Whoa~ it's been forever...
Sorry, I've been pretty busy ^^"
In the end, delicious delicious reviews inspired me to write a little more. Thanks muchly!
To make up for my horrible neglect, I've given you Kakuzu, Zetsu AND Kisame all in one chapter! Enjoy!
Kisame frowned as he escorted his new ward to his room. Something was definitely up with Kakuzu and Sakura.
They were covering for each other.
And that couldn't be good.
His frown intensified as they reached his room, and he closed the door behind them, leaning against it.
"Sakura-san, tell me the truth. Kakuzu can't get to you here," he watched her warily. "Why did he hurt you?"
Sakura sighed, feeling the tension in her muscles.
"It's like I said, we were just talking," she looked away. "I guess he got a little upset, but he didn't intend to harm me."
"And just what subject were you talking about that led to you getting bruises?" he narrowed his eyes.
"Look, Kisame, it's not really that big a deal. He was just warning me about Zetsu-kun," she scratched the back of her head. "He's upset that I... uh... get along with him so well," she finished lamely.
"You get along with Zetsu?" Kisame blinked. This was news to him. Kakuzu, Hidan, and now Zetsu? He better watch himself – perhaps she had some crazy sort of seduction genjutsu.
"Well, yeah, I suppose. I think we're kind of friends. Sort of," she voiced hesitantly – she was a little unsure, herself.
"I've never known Zetsu to have friends," Kisame frowned. "He usually eats people before they can even become acquaintances."
"Yeah, Kakuzu kind of told me that," she shrugged.
"And the whole cannibalism thing doesn't turn you off?" the mist nin asked curiously.
She raised an amused eyebrow at him.
"I knew he was a cannibal before I met him, and I know very well that all great ninja have their quirks," she shrugged carelessly.
"A quirk?" Kisame laughed. "You really are one weird girl."
"Look at the ninja that come from my village. It was bound to happen," she replied with a faint smile, making the blue man laugh.
"Seriously, though," Kisame gave her a wary look. "What is going on with you?"
"Ah... I don't really know what you mean. Zetsu needs to build up his immune system, which is why I'm cooking for him. We just seem to... get along. I can't explain it better than that," she shrugged.
"And Kakuzu?" Kisame pressed.
Sakura looked away, awkwardly.
'What do we tell him?'
'I don't know...'
'He was there before. He knows Kakuzu likes us, so there's no harm in telling him what he already knows. Just be vague.'
Agreeing with her Inner, Sakura sighed.
"I don't know," she replied honestly. "He likes me. I don't really see how it's any business of yours."
"Sakura-chan," Kisame frowned. "You're entertaining at the very least, and I'd be disappointed to see you torn apart any time soon, which is why I'm going to give you this advice. It is unwise to mess around with Zetsu, Kakuzu, or Hidan. Or any Akatsuki, for that matter. It's difficult enough to keep the peace as it is."
"Why are you even here, anyway?" Sakura asked him curiously. "In Akatsuki, I mean."
"There's not many places for a guy like me to go," Kisame replied with a hint of amusement. "Leader-sama offered me something I couldn't refuse."
"A home?" Sakura tried, making Kisame snort.
"I wouldn't really call it that. It's more a job with free board, but you're on the right track," he shrugged. "Better than living in caves dodging ANBU, anyway."
"Even though they want your demon?" Sakura queried. "Is it really worth your life?"
"Well, I was kind of hoping I'd either be able to keep it, or end up like the Kazekage," Kisame admitted. "Though I'm a little less hopeful now."
"You know..." Sakura looked him over. "I can't really guarantee anything, but... If you decide to leave, I might be able to get Tsunade to let you stay in Konoha."
Kisame raised an eyebrow at that.
"Trying to get me to sneak you out of here, are you?" he asked in amusement.
"It's no secret I don't want to be here," she sighed, staring at the ceiling. "Although, I wouldn't mind staying a little longer – Pein said he'd get in touch with Tsunade and Gaara to make a deal, and I want to see how that works out. But I mean it. Maybe it's just a twisted way of doing something for Zabuza-san. But I mean what I say - if the situation arises, I'll do what I can."
"You barely know me," Kisame frowned in mistrust. "Why would you do this for me?"
"You're strangely charismatic," the kunoichi shot him a smile. "Not to mention it would be a strategic move to make an ally out of you."
Kisame laughed again, giving her a curious grin.
"Well, kunoichi, we'll see what happens," he patted her on the head. "And I appreciate the offer. In return, if anyone here gives you a hard time, you can come hide behind me."
Sakura blinked, but before she could reply, they were interrupted by a knock on the door.
"Kisame-san, do you have Sakura-chan?" Zetsu's voice drifted through the wood. "Open the hell up, before I phase in there and kick your ass!"
Kisame raised an eyebrow at his pink haired companion, before opening the door. "Zetsu, what can I do for you?"
"Give me the girl," Zetsu growled, shoving past the ex-Mist nin.
"Petal, come cook for me," he requested in a much nicer tone.
"Don't worry, Zetsu-kun, I didn't forget," Sakura gave him a cheerful smile. "I just had to move in with Kisame-san. Perhaps we should invite him for dinner?"
