By Leanne Ash

Chapter 4

"...No, I just told you, I'm working double shifts tomorrow," snapped a disgruntled brunette woman as she hurried out the back entrance of the Icha Icha Gentleman's Club. She gripped her cell phone as if she were gripping the necks of everyone she worked with. "What? No! None of these bitches will fill in for me so I'm stuck!"

Reaching her Civic in the near empty parking lot, she threw the backseat open with some effort as she kept one hand on her phone and the other holding several garment bags.

"Uh huh... yeah... Well if I don't show up tomorrow Temari says I'm fired. Look, you're on your own. I'll call you later, okay? Ciao," she ended the call with a frustrated shake of her head and placed her phone into her jacket.

The brunette leaned further into her car's backseat to make sure her garment bags were resting comfortably. Her costumes endured a lot on a nightly basis so she did her best to handle them with care.

She closed the door and proceeded to move to the driver's side when a casual "Hi," sent her whirling around in surprise.

"Whoa...!" she gasped at the girl who had apparently come to stand behind her without a whisper of warning "You scared the shit out of me!"

The woman stared back unaffected by the accusation. "Do you work here?"

The brunette woman stared back, slightly baffled once the appearance of this bizarre stranger sunk in. The girl's hair was a delicate shade of pink, a tough dye job she wagered, and her eyes were so green and responsive to the neon street lights that reflected out from them she almost lost herself for a moment.

"Y-yeah...?" she responded dumbly. "You don't?"

"Not yet," the pink haired girl smiled. "I was going to ask you if they were hiring. I'm Ami."

"Rin," the other woman answered, patience melting quickly. Her maple eyes swept over Ami with a raise of her eyebrow. The dyed hair was an interesting gimmick on its own, but from what she could assess beyond Ami's leather jacket and impossibly long legs seemed dauntingly promising. "You've got the look, sweetie, but honestly, I'm not keen on the idea of competition. You want a job here, don't bank on my help."

Ami's eerily warm expression didn't change. "Right. I gotcha. Thanks anyway." She took a step back and allowed Rin room to enter her car.

Rin eyed her skeptically before turning to slide into the driver's seat.

"Have a good night," she heard Ami add before sudden blinding pain was followed swiftly by darkness.

The brunette slumped to the ground after Sakura gripped the back of her neck and slammed the girl's head into the top of the door frame.

"Sorry, Rin," she whispered, as she knelt over the body and scanned the club's parking lot to make sure they were still alone. It was nearly four in the morning and she had been waiting a while since the club closed to catch one of the strippers alone.

After reading through and memorizing the contents of Rin's wallet and purse, she pushed up the girl's jacket sleeve. Bringing out a compact silver case from her jacket, Sakura revealed a tiny syringe and plunged it carefully into the inside of Rin's elbow.

"You'll wake up in a day with a nasty hangover," Sakura continued to whisper. "And just a tiny bit of amnesia. I promise."

Hooking her arms under the brunette's, Sakura dragged the woman's limp form and hauled it into the trunk of the car. Recalling the woman's earlier phone conversation, Sakura reached into Rin's jacket pocket and pulled out her cell phone. Rin had luckily mentioned the name of the club's manager to be 'Temari' so, leaning against the bumper of the unconscious girl's car, Sakura scanned the contacts of the phone and composed a text message:

Temari I can't make it in tomorrow. I know you said you'd fire me so someone's filling in. LOL Ciao!

She clicked 'send' before tossing the phone into the trunk and slamming the lid. The assignment Naruto had handed her could either be a lot of fun or a lot of grievance; either way, she would continue making Naruto think it the latter. Once the open letter revealed the need for a provocative distraction at a strip club she had promptly called the blonde to promise him the quickest and most painful of deaths.

"C'mon, Sakura!" Naruto had chuckled nervously on the other end. "This is your specialty! I need you!"

"You know how much these kinds of assignments bother me," Sakura had seethed back. "You of all people! Unbelievable!"

"Look, you know you'd get this done in a heartbeat. That's a very small part of the mission! The rest involves us infiltrating Dosu headquarters and retrieving that stolen program."

Sakura opened her mouth to respond, but quickly felt her distaste crumbling.

"That's the real meat and bones of this mission, Sakura, and you're in on it."

"I'm-" a flutter of excitement suddenly elevated her mood. "I can help you with the actual assignment?"

