Karasu

Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto.

Warning – there may be spoilers.

Chapter 1

A true friend never gets in your way unless you happen to be going down.

-Arnold H. Glasow

-xxx-

It was the first time in her rather subtle life that Sakura felt desperate. Having gone three days, or possibly more, did many things to ones body. She felt awful, and those bitter mint leaves that she occasionally chewed on did little to nothing to help her growing hunger.

I will never, ever eat mint leaves again.

Sakura knew that she should do something – send for help from Konoha, maybe. She was so far away, though, all the way in Lightning. A simple solo B-rank mission whom Tsunade had entrusted to her had turned into a disaster. It was all because of the Sound-nin, Sakura finally decided.

Her mission had been simply to go to the border of Earth where a small civilian town was. Tsunade had informed her that a couple civilians had asked for help, and the shinobi of Rock had thought of that village as too inferior and pointless.

So Tsunade, for whatever reason, had sent Sakura.

She had told Sakura that it would strengthen their weakened alliance with Earth, which would be helpful if they ever fought the Akatsuki.

Off Sakura had gone, thinking that all she would have to do was go to the civilian village, perform a bit of minor healing, and head home. Of course she knew that she'd have a few simple complications to face on the way back and forth.

Never had she presumed that she would run into several Sound Jounin on her way back to Konoha. There was one of her, and four of them, and even though she had her monstrous strength it wasn't going to be simple. In the end Sakura fled due to chakra depletion, and found herself in Lightning.

With hardly any chakra, some rather serious wounds and no food. She also had a feeling that those Sound-nin were still running after her through Lightning, for whatever reason.

Sakura was desperate to do anything to get a bit of food. Even a loaf of cold or stale bread would do. Unfortunately the people of Lightning weren't that generous to a starving Konoha medic-nin.

Damn them all. If they ever need help, they can run to another village for help.

Lightning was too cold, damn it, and no one did anything to help her. Sakura ached for her friends, for a warm bed and for her parents. If she returned from this mission in a state like this, it would make her parents hate her being a ninja even more.

Sakura managed to regain some sense, and stop chewing on those stupid mint leaves. She would find a place – anywhere would do – to stay for the night. Or she could just stay in one of those drunken bars with the depressed people drinking away their problems. At least it was warm, unlike the freezing harsh streets of this civilian town.

One of the nearest bars was a small one, tucked away in a little alleyway. From outside she could smell the alcohol, and it made her gag. How someone would want to chuck that bitter liquid down their throat, when it could probably do a lot of damage, was beyond her comprehension.

Sakura pushed the door to the bar open, ignoring the abrupt noise that suddenly came her way. There were also wild gamblers in here, to Sakura's dismay. She shoved through the crowd, ignoring the leers and the looks that people shot down at her body. Men looked at her, and Sakura tried to ignore the desire they hold in their eyes.

She was not that desperate, yet.

Sakura found an isolated corner by the heater, and couldn't help the sigh of relief that escaped her lips. Her idea of finding warmth, no matter where, had been a good idea. Possibly even the best idea she had come up with in the situation she had thrown herself in.

Sakura doubted the Sound-nin would come into a bar in an alleyway, and besides, her chakra was so depleted she doubted they could sense it, Jounin or not.

Men sometimes approached her, asking what a pretty girl like her was doing here, and if she would like a drink. Sakura bluntly ignored all of them. She wasn't interested in anything but the warmth here. This bar was open all night, and she would personally take grudges against anyone who would try to send her out.

"You need anything, miss?" A man stood before her, and she was about to ignore him when she realised he was the bartender, possibly even the owner.

"I just needed a little warmth from the cold," Sakura told him, hoping he would end the conversation.

"Miss, I'm afraid this isn't a hotel. You can't just pop in."

Sakura tried to ignore the anger pulsing through her. "I am doing no harm!" Sakura hissed through gritted teeth.

"Of course, miss, however like I said before, this bar isn't a hotel." The bartender was clearly trying to be rational, yet Sakura hated that face that seemed to be looking down at her.

"Then get me a drink then! If I buy a drink, I'm a customer then, right? You'd be stupid to send a customer out!" Sakura snapped at him.

The bartender looked surprised, but hurried to get her a drink, not bothering to ask her what she wanted. Frankly, Sakura didn't care. Every single drink was awful, yet maybe it would ease her mind and nerves a little.

