He couldn’t have stopped her.
He never could stop her from doing what she thought needed to be done. Never thought he would need to stop her, because as far as they’ve known each other–for as long as they’ve worked together, fought together, been together–she was always right about what needed to be done.
Or, at least, that’s what he had always thought.
“Shikako Nara attacked the Hokage,” says acting Hokage Councilor Shimura, “She is guilty of high treason and must be brought to justice.”
Behind him, Komachi and Towa make no noise, ANBU stealth and stoicism combined. Sasuke struggles to make Hawk do the same.
“Hunt her down,” Councilor Shimura continues, voice apathetic and so hateful to Sasuke’s ears, “Terminate her,” he finishes, eyeing Hawk specifically.
The three ANBU bow: dutiful, respectful, silent. If ANBU Hawk’s bow is a little belated, a little too shallow, then who is to say?
Red Team–short one member, of course, and now he wonders how long it will take Komachi and Towa to connect the dots, wonders at the wisdom and cruelty both of Councilor Shimura to send them on this mission, if the latter had been so important to him as to outweigh the former–has barely spent a minute at HQ before another bird masked ANBU approaches them.
“I have been temporarily assigned to Red Team to aid you on your current mission. I am codenamed Crow.“
Behind his own mask, Sasuke blinks, perplexed. He knows this is Sai. He just doesn’t know what the play is here. More cruelty, perhaps. He knows Sai is one of Councilor Shimura’s, so this could be extra insurance that Red Team does their job. But he also knows that, beyond all reason, Shikako trusted him anyway. That Sai had gone above and beyond to save Shikako from Councilor Shimura, to break her out from her own mind when no one else could.
Sasuke is looking at either a spy or a saboteur.
He’s not sure which he would prefer.
Red Team with Crow in tow depart from the village as soon as possible. Standard protocol for hunting missions.
Red Team isn’t designed for this–Red Team shouldn’t even be on this mission, for logistical and obvious, possible emotional compromising reasons–but that doesn’t mean they won’t at the very least appear to be completing their mission to the best of their abilities.
Everyone knows that the first seventy two hours are the most critical when it comes to hunting nukenin.
Hawk doesn’t have a moment of privacy to create a shadow clone and send it back until four hours later, and so by the time Sasuke is able to ask around the news has already been twisted around into rumors.
Shikako Nara has cracked under the pressure. Accelerated promotions getting to her, unable to handle her rank.
Shikako Nara has been turned. A sleeper agent from another country, she’s always been suspiciously friendly to foreign nin.
Shikako Nara is just like that snake. Didn’t you know? They encountered each other during the chunin exams.
Shikako Nara isn’t the villain here–it’s the jounin commander using his daughter, trying and failing to enact a coup.
None of it is right. All of it is useless.
The only pieces he finds to be true are that Shikako really did attack Tsunade-sama, who is even now still in the hospital, Shikaku-san is in T&I custody, and Councilor Shimura is acting Hokage.
But he already knew that.
He thinks maybe the worst part about all of this is that he doesn’t even know what the worst part is.
The first awful part of it is that he can’t figure out why. Why would Shikako attack Tsunade-sama?
Then there’s the terrible part in which he’s being sent to on a mission to kill her–which is both cruel and doesn’t make any sense to him, either.
And then there’s the whole disastrous situation with Sai and whether or not he’ll help or harm the mission… and whether or not Sasuke can convince the rest of Red Team to not fulfill their mission.
No, that’s a lie. He knows what the worst part is.
They catch up to Shikako in Land of Rivers.
No, Shikako lets them catch up to her.
Sasuke knows how easily it would be for her to stay ahead of them. Or to stay hidden from them. Or even to fight them, knock them out, and continue on her way.
She did this on purpose.
“Go home, Red Team” Shikako says, and if, somehow, Komachi and Towa didn’t already know the identity of Bat, then they know it now. “Tsunade-sama will need her best to protect her.”
“Protect her from what?” Komachi snipes back, quick temper flaring, “You’re the one who she needs protection from.”
Shikako shrugs, posture loose and casual and an utter lie. Then, bizarrely, she sticks her tongue out at them. No, at Crow.
“Beware the strangling roots,” she says to them all, before melting into shadows. Red Team tries to pursue, but there is no further trail to follow.
The worst part is, she didn’t even ask him to go with her.
A/N: Belated fill is very belated and doesn’t really match the prompt, but hope you still enjoy, anon!
I know it says canonDoS, but my brain just really wanted to do a swapped roles version of Down Every Road two: hunter and nukenin, but obviously instead of Shikako being the hunter and Sasuke being the nukenin it’s the other way around. So it’s sort of canon compliant in an AU divergence kind of way? Or, like, I mean. It’s not been jossed yet so it’s not NOT canon? Uh…
Maybe I’ll go further down this road? I dunno, I have an idea for what probably happened, but since this is Sasuke’s POV I figure it’d be more in line if he just could not figure out what the hell was going on because… well… Sasuke.