"Ah... Kisame?" she turned to her 'guardian', who was trying not to laugh. "You wanna come with us?"
"Heh, sure," he gave a lop-sided smirk, and held the door open for his roommate and the interloper to exit.
Zetsu grabbed Sakura with his black hand and marched her out of the room. Kisame couldn't help but wonder at this – what exactly was going on with this kunoichi.
"Zetsu-san," he addressed him cordially, as he closed the door behind him. "I believe Sakura-chan is capable of walking on her own."
The bi-coloured man ignored his comment, gripping her more tightly, and increased his pace.
Kisame followed closely behind, ready to interfere in case anything untoward happened.
Meanwhile, Sakura was having a mini-breakdown with herself.
'What do we do?'
'Sit tight, then make some food?'
'Have you not noticed plant boy has a freakin' death grip on us?'
'He's just possessive, like Kakuzu.'
'But he's NOT Kakuzu. Holy hell, what happens if 'Kuzu-kun sees us like this?'
'Kuzu-kun? What the hell is wrong with you, Inner?'
'Shut it. I like the Ragdoll. Okay, listen up, it's planning time. What do we know about Zetsu's intentions towards us?'
'That he called us 'his', and we are officially in the 'friend' category since that shopping trip earlier today.'
'I'd be inclined to think he only liked us for our cooking skills, but I think it's more than that. Perhaps we're the only ones to have shown him kindness? Or maybe it's a bond created because we're both skitz's. We might be the only one's he's found who are like him.'
'Perhaps we can control this, if we have a heart to heart with him. Get him to stick to the 'friend' zone.'
'By the feel of it, his idea of 'friend' might be a strange mix of slave and pet.'
'We'll have to change his definition of it then.'
'Think you can do it without being eaten?'
'Don't be a cow, he isn't that bad.'
'Don't tell me you have a thing for Zetsu!'
'Shut up! I do not! I'm just acknowledging he's alright, as far as missing nin go. And I wouldn't mind being his-'
'Shut up!! Friend! I was going to say friend!'
'Whatever. And where do Mr. Gills and Mr. Slaughterhouse fit into this?'
'Kisame could prove to be a useful ally. His loyalty to Akatsuki is weak. If we could work it out with Tsunade , it'd be one less Akatsuki member. Hidan... well, as long as he's into sacrificing people, I want to keep him as far away from Konoha as possible.'
'Look alive, we're almost there.'
Letting out a sigh, Sakura looked up as they walked into the kitchen/dining room. She pulled away from her escort, and opened up the now fully stocked pantry as the others sat down by the table.
"Okay, what do you two feel like eating?" she gave Kisame a glance. "Banana pancakes?"
"Sounds great," the shark nin grinned, watching Zetsu carefully out of the corner of his eye. "But then again, so does most free food."
Zetsu leaned forward, a hungry grin covering his features.
"We've never had a pancake," he informed her in a mix of excitement and curiosity. "Is it as good as apple pie?"
Sakura felt her heart melt a little, and gave him a motherly smile. Perhaps she'd mistaken his earlier actions for simple excitement.
"It's tasty, but in a completely different way," she told him, gathering the ingredients, before an idea struck her.
"Zetsu-kun, this recipe is easy to make masses of, so would you mind if we invited the others too?" she gave him a sweet smile.
Zetsu stayed silent for a moment, before his face turned sour.
"You mean Kakuzu," he practically spat, the malice in his voice taking her by surprise.
'Crap, calm him down!' Inner Sakura panicked.
Sakura took the couple steps it took to stand in front of the cannibal, and placed a hand on his head, her other arm coming to rest gently around his shoulders.
"Yes, I mean Kakuzu," she sighed, looking him in the eye, while stroking his hair softly. "And Kisame. And while we're at it, why not Hidan, Itachi, and whoever else is on base as well? I figure since I might be here for a while it's as good an opportunity as any to meet the rest of Akatsuki."
Zetsu continued to frown at her.
"Hey, what's wrong with that?" she poked him in the cheek. The white one, just to be safe.
"Kakuzu wants you," Black Zetsu answered her.
"You think I don't know that?" Sakura sighed.
Now Sakura frowned, crossing her arms across her chest, and leaning back slightly. Nope. Not just excitement.
"I don't belong to anybody," Sakura stated. "And if I did, as a ninja it would be my Hokage. She is the only one I would allow to make such a claim on me."
"You're here to heal me. You're my friend. Mine."
Sakura exhaled heavily. He wasn't referring to himself in plural – that meant Black Zetsu had taken over...
"Zetsu-kuuuun," she whined. "You don't get how this works, do you? You haven't had friends before?"
He shook his head.
She gave a pleading look to Kisame, who was watching them wide-eyed, and seemed to be gripping something that looked suspiciously like a kunai.
"Okay, Zetsu-chan, I'm going to explain to you my idea of friendship," she sighed, and sat down between the two men. "Friendship isn't like a claim on someone. It's when two people mutually agree that they like each other and care about each other. We can talk, spend time together and the like, but it doesn't mean you own me, or I own you, alright? And we're both allowed to make other friends too. Which means you should stop being so mean to Kakuzu." She poked him in the forehead for emphasis.