Sakura heard a clink of a glass, and saw that the bartender had bought her a drink.

"You can…pay later," he told her quickly, before hurrying off.

Sakura gratefully drank the cool liquid, savouring the way it burned down her throat. It made her head spin slightly, however it wasn't new to her.

The amount of times Naruto and her had gotten drunk after a particularly hard mission was countless. Sometimes even Sai joined them.

It took Sakura a moment to realise that she had finished the alcoholic drink, and she couldn't but crave another one. She knew that it was bad, and that she was endangering her logical and rational thinking here, but at the moment it didn't really seem important to Sakura.

"Bartender!" Sakura shouted out angrily. "I'd like another one!"

The bartender hurried over to take her glass away, and in several minutes came back with another glass filled with the amber liquid.

Sighing with relief, Sakura leaned her head against the wall, allowing the alcohol to relax her head. Everything was going to be okay. She was warm and safe for now. Sure, Sakura couldn't ignore the hunger that was gnawing away at her stomach, but she didn't care.

At the moment all that mattered was the glass in her hand with the amber liquid.

-xxx-

Sasuke hated Lightning the most. The people were most unwelcoming, and he hated the way that the snow fell in winter. It was freezing, and all Sasuke wanted was some warmth and maybe a few drinks.

Orochimaru just had to have sent him here to threaten a rich damiyo about sending a few of his men into Sound's land. Sasuke knew that Orochimaru could have sent one of the lower men to do this, yet according to Orochimaru, he was the best at threatening.

It couldn't be helped, really. Sasuke would just have to deal with it and face it. Tomorrow, after a good rest and a drink, he would head back to Sound. There was no point heading out in the dark. He could go a few days without sleep; however he knew that if he had sleep he could arrive back at Sound quicker.

Sasuke hated the inn's, though, all too noisy. If he threatened the owner of a bar a few times, he could easily convince the bartender to let him sleep on a couch in a secluded area. Sasuke would make sure to buy a few drinks, so he'd pay the bartender anyway.

Sighing agitatedly at how he had to stay the night in Lightning, Sasuke began searching for a bar which seemed reasonable. Really, any of them were reasonable if they had good drinks.

Deciding on a small bar in an alleyway which smelt heavily of alcohol from the outside, Sasuke pushed open the door. It was noisy, which was a bit annoying, but Sasuke knew that after a few drinks he'd barely notice the noise. He didn't know why people spent their entire life drinking, though – a few drinks were fine.

Sasuke made his way over to the bartender to order a drink, when something in the corner of his eye made his heart skip a slight beat.

Sakura.

She was here, in the corner of the bar. Sakura looked disorientated from too many drinks, and way too thin. Her chakra was much depleted, which was why Sasuke hadn't sensed her chakra.

For once Sasuke didn't know what to do.

If Orochimaru were here, he'd order her to be captured, so they could interrogate her for valuable information about Konoha. She was vulnerable, which meant that it would be easy to capture her and take her back to sound with him.

Orochimaru wasn't here, though. It was just Sasuke.

So Sasuke did the only thing he could think of. He brusquely ignored her, and instead focused on the bartender and the threats he was going to say.

"You are the bartender, right?" Sasuke asked directly to the man behind the counter. He looked slightly flustered for whatever reason Sasuke didn't care about.

"Oh! Yes, of course, sir. What may I get you?" The bartender's focus was instantly focused on him, and Sasuke presumed it was because he was a ninja.

How pitiful.

"A drink or two…and…" Sasuke paused. "Some place to sleep, away from everyone else. I'll pay extra."

"Of course, sir, I will get you the drinks immediately…however, this isn't a hotel," the bartender told Sasuke sheepishly.

"Your name?" Sasuke questioned impatiently.

"Daichi…" the bartender muttered, clearly already scared.

"Maybe, Daichi." Sasuke's words were purposely laced with thick sarcasm. "You should reconsider what I just said."

"Oh! Of course, sir, I understand completely. I shall find you a place here!" Sasuke thought he saw Daichi even bow slightly.

Sasuke smirked. How pathetic these civilians were. Sasuke didn't even need to use the Sharingan to intimidate them.

