A/N: I'd originally posted this drabble series on my LJ account but since it's finished already, I decided to put it up here. You know, kind of like having all my drabbles in the same place for people to read. I plan on uploading the other ones, especially my Cold Front spinoff drabbles, on here in the future.
I know you might have already read this but hope you enjoy a second read. ;D
Title: Dodge and Run
Prompt: #02 - Powder, 100_prompts
Character/Pairing: Sabaku no Gaara/Haruno Sakura
Word Count: 2672
Summary: "The manner in which she'd thrown her punch, aimed without hesitation and meant to fracture bone, marked her as a dangerous kunoichi."
The ignited hand bomb flew through the air, marking a direct route towards his running feet. Unable to avert its incoming impact, he sent his sand flying towards it, hardening it at the very last minute to pierce the clay vessel about to destroy the ground and prevent his progress.
Gaara heard the ceramic bomb burst, its shards rattling through the air as most of the gun powder, harmless without fire, marked a downward trail of dark glitter before hitting the earth. But there was no time to stop. Not if he wanted to keep his limbs intact. There was still some ways to go before reaching the city wall, beyond which lay the only possibility of freedom.
Another volley of fiery projectiles followed upon the heels of the first, forcing Gaara to slow his run and deal with them in a similar fashion. He knew very well that the powder inside the bombs was of the most volatile nature; the country of Iwagakure was famous for its powerful explosives. As a result, it was in his best interest to avoid any kind of detonation anywhere near his person. He sent his sand tendrils flying, cutting off the short lit wick and shattering the clay vessels as he did his best to keep moving.
It would have been easy for him to create an impenetrable sand shield around himself and let the royal ninja guard try its worst to blow him out. Nonetheless, on this occasion, he wasn't allowed such luxury. He needed to get out of Iwagakure as fast as possible and reach his own clan with the news.
The Shogun was dead, killed by his own son's treacherous hands. War-hungry and intent on conquering the neighbouring states, the new Shogun wouldn't waste any time in assembling his army and leading them on a pageant of destruction across the countryside. Gaara had been sent to confirm these suspicions; having infiltrated Iwagakure and finally finding out the truth, it was imperative for him to reach Suna swiftly to convey the warning.
Of course, being discovered by the newly self-appointed Shogun's ninja bodyguard hadn't been part of the original plan. But being an elite nin entailed the possession of great improvisation skills... a talent he was currently putting to good use.
He kept running, trying to stick to the dark alleyways and their elongated shadows provoked by the moonless night. Whatever advantage he could get would get him a little closer to his objective. Once outside the city walls he'd be able to use his sand as transport, traversing the landscape with speed until he crossed Iwagakure's borders. But summoning his sand before that would only lead to inconveniences: up in the air, he'd be a perfect target for his pursuers and their greatly irritating long-range explosives. Thus, he would have to make do with his own two legs and the speed with which they could carry him.
The pursuit of a group on the street could be heard some distance behind him, a fact that made him his shake his head. They were supposed to be specialised nin, for crying out loud. They weren't supposed to be heard. Silence and shadows were what characterized a skilled ninja; these two elements were the key when inflicting efficient death. A frustrated growl escaped his lips. Gaara couldn't believe he was being chased like a thieving rat by these incompetent morons.
If he had his way, the redhead would stop his flight right about now and make a stand. By the time he was done with them, the Shogun wouldn't have a ninja force with which to count on. So much better for everyone involved, in his opinion.
But he wasn't here to make any such displays. He was here only for information.
"Once you get confirmation of the old Shogun's death you get out of there, understand? No delays." Temari had told him, a determined glint in her eye that said he'd have hell to pay if he disobeyed. He rolled his eyes as he repeated his sister's order inside his mind. This was the reason why he hated going out on missions under strict orders. It was such a hassle to obey them.
He sorely missed the days when he was sent out on missions solely as a weapon of mass destruction, his only objective to destroy everything in sight. In those days there was no need to think about anything or worry about any diplomatic transgressions if he killed the wrong person. But then his father had died and his sister, inheriting the position of Shogun, had decided to put a stop to it all. She refused for her baby brother to be treated like a monster and led him down a learning path that, with some hindsight, was very much akin to a rehabilitation program. Gaara had learned to cope, communicate and socialize like any normal human being... or as close as someone like him could get to achieving such a feat. Not that he didn't slip the leash every so often; such instances were inevitable. He just did it with less frequency and before tearing someone's throat out, he now let his victim know with enough anticipation for them to get a good head start.