"We don't want to share you," he stated, shooting bitter looks towards Kisame, who started to back away a little. Sakura felt her tense shoulders relax a little – White Zetsu was back.
"You're just possessive because I'm your first friend," she petted his hair. "And that's alright too. But getting along with people, making friends - it's part of who I am. You won't be doing us any favors by keeping me from doing that – from being who I am. Just because I like them too doesn't mean I like you any less. You got that?"
He nodded a little moodily, and Sakura gave him a brief hug.
"So, will you do me a favor, and invite the others in for dinner?" she asked, giving him her sweetest smile.
"If this is a favor, does that mean we get a kiss in return?" Black Zetsu prodded, while White Zetsu was horrified with himself. "She doesn't want to. Ignore him, Petal, we didn't mean to-"
He was silenced by a brief but soft kiss to the forehead.
"Zetsu-kun, I would appreciate it very much if you would invite the others to dinner," she smiled, watching his expression morph into symmetrical happiness as he sank through the floor.
Once the cannibal was completely out of sight, she turned to her remaining companion with a slightly embarrassed expression.
"So... you believe we get along now?" she laughed nervously, scratching the back of her head.
Kisame just stared at her in absolute horror. In his entire life, he'd never seen anything quite so disturbing. This girl had one of the few men who could leave Kisame – heck, probably even Leader shaking in their boots, completely wrapped around her little finger. And it was no seduction technique, like he had thought earlier. It was just by being herself.
Not only that, but he'd offered her protection as well. She'd already started to worm her way under his skin.
"Kisame-san?" Sakura frowned at him in annoyance. "If you don't close your mouth, a bug might fly in there."
Seeing no reaction, she moodily started to mash several bananas.
After taking a moment to compose himself, he warily approached her.
"Ne, Sakura-chan... Are you sure this is the best idea? Getting close to him?" Kisame asked nervously.
Sakura paused in her mashing, and pondered how to answer him.
"Honestly? No. I have no idea what I'm doing. But... he's lonely. It doesn't seem right not to befriend him."
"And you seriously don't mind the things he's done?" Kisame questioned her, his face uncharacteristically serious. "He has a lot of blood on his hands."
"And so do you," she turned to meet his eyes. "You are all S-Class criminals. Of course there is blood on your hands. But that is a part of the life of a ninja. Don't forget I live that life too. Everyone seems set on reminding me how dangerous all of you are. But you seem to forget that I am as well. Don't let the pink hair fool you, Kisame."
"So how did Kakuzu get you, anyway?" the shark nin questioned.
"I was on my way back from a mission. I hadn't slept in about a week and a half, and was running out of chakra," Sakura frowned. "He captured me easily, with his hair."
Kisame looked a little surprised.
"A ninja is only as good as they are at their worst," she said, turning back to her ingredients. "I wasn't strong enough."
"That's... an interesting quote," Kisame paused. You're only as good as you are at your worst. "Where did you hear it?"
"It's just something I figured out a while ago," Sakura shrugged. "When I was fighting Sasori, I think. I wouldn't have survived if it wasn't for Chiyo-baa-sama. And then even she died. I've been trying to get better, but I'm obviously not getting much headway since I was taken out so easily."
"Hmm," Kisame frowned. She was hard on herself, but that was likely where she got the drive to train.
"What about you, Kisame?" Sakura asked, stirring away at her batter. "Do you have a ninde? A saying that sums up your ninja way?"
"Eh..." Kisame stared at her thoughtfully. "Not really. I think I adapt to whatever the situation is, rather than standing firm to one particular thing. Gives me more freedom, you know?"
"I suppose you'd have to be, as a missing nin," Sakura agreed. "I don't know if I could do it. The teachings of the Third and the Fifth, my friends, my loyalty to Konoha - I think it's what defines me. Where I find my purpose. It must be hard to break away from that."
"You Leaf nin are way too touchy feely," Kisame noted with an amused grin.
"Even Itachi?" Sakura raised an eyebrow.
"Well, every rule has an exception," Kisame shrugged.
Before they could psycho-analyse the Uchiha, the door opened, and a horde of Akatsuki walked in, led by Zetsu.
"Pancakes! Pancakes! Tobi loves pancakes!" A childish voice rang out from the group.
"What the hell?" Sakura muttered, observing the group.
The source of the voice was not a young boy, but a fully grown male wearing an orange spiralling mask.
'He's completely covered,' Inner Sakura noted. 'Including gloves. He's hiding something.'
'I don't think Zetsu acts like a kid any more,' Sakura noted to herself. 'This is obviously the kid of Akatsuki.'
'I don't like him. He's hiding something,' her alternate personality repeated, evaluating him critically. 'He's in Akatsuki, after all, so he must be S Class. The childish antics are obviously an act.'
'Even against the other members?' she mused. 'Either way, we can't let him know we're onto him.'
"Your name is Tobi?" Sakura tilted her head, letting an amused smile cover her face. "Don't tell me you're part of Akatsuki."
"Yes!" he pushed past the others, who glowered at him in response. He was practically vibrating with excitement. "And you are Sakura-chan! Tobi is very happy to meet such a pretty girl! Even more happy that Sakura-chan is making Tobi pancakes!"
"Well, it's nice to meet you too, Tobi-kun," Sakura let herself laugh. "I'm assuming blondie over there is your partner?"