"You better! Tsunade made me commander of this mission. And since Sasuke's pretty damn useless at the moment I need a third man, er, woman, covering my back."

Nervousness had left the blonde's voice; he knew he had won Sakura over. Just like him, she was constantly looking for ways to prove herself.

"So just help me get the key card," Naruto continued, "and then we'll go kick this mission in the balls!"

She had relented. Of course. Most of the time Sakura's assistance was no longer needed once her distraction duty had been completed. Being involved was a growing light at the end of the tunnel. Being involved on a mission of Naruto and Sasuke's caliber was a goddamn disco ball at the end of the tunnel.

Well THAT just happened, thought a disturbed Sasuke as he followed Naruto out of the Icha Icha Gentleman's Club. The blonde was babbling on about something pertaining to the mission and he couldn't help but find himself annoyed that the idiot was failing to address what exactly had just happened in there.

Like a broken record, Sasuke had thoroughly convinced himself that what took place to achieve the highest success level in any mission was pieced together for an intelligent, intricately thoughtful purpose. While working for the Hidden Leaf many years back he had never questioned it. While working under Orochimaru, he again, never questioned it. This mission, he reminded himself, was no special exception.

This internal sales pitch lasted 30 minutes before his foremost thought to Naruto came spilling out despite the initial resolve to swallow it.

"So you were fine with that?" Sasuke interrupted sharply.

Scrunched perplexity greeted him. "Fine with what? I said we'll have to head to the security office first to-"

"No, idiot, your teammate."

"Of course I'm fine with her! Idiot," Naruto retorted. "She's coming with us, so deal with it."

"No." Sasuke's jaw tightened. "Not that either."

The other boy blinked. Once. Twice. Clarity dawned and a guilty grin had him laughing nervously. "Oh..."

Naruto had always known the world regarded Sakura as a strikingly beautiful woman. She was insanely hot to him too, of course, but too often his one-track mind left him completely oblivious to the pitfalls of Sakura's special skill set. Once there was a mission to be completed, he had a job to do. Sakura had a job to do. There was nothing degrading about what either of them had to endure to get the job done. Missions were missions and if he wanted to be the best he had to complete as many as he could. This was Naruto's way. And even though Sakura was a close precious friend, he often forgot to stop and remind himself that she really did not like doing what she 'had to do' sometimes.

But it was the un-reminded version that gazed on with calculating thoughts about the mission when Sakura walked up to the table he and Sasuke were occupying at the strip club. His one passing thought was how awesome she looked before he returned his attention to Zaku Abumi who sat several tables away.

Sasuke, on the other hand, had no idea what to expect with Sakura's involvement in their mission. Naruto had told him simply that she would "meet them there" and "obtain the key card." The how of the matter was quickly solved as a scantily clad Sakura sashayed to their table holding a tray of empty glasses.

What. The fuck. Was happening.

Pure, chaste, Sakura Haruno.

Six-inch clear heels, lace bra, lace panties, lace garters. Pink everything. Straps everywhere. And cat ears just because.

And on that svelte little body of hers she looked insanely too hot for her own freaking good. Her pale pink hair cascaded down her back in thick curls that glowed under the club's gliding searchlights. A thin sheen of sweat covered Sakura's flawless skin and sparkled with the gratuitous amount of body glitter she must have showered herself in. That sweat, he had thought unintentionally, had better been from serving drinks and not from performing for a room full of drunk assholes.

Sasuke didn't say a word as Sakura leaned in and murmured to Naruto under the guise of taking his drink order. Something-something-whatever. The prodigy was too distracted by a growing irritation he couldn't quite discern. He figured he was annoyed with Naruto for the most part; for letting Sakura parade herself like a giddy vapid whore just to help them get a key card to a building he would've gladly smashed open with a garbage can at that moment. This whole thing suddenly seemed hugely unnecessary.

They made eye contact briefly. Sakura's emerald green eyes, surrounded by glitter and thick smokey makeup, stared hard enough to acknowledge Sasuke's presence before quickly returning to Naruto. They weren't exactly on friendly speaking terms. Or just speaking terms in general.

