Bullet from a Gun by The Script

We've been trying to lay this ghost to rest
But there ain't no getting out of this mess.

feels like you're drowning

Tenshi had been feeling sick for the past two days. She hadn't been able to eat or sleep with the thought of the three missing little girls. What gave her nightmares, however, was the image of little Tanaka Yoko, the three-year-old, suffering in the grasp of Orochimaru.

It wasn't fair, and every time the news broadcasted the search, she was forced to leave the room in fear she would lose all aspects of self-control and throw a lamp into the television screen. Naruto, naturally, had noticed her change in behavior, but he simply figured the business meeting was making her as nervous as it was making him. It was to take place that next morning and Naruto practically fidgeted in the bed with nervousness. Beside him, Tenshi lay unmoving and completely awake. Her head was smothered in the pillow in an attempt to shallow her rapid breathing, and the covers were pulled to the nape of her neck so Naruto wouldn't notice her quivering.

Both assumed the other was fast asleep, therefore neither one spoke. Naruto, however, began to get antsy. Tenshi could usually evade whatever stress or worries overcame him, so he threw his arm around her, underneath the blankets, and shrugged her into his chest. At once, he could feel her shaking, and at the sudden contact she jumped in his hold and turned to face him in the quaint darkness of the bedroom.

He trailed his hand down the length of her spine, frowning. "Are you okay?" he asked, wrapping both arms around her small frame until the trembling became less violent.

She licked her lips, draping her legs over his. "I thought you were asleep."

"I can't, I'm too nervous. Why are you shaking?"

She shook her head. "Cold."


"Naruto," she warned.

He resisted the urge to roll his eyes. "If you were cold, you would've let me know. You always let me know."

Tenshi pulled her bottom lip between her teeth and tried to make out the blue of his eyes in the obscurity. "I told you," she whispered, "I thought you were asleep. I didn't want to wake you." He opened his mouth, but she silenced whatever rebuttal he had with a hard kiss. Their lips made a loud smacking noise as Tenshi pulled back and wrapped her arms around his neck. "I'm worried about you," he told her softly, pecking the exposed skin of her shoulder. She tightened her hold, nearly cutting off his air intake. "What have I told you about worrying?" Naruto sighed against her cool skin.

She braced her hands at his chest to push him back so that they were nose-to-nose. "You need to get some sleep for tomorrow."

"I can't sleep if you can't."

Tenshi's eyes widened a fraction. Oh, I love you. The words were on the tip of her tongue, reaching out to pry her teeth and lips open so that they could make their grand appearance, but the minute she thought she might actually say them, Naruto smiled and kissed her. She lost all forethought then, instead focusing on the movement of his mouth on hers. It was over soon enough though, and she sank into the pillows with the smear of a blush on her cheeks.

Naruto watched her, placing his hand on the back of her head where he fingered the silky strands of her short hair. She looked up at him from under her lashes. "You'll be tired in the morning," she discouraged once more. He shook his head. "I'm fine. I promise." Pulling her forearms so that their chests were cushioned together, Naruto sponged kisses across her chin and jaw until her eyes fluttered closed.

"Sleep," he whispered in her ear.

She tried to obey his command, but the images of the kidnapped girls wouldn't settle. Her fists clenched in front of her. He noticed her tenseness and rubbed his hands up and down her back.

"Tenshi," he mumbled. "Sleep. I'm right here."

That soothed her.

Eventually, her breathing evened out and the shivering stopped. She was half-asleep when Naruto pecked her forehead. He cuddled next to her, arms around her torso.

It took everything in her power not to hold him right back, but she finally fell into a deep slumber, not plagued by nightmares or anything of the sort.

Naruto anxiously tightened his tie for the sixth time as he sat at the round table that would soon be flooded by seven other men. On either side of him, Jiraiya's two executives typed away on laptops or were having hushed discussions over BlackBerry cell phones. Naruto looked between them, and then at the dark suit he was wearing. Fuck. He hadn't worn a tux since his parents' funeral.