"Wow! Sakura-chan is pretty AND clever!" Tobi bounced. "Deidara-sempai is Tobi's partner. But just between you and me," he changed his voice into a comic whisper that could be easily heard. "Sakura-chan should stay away from Deidara. Sempai is a little nuts!"
"I heard that you bastard!" said blond cussed, glaring at the now-cowering man.
Sakura sniggered, and let her gaze drift to Kakuzu, who was standing back and taking turns between glowering at Zetsu, and glowering at Tobi.
"So, Pinkie!" Hidan drew her attention, brushing past his moody partner, a neutral Itachi, and the loudly brawling pair. "You're practicing your wifey skills for when you decide to marry me."
"I'm not going to marry you, Hidan," Sakura pinched the bridge of her nose, smiling despite herself.
"Sure, you say that now, but you'll warm up to me soon enough," he grinned.
Ignoring him, she grabbed Zetsu's arm, and dragged him over to the bench.
"You should learn how to make this too, you know," she told him, and explained what she'd already done, putting the first lot of batter into the frypan.
Zetsu watched her with avid attention, and even flipped a few pancakes himself. Soon enough, there was a massive stack, which they dished out equally to everyone.
"Oh! Oh! Tobi has ice cream!" the masked Akatsuki shouted, running out of the room, and returning seconds later with several containers of ice cream. "Tobi is exited! Tobi never though he'd eat with Zetsu before!"
"Tobi is a good boy," Zetsu patted him on the head, as he put the cartons on the table.
"Among other things," his darker side added cynically, making Deidara snort.
Sakura handed out stacked plates, and managed to get a seat next to Kakuzu, Zetsu sitting on her other side.
"So, Tobi-kun," Sakura addressed the masked man, who had slid his mask just far enough up to be able to eat. "How come I didn't see you before? I've been here a couple of days."
"We were on a mission," Deidara cut in. "We got back this afternoon."
"Right," Sakura responded, a little awkwardly, and focused on her food.
"Sakura-chan, this is great!" Hidan said, around a mouthful of food. "Seriously! You're the best f***ing choice I could've made for a wife."
Both Zetsu and Kakuzu stopped eating altogether, glaring daggers at the albino.
'Better stop this now,' her Inner warned.
"Would you shut up about that?" Sakura frowned at him. "Although the idea in itself is hilarious, its getting old. I don't know where the hell you even picked the idea up from, because I told you I have no intention whatsoever of marrying you. Ever."
"I love it when you argue," he seemed to brighten up. "Seriously, you're hot when you're annoyed. And you may not think you want to marry me now, but you will! I figure if you hear it enough times you'll start to believe it." He even had the audacity to wink at her.
"So basically you think you can hassle me into marrying you, and I'll just agree to it to shut you up," she said in disbelief. The others had also stopped eating to watch the show.
"Bingo, Spunky," he gave her another grin.
"No, Hidan! You can't propose to Sakura-chan like that!" Tobi interrupted, sounding scandalized. "You need to give her flowers! And a ring!"
"Don't give him ideas," Sakura growled.
Blinking in surprise, Sakura glanced to her right, realizing (along with the rest of the table) that Zetsu had gripped his metal spoon so hard it had snapped. That, and he looked absolutely livid.
"Zetsu-kun?" Sakura touched his arm lightly, but he didn't respond.
She gave him a hesitant poke.
"Hidan, if you ever speak to our petal again, We will kill you," Black Zetsu threatened, before grabbing the pinkette and phasing through the floor – an act which illicited several shouts from the others.
Taken by surprise, Sakura had no option but to cling to her kidnapper for dear life, as she was surrounded by the odd feeling of Zetsu's mayfly technique.
When they finally resurfaced, they were outside, surrounded by plants. It appeared to be a garden. Zetsu's garden?
"Zetsu-kun... where are we?" she asked in confusion. "And why did you take me out of there?"
Zetsu frowned at her.
"Hidan was bothering you," he stated.
"Yeah, but the others weren't," she sighed. "I can handle myself, Zetsu."
He brushed his black thumb across her cheek.
"We know," he answered, a little quieter. "But we will protect you anyway."
Feeling frustration bubble up inside her, she let out a sigh, her forehead coming to rest on his chest.
"Where are we?" she repeated.
"A short way from base," he frowned. "You don't want to be here? We thought We would show you our secret garden."
"I would've appreciated a little warning," she sighed again, looking around. "You have a secret garden? It's nice."
She smiled, as she noted the variety of medicinal herbs. "You've got quite the collection here."
"This is one of many," Zetsu said, standing back enough to give her some space.
'He was worried about us,' Sakura realized. 'He knew we were getting annoyed, and took us out here to calm down. To feel safe.'
'But what does he want us to feel safe for?' Inner Sakura asked cynically.
"Zetsu," she turned back to him, enveloping him in a hug. "Thank you. For looking out for me. But can you please take me back? The others might be worried."
"You don't want to be with us," White Zetsu's dejected voice replied.
"Hey, I'm not saying that," she frowned. "I mean, I wouldn't mind spending some one on one time with you later, but we left pretty abruptly. It's kind of rude."