Sasuke's rolling eyes moved away from his teammates to the half-naked woman breaking the laws of aerodynamics on the main stage pole. Offhandedly he agreed that Sakura could easily gain the attention of Abumi given the way she stood out amongst the other strippers. But the idea of her having to prance around in practically nothing to do it wasn't exactly sitting comfortably with him. He exhaled with added force. It shouldn't matter. This really wasn't any of his business. All this unease merely stemmed from an expired idea that a shy, innocent girl from his childhood was suppose to remind him of simpler times. And times were no longer and not meant to be simple. People changed. People grew up. People grew up and looked like...

He stole another glance at Sakura's annoyingly appetizing figure.


Sakura feigned laughter while flipping a coiled pink lock over her shoulder. Naruto smiled lazily and leaned forward to whisper in her ear. Anyone passing by merely saw a strip club waitress flirting with a drunk college kid, but anyone capable of reading lips could tell the blonde was briefing Sakura on what attitudes Abumi appreciated from his girls.

Sasuke stared hard at Sakura's face then, surprised that he could somehow decipher a fake smile from her after so many years apart. If he recalled correctly, it took very little for him to achieve a genuine smile from that naive, hopeful face. A nod to her greeting, a tilt of his head when she talked to him- it was ridiculous how she allowed a shred of his attention to brighten her whole month. Ridiculous. And when she had begged him to stay 5 years ago at the main gates of the Hidden Leaf... Pathetic. That's what he had called her dependence on him.

He had smirked at the memory. Okay, maybe it wasn't just his new-found chauvinistic portrayal that earned him Sakura's complete lack of acknowledgment. The smug realization turned bitter, and perfectly timed as a drunk patron stumbled close to their table and made to grab the pink haired waitress from behind. With lightening reflexes, Sasuke fisted the man's shirt collar without getting up from his chair and dragged him to eye level.

"Don't," was all he growled and released the confused man with a yank in the opposite direction.

Sakura, who had already turned to pursue Zaku Abumi's VIP table, hadn't noticed the confrontation. Naruto, on the other hand, stared at Sasuke with controlled alarm in his eyes.

"Quit it," the blonde snapped lowly. "We're not here to draw attention to ourselves."

And it was that very order, from Naruto of all people, that had Sasuke sitting with forced nonchalance as he watched Sakura give Zaku a lap dance while his associates watched with inebriated earnest. Naruto's eyes were locked onto their target's, making sure the man didn't show any signs of suspicion or realization with the way Sakura's wandering hand was artfully plucking the key card from his inside pocket. She made to run her hands down the sides of her own body, skillfully tucking the key card inside her garter belt without anyone noticing the slight of hand. The head of the Dosu Corporation was too enthralled to notice anything but the overall movement and appeal of Sakura's presence. The same could be said about his bodyguards and associates.

Realization dawned in Sasuke as he suddenly figured out the pink haired girl's alleged skill set: Sakura assisted simply by being attractive. The proof was in the setup; the revealing outfit; the blatant retrieval of whatever she wanted with everyone watching. He had scoffed inwardly with knitted eyebrows, unsure if he should feel intrigued or feel embarrassed for her because assisted could easily be swapped for existed.

With graceful fluidity, Sakura dismounted Zaku and responded to his whine of protest by removing her cat ears and placing them on his head. The group howled with laughter and Sakura skipped away.

"Stage one complete," Naruto murmured as he threw money on their table. "We're going."

And it wasn't long after that when Sasuke's abrupt question halted Naruto's stride to their car.

"It doesn't really matter if I'm fine with it or not," Naruto answered after a brief pause. "No one had to die, no one had to get hurt, no one got suspicious- and now we have access to the entire Dosu building."

The question of but is SHE fine with it? died within Sasuke's thought process. Naruto was right. They were now in an ideal situation. And if Naruto, who was actually Sakura's friend, had no qualms with her craft then his own distaste wasn't worth bringing up. Because it was irrelevant. Because he wasn't suppose to give a shit about Sakura or how strangely annoying this all was.

He let his silence tell Naruto the conversation was over as they reached their car, popped the trunk, and began prepping their equipment. Sakura joined them shortly after. She shared a quick high-five with Naruto before leaning casually against the side of the car. The glitter and pink strappy lingerie had been swapped for a black matte catsuit, leather jacket, and her usual boots with the titanium heel. She glanced with mild irritation at Sasuke while sweeping her curly pink hair into a tight bun. Acknowledgments were at an all-time bare minimum.

The Uchiha glared back from the corner of his eye and continued checking the weapons in Naruto's equipment bag.