Trying to look confident, he glanced at the man on his right—Ige Gorou—and gave a smile. "So," he started, "how's it goin'?" Gorou barely glanced at him. "Uzumaki-san," he replied curtly.

Great, Naruto thought, rubbing his sweating palms on his pants.

A few more minutes passed before four other men entered the large office. Two were dark-haired, one was blonde, and the other had hair so red it looked as if he'd dipped his entire head into a pool of blood. They filled in the seats at the round table, and Naruto's eyes strayed over to the red-haired man. He looked young; maybe two or three years younger than Naruto himself. For a moment all he could do was stare at the other man until Gorou cleared his throat, catching Naruto's attention.

"O-Oh, sorry," he stuttered, bringing his hands to the table to fold them together.

Gorou's brow twitched. "Uzumaki-san, these are a few of our partners, Naito Noburu and Kurokawa Shouta. They are here with the owners of the Sabaku industry, Sabaku Gaara and his brother, Kankurō."

So that's Sabaku Gaara, huh… He's kind of fucking creepy.

Naruto stood, exchanging polite bows with each member. When Kankurō stood, however, he reached for Naruto's hand, shaking it with a grin on his face. "Custom in America," he said. Naruto's nerves relaxed. Now Kankurō, he liked.

Gaara stood next, tipping his head down slightly. Naruto eyed him suspiciously. Now that he had matched the younger man with a name, he felt a little more comfortable, but something was astray. He knew that face from somewhere…he knew those piercing, cold green eyes.

Gaara took his seat and averted his gaze. "I assume Uchiha-san will be here soon?"

Gorou nodded once. "Yes. However, I do have word that if he is not here by nine o'clock, we may start without him."

Naruto frowned, glancing up at the clock. 9:03 AM.

He didn't know why, but he sunk into his seat.

Kankurō followed Naruto's eyes and smirked. "Well, let's get this show on the road." Gaara's steely gaze rested on his brother for a few seconds before he sat back and crossed his arms.

Gorou agreed. "Very well, Sabaku-san." He stood, once more clearing his throat. For fifteen minutes he discussed topics Naruto was foreign to. Half the time all he could do was sit and stare ahead, slack-jawed, his thoughts composed of nothing but Tenshi, Sabaku Gaara, Sasuke's whereabouts, and what he would eat for lunch when he got home.

"…sounds reasonable to me. What do you think, Uzumaki-san?"


Every pair of eyes was on him, except for Gaara, who was looking out of a window with his hand beneath his chin.

"Oh, yeah!" Naruto said, waving his hand like he knew what was transpiring. "Totally agree. That's great, that's what's up."

"That's 'what's up'?" Gorou repeated softly.

Naruto blinked. Oh, shit. What has Jiraiya gotten me into? He straightened his shoulders, attempting to look somewhat educated and less of an idiot. "It's, well, you know—"

"Sorry I'm late."

All seven men turned abruptly to see Uchiha Sasuke and his two representatives walk into the office, the three of them looking highly professional and dapper in their black suits and ties. Naruto idly took a peek at the maroon tie he wore, which he noticed didn't match with the rest of his attire at all.

For fuck's sake. Why didn't I let Tenshi help me get dressed?

"Uchiha-san, welcome," Gorou said. He seemed to be the head-honcho, Naruto mused to himself.

Sasuke and his partners took a seat, and finally all ten chairs were filled. Naruto watched carefully as Gaara and Sasuke exchanged a crisp nod. And then Sasuke's heavy black eyes turned towards Naruto's blue ones. They stared at each other, neither saying a word, and only broke the contact when Kankurō began to give his input. The rest of the meeting flew by, and while Naruto had no earthly clue what information had been agreed to or what arrangements were made, he nodded whenever his name was mentioned. Gorou appeared to be just fine with that. Naruto tried to keep his head clear, but he kept looking at Sasuke; his dark eyes, pale skin, and inky hair. Flashes of Tenshi underneath him kept picking into his brain, and the thought of her with Sasuke—fucking Sasuke—almost drove him to knocking the round table over and telling that bastard what he could really do with his filthy dick.