Temari said it was progress. Gaara just thought it was a pointless hassle. But he lived to please his sister, one of the few people in the world who truly cared for him and loved him unconditionally. It was the sole reason why he was here, in this forsaken city, trying his best to avoid killing the inept group of nin on his trail.
A clay bomb landed somewhere to his left, eliciting an instant burst of fire that would've sent him flying is he hadn't shielded with his sand on time. Instead of losing his left leg, he only suffered a mild burn and a nudge to his rising temper. These idiots were really asking for it. Without sparing a glance to the newly opened hole in the alley wall next to him, Gaara picked up his pace and continued his flight. Judging from the direction the bomb had come from the bastards where gaining on him and a number of them were giving chase up on the roof.
To test his theory, he threw himself in full view unto the street at the end of the alleyway. A volley of hand bombs came flying at him from the top of the buildings on his side of the street as he did so, confirming his suspicions. Covering himself with a hardened sheet of sand spread above his head, he crossed the street in a rush before ducking into another narrow alley. Speed was of the essence if he wanted to avoid ending up at the bottom of a bomb crater. He increased the flow of chakra to his feet to make up even more for the weight of his gourd and sprinted forwards, increasing the distance between him and his pursuers.
But as he rounded the corner at the end of the passageway, he felt a powerful chakra presence almost upon him. He reflexively jumped back, avoiding the incoming fist aimed at his head by a mere millimetre.
His sand went to work immediately, tendrils flying in rapid succession. But his assailant was quick, back-flipping and jumping way out of reach. The few seconds he was afforded to deal with this surprise attack allowed him to get a good look at the ninja he was up against.
A shock of pink hair and a slim figure instantly marked her as a woman. The way she skilfully avoided his sand marked her as a proficient taijutsu fighter. The manner in which she'd thrown her punch, aimed without hesitation and meant to fracture bone, marked her as a dangerous kunoichi.
Gaara instantly set himself to bring her down as soon as possible, increasing the flow of his sand. But damn her, she was quick. She slithered out of its grasp like if she were flowing mercury, allowing her to change direction and make her way steadily towards him.
A thrown kunai came flying at him but he deflected it easily. He wasn't about to fall for the ruse. As suspected, a well aimed kick following the thrown weapon and Gaara was forced to put up a hardened shield of sand to defend.
But as her shin came in contact with the rock-solid cover, he felt a pulsating shock all the way through his sand as the force of her chakra cracked his shield and her leg continued its trajectory towards his ribs. Amazement and dark laughter rose inside his chest, his lips curving upwards in a fiendish smile.
Now here was a fighter worth his time. It was a pity he would have to cut their exchange short. The redhead would have very much enjoyed prolonging their deadly dance just to see where it would lead them.
Ducking under her leg to avoid impact, he brought up another tendril and grabbed hold of her calf. Glinting eyes looked down at him for a split second before the woman slashed out with her arm, aiming a kunai grasped between his fingers at his throat.
Jade eyes widened as he saw the sharp edge come close enough to draw blood, dodging in time to avoid serious injury. Her arm reared back and like a snake, aimed for a second strike.
The redhead saw the kunai come towards him but just before it could reach his throat this time, a tendril of sand wrapped around her neck, cutting off her air supply abruptly. She gritted her teeth, kunai still in mid air and posed for the kill, just as he increased the grip of his sand.
Two sets of gleaming eyes stared at each other for a few of seconds in silent evaluation. Gaara broke contact first, taking a good look at the emblem over her left breast, etched on her nin uniform: a spiralling leaf. Nodding in comprehension, he loosened his grip on her neck and allowed her to breathe.
She coughed loudly as a result but never shifted her eyes from her attacker.
"It looks like we're in the same predicament," he said, signalling to the Suna symbol on the sleeve of his right arm. "For an instant there, I thought you were one of them."
The woman's eyes widened as she took in his insignia, quickly catching up with what he was saying. "So did I. You were coming in the same direction as their search squad."
