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Pink Clouds

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Chapter 1

Water. So much water- freezing cold, beating down on her shoulders in torrents of rain, soaking through her clothes, sloshing through her sandals and numbing her toes as she trudged through the wet, pitch-dark field. Sakura cursed River country for its apt naming- why not the Land of Summer and Perfect Weather? At this point, she'd even settle for The Land of Limited Rain and Occasional Dry Days. She cursed herself even more for deciding upon this route for her escape. Sure, it was practical- the water made it impossible for Sakura to be tracked, her scent and footprints washing away within seconds, and the conditions were inhospitable enough that even the most dedicated hunter-nin would falter after a few days, much less the two weeks she'd been here.

In all her planning, however, Sakura had neglected to consider one teensy detail- she was just as miserable here as any would-be pursuers. More so, even, dressed as she was in the thin tank top she wore to bed and her medic skirt with tights that were hardly better, especially with the harsh cold of night greedily leeching the warmth from her with every gust of wind. If it weren't for the constant stream of chakra she circulated through her body, she'd have collapsed of hypothermia ages ago.

Sakura sighed. When Danzo took over two months ago, she'd been so certain it wouldn't last, that the good guys would triumph like they always did, and Tsunade would return to make it all better. Sakura had gone along with it on the surface while subtly resisting in other ways, and confidently plotting with her friends. She should have known that he wouldn't stand for any insubordination, that any threat no matter how mild would be met with yet another undercover assassination- like the suspicious deaths of all the council members who had resisted him. After that show of dictatorship, Konoha's leadership had bowed to Danzo's every whim, starting with retroactively labeling Tsunade-sama, who was then on a diplomatic trip to Suna, a traitor to the village for her abandonment in the years prior.

Before they knew it, Konoha was transformed into a hyper-vigilant, paranoid military state. Mandatory curfew was rigidly upheld by the impossibly numerous Root forces that had popped out of nowhere. People disappeared in the middle of the night, a mere whisper of insubordination would get you and your family interrogated and likely imprisoned. Those who were vital to running the village, such as Sakura with her work in ANBU and the hospital, were closely monitored and worked to the bone so as to discourage time for plotting. Not that it stopped Sakura and the members of the Rookie Nine that remained in the village- together with Shikamaru, Neji and Ino, they'd found ways to communicate and make contingency plan upon contingency plan.

Sakura had almost thought their planning excessive, until one night she was woken up by a silver-haired, masked figure crouching over her with his hand on her mouth to keep her silent. Kakashi, who had been recalled into Root the minute Danzo had taken over, had found a small loophole in the seal on his tongue that allowed him to interpret some orders loosely. About a month and a half into Danzo's reign, it seemed the dictator had decided that Sakura's risk outweighed her usefulness, and ordered Kakashi to eliminate her- in part, to test the Copy-Nin's loyalty. Kakashi chose to find a different meaning in that command- get Sakura away from the village- and, with an uncharacteristically serious look in his eye, had tapped their personal code onto Sakura's skin as she startled into wakefulness: Root assassins. Incoming 1 minute. Initiate any contingency plan now.

His pink-haired former student had jolted, and then, with efficiency borne of years of life-threatening situations, had implemented the plan Shikamaru had come up with for this very scenario. A freshly-unsealed cadaver layered in intricate genjutsu that replicated her to a nearly genetic level was arranged on her bed in seconds. She'd had just enough time to put on her sandals, get her emergency pack full of ration bars and scrolls, and give Kakashi a fierce last hug before escaping through the window. Barely a second later, the Root team sent to ensure Kakashi's mission was a success (another insult to the legendary Copy Ninja and the previous runner-up for Hokage) had barged through the door to see Kakashi's chidori through the heart of his favorite student. Sai, who had wormed his way into the Root support team, was the only other aware of Sakura's plan aside from Shikamaru and Ino. He convinced the team to quickly set fire to the corpse, in case Sakura's regeneration seal brought her back from even this injury.

Meanwhile, Sakura had followed the escape route they'd planned for and met Genma at the village wall. He let her through, lacking his flirtatious grin for once, while layering a genjutsu on his partner and anyone in the vicinity to disguise her exit. Yamato was waiting just outside, and grew a dense, thorny bush over her trail. And so, mere minutes after Kakashi had woken her up in the dead of night, Sakura was running far from Konoha, presumed dead by most of her friends and colleagues. She was headed southwest towards the Land of Wind- once she passed Suna, she could make her way along the southern coast out of the Elemental nations entirely.