"…that concludes the meeting. Thank you, gentlemen."

It was over.

Naruto blinked hard, watching as everyone stood, exchanging bows and handshakes—on Kankurō's part, of course.

Naruto stood as well, immediately loosening his tie and running his hand through his hair. Sasuke and Gaara's representatives, along with his brother, left the office, leaving the three men alone. Naruto made a bee line for Gaara and stood directly in front of him, blocking his line of vision and nearly startling him.

"Can…I help you?" Gaara asked in his hoarse, albeit velvety voice.

Naruto gave a shaky grin. "Um, no. Well, yeah, actually, you can. I was just wondering; do I, uh, know you?"

His green eyes narrowed. "I don't think so."

"You sure, man? I swear I've met you some…" He trailed off, his brows tightening before they rose substantially. Sasuke watched the altercation with secret earnest.

Naruto's mouth went bone-dry. He remembered. He remembered collecting Tenshi from Acid. He remembered the girl telling Tenshi one name: Gaara. He remembered finding the picture of the red-haired man underneath the bed.

Well, if that don't fuckin' beat all.

How could he not have put two and two together? Granted, Gaara was a common name and he'd never known the face of any of the Sabakus before the business meeting, but he should've known. Everything made sense now.

"Do you know Tenshi?" he asked Gaara. The other man's expression turned morbid.

"Get the hell away from me," he spat, roughly shoving passed him. Naruto wouldn't have it. He harshly gripped the back of his suit. Gaara froze.

"I asked you a fucking question."

Sasuke suddenly had Naruto's wrist in his grip, detaching his fingers from the fabric of Gaara's tux.

"Calm down," he said briskly. With a growl, Naruto pulled his arm back and clenched his fists.

"You slimy son-of-a-bitch. I could fucking kill you."

Sasuke smirked, rolling his eyes as he stood between Gaara and Naruto. There was a gleam in his darker-than-black pupils that made Naruto want to carve his face in with his knuckles. "What the hell made you think you could tame that whore?" Sasuke asked. He cringed as soon as the words left his mouth. He didn't mean that. He had come to hold a certain respect for Hinata even confusing to him, but something about riling up Naruto made him feel a satisfaction he'd treasured since they met. He was, honestly, just a jackass.

That, and jealousy was coursing steadily though his veins, green and thick as it stained his insides. He hadn't realized it until that moment, but he wouldn't have minded having her for himself. Granted, he knew it was too late now. She had clawed her way into Naruto like she did everyone else that entered her life.

"That whore," Naruto spat, "happens to be one of the most important people in my life, and I'll be damned if I stand here and listen to you speak about her like that."

Sasuke blinked very slowly, genuinely confused. "What do you want from her, Naruto? What can she possibly give you?"

"A hell of a lot more than she ever gave you."

Ouch. "Is that what you think?"

"It's none of your goddamn business."

Sasuke glowered. "I'm making it my fucking business."

"She has nothing to do with you!" Naruto exploded, his face reddening from his sheer anger. His hands itched to feel Sasuke's blood running down them. He paused to catch his breath, waiting for the Uchiha's response, but he absolutely detested the words that came out of his mouth.

"That bitch has everything to do with me."

Naruto shook his head as a cruel burst of laughter slipped passed his lips. "You're fucking wacked of you think that, Sasuke." He stepped closer to him, his voice a steady grumble as he bit out, "She's mine."

Sasuke sneered. "You think you can handle her?" You don't know the shit you're in for.

"What the fuck are you saying, man? You think I'm not good enough?"

Sasuke's eyes narrowed. Naruto moved even closer until the fringe of their messy hair nearly meshed. "I'm one-hundred times the man you'll ever be. You might as well be shit on the bottom of my fucking shoe."

Sasuke smirked. "Careful."

"Or what? You think I'm fucking afraid of you? Of your money? Go to hell."