"If I guess correctly, we were both sent here to gather the same information. As such, the sooner both of us leave this damned city, the better."
She nodded. "All the neighbouring nations are in peril. The new Shogun is set on war."
Jade eyes looked thoughtful for a moment, taking her in. Every curve on her appealed to his senses, from the arc of her hips and the contour of her breasts to the way the skin of her neck felt against his sand.
He would only be lying to himself if he didn't admit he found her interesting. The look she'd given him when she was about to plunge her kunai into his throat had given him a measure of her calibre. The fact that she had been sent on such a dangerous mission was evidence enough of what she was capable of. Only the elite were sent to infiltrate such hazardous enemy territory. On top of that, she had made her considerate skills evident when she had adeptly avoided his sand like a dancing feline, getting close enough to actually wound him. In that respect, she had proven herself his equal.
No other woman he'd ever encountered before could even come close to making such an affirmation.
Gaara smirked at her... a bold and devious grin.
She simply cocked her head to the side and arched a pink eyebrow, blatantly ignoring the way his sand still surrounded her throat.
With an attitude like that, it wasn't a surprise he found her so intriguing.
"We need to get over the city wall and out of here, fast," he said, his voice serious despite his smirk. "There are sentries patrolling the walkways above who have already been alerted of our flight. So, if we climb up and over the wall, our passage will be hampered and the fighting will slow us down."
She nodded at him, narrowing her eyes. "What do you have in mind?"
The redhead's grin intensified. "Can you perform that little trick you just pulled on my sand on a stone wall?"
The woman blinked for a moment before responding with a smile of her own. "Yes, I could do that. But if I do, there'll be a huge hole in the outer wall that will give our pursuers direct access to our escape route. And out there in the open field, we won't have any cover under which to hide."
"True but they aren't counting on my sand," he replied.
"As soon as we step outside, I'll fly us out of here. They won't have any high vantage points from where to throw their missiles out in the open."
"Fly?" she asked, her tone incredulous.
His answer came in the form of a cocky look.
They exchanged glances once more, silent assessment going on between them. She finally relented, having finally realized, just like he had, that they were better off cooperating with each other given the circumstances. Besides, Suna and Konoha did have a political alliance. Putting away the kunai she still held in her hand, she nodded her head in agreement.
"I'm Sakura," she said, bowing slightly.
"Gaara," he replied, finally calling his sand away from her.
But their introduction was cut short by a couple of clay bombs descending towards them from on high.
"Shit!" Sakura exclaimed, starting to jump away.
But Gaara didn't let her. He whipped out his sand and wrapped a tendril round her waist, pulling her towards him. As he caught her with one arm, his sand shield came up around them, protecting them from any damage.
"That's a nifty trick you've got there," she admitted within the cocoon of sand. Their cover trembled with the strength of the explosions but otherwise remained intact.
"There's more where that came from," the redhead replied with an impish grin.
"I'm sure there is," Sakura answered with a touch of asperity in her voice as she looked down at the arm circling her waist. It was clear she wasn't impressed.
Gaara couldn't help but chuckle. "Time to move," he said, speaking directly in her ear.
She couldn't exactly hide the shiver running down her spine at the sound of his deep voice but she did well in shoving it aside. Stepping back, she forced him to let go of her.
"Well?" she asked haughtily, signalling to the hardened sand around them.
The redhead created an opening in his sand for her to step through. "Ladies first," he prompted mockingly.
"And send me straight to certain death? What a gentlemen," Sakura replied, tone dripping with sarcasm. "No, you go first partner. You're the one with the shield trick."
The redhead reminded himself of the perilous situation they were currently facing; a circumstance that meant he shouldn't be enjoying himself so much. But he was unable to help it.
"Trust my luck to pick a slave driver," he answered in mock resignation while moving towards the opening in the sand.
"That should teach you to think twice before befriending someone who was about to bury a kunai in your throat," she replied sweetly.
Gaara elicited a loud bark of laughter at this. His sand shifted, metamorphosing from a cocoon into a thick flat sheet above them. Once it was in place, they darted down the street rapidly and headed down a narrow side lane, intent on making their escape and losing their pursuers once and for all.