If they were lucky, they wouldn't have to use any guns during the mission. It was only a precaution if they were unable to successfully disable the security system and suddenly had to shoot their way in AND out.

Noticing a gun in the midst was empty, Sasuke ejected the mag and tossed it to Naruto. "Get me another clip."

"...And thanks, Naruto! You're the best!" Naruto mimicked sarcastically, reaching into the inside pockets of his jacket.

Sakura stared blankly at the weapon in Sasuke's grip as he held it out to her.


"Take it," Sasuke urged impatiently, shoving it into her hands. "Or do you not know what it is?"

"I don't..." her eyes fluttered to Naruto who stared back expectantly. She returned her timid gaze to Sasuke and bit her lip. "I've never... um... I mean, I don't actually-"

"You're kidding me," Sasuke ground out. "You don't know how to use a gun?"

"Sasuke..." Naruto warned lowly.

The girl's arms folded defensively. "That's not fair!" Sakura whined, embarrassment in her voice. "It's just never been my job to know these things!"

"You work for the Hidden Leaf, and somehow it's your job not to know?"

"Um, duh? I'm just the 'distraction'? It's your guys' job to do the shooting or whatever!"

Or... whatever. Sasuke deadpanned at the beautiful waste of time standing before him. "Congratulations," came the biting reply. "You're useless. You can't cover us. Go home."

The sheer annoyance in Sasuke's voice was scathing as he surveyed her existence with disgust. The girl cocked her head to the side at him. "You can't talk to me like that!" And it was that childish voice of entitlement that had him eager to leave her standing dumbfounded in the parking lot.

"Sakura!" Naruto called suddenly, as he threw the loaded magazine in her direction.

In one fluid gesture, Sakura's arm swiped the air with the pistol held grip-first to meet the sudden trajectory. The mag inserted midair with a barely audible click. She had done it almost entirely without breaking eye contact.

Blinking, Sasuke barely hid the surprise on his face as the rosette girl nonchalantly slapped the (now loaded) gun back into his grip.

"You made the assumption first," Sakura sighed, shedding the whiny voice she projected moments ago. Her voice now was even, jaded. "I only meant to say I didn't need it. I'm equipped."

With that, Sakura reached inside her coat and pulled out her weapon: a custom Safari Arms with intricate cherry blossoms carved into the handle. She spun it expertly around her finger and returned it to the confines of her coat. "Don't give me your Barbie dolls to play with, Uchiha."

Sasuke couldn't help but frown with indignation as he turned to look at Naruto. The blonde only shrugged, a guilty smile on his face.

"The floor plan of the building's in that roll down there."

While keeping his left hand on the wheel and eyes on the road, Naruto attempted to reach down and grab the thick wad of paper from the mess by Sakura's feet.

The car veered slightly and Sakura swatted at Naruto's groping hand. "I got it!" she snapped, voice raspy from the constant volume she had projected at the strip club. "Eyes on the road."

"Well you'd either pick up the floor plan of the Dosu building or the floor plan from the drug lord's mansion from last month."

"This isn't a floor plan, moron, it's a take-out menu."

"No—Sakura-!" The car swerved as Naruto struggled to make a sharp left. "It's that thing... under the other thing. By the plastic ramen bowel. No, no that one. Under that. Lift that green folder!"

Sakura's exaggerated sigh held palpable impatience. "Why are you keeping all these things on the floor of your car?!"

"If I didn't you and the bastard wouldn't have anywhere to sit!"

"I mean, all missions are highly classified. How do you think it's okay to keep them scattered down here between take-out boxes!?"

"I'll get to filling it away!" Naruto whined. "Just not... any time soon!"

Sasuke scoffed somewhere in the backseat. Sakura could tell he was both fed up with their childish banter and pissed at having been banished to the back because of Naruto's reminder that he was on probation. Either way, she couldn't be bothered to address him as she unrolled the sought-after floor plan of the Dosu building.

A satisfied smirk threatened the corners of Sakura's mouth as she recalled the jab she had taken at the arrogant man sitting behind her. Her quick acting reflexes had covered her blinding rage over Sasuke's automatic assumption she couldn't tell a gun from a can opener, but it was Naruto who had tossed the magazine clip in her direction knowing her favorite method of catching. The look on Sasuke's face had been priceless and more than made up for the blank expression she received from him at the strip club.

