A/N: Okay, so I accidentally deleted my flash drive that held ALL OF MY FANFICTION STUFF (I overloaded the thing and it gave out on me). So, I lost all requests I was given. I'm looking back through my messages to get them, but just in case would you please put your prompt in your review? That way I can give you what you deserve and you can make my review count go up! Everyone wins!

Now everyone go do my new poll. This is very important.

This was the first request I came across again. I totally owe this to you. ILU BB.

For Iridescent Rain, this is JuuSaku with the following prompt: "A kiss is a lovely trick designed by nature to stop speech when words become superfluous."


Sakura and Juugo

Konohagakure was thrilled to be able to study the beast within its own borders, all Lightning security measures aside. Normally such a hand of friendship would not have been extended; alliances may have been beneficial to keep countries out of costly conflicts, but it was never prudent to share everything with another country. One did have to keep some hidden trump card in the event that a bribe might come in handy.

But the times, the times.

The current state of the world couldn't even be called war, more like a tension; no one knew for sure exactly who to hate, exactly what to fear. In times like those, one held to the most trustworthy ally like a last meal, and the reluctant exchange of information and research opportunities simply happened because it must.

All Lightning would tell the Leaf delegates was that Killer Bee had managed to capture a member of Team Hawk who was not, unfortunately, Sasuke. They were not entirely sure it was human, but they knew it held some information on the origin of cursed seals from papers recovered from the Sound Village.

The beast within its package arrived shortly later, accompanied by weary Lightning ANBU instructed to observe all procedures done on the pitiful thing. Their own scientists had done their share and the Village Hidden in the Clouds eagerly awaited a second opinion, having sacrificed their national privacy for a better understanding of Sasuke's follower.

All Konohagakure would tell Sakura, woken from her bed in the dead of night, was that she must report to an unmarked, underground bunker immediately. And that she should give up on her hair, because it was and had always been ugly.

After giving Sai a graphic description of what he should do to himself with his sword, Sakura followed her friend and his company to the beast's cage, in order to assess her quarry on her own terms. Secondhand, incomplete reports had never satisfied her nerves.

Upon witnessing it herself, she circled it slowly, observing the thick chakra-infused ropes fastening the beast to its chair. The Lightning ANBU were bound to remain in the room and Sai could not be banished for his curiosity and Sakura's indifference to his presence; both parties watched her revolutions deferentially, aware of her lofty status as a top medic, pinning the title to her forehead like a brightly-lit sign.

Known only to herself, Sakura circled the creature to buy time and to stave off the inevitable examination. She nearly blushed upon receiving her invitation here, no matter its socially-challenged source, feeling her value to the village and embracing that feeling with all her strength.

She would not be the main medic working on the beast, but she would oversee the others. As a poison specialist her forte was of limited value in a full examination, but her extensive knowledge of the medical field in general and the respect she commanded from her peers made her more than worthy to take charge.

She raised her arms to the intake of air from all the room's occupants—Sakura bit back a laugh, pleased with her power; when had she not enjoyed evoking these responses from others?—and requested a circulatory specialist post-haste.

On the first day, the beast spoke no words to her, to Sakura's great relief. She had had enough scares regarding Sasuke and didn't care to collect any more; in spite of what Lightning had concluded on the apparently limited mental capacities of the thing, she felt sure that it nonetheless possessed some capacity to wound her.

And so she worked through the night, avoiding its eyes that followed her like a cat's unblinking gaze.

Sakura began the second day after a short nap. She was used to little sleep and this did not bother her, thought she would rather have slept in her own bed and not the ancient cot hastily erected just outside the observation room.

When she returned to the beast, there it was in the same chair with the same ropes, and she wondered if it had passed the night in that way, if no one had let him down to sleep. No doubt they mistrusted it, and rightly so, for it was rumored to give in to ferocious displays of violence, killing everything in its sight. The trick was to find the source, hidden in the blood, in the bodily tissues, somewhere encoded in some mutated gene.

Today, through compounded injections of sedatives, the beast spoke in her language.

"Are you going to take it away?"

"Take what away?" Sakura continued observing him levelly and gestured to the stenographer to make sure he was diligently recording the exchange.

"The thing inside me."