Her shishou herself was currently receiving political asylum in Suna, along with Naruto. Gaara's friendship extended far once it was attained, but this move strained the relationship between the villages almost to the breaking point. At this point, Danzo had numerous spies in Suna and vice versa, making it impossible for Sakura to seek refuge there lest she be recognized, and thus put Kakashi and the others in danger. For her survival to mean anything, she had to effectively disappear off the face of the planet, run as far and fast as she could to put the horrors of the coup behind her.

A flash of lightning in the dark sky, followed by the rumble of thunder, jarred Sakura from her brooding thoughts. Great, she thought miserably, as if the fates didn't hate me enough. I just had to become a missing-nin during monsoon season.

A snide inner voice popped up, Well, if a certain someone had actually packed clothes along with your scrolls and food rations, we might not be completely screwed right now.

Sakura ignored the voice with practiced ease, as well as the fact that it was completely right. She'd expected to have the opportunity to steal some clothes from a village on the way, but after spotting a root agent in the vicinity of the first civilian settlement she came across, she realized it was too risky. After that scare, Sakura had decided to completely avoid any towns or villages lest she be found out- which resulted in two miserable weeks of living off a dwindling supply of ration bars and whatever food she could catch or scavenge in the forests. Sakura was so sick of rabbit she'd gladly never look at another one in her life.

The impending thunderstorm alerted her to the true danger of her current situation- standing alone in a field of wet grass combined with lightning was a certain recipe for disaster.

Sakura forced herself to shake off her exhaustion and look around for shelter. As if the fates had decided to finally take pity on her, a ray of moonlight broke through the cloud cover on the horizon and illuminated the rainy landscape just enough to see a bit farther. Taking a proper survey of her surroundings, Sakura breathed a sigh of relief: there was a scattering of rocky hills ahead that looked promising. If she could find a cave, she might even be able to start a fire and finally warm the chill from her bones.

As she approached, however, the thick rain abated just enough for her to see an even more welcome sight- dim yellow lights nestled in the inky outline of the rocks, framed by a small copse of trees. Sakura turned towards it, determined to convince whoever lived there to let her stay a night. Maybe even some food- she had a decent amount of emergency money that she'd barely touched, and she was far enough from Konoha now that it should be fine. The thought of being warm and dry for a change- not to mention eat something other than rabbit or ration bar- made Sakura pick up the pace in hopeful anticipation.

Upon reaching the building, Sakura nearly laughed out loud in relief: the sign over the entrance read "Taki Mountain Springs Inn," which meant she had a good chance of a relatively safe and anonymous shelter. Huh. If she had known there were hot springs around, she might have had an easier time avoiding hypothermia.

Clumsy from the cold and shivering hard, Sakura finally pushed past the doors into the warm, smoky interior and almost groaned in relief. Spotting the small bar that was along the wall, she quickly made her way over, slicking her wet hair back with her hands in a futile attempt to look more presentable than the half-drowned cat look she was currently sporting. Dimly, she was aware of a few darkened figures sitting by the fire on the far wall, but at the moment her only concern was getting a warm drink to get the bone-deep chill out of her body.

"S-s-sake, warm. One bottle," she ground out. Then, as an afterthought, "and some food, if you serve it. Whatever's warm and filling."

The innkeep was a broad and bearded man who only raised an eyebrow before nodding mutely and going to warm the sake. Once he brought it, she downed half of the bottle in one gulp. The delicious heat started spreading through her veins, and Sakura finally relaxed a bit and paid a bit more attention to her surroundings. The inn was mostly empty, only a pale-faced, nervous-looking maid who resembled the barkeep cleaning one corner, and muted conversation behind Sakura from far corner. Almost unconsciously, she channeled some chakra to her ears to eavesdrop while idly sipping her sake and starting on the hot udon soup the barkeep brought her.

"Bastard, you don't know what you're talking about, stupid fucker! I should have killed you just for being a Jashin-damned idiot a long time ago so I wouldn't have to listen to this bullshit. Fuck, I don't get why Leader-sama decided to pair me off with you two infidels for this mission."

At the mention of the word mission, Sakura perked up a bit, listening with a bit more attention.

A new, eager voice replaced the sarcastic, vicious tone of the first speaker.

"You don't understand, un! This is an opportunity for us to create the best art in the world! You're the perfect candidate to test out my new 'Shinobi Explosion' no jutsu, since you can't die, un! Haven't you ever wanted to be part of something greater and more beautiful than yourself? …Un," he added belatedly in his passion.