"That girl will destroy you!" He didn't know where it came from, but he cared for Naruto. He cared for Tenshi. Her past was too tainted for him. He knew it. She'd be the death of him.

Naruto swung his fist, barely clipping Sasuke as he ducked. "You were supposed to be my friend! How the hell could you sleep with her?"

He threw another punch, this time catching the side of Sasuke's ribs. He faltered a bit, but stood back up, grimacing. You have no idea what she did to me. What she still does to me.

"I trusted you, motherfucker. It makes me sick to even look at you." Naruto heaved heavy breaths, his anger getting the best of him.

They watched each other for a moment, trying to read the next move, when the door to the office quickly opened and closed. Naruto glanced up, only to see Sabaku Gaara was gone. He'd completely forgotten about him.

"Damn it," he said, moving passed Sasuke to look out the door.

"Leave it," Sasuke advised.

Naruto glanced back at him, scowled, and then exited as well, giving Sasuke a clear view of the bird on his way out. He intended to have a conversation with Tenshi.

Sasuke licked his lips, pulled out a chair at the round table and sat down. From there, he proceeded to take out his cell phone and call Nara Shikamaru. There was no way he was getting any work done with the headache Naruto had just given him.

Tenshi had spent the day with Kiba's sister, Hana, shopping around Tokyo and stopping to eat at one of Hana's favorite restaurants. As it turned out, Hana had finally allowed Kiba and Akamaru to move back into their home in Tokyo, and after dropping him off, she'd showed up at Naruto's house with a warm hug and a smile for Tenshi.

Tenshi never realized how much she'd missed female company until Hana. It felt good to laugh and giggle about things only girls could laugh and giggle about.

"I have to know," Tenshi began as Hana nearly ran a red light.

"Yes?" the older woman asked.

"Why did you keep Kiba in Rakuen for so long when his house had been ready to move back into for weeks?"

Hana laughed loudly. "I'm not sure. I guess because I hardly saw him while he was in Tokyo, so when he told me he needed somewhere to say when they were remodeling his house I needed him to stay with me. I dunno." She smiled softly. "He's my little brother."

"You love him," Tenshi said.

"So much." She sighed. "But it'll be nice just having me and Haru again. And, God, I hate to admit it, but I'll even miss that goddamn dog of his."

Tenshi laughed. "He is a very sweet dog."

"Yeah, yeah, yeah."

Tenshi ran a hand through her hair, smiling as she watched Hana's warm brown eyes crinkle in the corners. With the thought of little Akamaru, it made her think of her own pets. Akiku and Ai needed food. "Mind if we stop by the pet store?" Hana shook her head. "Of course not. Kiba needs some new sheets anyway. There's a place next door where I can get them."

They headed to the pet shop where Tenshi and Naruto had bought Akiku's collar. While Tenshi ventured into the pet place, Hana wandered next door. They agreed to try and get back to the car in no more than fifteen minutes, since Tenshi couldn't help but look at the cute cats while she shopped and Hana would need to call Kiba to see what color sheets he wanted.

Once in the cat food aisle, Tenshi picked up two small bags and a fluffy little mouse toy that she knew Akiku would love. She was heading over to the fish section in the very back of the store when a pair of hands wrapped themselves around her mouth and nose, making her drop the items she was holding. Like a wild animal, she thrashed against the grip, her senses overloaded. All she could think was, Orochimaru. He has me. He found me. He's going to kill me. Tears slipped down her face as she threw her head back, finding release when she heard her skull crack against the person's nose.

Free, she collapsed to her hands and knees, crawling forwards to a shelf. As she struggled to get back to her feet, she opened her mouth to scream bloody-murder for help, but the man holding his bleeding, broken nose was not Orochimaru.

It was Akio, the employee of the store whom Tenshi had once run into when first shopping for Akiku. He had had frightened her at first, but Naruto had assured her that not everyone was going to hurt her.

Maybe Naruto was wrong.

"Y-You," she muttered. Her tears became heavier. "You! I k-knew there was something wrong with you! You bastard, stay the hell away from me!"