"We don't care about them," Zetsu frowned, then pushed away from her a little. "We will remain here until Hidan and Kakuzu have left."
'Huh?' Inner Sakura blinked. 'What'd he say about our Ragdoll?'
"They're going somewhere?" Sakura echoed her thoughts.
"They were given a mission shortly before you saw them," he informed her blandly. "They will be gone for at least a week. You will not see them off."
Sakura clenched her fists. How dare he treat her like this.
"Why, Zetsu?" she demanded tightly. "Why are you so set on controlling me?"
The subject of her ire remained silent, observing her. His face seemed to show a mix of confusion and indecision.
"Zetsu," she advanced on him, her tone one of warning.
"We will limit the power you have over us," he answered her finally.
"We like you, Petal," White Zetsu assured her. "We like you very much."
"But we don't trust you," his darker side seconded. "You might be using us. We aren't blind. We will keep you to ourselves."
Sakura let out a breath, collapsing onto the ground in exhaustion and frustration.
"I really don't understand you, Zetsu-kun," she sighed, looking up at him. "You confuse the heck out of me."
"We don't understand you either, Petal," he responded. "It is why we are so cautious."
They spent a moment staring at each other, until Zetsu moved to sit next to her. Sakura remained silent as he reached out and gently touched her hair, marveling at the colour. When he started to trace her features, however, she had to look away.
"What do you want from me, Zetsu?" she asked tiredly.
'It's pretty freakin' obvious,' her Inner chastised her.
"We want to know what it is that makes you so special," he muttered, reclaiming his hand. "Why we should make a bond with you, of all people. Why you make us feel again."
"Feel what?" she asked curiously, turning back to study his features.
"Not hate. Or sadness. You make us feel other things," he scrunched his nose. "But we can't remember what. You make us forget our grudge, even for a moment."
"Grudge?" she blinked, sitting up again.
He simply nodded.
"What grudge?" she asked, leaning closer.
"Against my village," he frowned. "Against everyone."
'He must have been pretty badly abused,' she thought. 'And he had no family.'
'Could this be what turned him into a criminal?' her Inner wondered. 'And a cannibal?'
She watched him, sympathy overriding wariness.
"What did they do to you, Zetsu-chan?" she whispered, but instead of answering he just stared at her.
"You pretend you care," he accused. "But then you'll leave us. For Kakuzu. For Konoha. For them."
Her eyes widened in shock at the malice in his voice. Acting on impulse, she shot forward and hugged him again, gripping him tightly to her as they fell to the ground.
"Zetsu. I do care," she admitted painfully. "I know I shouldn't. But I like you. I care about you. I want to be your friend. And yes, I want to leave. I want to go back to Konoha. It's my home, Zetsu, it's where I belong. But that doesn't necessarily mean I wouldn't want to see you again."
'Damn Akatsuki. We haven't been this emotional in a long time,' Inner Sakura complained.
"What about Kakuzu? You like him better than me," Zetsu insisted, although he had calmed down a little. Now he just sounded... sad.
"I don't know how I feel about him. I'm divided," she answered truthfully. "The other me is a little attached to him. But I don't want to get involved like that with anyone. I already told him I can't give him what he wants."
"Not with anyone," Zetsu echoed dully.
"You're not the only one who's been hurt, Zets," she sighed, feeling suddenly tired.
"And that is why you don't want to get attached?" he asked, watching her keenly.
"Yeah," she sighed. "And when it comes to you and Kakuzu it's even worse. I feel like my village is the only thing I have left. I wish I could take you guys back with me. But I know it's not that simple."
Zetsu remained quiet for a while, and Sakura sighed again.
"Zetsu, has Kakuzu left yet?" she asked.
He looked in the direction the base must be, with his mysterious yellow eyes.
"Can I please see him off?" she begged, making puppy eyes at him. "Please? Just for a minute?"
He seemed to battle with himself for a moment, his face contorting with his frustration, before finally letting his shoulders sag in defeat.
"Okay. But only for a minute."
'YES!' Inner Sakura pumped her fists.
Outwardly, she smiled and gave him a peck on the cheek before settling into his arms, ready to be transported.
"Thank you Zetsu-kun."
At the contact, Zetsu gave a small, self-satisfied smile, and took a moment to enjoy the hug, before phasing once again through the ground.
Kakuzu nearly jumped out of his skin when he saw Zetsu's fly trap emerging from his bedroom floor. He released his stitches immediately, ready to fight for his life if necessary.
Then he noticed pink hair.
"Sakura-chan!" he exclaimed, thankful she was still alive.
"Hey, Ragdoll," she greeted him, giving Zetsu one final squeeze before heading over to the bounty hunter.
"Zets said you were leaving, so I guess our sparring match will have to wait, ne?" she said, brushing his arm gently, still very aware of the cannibal standing behind her.
"I guess," Kakuzu answered awkwardly.
'Can't we get a little privacy?' her Inner whined.
'I can only try,' she responded.
"Zetsu-kun?" she pleaded, giving him the same puppy eyes. "Can I get a minute alone with him? Just a minute?"
"What do you have to say to him that involves privacy?" he asked, accusation in his voice.
"Come on, Zets. It's awkward with you looming over our shoulders. You wouldn't want Kakuzu sitting in on our little talks, right?" she reasoned.
