tablecloths? No, she hadn't got those. Catered food? Didn't even start thinking about where to go. Drinks? Not really. Entertainment…? Did people even need entertainment at a party?
"Of course they do," she growled aloud to herself. "Even if there's just a couple people coming, we still need something to do."
"Talking to yourself again, forehead? You really are mental."
Ino bore down on Sakura like a stampede of buffalos, snatching her best friend's arm in her own and possessing a mindlessly cheerful demeanor that nearly made Sakura sick. This was no time to be happy! There were parties to plan!
"So what about this couple people coming and needing stuff to do?"
"Ino, really, I can't." Sakura struggled against the girl's iron grip.
"Sakura, really, you can." Ino gripped her arm tighter. "Come on, please. I tell you everything, everything I ever do, and you won't even tell me basic girlfriend gossip. Like what you and that stud are doing in bed."
Sakura scowled. "Ino, people don't talk about that to each other. At least, not decent people."
"Oh, yes they do. We need to give each other tips and things. Especially you. I'll bet you just lay there and let him do all the thrusting."
"Mmhmm, sure do." Sakura finally wrenched her arm free. "Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go and make arrangements for that stud's party…oh, shit."
Ino squealed. "A party! You didn't tell me you were giving him a party! Ooh, I want to come! I'll even help you set up," the freed arm was repossessed and Ino began dragging her in what Sakura assumed was her family's flower shop. Whenever she went somewhere with Ino, they always ended up there at some point.
"Well," Sakura muttered. "I didn't want you to know, because it's supposed to be a small party. You know, no fuss. I don't think he'd like that very much…you know how reserved he is."
"Bullshit! Everyone loves a big party!"
And Sakura submitted to her friend, knowing that since Ino knew, there would be dire consequences for anyone that tried to stop her from becoming fully involved. True to tradition, the Yamanaka flower shop loomed ahead, and Sakura's heart sank at the implications. Ino would stop at nothing to make this the most garishly pimped-out party in existence…her apartment might not survive.
"Daddy! Daddy, I need to talk to you," Ino screeched in the general direction of the shop as they got closer.
Sakura watched in despair as everyone in earshot looked up with interest at the screaming girl. If Ino let anyone find out that Sakura was throwing a party…
"Daddy, Sakura's having a party for that Yamato guy on her team! I need some money so we can go buy decorations! Oh, and we'll need the flower shop for a second. It won't hurt to have a few arrangements on the coffee table and such."
Inoichi Yamanaka peeked out his front door holding a scroll in one hand and a sandwich in the other, surprisingly calm at the sight of one hyperventilating blond and one suffering soul yelling at him from outside his shop.
"The last time I gave you money," he swallowed a bite of sandwich and continued. "You spent it all on your hair. Use your own money."
"Daddy! Sakura is here and she'll make sure we spend it wisely. It's for a party! Have a heart, dad."
"Bah, fine. But I'm not giving you a lot, so use your own money for the rest."
Sakura felt extremely sorry for the man, having cracked with the slightest bit of pressure to Ino's charms. At the same time, she was jealous at the lack of resistance, knowing that if she'd asked her own father that very same question, he would've followed her around until she spent whatever he'd given her, just to make sure she was spending it in a way he approved of.
Well, thank God for Yamato, who would probably shave himself bald if she asked him to do it.
With an adequate chunk of money in tow, Ino marched confidently into the shop, and Sakura paused to take in the perfume as she always did. It just never got old, coming in here, and she stood there simply breathing in and out, grateful for this moment of sanity. Ino, on the other hand, was already well into a detailed drawing of some flower arrangements at the counter.
"Okay, forehead, what time is this party?"
"Sakura! Focus! I need to know when to start fixing these up so they'll still be pretty by the time I set them up!"
"So I'll need to have those by six-thirty…do I have enough tiger lilies for this…?"
Sakura got down on her hands and knees, crawled softly to the iris section, and laid there flat on her back, hoping Ino would be done fast. She didn't exactly appreciate the intrusion, but she was grateful for some professional help, even if the party did become slightly out of control now that the blonde had taken the reigns.
But even Ino knew how to be simple and subtle when the time was right. She probably wouldn't do something crazy for once, hopefully sensing Sakura's nervousness at Yamato's reaction when he came home upset at being tricked. Actually, she didn't even know about that…maybe she should?
No, nothing strange would happen. It was just a little party.
Naruto strutted away from the group of ANBU, chuckling proudly to himself. Now that they knew about it, surely they would mention the party on the fly to a couple of their ANBU buddies.
But of course he couldn't rely on them totally. ANBU usually didn't talk that much unless their conversation was in the form of vague foreshadowing of events and blatant threats to your very being, and if he saw any more of them it wouldn't hurt to pass it on himself.
Now, he had to think. Did Yamato know many jounin? Actually, Naruto didn't know of that many himself, just the few that happened to be sensei of his friends, those guys that sat at the front gates, and others who happened to cross his path. For a list of invitees, it was pretty weak.
"Hello, Naruto, you seem up to something. Are you finally feeling it? Do you feel the power of youth seeping into your very soul?"
Naruto spun around.
"Hey, you're Lee's sensei!"
"That is correct. But at the moment, I'm afraid Lee is—"
"That's great! Hey, do you want to come to the party?"
"Party…" Gai paused and narrowed his eyes at Naruto, stroking his chin with one hand while the other fisted at his waist. "Now what kind of party are we talking about, here?"
"Umm…" God, that man had no idea how terrifying he was. "It's for Yamato. You know, that guy that took Kakashi's place for a while."
"Ah, yes. Sakura's husband."
"Um, no. Anyway, it's his party. Sakura is organizing it, and she told me to invite people."
"And you came straight to me!" Gai laughed loudly, and Naruto flinched. "Well, that is just super. I would be glad to come to that party, and I'll make sure to let everyone know about it, so don't you worry."
"Thanks!" Naruto hummed nervously. "So…it's at Sakura's apartment at seven tonight, okay? Do you know where that is?"
"I know it. I know it well."
"O…kay, then. I'll see you there, Gai-sensei."
"Farewell, youthful soul!"
Naruto decided right then and there to not invite any more jounin. They were just too weird. Probably Yamato wouldn't mind if he invited some of his own friends…now, where was Neji?