Summary: AU. Life on the road, evading headhunters and battling vengeful samurai is a walk in the park next to guarding a 17 year old girl. (Kakashi/Sakura/Genma.)

Notes: For Genma Week, Day 1: Bodyguard. My first WIP in years! This is set in Edo Japan and heavily inspired by my love for Samurai Champloo. I've discovered I love writing Genma as a smart talking asshole, and Ronin Kakashi just might be my new favorite thing. Thanks to Dimigex, as always, for brainstorming with me.


Vagabonds

Act 1

-o-

"Stop! Thief!"

Two men fly through the streets, elbowing past peasants milling about the village marketplace. It's a bright, sunny day and the crowds are thick - the perfect setting for a pickpocket to make some extra cash.

Kakashi glances up from his book as the two men tumble into front of the tea shop, sending several tables crashing over and dust everywhere. For a moment, everyone is frozen in shock; then, the taller of the two men throws the first punch and one of the waitresses start to shriek. The shorter man manages to break free and grabs the waitress nearest to him, presses his tanto to her throat.

"Don't come any closer, or she dies!" The thief bellows, swinging his stolen sword around and taking the waitress in a chokehold. A few patrons duck underneath their tables, cowering in fear.

Kakashi can tell already that this man is strong, but he's never touched a sword in his life. He sighs, tucks his book back into his yukata and reaches for his wakizashi. Hostages always make things far too complicated, and he's in no mood for a battle today.

Before Kakashi can make a move, the thief throws the girl at his pursuer and runs off with surprising speed. It takes Kakashi a split second to decide that he has no other choice but to follow him, compelled by the benevolent spirit of his fallen master to ensure no one else is hurt.

-o-

At the end of the street, another thief is about to make a killing over a game of hanafuda. His opponent howls in anger and slams his fists on the table, sending cards fluttering to the ground.

"Damn you, you bastard! You cheated!" The man spits, face beet red.

Genma chuckles and rubs his hands together. What an old fool. He's been slighting idiots like this over hanafuda for years and hasn't lost a single game yet. "That'll be 75 momme. Pony up," he says, tapping the table.

His opponent reluctantly slides over a bag heavy with cash. He'll make sure to count it all, but first, he really needs to flag that waitress down for another carafe of sake - they went dry an hour ago. The entire restaurant is packed with men smoking, drinking and covertly gambling, and all the women are rushing to refill dozens of plates and glasses.

"Damn," Genma sighs and heaves himself up. "Yo! Over here!" He calls out, waving his hand. In the meantime, the thief, who used the cover of the crowd to slip away from Kakashi's keen eye, ducks inside to catch his breath - and just happens to see the bag of momme on their table, waiting to be pinched.

"H-hey! That guy..." Genma turns around and notices his bag of winnings is gone. The man he just conned is sputtering and pointing towards the door. "That guy just stole my cash!" Indeed, someone in a dark blue yukata is pushing his way out of the front of the restaurant, the bag of momme clutched in his right hand.

"Aw, shit," Genma growls. He jumps over the table, shoves his way through the crowd and takes off running. His winnings are enough to keep full for weeks, and he isn't about to let some asshole pocket it.

-o-

The thief snarls, taking the tanto and swinging it around wildly. A thick stream of blood runs down the man's forearm where Kakashi's blade sliced through his skin.

"Can't you see it's over?" Kakashi asks. "Surrender before you get yourself killed." He finally has the man cornered and will use force if need be, but his body count is high enough for one lifetime - he doesn't want to end this man's life. It doesn't help that there are dozens of bystanders around them, mesmerized by the chaos.

"Sheesh," Genma sighs, shaking his head in disbelief as he pushes past the crowd. He's glad he caught up to this idiot before his winnings went down the drain. Really, he has the old man with the sword to thank for buying him some time. "You're really trying to reason with this son of a bitch? Just do him in already."

Kakashi glances at the man who walked in on their fight. He looks strange, out of place - baggy clothes, messy hair, a toothpick between his lips, not to mention he reeks of alcohol. "Don't be foolish," Kakashi says, voice firm. "This is no matter for a civilian. Leave, now."

Genma just laughs and takes off running toward the thief, a fire blazing in his eyes. The thief, blind with desperation and greed, doesn't hesitate to try and fight the rogue warrior. He gives a strangled cry and raises the tanto over his head, takes aim at Genma's shoulder.

But Genma is far too quick - even Kakashi is impressed by his incredible speed, more so his dexterity. He goes into a handstand and swivels, doles out three rapid roundhouse kicks that send the tanto flying and leave the thief's arm nearly broken in two. Kakashi has never seen any combat style quite like it.

The thief screams in agony, clutching his wound. Kakashi doesn't think, merely moves on instinct as he rushes forward and slices the man across the chest. It's a shallow wound but enough to stun him. The man falls to his knees, moaning in pain.

Genma stands up and frowns. "Way to butt in," he mutters. "Things were just getting good, too." They stare at the thief, now bleeding through his robes. "You think he's gonna die?"

Kakashi shakes his head. Genma wastes no time in rifling through the thief's pockets; his eyes light up when he pulls out the bag of momme and an entire chain of ryo along with it. Must be my lucky day, Genma thinks.

"Freeze." Kakashi presses the tip of his blade into the nape of Genma's neck. Genma smirks and raises his hands in false surrender; his mind races as he plays out a few different moves he can use to take out this clown, but it does seem a little risky - the guy isn't half bad with that sword.

"The ryo. Drop it," Kakashi demands, voice low.