How strange, Sakura thought, that it separates from the transformation.

"I don't know. We will probably try if we find the source, but it depends whether this is genetic or not. You see, if you were born this way we can't change it. If this was brought on by some sickness or curse, there may be away to extract the power from you or at the very least annul it."

"I want the transformations to end. There's not a day that goes by where I don't fear for the world."

"Do you know if you were born this way?"

"I know very little of my childhood. I was less in control then, and the transformations happened quite frequently."

"I see."

"You have a beautiful voice."

Sakura's eyes narrowed, and the medic's hands, busy invading its body with her chakra, stilled. But the beast said no more, and ducked its head, the eyes roving across Sakura's face in marked contrast to their unnatural stillness yesterday. Sakura wondered what he saw, while in the corner the ANBU marveled at this change in the beast, which had been wordless even in the worst of tortures in their own village.

"I want to tell you where I come from," Juugo said.

"And the squirrels just never came back again?"

"No. I suppose that fire was the final straw."

Conversations with him are like speaking to a child, but this never bothers Sakura. Every day now when she goes in to see him she performs her preliminary rituals as usual but has invited a final one into the mix.

It is when his eyes meet hers and they spark with recognition, deep underneath the brain-numbing chemicals that still seem too weak to fully subdue him that she separates this man from this room and from her occupation that she can begin. Her experience exhausted—there is no poison-like substance within this man, the real culprit seems to be more assimilated into his body, as previously thought—she wanders the room aimlessly, dependent on her title alone to remain in this room with him.

The ANBU now give one another faceless glances when she engages Juugo in conversation, but they don't understand what Sakura now sees. Her empathy runs away with her yet again and she has stripped this man of his secondhand descriptions to reveal the soul underneath.

The medics bite their lips and peek up at her from underneath lidded eyes. They know better than to challenge her. Perhaps they think this is some new interrogation technique. After all, they are even less informed than she. Once again, ignorance becomes a weapon.

Sakura hopes against hope for more time, intoxicated by the separate transformation this man has made before her eyes. Mere words have taken away his labels and replaced them with a heart.

"Were you sad after that?"

"Yes, after I returned to my senses I couldn't bear to go into what was left of the forest. Whatever takes control of me loves the flames, loves watching things curl up and turn to ashes."

Her fascination with him at once disturbs and captivates her attention.

"I have reports to make but don't know what to say about you," she says, standing before him, leaning in to peer unashamedly into his eyes. The man within may have made an appearance, but for all his humanity he is still a thing on display.

"Sometimes words just ruin things," he replies, and for a moment the two regard one another with perfect understanding. He leans forward and rests his face on her cheek, his head almost comically dwarfing her own. She feels his lips deathly still on the lower edge of her cheekbone and imagines a kiss from this man in another time, another place, where the beast has never existed and spreads its virulent fires only in dreams.

"Your time is up," an ANBU drones.

And so the world returns.

One day he is gone as quietly as he arrived.

When Sakura reports to the bunker a man in formal military attire explains that the beast has been removed, for security reasons, back to Lightning. The Raikage appreciates her cooperation in the research endeavor and looks forward to putting her observations through their medical and tactical squads.

There will be a bonus in her next paycheck. Good day.

She leaves with no escort and returns to the hospital as she would on any other day. No one questions her absence, but inside a voice implores them to, begs them to shake her out of her routine and change her face, challenge her expectations of this place. The beast had given her all these things, and in the span of a few days he had become her antidote to this omnipresent numbness threatening to stamp out the last of her naivety.

Now that it has left her there is nothing left to do but sink into the same routines, put on her hospital apron like a shroud, her gloves like suffocating tombs of fabric.

Wondering where the beast has gone, fantasizing of new bunkers, of anonymous figures captivated by his innocent remarks, she walks with even strides down a long corridor lined with windows inviting in the morning sun.

She clutches her clipboard to her heart as she progresses, and wonders if it will remember her, if it will recall its time with a drowning girl in a dying world, after she has long forgotten its face, after she has forgotten everything it meant to her.

A/N: Okay, so I'm apparently physically unable to write fluff of any kind. WHAT DOES IT MEAN. This is unedited, so I'mma be lazy and let you all tell me if something's weird. Go forth, my minions.