Okay, so Sasuke didn't think much of her. He probably still thought she was pathetic and annoying. But he was still an intact male, wasn't he? She didn't know what she was expecting when she pranced up to her teammate's table earlier that night, but she definitely expected more than just a cold glance from Sasuke Uchiha. Come on. She had been wearing clear heels and pink lingerie for fucking out loud... nothing? She shook off the slight blow to her already fragile ego. A small part of her wanted revenge for the little girl Sasuke shattered to pieces all those years ago by flashing some skin, but apparently that was a hill to die on and she quickly pushed the idea from her head.

"What do you have for the security guard?" Naruto asked, breaking Sakura from her thoughts.

"Oh..." she rifled through her coat pocket. "I've got my own recipe from the lab."

"Yeah? What do you come up with this time?"

Unbeknownst to either of them, Sasuke's interest perked fractionally at the knowledge of Sakura's chemistry background. He watched as she pulled out a small silver case and revealed a syringe.

"I can put the security guard out with this modified barbiturate. Knocks people out for a few days and causes mild amnesia. It's also virtually untraceable on toxicity screens."

Though his blue eyes were on the road, Naruto's eyebrows lifted with appraisal. "That's awes-"

"Not going to work," Sasuke drawled.

Sakura visibly tensed as she returned the syringe and tilted her head fractionally in his direction. "Why?" she clipped.

"You can't have the guard knocked out for a few days. It'll get investigated for sure."

Naruto released an uneasy groan. "He's got a point, Sakura. You have a backup? The dude's always drinking from a blue canteen. Got anything we can dissolve?"

The pink haired girl drummed her nails against the inside of the car door. She could feel Sasuke's arrogant gaze at the back of her head, at the opportunity to catch her unprepared.

"Flunitrazepam," she offered. "We can slip it in his drink."

Confused, Naruto glanced her way. "And flunitra-whatever is...?"

"The date rape drug," Sasuke answered pointedly.

"It's creepy that you know that," Sakura murmured.

"It's creepy that you carry it in your pocket."

"Sakura spends a lot of time in the hospital lab," Naruto explained, diverting the conversation before another biting rebuttal could be made. "She's taken down a lot of bad people without drawing a weapon."

Sakura smiled warmly at Naruto, thankful for his comment.

"And probably without clothes on..."

Time whirred to an abrupt stop. The air went thick after Sasuke's nonchalant remark and even the mindless chatter on the radio took that exact terrible moment to pause. A pained wince quickly took over Naruto's face as he stole a glance at Sakura to witness her hell-hath-no-fury response. Even he was smart enough not to make such a cheap comment at her expense.

Sakura seemed to be stuck in suspended animation; emerald eyes widened like saucers, posture tilted forward as if someone had smacked the back of her head. "...What?" came the incredulous reply.

The bored Uchiha kept his eyes trained out the window. "Hn. You heard me."

"OH LOOK, WE'RE HERE!" Naruto bellowed happily.

"Do you have something to say to me?"


"Only if you get in the way, Haruno."

Sakura turned furiously to face the backseat, the abrupt movement causing a tendril of hair to fall from her initially polished bun. Her right eye flooded red as the sharingan took over, triggered by the unstable change in temperament.

She was met with a weary head shake. Sasuke activated both of his eyes, and with an arrogant scoff of "Please," red bloomed forward to counter the single threat.

"First," Sakura hissed, "you're jealous that I have the sharingan. Then you're surprised I know what a gun looks like. Now you're insinuating my job is taking my clothes off?"

"First," Sasuke countered, "why would I ever be jealous of you? And the rest," he smirked, "too easy."

"You know, I bet Orochimaru fired your useless ass."

"You'd know all about being useless, wouldn't you?"

The car suddenly swerved into a parallel spot and promptly switched off as Naruto turned on the both of them, sky-blue eyes quickly slitting to red. "Yes, we ALL have the sharingan," the blonde exasperated. "Now knock it off! And stop coming up with reasons to argue cause it's goddamn weird. You're both weird!"

Naruto swung open his door and grappled with his seat belt. "The old bag put me in charge and I intend to blow this mission out the water so I can take over the Hidden Leaf when she retires-" Finally freeing himself, he jumped from the car "-so keep your shits together or I'm doing it myself. Fucking believe it, you clowns!" The door slammed pointedly, leaving Sasuke and Sakura in hollow silence.