"First of all, bitch, ain't nothing more beautiful out there than yours truly. Bitches dig this body, and not just because I'm a holy motherfucker. Second of all—"

"-Bahahaha who, you? You couldn't seduce a blind nymphomaniac with a pain fetish, much less some regular hotties. I bet they'd even go for fishface over here over you, un!"

"Hey!" protested a third voice, deep and gravelly. "I'll have you know I'm a total chick magnet. Bitches dig a little animal." His voice lowered on the last word and Sakura shivered despite herself. Clearly, sake in her stomach after two days of not eating wasn't the best decision even with her tolerance. She helped herself to more soup, dipping chunks of bread in it, as she continued to listen.

"Hah! If by animal you mean they love the smell of fish in bed then you must be hanging out with some weird fucking women. Pyro here doesn't know what the fuck he's talking about though. With his girly ass looks the only pussy he'd ever get is his own." The voice howled with laughter, joined by deep chuckles from 'fish-face'. Curious now despite herself, Sakura turned slightly in their direction. Through the haze of the smoky and dimly-lit room, she could see three masculine figures, one hulking with huge shoulders and spiky hair, and two blondes, one more slender and with a high ponytail, the other with slicked back light hair and a stronger build. The gravelly voice spoke up again, coming from the giant.

"He's got you on that one, Deidara. Even I thought you were a girl when you first joined."

The blonde with a ponytail visibly bristled even across the room, and Sakura suppressed a smile of amusement. This unexpected show seemed more entertaining than some of the dramas she watched with Ino. The thought of her best friend sobered her mood a bit, but she kept listening to the conversation, sneaking glances through her lashes as she sipped on the last of her sake. Realizing she was running out, she signaled the barkeep for more and settled in to shamelessly eavesdrop.

"Oh yeah? At least I don't have creepy-ass teeth and gills to scare them away the minute they see me, un. And I can actually behave like a gentleman long enough to get them in bed unlike certain dickheads around here, un!"

The silver-haired man (and for a moment, Sakura missed Kakashi desperately even though they looked nothing alike), instead of bristling leaned back and laughed. The low, self-satisfied sound made her think of decidedly un-Kakashi-like things, which was a clear signal to her that she should stop drinking immediately. Or get laid. After two weeks of zero human contact, she was going a bit crazy, clearly.

"Fucker, now I know you have no idea what the fuck you're talking about! The only way to get bitches to be into you is to be a little fucking rough with them. The ladies love bad boys."

"Nah! You don't know how much pussy I've gotten by playing the gentleman card, un!"

The cocky one with the sailor's mouth rejoined, "Wanna bet that's not true? I bet you the next chick we see will be all over me and completely reject you."

"Fine, un! I'm gonna show you the real way to seduce a woman."

"The stakes?"

"Winner can shove off one mission of his choice to the loser, un."

"Fucking deal! This win is mine!"

The giant next to them chuckled and suddenly pointed in Sakura's direction, who hurriedly turned back to her sake and pretended she hadn't been trying to scrutinize them from across the room. With Sakura's chakra-enhanced hearing, his low voice sounded like he was speaking right into her ear, making shivers of anticipation roll down her spine.

"Well, boys, I think you're getting your chance sooner than you thought. Look what the storm drove in, there at the bar."

The two other figures perked up and looked around eagerly.

"What?! Where, where—"

"Get the fuck off me, goatfucker, I want to see her first!"

"I will if you quit blocking my view—"

There was a sudden hush.

"….Hot damn."

"Yeah, un."

"What the fuck is a girl like that doing in this middle of fucking nowhere?"

"I have no clue, un, but she's about to make me win the damn bet, un!"

"I think she has eyes, so not today, fuckface."

Sakura stifled an amused laugh but not her slight blush and and turned back to her sake, finishing the second bottle with a large swig. Then she swung around on her chair to face the bickering men as they got up to approach her. The sake showed its influence when the sudden motion made Sakura lose her tenuous balance on the chair. Her exhaustion combined with the alcohol made her cross-eyed for a second before she registered that she had not fallen to the floor. Instead, two massive hands were holding her up by the arms, and she was leaning into a broad, muscled chest that smelled faintly like an ocean breeze. Lifting her head groggily, she was confronted with the sight of sculpted cheeks, a grinning, pointy-teethed mouth and laughing, oddly light-coloured eyes.

