The world had disappeared into a rush of white and fire. Even now, hidden behind the safety of her eyelids she wasn't ready to leave, she could still feel that rush of heat and water. Voice penetrated her foggy mind, familiar, angry voices. Struggling her way to the surface, she tried to decide if the anger was directed at her. For a single moment, she could recognize a voice saying her name over and over, but then it was too difficult to pull completely out of that darkness and she was sinking again.
The next time she woke everything hurt. Every bone in her body felt like it was burning and even the ends of her hair smarted. Blinking slowly, she found herself staring at a fire that was warmly crackling against an evening chill. It took a while to expand her awareness from the fire.
Shifting a little she bit back a moan at the sharp pain that movement brought. She must have a made some noise, because a moment later she was starring into a pair of dark eyes. Sasuke looked exhausted, a large bruise forming on the side of his face, but he was alive. Swallowing down the relief that brought, she closed her eyes again.
She opened her eyes again at the tone of his voice. There was an expression in his eyes she couldn't read very deeply into. She tried to say his name in return but her throat was so dry the words cracked before they were formed. He reached over and lifted her head (that hurt) and settled a canteen against her lips. Exhausted by the move, she panted a little, trying to convince herself that her ribs were not imbedding themselves in her lungs.
"That was very stupid of you."
She processed his words, but they didn't bring any images with them. It was hard to get upset when you couldn't remember why you felt like you had been buried under a rockslide and then dragged through a ravine by a raging river.
"Blowing yourself up as a warning is not acceptable, Sakura."
That did bring up memories. She had been on scouting duty; carefully searching the area for the Sound Ninja they had been trailing. There hadn't been any rumors of Akatsuki members in the area, there had been no reason to expect her to run into trouble that she couldn't handle. Halfway across a small ravine, she had seen him. Kisame Hoshigaki. He had worked alone since the death of Itachi, but that didn't mean he hadn't picked up a partner along the way. He was between her and her team, and there was no way to warn them that there might be more Akatsuki in the area. Heart in her throat, she had done the only thing she could think of that would have brought her help and warned them of the danger they were in.
She had blown up the wall of the ravine she was standing on top of. The faint memory of thick, rushing water must have been from Kisame's water attacks. She had known that if she survived the explosion, if Naruto and Sasuke survived the fight, that they would find her.
She didn't know why Sasuke was so testy.
Then suddenly there was another presence next to her. Sighing internally, she lifted her lashes to find herself starring up at a furious Naruto. His eyes were narrowed and she didn't think it was a trick of the fire that they were faintly red. She had the vague impression that if she wasn't hurting so badly he would have been shaking her.
Even knowing he was so mad at her didn't quell the fact that she was so relieved that he was alive. That they had both survived.
"What were you thinking?" Naruto growled down at her. Sakura closed her eyes. It was easier to deal with these things when she wasn't forced to look at such grim disapproval.
"Warning you." She whispered. "It worked."
The sound of cloth being strained to the breaking point had her sighing. "You're alive, Naruto."
"You almost weren't." Sasuke's voice broke into the slowly growing haze. She blinked her eyes open again. "If half-burying yourself wasn't good enough, Kisame did his best to drown you."
"Knew you would come," She said simply. Reaching over with her right hand, she managed to find Naruto's clenched fist and settled her fingers over the digits. As she started to drift off again, she felt a hand cover hers.
When she woke up for the third time, she smelled Naruto and rich earth. It took a few moments to realize he was carrying her. She was settled across his back as he moved as smoothly as he was able, his body moving in a way that managed to keep her from being jarred too badly. Curling her fingers into his shirt, she let him know she was somewhat awake. He didn't pause between leaps, but he did tighten his grip to silently inform her he wasn't putting her down.
Safe with the realization that he wouldn't drop her, she turned her attention to all the internal bruising and mostly healed breaks. She would have to ask them who had healed her, because she knew she hadn't been in a position to heal herself. She lost track of time as she carefully set about healing the worst of what was left of her injuries. She mended the rest of her fractures, eased the pressure on her lungs from her ribs, and had managed to deal with the worst of the bruising before she heard Naruto softly calling her name.