Sakura, whose body was still partially turned toward Sasuke's, bit her lower lip and swept her eyes to the car floor. Sasuke stayed rooted to his seat, staring hard into the pinkette's downcast side profile. The silence filled with the muffled sounds of Naruto shifting through the contents of the trunk. Sakura patted her thighs anxiously. Her good friend was right oddly enough; they were being weird. Not that they weren't allowed to detest each other for obscure reasons, but letting it spill over into their professionalism would only amount to bigger problems. And Naruto was counting on her.

"Here," Sakura sighed, as she handed Sasuke a yellow capsule between her thumb and forefinger. "I'll distract the guard, you snap it open over his canteen."

It had been her subtle attempt to reason with the Uchiha; an invite to reach an understanding and put their incomprehensible dislike aside. She figured it was futile. Her self-esteem prepared for a swat to the hand and a snort telling her to handle it herself. There was probably no way in hell Sasuke would following her lead given his predisposition of her.

Sakura's outstretched hand wavered as Sasuke continued to analyze her like a joke with a punchline that didn't make sense. She was within milliseconds of pulling her hand back and snapping an irritated 'never mind' when, much to her surprise, the prodigy reached over and took the capsule.

He nodded curtly, red eyes meeting hers.

"Go then."

Hopping quickly up the short staircase of the Dosu building, Sakura marched straight to the glass entrance doors where there was a clear view of the security guard. He was an older, heavyset gentleman who sat watching several monitors in a room connected to the lobby. She knew much more about him given the surveillance report provided by Naruto and Sasuke: his name was Jiro, he was single, he liked video games, he was paying the alimony for a woman he slept with once, and he drank his coffee black. None of that was relevant at the moment, but being relentlessly thorough was part of the job.

Sakura glanced quickly around the lobby and touched the mic on her jacket collar. "Stick to the wall with the plants. The cameras don't cover it."

Raising a fist to the locked entrance door, Sakura began pounding urgently against it. The sound snapped the bored security guard from his stupor as he swiveled his chair quickly.

"Hi-hiii!" Sakura yelled through the glass, voice sweet and held at an impossibly higher pitch. Sasuke, from his position behind one of the pillars of the building, promptly rolled his eyes at the piercing sugary sound.

Naruto, who hid close by, shook his head with a stifled laugh.

"Seriously?" the dark haired boy grumbled.

"Like you could do better?" the blonde whispered back.

Sakura continued to wave incessantly. "Can you help me? I'm totally lost!"

The guard rose wearily from his seat and began walking toward the entrance doors. His pace, however, quickly gained momentum as the woman's attractive features came into focus.

"Sorry, I know it's late," Sakura whined playfully, "but you're the only sober person I've seen for like an hour." She laughed lightly. "At least, I hope you're sober!"

Jiro pushed open the heavy glass door but kept his body partially inside. His tired eyes glanced her over before resting on her face with a coy smile. "So what's the problem, little lady?"

"Right, so, my friends told me to meet them at this bar, but I can't remember the name and none of them are answering their phones."

The man's brow stitched with confusion, but he continued to smile. "There's a lot of bars down the next block."

"Yeah, but they said it's super popular and would be close to that restaurant over there."

He struggled to follow her story. "Okay. Which restaurant?"

"Over..." Sakura turned her body and began walking away from the entrance and down the steps. She pointed outside the man's field of view. "There! That one!"

The guard sighed and followed after her down the steps. "Which one?"

She giggled, the sound automatically bringing a wider smile to the guard's face. "That one! The weird retro diner. They said there was a bar really close to that place but I can't find it. Do you know what they're talking about?"

"Um..." he glanced down the street while scratching his head. "Not that I know of. Like I said there's a ton the next block over but-"

Sasuke didn't hear the rest of the conversation as the glass door closed softly behind him. Staying close to the wall Sakura had mentioned, he easily evaded the lobby cameras and entered the security room. Just as they had observed in the past, the same blue canteen sat on the man's snack-riddled desk. He broke the capsule quickly into the drink and darted back into the lobby.

Sakura was still chatting mindlessly to the guard. Her hand now gently touching the fat man's arm as he grinned at her like a free grand buffet. He sneered inwardly. She probably could have kept him out there all night while he and Naruto scavenged every floor of the building.

The door closed behind him with a whisper as he stealthily returned to his position behind the pillar.

"...So the bar with the orange sign is the one you'd go to?" Sakura continued, sensing the deed had been done, she began wrapping up the conversation.