"You alright there, Kitten?"

Sakura was distracted momentarily by the sight of- was it gills?- around his eyes, and she brought an unsteady hand up to touch them.

"Pretty!" She said dumbly, then resisted the urge to palm her face at her own idiocy. Apparently, sake reduced her vocabulary to that of a toddler's. 

The shark-looking man's face went slack with surprise for a second before he grinned more fully, showing off more sharp teeth. He smugly looked over his shoulder to his hovering companions.

"Hear that? Guess I'm the one who wins your bet, fuckers."

Sakura's head cleared a bit just then and she flushed at the close proximity to the man, before her reflexes pushed her out of his arms as fast as she could- which was almost civilian-slow with her current state.

"Ah, sorry about that. I don't normally get drunk like that," she tried apologizing to the giant man. He looked oddly familiar, but through the haze in her head it was hard to focus and remember where from.

He waved off her apology, "Are you kidding? Not every day I get to save a pretty lady like yourself from certain death…by floor." He winked and chuckled, obviously enjoying her flustered expression.

Sakura felt her face flame a bit, but she swallowed her defensive words and grinned ruefully back up at him. The alcohol may have played a part, but at this point Sakura was sick to death of being scared and angry all the time- besides, they clearly hadn't recognized her, and she couldn't resist a bit of teasing. So with a mischievous glance at the two other men, who seemed to be pouting at the lack of attention they were getting, she shot him a sultry look, gazing up through her lashes as Ino had taught her one sleepover a lifetime ago.

"And it's not every day that I get to be saved by such an…impressive man," she purred, cozying up to the blue-skinned ninja. Sakura took advantage of his slack-jawed surprise at her sudden boldness and trailed her fingers on his rather impressive bicep with a look of faux concern, "I hope my fall didn't hurt you…"

As the faces of his two companions were frozen in shock and disbelief, the shark-man grinned in delight and leaned forward into her space. She used to opportunity to wink at him and whisper, "Play along," glancing at the two blondes behind him. Pale blue eyes widened in comprehension and humour, and his smile turned devious. He leaned his massive frame further in, crowding her, and murmured his next words into her ear just loud enough for his teammates to hear. "I'm only hurting now that you're not in my arms anymore, kitten." The pick-up line was painfully bad, but Sakura rolled with it.

Trying not to shiver at the hot breath he inadvertently blew against her ear, she playfully rejoined, "Well, hurting my good savior just won't do. Now what's to be done about that?" She allowed her voice to get breathy, sliding her fingers from his bicep to some amazingly defined washboard abs, and thought she felt him shudder from the contact. Sakura felt giddy with adrenaline and still very tipsy, and her own daring shocked her as much as it thrilled her.

Her 'savior' released a low, hungry growl and put his broad hands on her waist, her shirt still damp from the rain.

"Oh, I'm sure I can think of a few things we can do to ease the pain…" he leered suggestively.

The two blondes on either side of him had been looking increasingly horrified by the minute.

"I can't fucking believe it…" breathed out the platinum-haired pretty boy.

"Seriously, un. Did we just…lose?" Agreed the blonde with the ponytail.

Their expressions were so lost and heartbroken that Sakura and the shark-like man looked at each other and burst out laughing. The two other men looked shocked, then contemplative, then, with a quick glance at each other, broke into sinister grins. Sakura felt a chill of foreboding go down her spine as they began to advance on her. Just as she was about to reconsider the intelligence of messing with three unknown shinobi (even though they all looked so damn familiar, if only she could remember from where), her escape was prevented by two heavy arms settling around her shoulders. The two blondes had joined forces and kept her pinned in place as they smiled excitedly.

"Now this is surprising, yeah! She really had us there for a second, didn't she?"

The pale ninja with the slicked back hair smirked and pulled her in closer to his body, making her shiver from the heat emanating from his physique.

"Fuck yeah, she did! I think we're going to have a lot of fun with this one."

Sakura's feeling of foreboding only increased, but true to her contrary nature, that only made her want to fuel the flames.

"And just what do you have in mind, Pretty Boy?" She asked daringly, defiantly. His grin widened further and he laughed incredulously.

"Fuck, this bitch doesn't back down, does she! I like this one, Fish-face! Can we keep her?"

The shark-like man looked amused at the three of them and replied lazily, "Fine by me. Haven't had this much fun with you fuckers in ages."