"You have one minute," he frowned at them, before phasing into the floor.
"He's probably still watching us," Kakuzu warned her, taking a step closer nevertheless.
"Doesn't mean I can't hug you goodbye," she shrugged, doing just that.
Although he responded, it was obvious he was still wary, half-expecting Zetsu to jump out of the shadows and kick his ass.
"Look after yourself, Ragdoll," she sighed.
"You too," he frowned.
"Kakuzu..." she began, unsure exactly how to proceed. "If I'm gone by the time you get back..."
She had his attention now – he was keenly analysing her.
"I wouldn't be adverse to running into you again," she said awkwardly. "Or... if you came to Konoha. So long as you didn't kill anyone."
He laughed a little at that, tightening his grip on her.
"Don't worry, Sakura-chan. You'll see me again," he reassured her with a lopsided smirk that made Inner Sakura faint.
"I'm glad," she replied, poking him in the ribs. "Try not to miss me too much, eh?" she winked at him.
"I'll try," he smirked, ruffling her hair. "You be cautious. Don't forget who you're dealing with."
She nodded, hugging him tightly again.
"Your minute's over," Zetsu growled in annoyance.
Pulling back, Sakura paused to take a last look at her Ragdoll. Letting Inner Sakura take over, she gave him a peck on the cheek before returning to Zetsu's side.
"Don't let Hidan annoy you too much," she waved over her shoulder, dragging Zetsu out the door.
Kakuzu watched them leave in silence, before picking up his pack and heading off to meet his irritating partner, a definate feeling of depression coming over him.
"Thank you, Zetsu," Sakura squeezed his hand as they walked down the hall.
"You really like him," he sulked. "Of course she does. It's not as though we're much of a catch. She said she liked us too. We don't need pity."
"Zetsu!" Sakura snapped her fingers in front of his face to get his attention. By the looks of it, he'd almost forgotten she was there.
"Sa-Sakura-chan... Sorry," he started awkwardly. "We were thinking."
"Yeah. Out loud," Sakura pouted. "We're going to have to have a looong chat sometime, Zets."
"Now?" he asked somewhat hopefully.
"Nope. Now we should see Kisame, since he's my official guardian here and you're messing with his job of watching me," she frowned. "Then we should go eat something since you kidnapped me barely half way through dinner."
"...Sorry," he muttered, embarrased. "I let our pancakes go to waste."
Sakura giggled at his cute expression.
"That's alright. Just no more mid-meal kidnappings, alright?"
He only nodded noncommitedly.
As soon as they re-entered the kitchen, Sakura felt a solid object impact her. It took half a second to realize Tobi had glomped her.
"Tobi is so glad Sakura-chan is alive!" he cried. "He thought Zetsu-sama was going to EAT her!"
"Aah... thanks, I guess," she responded, patting his head awkwardly.
"Tobi." Black Zetsu growled. "Let Sakura go."
Immediately he detached himself.
"Tobi saved Zetsu-sama's and Sakura-chan's pancakes because Tobi is a good boy," he informed them. "Even though Sempai wanted to eat them. Very, very naughty, ne?"
She brightened immediately at this, ignoring the blond's cussing, and heading over to the table, where Kisame and Itachi were still seated. The sword-weilder was watching them with a grim expression.
She offered him a tight smile, before sitting down and digging in, her bi-coloured friend following suit wordlessly.
Her still-warm pancakes fell like stones in her stomach as she felt four pairs of eyes watching her.
"Ne, ne, Sakura-chan... where did you go?" Tobi bounced up and down behind her.
She shrugged. "A little ways away from base," she answered vaguely. "Ask Zetsu."
"Zetsu-sama?" the masked man swapped targets.
"What We do is none of Tobi's business," he responded, finishing off his meal and standing. "Petal. We will fetch you to make us breakfast."
"What am I, your maid?" she pouted. "Fine, but you're going to help me."
He paused, seeing to be debating with himself mentally, before nodding. Then he turned and left without another word, leaving Sakura to stare after him quizzically.
"Haruno-san," Itachi addressed her, surprising her slightly.
"Yes, Uchiha-san?" she responded, carefully polite.
"Thank you for the meal," he inclined his head in a small nod.
"You're welcome," she returned the gesture, suddenly suspicious.
"I wish to discuss my impending surgery with you," he stated neutrally, his features blank of any emotion.
'Ah. So this is what this is about.'
"It's only impending if Pein, Tsunade and Gaara come to an agreement," she frowned at him.
He narrowed his eyes.
"I will speak with you soon," he repeated, before leaving as well.
"Whoa, he really hates you, un," the blond spoke up, plopping down across from her.
"Whoop-dee-doo," she rolled her eyes.
"So, un. You're Sakura, yeah," he let his eyes roam over her. "You're not what I expected. I thought you'd look a bit less girly, since you managed to kill Sasori, yeah."
"Noted," she answered shortly. She hated being mocked for a thing like that.
"Haha!" Tobi bounced into the seat next to her, grabbing at her arm. "Sakura-chan hates Deidara-sempai!"
She shoved him off her.
"I don't hate him," she frowned at the hyperactive idiot. "I'm just tired."
"So... where did Zetsu take you?" Deidara pressed her.