Akio had given her an eerie feeling the moment she'd bumped into him. He held his hand out, seemingly trying to tell her to lower her voice as he got to his feet and gingerly touched his nose.

"Damn," he said. "You really got me there."

"You creepy fuck," she hissed. "What the hell do you want with me? I'm not having sex with you; I don't do that any—"

"It's not that," he interrupted. Surprisingly, his eyes instantly got wet. "I-I work for Orochimaru. Or…I used to. Shit. I can't do this."

Tenshi's world collapsed around her. Hearing his name out loud from someone's mouth besides her own was terrifying. She sunk back to the tiled floor, her heart dead weight in her chest. Her insides quivered. She thought she was dying. Akio began to cry. "He hired me months ago. Just wanted me to keep an eye on some of the guys he was looking at to make deals with, you know? Find little girls and stuff…"

Tenshi closed her eyes. This could not be happening. This could not be happening. This could not be happening. It was as if every nightmare she'd ever had had manifested into a real, tangible being, knocking at her front door and threatening to gobble her up.

"I-I really had no fucking clue what I was getting into. My mother died last year. I got into real shitty situations. Drugs and stuff." Akio paused to sniffle. "He never told me about you until last week; just described how you looked a little. One of your friends had mentioned you to his assistant and he kept saying he had to find you. He showed me a picture of you from when you were a little girl. I knew who you were right away, but I didn't say I'd seen you. He probably would've killed me."

Tenshi was numb. Briefly the words "friend" and "assistant" went through her ears, but didn't linger. An intense burning sensation occurred in her stomach, and she realized the acid was bubbling, signaling that she was probably going to vomit. She paused to gasp for breath, but then looked up at Akio with teary, red-rimmed eyes. She wanted to slap him. She wanted to thank him. "Then why stop attacking me? Why not take me to him right now like he wants you to?"

"He's fucking sick! He has the little girls; the ones that have been missing! The shit he threatens to do to them…the youngest one hasn't stopped crying since I've met her…"

I knew it. A sob ripped its way passed her throat. She covered her mouth, using her shaking hands to push the wayward bangs from her eyes. "I-Is he…h-h-hurting them?"

Akio tightly closed his eyes. "Hits them when they cry too loudly. That's it for now."

He's going easy on them. She gasped loudly, trying to collect her thoughts. Her vision was blending into a water world. "You s-said something about a friend…"

He glanced at her, but then looked back down in shame. "Her name is Sakura. He took her from her house and he's been torturing her to get information about you. She won't crack, though."

Tenshi was well passed the state of shock. Oh, no. Oh, no, please, God, no. No. No. Her throat tightened. "Has he…he…?"

"Raped her? No. But he says he will if she won't talk."

She couldn't swallow. This was what she had been trying to avoid; people getting hurt. But Orochimaru had Sakura. Orochimaru had three small children. What in God's name was she supposed to do?

"And the assistant?" she asked. Akio suddenly looked angry. "Name is Kabuto. You know him from what he's told me."

"That fucking snake!" Tenshi heaved, her chest tight. For the love of God, she'd known he was up to no good from the very beginning. Her knees buckled.

"Tenshi," Akio muttered. "I am so, so sorry. But I had to fucking warn you. He's got Sakura. He's got those goddamn kids. He says he's gonna find you no matter who he has to kill. I know you've got a boyfriend or something now. Tell him. He can help you—"

"No!" She found the strength to stand, slapping her hands together. "Never! I'm not involving him. I'd die first."

"Then what the hell are you gonna do?"

Her bottom lip quivered. "I'm the one he wants. I-I… have to save them."

"By yourself?"

She wiped her eyes. Akio rushed towards her. "I could help you with that bastard—"

"No," she said sternly. "I'm not going to let anyone else die because of me. If he asks you what you did today, you never saw me, understand? None of this happened."

"B-But if you just show up there, he'll know someone told you what he did—"

"I'll handle that."