Blinking her eyes opening, she shifted to let him know she was aware.
"We're stopping for a bit." He told her, lowering her to the ground so that her feet could touch. She slipped off his back, but before her muscles could decide if they could hold her, Sasuke had settled an arm around her waist and held her up until she was steady.
"Thank you." She whispered against his side, moving away once her feet recognized what to do with sturdy ground. Blinking a little, she frowned. "Where are we?"
"About a day from Konoha," Naruto said as he stared digging through one of the packs. "We're heading back to report to Tsunade."
"Kakashi had already dealt with the Sound ninja when we ran into the Akatsuki." Sasuke supplied as squatted next to her to start putting together a fire.
"Kakashi?" She didn't remember seeing Kakashi at all. She blinked in surprise when Naruto took a very deep, steadying breath before turning to face her.
"Kakashi was hunting Kisame when you decided to blow up a chunk of the ravine. By the time we arrived, he was already engaged." His jaw worked for a moment before he continued. "Sasuke went after you while I joined the fight."
Sakura nodded. Naruto was the best one to deal with Kisame since he had the most chakra. "Kisame?"
"Escaped." Sasuke said coolly. "However, I do believe he will be carrying new scars the next time we meet."
She just nodded before picking a patch of grass and settling down. Sitting burned a little in her muscles, but it was easier now that her ribs where mended and her chest muscles were no longer so bruised. "Who healed me?"
"Kakashi had a Sand medic-nin with him," Naruto's voice was hard. That explained why her bones hadn't finished being healed. "He did what he could."
"He kept you alive." Sasuke agreed.
Sakura sighed. She probably should have tried to think of another way to warn them, but when faced with a monster of a man whose sword ate chakra, when you were facing the very people who knew how to kill demon containers, you had to move quickly. Naruto and Sasuke had been far enough away she hadn't been able to warn them with her voice and if she had tried, she wasn't sure she would have been able to stay alive long enough for them to find her. She could fight Sound-nin, she could deal with horrendous injuries, and she could even face Orochimaru with determination. She could even deal with Akatsuki members, some just required help; Kisame was one of those.
She was going to have to get Tsunade to help her perfect her summoning technique for the next time she was in one of these situations. She really didn't think Naruto and Sasuke would ever forgive her if she blew herself up twice.
However, she wasn't going to apologize for doing her duty. If the grim set to Naruto and Sasuke's mouths said anything, they knew it. They also knew that she had acted in the only means necessary to her and they weren't happy.
"Kakashi told us we could look at his library of scrolls while he was gone." Naruto finally said.
She looked up in surprise. "For what?"
"Genjutsu," Sasuke said.
She winced. She had really only seen them this irritated once (at the same time) since they had started taking A-rank missions together. The very first time they had gone after Sound-nin, but that was something she didn't like to rehash.
"Genjutsu would be a good idea," Sakura agreed.
Naruto was suddenly very, very close. "You aren't going to do that again, Sakura."
She blinked at the hard look in those blue eyes and the faintest flick of red around his pupil. She shook her head. "I will do what I have to do protect you and Sasuke, Naruto."
His eyes narrowed and she reached up and covered his mouth with her hand.
"However, in most situations, I won't have to. Kisame wasn't some Sound-nin, and his skills ran directly to my weaknesses. Taking him on alone would have been suicide. I did what I had to do to warn you and Sasuke that there was trouble. I didn't know if there were more Akatsuki members with him. They still want the fox, Naruto. It wasn't a situation were I could sit and wait for an opening to warn you." 'Or allow myself to be caught as bait for you to come rescue.'
His eyes were still narrowed, but he had relaxed. Pulling away, he reached up and caught her wrist. Eyes locked with hers, he deliberately brought her hand back to his mouth, and kissing the center of her palm for several long heartbeats before letting her go.
"I'll go catch lunch."
Then he was gone.
Leaving her with wide eyes, her fingers curled around the sensation of warm lips and hot breath, the wild look in blue eyes.