"Does it matter?" she snapped. "He brought me back. End of story. Kisame, can you show me the way back to your room?"
The ex-mist nin silently stood, gripped his shoulder, and marched her down the hallway, remaining silent the whole way.
Once they arrived in his room, he closed the door, did several quick successive hand seals, before placing a paper seal on the door.
"What's that for?" Sakura asked nervously. The shark man was acting strangely, and it seriously worried her, Kakuzu's warning still echoing in her head.
"Tell me what's going on," he eyed her just as cautiously. "Kakuzu. Hidan. Zetsu. What are you planning?"
"...Aaah, I haven't really got a plan," she shrugged.
'Shit, what do we say?' she stressed.
'Morino-san always said to stick with a variation of the truth. It's easier to keep up.'
"I guess..." she sighed, sitting down on Kisame's bed. "I guess at first I just wanted to stay on their good sides so they wouldn't kill me. But they just had to be so god damned sweet..." she looked away. "I like them. Even Hidan, when he's not being a complete jerk."
"Have you offered any of them the same deal as me? Sanctuary in Konoha?" he narrowed his eyes.
"Um... I told Kakuzu and Zetsu I wouldn't mind seeing them again, when I go back," she cocked her head. "I never offered for them to stay. Maybe I should."
"I'm going to ask you this one more time. What is your plan?" he ground out.
"...I wish I had one," she frowned. "What's with the 3rd degree, anyway?"
"I want to know how you've managed to get so close to those two in such a short time – Hidan is understandable, but Zetsu and Kakuzu have always been naturally solitary."
"I think they're just a bit lonely. Too much solitude can get to anyone," she shrugged. "Why do you even care so much?"
He didn't reply.
"You think I'm manipulating them to take down Akatsuki or something, don't you?" she tested, watching him stiffen. "Kisame... my ultimate loyalty is to Konoha. But this isn't all just an act. I know I shouldn't, but I like those guys. And I liked you too, before you started playing the interrogator."
"That's what has me confused," his frown deepened into an ugly grimace. "Why you would actually like us. We're criminals, we're your enemy, and we all have a... unique look," he hesitated.
"Is that what this is about?" comprehension dawned on her. "I thought we'd already been over this. I come from a village of weirdos. I've learnt not to judge by appearance. Besides, you guys aren't that bad."
He raised a sarcastic brow at her, humour leaking back into his expression.
"What, you don't believe me?" she challenged.
"Honestly? No," he snorted. "You don't have to be polite."
She pouted at that. "I'm not lying."
"Well... who should I do first?"
Shock overcame his features. "...What?"
"I'll list their attractive qualities. Who should I start with?"
"Oh, right," he cleared his throat awkwardly, feeling like an idiot. "Ah, Kakuzu."
"I love his eyes, the contrast of his skin and hair. His crazy mop of a haircut, as well. He's also got this devilish little sarcastic grin," she blushed a little just by recalling it. "He can also be a real gentleman when he wants to be."
Kisame choked. "Kakuzu? A gentleman?"
"Yeah," she said defensively.
"Alright. Now Zetsu," he challenged her.
"Well, aside from the obvious colour difference, his face is completely symmetrical. He's got a fairly flat, smooth face, but a defined nose. His hair's all soft and choppy, and it reminds me of grass, and he's got nice hands," she shrugged. "The way he acts... it's kind of like a kid at times. He gets so excited over the strangest things... He's just cute altogether."
She trailed off. "You want me to do you now?" she asked, grinning cheekily.
"Aa... sure," he agreed, a little uncomfortable, but curious about what she'd come up with.
"Well, you're well-built, obviously. You've got a strong manly jaw line, defined cheeks, and exotic eyes." She moved closer to him, and brushed her fingers over his cheek. You've got a broad face and nose, to match your shoulders. You're perfectly proportionate. Not to mention you've got that whole gravity defying hair thing going on that says "I'm cooler than you". In fact, I'd say you're pretty hot, when you get past the whole "you look like a shark" thing."
He laughed a little at that.
"And there's something else I like about you. You laugh and grin a lot. It makes you seem friendlier. Not like interrogator-Kisame," she smiled at him again.
"Thanks, kid," he ruffled her hair. "That's gotta be the best description I've heard of myself yet."
"So, I've done you. What about me?" she asked cheekily.
"That wasn't the deal," he shook his head stubbornly.
"Come on, it's only fair," she poked him in the ribs. "Pleeease..."
"Heh. Alright," he gave in, and they sat side by side on his bed.
"Well, you're cute, I'll give you that. You could easily be a geisha," he admitted, his cheeks tinging purple. "You're a good story teller. You're understanding, empathetic, intelligent, a skilled medic and ninja, from what I've heard. But you're a damn flirt."
"I am not!" she protested.
"You've got half of Akatsuki wrapped around your finger," he accused.
"I do not!" she protested again, affronted at the allegation.
"Tch. Maybe you just don't see it. But to everyone else it looks like you're leading them along."
She frowned. So he still thought that.
'Well, it is kind of true...'
"I've made it very clear to all of them I don't want that sort of relationship with anyone. They each just seem to want to prove me wrong," she huffed. "It's not my fault."
"Hmm," he watched her pout, thoughtfully. "Perhaps not."