"Here is your drink, sir! You may take a seat anywhere you wish!" Daichi quickly handed Sasuke the glass before scampering off.

Sasuke looked around the room, wondering where he would sit. Somewhere that wasn't near Sakura. Anywhere that wasn't near Sakura. Hopefully Sasuke could go through the night without even making contact with her.

Sasuke tried to ignore the nagging voice in his head saying that something was wrong with her. She was abnormally thin, and her chakra was depleted. He should go help her, heal her wounds, and get her food and maybe a place to stay.

Sasuke didn't do any of those things. Instead he sat down in the opposite side of the room, and drank the alcohol.

Sakura was far too drunk to notice him, and she didn't even seem to be looking around for enemies. Not that it was any of Sasuke's business.

He did his best to ignore his old pink haired teammate, knowing that he really should be helping her. It was obvious she needed help, yet he didn't want to interfere with Konoha business.

What if her mission had been about him? Surely they wouldn't send the weak Sakura to capture him. No, they'd send a group of shinobi, not just Sakura.

"Well, hello there." A seductive female voice interrupted his worrisome thoughts. "What are you doing here all by yourself?" the woman asked, raising an eyebrow.

Sasuke simply raised an eyebrow in return, hoping that she'd go away.

"May I join you?" The woman didn't wait for a response, and simply sat down next to Sasuke, sliding as close as she could get to him. "What's your name?" The woman gazed at Sasuke, not bothering to hide her desires.

"Sasuke," he said simply, hoping that if he was blunt this woman would go away.

The woman leaned in to whisper in his ear. "I know a good place down the road…Sasuke…if you're interested?"

How pitiful.

Sasuke ignored the woman's question, and his eyes instead drifted over to Sakura. He doubted that she would go to such desperate needs.

The woman watched Sasuke's eyes drift over to the girl in the corner with pink hair. Her blue eyes narrowed dangerously.

"Oh, I see…are you taken?" The woman's voice had suddenly changed dangerously.

How desperate.

"No," Sasuke said coldly. "Don't you have places to be?"

The woman blinked in surprise, before grabbing the front of his robe. "We have places to be," she corrected him. "Down the road, or are you so drunk that you don't remember?"

Sasuke abruptly pushed her off with a little more force than necessary, and watched as she fell to the floor, taking a few glasses down with her.

"How dare you!" the women shrieked at Sasuke, standing up, and picking up an empty sake bottle.

Sasuke felt all the eyes of everyone in the bar on him, and to his dismay, he felt a certain pink haired shinobi's chakra flare slightly.

The woman charged at him, however, not allowing anytime for his thoughts. Sasuke swiftly dodged, hoping that she would stop soon if he continued to effortlessly dodge.

She didn't falter in the slightest.

It took Sasuke a while to realise that a crowd had gathered around them, and were chanting drunkenly. Why did Sasuke have to get into this?

He grabbed the woman's wrists quickly. "Stop," he told her plainly.

"Get off me!" the woman screamed, pushing Sasuke away. "Don't you dare touch me!"

Sasuke saw someone else approach the crowd, and his heart stopped as he realised that Sakura had sensed him.

Sasuke quickly released the woman, and he watched as she scampered away and out into the night, screaming threats at him all the way. The crowd quickly dissolved once all the drunken civilians realised that there was no more fighting.

Except one.

Sakura gazed at him evenly, and Sasuke noticed that she was wobbling slightly. From the alcohol, her hunger or her wounds? He realised angrily that she was far more injured than he had thought. Why hadn't she come over to him and asked for help? He probably would've given it to her, he realised.

Then again, why hadn't he approached her with help? Either way, no matter what, he'd help her now.

"Sasuke…?" Sakura's voice was filled with hesitation and worry. She looked at him like she was looking at an enemy, and Sasuke couldn't ignore the hurt feeling he got.

"Is that you…?" Sakura swayed a bit, and had to grasp the table to steady herself. Sasuke resisted the urge to hold her steady.

Sasuke wanted to deny it, to erase her memories with the Sharingan, anything to not have to bring those memories that he had spent countless hours trying to forget back to the surface.

"Sakura." His voice startled her, and she stared at him in shock.

By that one word, Sakura felt her whole world topple over.

-xxx-

AN: It's a bit short, but that's only because I wanted to do a short first chapter and then have the rest about the same length…