"Yeah, me and my buddies go there all the time. Try there first."

"Sounds like a plan. Thanks for all your help," she lightly fingered the man's name tag, "Jiro?"

"Yeah!" Jiro nodded eagerly, hoping it was inviting the woman to give up her own name as well.

"Cool," Sakura winked. "Well, have a good night!"

And with that, she pivoted quickly and began walking down the street.

Hearing the man's disappointed farewell and retreating footsteps, Sakura rounded the corner and pressed the mic again. "Sasuke," she began hesitantly, the name still oddly foreign as she spoke it, "did you-?"

"It's done," Sasuke's voice interrupted.

"Looks like he's taking a drink right now," Naruto chimed in. "Way to make him sweat, Sakura!"

"It's what I do," the pinkette shrugged wearily. She quickly jogged back and joined her teammates at their hidden vantage point.

"Good job," Naruto praised with a light pat to her shoulder. "Dude's starting to sway. Once he's out, we card our way in and rig the security cameras to loop. We make our way to Zaku's office, grab that USB stick, reset the cameras, and we're gone. We were never here."

His teammates nodded.

"Sakura, you rig the cameras. Sasuke, you and I double check the security system. Make sure we're covered for all clearances with Zaku's key card."

"And you're sure no one else is in there?" asked Sakura with a quick glance over her shoulder. Her sharingan activated and zoomed in to get a sharper image of the security guard. He was still awake, but showing signs of struggling to maintain it.

"Positive," Naruto confirmed.

"And Zaku always goes straight home after the strip club, right? We're not expecting him to show up any time soon?"

"He never does," the blonde assured. "He won't."

"He shouldn't," Sasuke amended lowly, not agreeing with the absolution in Naruto's words. Assumptions could only make them careless. Well, not him. And probably not Naruto. He stole a glance at his female teammate as he leaned against the pillar with his arms folded. Without knowing what it was like to work alongside Sakura, or anyone else he lacked a history with, he could only anticipate the worst until proven otherwise. Tonight, he made it his own personal mission to watch Sakura like a hawk; a newbie made the difference between an easy mission and an unnecessarily difficult one. The girl seemed capable enough in terms of trade craft, weaponry and pharmacology, but the night was young.

He watched as Sakura crouched next to Naruto and rested her chin idly against her palm. Her expression was soft as she chatted with him about something inane, something about a girl Naruto was seeing, and Sasuke found himself irritated with the pink haired girl yet again. She hadn't been doing anything, really. She merely carried on looking thoughtful, curious... and just like in the car, he felt the need to extinguish the unsettling nostalgia that pretty face provoked by saying something uncalled for.

He stopped himself this time, however, allowing his thoughts to finish before his mouth jumped ahead. It was not the time, nor the place, nor the reason to be so damn childish and he'd have to figure out a rational explanation for his cruel remarks later. The mission just needed to be over with so he could carry on with his own agenda for the night.

Sakura glanced back occasionally to check on the status of the security guard. Her eerie single sharingan glowed dimly in the darkness –the trademark of a fresh implant- and Sasuke found himself wondering what limitations she faced with having only one active. But he was too proud to ask, too installed with the idea that her insane decision to have the procedure done was off the radar of things to care about and asking about it proved otherwise. With an annoyed exhale, Sasuke tightened the arms across his chest, cluing the others of his impatience with the sound of grinding leather.

"He's out," Naruto alerted.

"Finally!" Sakura stood, pulling Zaku Abumi's key card from her pocket. "Allow me."

The Uchiha pushed himself from the pillar and followed after his teammates as they entered with the almighty access card; playful as they impersonated Abumi with giddy exaggeration. He rolled his eyes for what seemed like the hundredth time. It was probably bad luck to say out loud, but he couldn't help hoping the rest of the night would go according to plan and just be fucking over with. Simple, smooth, done.

And as luck would have it, thinking that was just as bad as saying it out loud.

Author's note: Hey here's a fun idea, Leanne! Let's start a new story while planning a wedding, quitting your job, going back to school, and trying to get a new job! Sorry for anyone still interested in this story. It was not my intention to revert to the ways of Little Piece of Heaven and update yearly. I'm really loving my ideas for Ricochet so I'm not quitting. I'll try for a new update next month. Also, I doubt catching a mag in midair is a thing, I just saw something similar on the anime, Black Cat.