Sakura relaxed at that, although she started to feel a little depressed. She didn't want to become like Ino...
"Kisame..." she spoke after a moment. "Do you really think I act like a flirt?"
"I think you act far too open, emotionally," he admitted. "It makes you accessible."
"...Oh," she considered it. "I'd never thought about it like that. It's just who I am."
"I should give you more credit. You at least try to set people straight when they get the wrong idea," he thought back to the disturbing 'friendship talk' she'd had with Zetsu.
"...Kisame, I hope you don't mind me changing the subject, but can I ask you something?" she started awkwardly, continuing at his shrug. "What's the deal with Tobi?"
"He's an idiot," was the simple reply.
'So he's underestimating him as well.'
'Should we warn him?'
'We could at least share our thoughts. It wouldn't hurt to have an extra pair of eyes watching him.'
"I don't trust him," she admitted, watching Kisame for any reaction. All she got was a raised eyebrow. "He's hiding something."
"He acts like that all the time," the blue man shrugged. "I wouldn't be too worried about him, so long as you're not fighting him. I hear he completely changes on the battlefield."
"I think there's more to it than that..." she bit her lip, nervously. 'Should I even be trusting him?' "My first impression of him... He acts that way to make others underestimate him. And you're all doing it. Not to mention he keeps everything covered – every inch of skin. He's hiding something."
Now he was watching her keenly.
"You seemed to underestimate him too, from the way you were acting," he accused.
"I didn't want him to know I was onto him..." she started to get uncomfortable under his keen gaze.
"Hmm... Well, I'll keep a closer eye on him for now," he leaned back and rested against the wall.
They fell into silence for a while, neither really wanting to break it, until...
"You know, you should really be a little nicer to Itachi," Kisame chided her.
"He betrayed my village. That doesn't warrant niceties," she pouted.
"You don't know anything about his situation, so you shouldn't judge him for it," he frowned. "Not until you've heard it from his point of view."
"He slaughtered his whole clan. He ruined Sasuke's life and messed with his head so much he ran off to join Orochimaru," she stared at him in disgust. "How can that be right from any point of view."
"It doesn't have to be right,"he argued back. "Alot of things ninja do aren't 'right' by many people's reasonings. But Sasuke made his own decisions, and you can't blame Itachi for him joining Orochimaru. I really doubt that's what he had in mind for his little brother anyway."
"What, he told you this?" Sakura shot him a doubtful look.
"No, but I've worked with him for years. I know how he works," he raised his eyebrows at her. "You could probably make accurate assumptions about your teammates."
Once again they fell into silence again.
'There's NO way we're forgiving that bastard Uchiha for what he did to Sasuke-kun,' Inner Sakura fumed indignantly. 'He's a damn traitor.'
'Sasuke betrayed us too. More-so than Itachi. We've never even had anything to do with him.'
'You CAN'T be serious!'
'We promised ourselves to get over Sasuke. He made his choice.'
'But-but if he saw us socializing with his brother-'
'It shouldn't affect us either way. What happened to your attachment to Kakuzu?'
'I think we should take Kisame's advice. He might be trying to tell us something.'
'Or trick us into healing the bastard.'
'We don't have to heal him. He's our bargaining chip for Akatsuki to strike up a deal with Konoha and Suna.'
'As if they'd ever keep to it.'
'Still, it might bring us closer to taking them down. Either way, learning more about the Uchiha couldn't hurt.'
'...I still don't like it. But do what you want,' her alter ego sulked.
The kunoichi glanced at Kisame, who still seemed deep in thought.
"I'll endeavor to be more pleasant to Itachi," she stated, looking ahead again to avoid eye contact.
He blinked in surprise, and turned to her, a grin covering his features once again.
"And what about Sasuke-kun, hmm?" he nosed.
"Itachi betrayed Konoha. Sasuke betrayed me," she scowled.
"I've only met him a couple of times," Kisame spoke, getting her attention immediately. "He seemed like a self-absorbed, arrogant little bastard."
"He wasn't always like that," she sighed. "He changed once Orochimaru marked him. Now I don't think there's anything left of who he once was."
Kisame hesitated, before patting her back awkwardly. He hadn't been in situations like this often. Or ever, really.
"You deserve better," he said, making her look up in surprise. "You're a good girl, Sakura-chan."
"...Thanks, I guess," she replied, just as awkwardly.
'What the hell?'
'Shut up, he's just trying to be nice.'
"You're not so bad yourself, Kisame-kun."
"'Kun', huh?" he laughed. "You sure you're not trying to seduce me?"
"Would you prefer I call you Kisame-koi?" she glowered at him, making him laugh.
"Now that's a little more original than 'Gills'," he grinned at her.
"Kisame-koi it is."
"Hey, I never said you could actually call me that!"
"Too late," she smirked.
"It's getting late. Let's catch some sleep," he sulked, not liking his new nickname.
"Sure thing," she said, getting into her sleeping bag. "Good night Kisa-koi."
He let out an annoyed groan in response.
Yeah, I'm making Kisame go a little slower, as I think it IS a bit suspicious if they ALL get sucked in by a pretty face. I think they all have their ulterior motives when it comes to Sakura as well though... Let's find out what they are.... O.o