The blonde with a ponytail took that opportunity to slide his hand from around her shoulder to cup her neck, smiling down at her excitedly, "You're a little spitfire, aren't you, un? How would you like to have some fun?" He asked innocently. Sakura was about to reply when she felt something wet and warm on her neck where his hand was. With a gasp, she asked, "What the hell is that?"

The blonde smirked, and waved his other hand at her, the mouth on the palm of it blowing a kiss in her direction. She gulped at the implications of his words and the feeling of the mouth now lazily trailing kisses up and down the side of her neck, and bravely squeaked, "And just what is your idea of fun, Blondie?"

The blonde's eyes darkened and he chuckled lowly, "Oh, nothing too crazy. We're just getting pretty bored in this damn inn. How about a simple card game with us, un?"

"Besides," chimed in the white-haired man who looked rather charming despite his cursing, "You look a bit cold. Come sit with us by the fire, we'll fucking warm you up." The way he waggled his eyebrows at her with that statement made Sakura giggle, and with that she made up her mind. The universe might be fucking with her at the moment, but damn if she wasn't going to take her fun where she could get it. Besides, if they ever got too handsy she still had her monstrous strength to fall back on.

Sakura smiled up at them brightly and brought her arms around the waists of the two blondes on her sides. "Fine by me!" She chirped, and let them lead her to the comfortable-looking couches by the fireplace in their corner of the room. The men around her exchanged amused and somewhat incredulous glances at her seemingly thoughtless bravery. They seemed to be under the impression that she was a civilian, with her slight frame and bubblegum pink hair. Sakura decided to let them keep that illusion, if it meant they were this relaxed around her. She was used to ninja being too wary of her shinobi status to ever fully let their guard down, so this tactile comfort was new…and nice. They led her to the couch and settled her in on it, tightly wedged between Pretty-Boy and Blondie, and facing the blue man, who was perched on the armchair across from her. As they bickered lightly over who sat next to her, she took a moment to lazily examine her new companions.

The tall blue giant was a mountain of a man. Above incredibly broad shoulders, he had a captivating, sharply sculpted face with a brutal, almost cruel cast to it. What softened it was the air of good humour and intelligence that shone through his hooded, pale eyes, and the light blue, intriguing color of his skin that seemed rather like periwinkle. Her favorite colour, really- but perhaps she wouldn't mention the colour association to him. Sakura's eyes roved over his realistic-looking gills, sharp teeth that flashed past his thin lips as he talked, and suppressed a shiver at the strangely appealing, feral image.

Instead of dwelling on this thought, Sakura turned to her right at the man who was scooting ever closer to her, his thigh burning hot against hers on the couch. Blondie, as she had mentally dubbed him, was aptly nicknamed. While he didn't look as girly as his companions had teased him, he was still so pretty it was unfair, with delicately sculpted cheekbones and jawline that were just sharp enough to tip into the masculine side of the scale. More dangerous and unpredictable than he seemed at first, if his daring action with those curious (intriguing) hands of his was any indication. One was still resting on her bare shoulder, mercifully not licking anymore. However, she could still feel its lips on her skin, and to escape the too-tantalizing situation she turned her gaze to the left.

The one she decided to call Pretty Boy was a platinum, almost white-haired man with a slicked back hairdo and classically handsome features. There was something aristocratic about them, a sharp contrast with his rough and violent mannerisms. He had a perpetual cocky, somewhat sadistic grin on his face and the air of supreme confidence. The man noticed her staring at her, because he grinned, self-satisfied, and asked, "Like what you see, Pinky?"

Sakura blushed and looked away, which only encouraged him.

"Because baby, you can do more than look. Just put those hot little hands exactly where you want, you fucking know you want it."

Sakura was unused to such blatant attention and suddenly, she felt shy and shifted self-consciously, for once not having a witty reply.

The white-haired sadist spotted the weakness and pushed his advantage. Grabbing her small hand, he held her gaze as he smugly put it on his shoulder. Dazed, Sakura watched as her hand moved of its own accord to curl around the muscle, trailing across one pec which jumped at her perusal, to the other. His chest was completely bare and the skin was entirely too smooth for a shinobi. Even she had some scars, but his epidermis was supple and healthy all over. She glanced up at him in question, but his unnaturally smooth skin was clearly not a concern for him as he shot her a smoldering look, his cocky smirk returning and looking almost unbearably self-satisfied. Suddenly realizing what she was doing, Sakura growled at herself for letting him see a weakness. In retaliation, she grabbed the nipple she had been grazing her hand past and twisted sharply.