Akio covered his face with his hands. Tenshi legs shook as she struggled to carry her weight. She held onto the shelf behind her, trying to will her limbs to still so that she could at least walk ten feet. Her teeth chattered, her forehead beaded with tiny droplets of sweat as her past swirled through her head.

Her father leaving. Her mother's illicit sex life after his departure. Kurenai and Hitomi Beach. Asuma and his cigarette-stained breath. Her mother's death. The pimp, Kanji, selling her to Orochimaru. Life locked within the confines of the Snake Room. Gaara. Sasuke. The abortion. Her screams, the men's screams, the other girls' screams that Orochimaru had brought into his world before he'd killed them. She was the only one who'd gotten away. She'd gotten away, found Red Heart and sipped sin some more. She saw Tenten, Temari, Ino. She saw Neji, his careful eyes and soft touches. She saw Kabuto and hissed when the memory of his shoes ramming into her gut came back. She remembered the bruises. But then there was Naruto. Naruto and his promises. Naruto and his kisses. Naruto and his smile. His eyes. His hair. His skin. His hands. His body.

His love.

Like a baby bird not yet ready to fly, Tenshi sunk back to the store floor with a cry so broken and heartfelt it caused Akio's eyes to once again water.

She curled her legs to her chest and balled her fists, banging them against the side of her head. She repeated one word over and over: no. The life she had come to live was too precious to let Orochimaru defile. He had eaten enough hearts. She would do whatever she had to if it meant protecting Naruto from her past. If she had to venture back into Tokyo's bowels to retrieve Sakura and the children, then she would.

She would do anything.

Akio bent to her side to help her and she gratefully leaned into him, allowing him to lead her around the corner. "I want to help you," he said quietly. He was regretful.

Tenshi unhooked his fingers from her arms. She stared into his dark eyes. "You want to help me?" she repeated, smiling gently as he nodded. She placed a hand on the side of his face.

"Stay alive."

Akio bit his bottom lip as tears trickled down his face.

She whispered the request once more before squeezing his shoulder, turning around and sprinting out of the pet store.

Hana was already outside, leaning against the car. A sucker was in her mouth, protruding from her cheek, and she was reading a magazine. Upon seeing Tenshi running wildly to the car, item-less, crying, and an overall wreck, she dropped what she was reading and rushed to her, holding her up before she dropped to the pavement.

"The hell?" she muttered, gathering the other girl's weight. Tenshi was desperate, wrapping her arms around Hana.

"What happened, honey? Look at me, look at me. What's going on?"

Tenshi's hold tightened. She needed Naruto. "W-W-We have to get b-back home. Now."

Hana shook her head. "What the hell are you—?"

"Please," Tenshi begged, clutching the cotton shirt she wore. "I'll e-explain there. Just g-get me home."

Alright! This chapter was initially much longer, but I had to cut it into two parts because it was just too long. I'm so glad we've finally made it to this point, yay! Thank you so, so, so much for all your beautiful reviews! They are lovely! Well, except for a few people who have kindly told me that I'm "fucking sick" and should "hang myself". Well. You are just one unhappy camper, aren't ya?

With all that said, I have no intention of committing suicide because I have this story to finish! I love you guys to death! If there are any questions or confusion, feel free to PM me; it might get a little foggy from here. And if you can't remember who Akio is, check out chapter twelve: Breakeven.

If you liked it, please leave a review! Feedback is extremely necessary, negative and positive!

See you soon, loves.

Lisa Jones: Why, thank you! Nice to know I've rekindled your love for NaruHina. They are quite the sexy couple though, no?

Guest 1: Eh, one day I will return to Piece by Piece, but I already know what I want to happen with this story, so I'm going to finish it first. But I will work on PBP soon!

Charlson: Whatever do you mean?

Guest 2: Don't be sad.

Guest 3: Thank you so much!

Guest 4: Hinata's name is not forever lost, don't worry.

Guest 5: Sorry!

Banjo: It's a cruel world, dude. Sometimes people get raped and stuff.

Guest 6: Wow, thank you so much! I do my best!

You guys are just the bees knees.