Ready for him to grovel and beg in pain, she glanced up in triumph, only to see his gaze darken dangerously.

"Oh shit, now she's done it, un." Beside her, Blondie had paled, and even the blue man looked unnerved. Sakura turned back to the man held in her hand with apprehension.

"Um, ah, sorry, my temper kind of got the best of me there," she laughed nervously and tried to move her hand away, only for him to reach up in a lightning-fast move and hold it there. His face was twisted in pleasure, he groaned, "Again." Her heart thumped at the too-intimate display and her hand was frozen in his as he opened his eyes again and smiled at her dangerously. "Keep that up and we're going to have to get a fucking room, bitch."

Across from her, the shark man groaned.

"Fuck, if this keeps up you're never going to get rid of him, Pinky. Trust you to pick up on the biggest fetish he has- sex and pain."

Shocked, she pulled back her hand and in an effort to diffuse the situation and avoid thinking about those words, addressed the blonde to her right.

"So, you were talking about a card game?"

Apparently eager to get her away from the sadist's scrutiny, he quickly replied, "How about a game of poker, un? Only," and here he smirked with mischief, "let's change up the rules a bit, yeah? Otherwise it's boring, un."

Sakura nodded, having played a lot of similar games with her friends back home. She relaxed back into the couch, now that the conversation seemed to have veered off into safer territory. (She refused to acknowledge the slight pang of disappointment she felt at that thought, chalking it up to Inner's perverted tendencies shining through).

The blue giant across from them leaned in, exchanging a quick amused glance with Blondie, "How about upping the stakes to a game of dares? The winner makes the loser do something of their choice...or the loser forfeits all their money."

Sakura frowned. On the one hand, more money would mean that she'd be able to make her escape with much greater ease. No more trudging through cold, wet grasslands, and perhaps she could even negotiate asylum with a distant village for this. On the other hand, the devilish gleam in the shark man's eyes made her suspect that if she lost, his dares wouldn't be as innocent as those games she'd played back home, where the worst someone could ask for was streaking through the village. And Lee did that even without money at stake. The little nudist. She shook her head to corral her wandering thoughts, and looked at the smirking man in front of her with distrust.

"Not sure I trust you not to cheat," she drawled, trying to sound more confident than she was.

His smirk only grew more pronounced. "Sounds to me like someone's scared of losing," he challenged, eyebrow raised and sharp teeth gleaming.

The knowledge that he was baiting her hardly lessened the responding challenge within Sakura, the old anger from being always seen as the weak one on Team 7 taking over her mouth without her permission.

"Oh please," she scoffed, "you're hardly that intimidating." She missed his widening eyes at her pronouncement, and continued, "Bring it on, Big Blue! We'll see how cocky you are when your money's mine and you're dressed in drag and proposing to the Kazekage while dancing like a geisha. Maybe you should be the one to give up before you're infamous across the elemental nations for all the wrong reasons." For some reason, her last words drew barely-suppressed snickers from the two blondes sitting beside her, while the blue giant froze before bellowing with laughter.

Soon he composed himself enough that only a few lingering chuckles remained, and he surreptitiously wiped away a tear while gazing at her with a new appreciation in his eyes.

"Challenge accepted, kitten," he grinned. Sakura's shoulders were again besieged by a muscled arm as Pretty Boy leaned in and nuzzled her neck. "Don't think you're getting out of this now, Pinky," he drawled. "After that comeback, I can't fucking wait to make you eat your words."

Sakura gulped lightly at his tone. Blondie chimed in, sliding his own arm around her waist and squeezing lightly, "Oh, I don't know, un. It will be entertaining to see her win, too! I wouldn't mind losing my money just to see you artless idiots at this one's mercy, un! Devious, I love it, yeah." He purred the last words right into her ear, and even as the action sent a shiver of arousal through her body, Sakura realized that she'd been played. Still, to back out now would be to admit defeat, and after the weeks she'd had- well, it would be fantastic to win at something for once. Besides, she'd not had a good, fun challenge like this since before Danzo came into power.

"Great, then let's play!" Sakura said bravely, and tried not to betray the tremor in her voice. She could feel their amused, predatory gazes sharpen to an almost tangible pressure on her skin, but they said nothing- instead, Blondie took out the deck of cards and began shuffling.

Never let it be said that Tsunade had trained a quitter, she thought to herself, and flagged down the barkeep for more alcohol. She'd need fortification for this game.