"Hey, now. We're all friends here," Genma says, placing the chain of ryo on the ground. "I'm just taking back what's mine. See? That guy picked it off me earlier." He shakes the bag full of momme. Kakashi lets the tip of the blade up off Genma's neck just slightly. Genma's heart races, adrenaline coursing through his veins as he tenses his muscles, prepares to attack-

"You, there!" A man suddenly calls out. Genma looks over his shoulder and sees an old geezer approaching them from the crowd.

"What the hell now?" Genma groans, pissed that his brilliant scheme was just foiled by some old fart. The old man's eyes shine with gratitude and relief.

"Oh, young man-I thank you," he proclaims, taking Kakashi's hand and shaking it with enthusiasm. "This cretin stole a great deal of money off my person and nearly killed one of my guards. Your bravery is commendable!" Kakashi nods and hands him the ryo off the ground. More people have joined the crowd hovering around them and he's anxious to flee the spotlight.

"What about me? I delivered a good ass kicking," Genma mumbles, brushing off his clothes. It took him weeks to perfect that spinning kick, and it deserves some recognition.

"Ah, yes. And you!" The man nods at Genma, though his smile wanes a little. "Your style of combat is unique, isn't it? Unique, indeed..." The old man trails off and looks deep in thought. Kakashi and Genma glance at each other, finding solidarity in their unease.

"I could certainly use two fine warriors at my disposal," the man proclaims. "In fact, I have a job that may interest you both - it demands the unusual courage you both seem to possess."

Genma scoffs, runs a hand through his hair. His clientele have always been Yakuza and ex-mobsters looking to take out an old enemy or two. Running with the law isn't really his style, never has been.

"Don't know why I should care. I'm out of here," Genma announces, turns on his heel and starts to head off.

Kakashi grabs his jacket and he nearly stumbles. For looking so lean, the Ronin is surprisingly strong. "Don't be a fool," Kakashi whispers. "Know your place." A moment later, the crowd parts and two men in formal clothing walk toward them; Kakashi recognizes the tall man on the right from the tea shop. Both of them have gilded scabbards at their waists.

"Pardon my ignorance, but - who are you, exactly?" Kakashi asks.

"I am Haruno Kizashi," the old man sniffs. "Assistant to the great daimyo of this land."

"Well, what are you doing in a crappy place like this, then?" Genma asks, scratching his head. Kakashi sighs. He's never come across anyone so abjectly moronic.

"I apologize on his behalf," Kakashi says. "Forgive my acquaintance for his brazenness."

"You're no acquaintance of mine, prick," Genma mutters.

The old man exhales loudly. "Suit yourselves. If you have no interest-"

"What's in it for us?" Genma interjects.

"50 ryo each," Kizashi declares. Genma's head spins at the proposition. 50 ryo is more than most commoners see in their lives. Kakashi looks just as surprised, if not eager.

"So, what's the catch?" Genma asks.

Kizashi smiles. "In exchange for your payment, you shall both guard my lovely daughter, Sakura."

-o-

They meet at the bridge on the outskirts of the village in the early hours of the morning. Kizashi sent a few men with a palanquin to take them up the mountainside. The mission is rather simple: when they arrive at the castle, they'll have two days to escort the lord's daughter to meet the family of the wealthy merchant she's arranged to marry. Kakashi would much prefer to walk in place of his usual training routine, but Genma is content to hop in and kick his feet up.

"This is the life, isn't it?" Genma grins, feeling like a king. Kakashi steps into the palanquin with visible reluctance. He's surprised to see a sword at Genma's side and wonders if he, too, is a Ronin. A warm mist hangs in the air that only thickens as the men begin their ascent up the mountain. The moments drag on and Kakashi considers sleeping, but recalls yesterday's incident and knows it would be foolish to let his guard down for a second.

"I bet you're glad to be off your feet, huh?" Genma says. "You know, I hope I can still wield a blade like that when I'm your age."

Kakashi narrows his eyes. "I'm probably no older than you." With his mask and the ash color of his hair, it's become commonplace for people to mistake him as twice his age, but it's still no less annoying.

Genma raises his eyebrows. "Seriously? Go figure. I've seen it all now." They sit together in an uncomfortable silence for the next twenty minutes, Genma tapping his foot and humming under his breath, Kakashi observing the greenery of the mountains and thinking of little else.

"So...what's your story?" Genma asks, bored enough to actually be curious. Kakashi stares out the window, eyes downcast. His mind flashes back to images of his master lying face down, a katana wedged deeply between his shoulderblades, blood bubbling from his mouth like sea foam. He only hopes Minato's spirit left this world and now rests in peace. I'm sorry, master, Kakashi thinks. I failed you.

"Not the talkative type, I take it," Genma sighs. "What a surprise."

"Why did you really agree to do this?" Kakashi asks, diverting them off the subject.

Genma shrugs. "It'll be nice to kick it and relax in a fancy bed with some good meals for a couple days. Why not?"

Kakashi says nothing, though he can't shake the suspicion that Genma is hiding a malicious ulterior motive. Judging by his bloodlust and unconventional combat skills, he runs with a bad crowd. In the event that the man tried to make an assassination attempt on the girl, the prince or anyone else, Kakashi knows he'll have to be the one to stop him.

"How about you? Or should I even bother asking?" Genma snorts.

"Same as you: I would be a fool to turn down 50 ryo," Kakashi says. "But unlike you, I have my own moral code. I have no doubt you're a con artist, or worse."

Genma scoffs. "Don't consider yourself so high and mighty. What are you, a Ronin?" He gives Kakashi a little smirk around his toothpick. "There's a reason you hide behind that mask."

"It's none of your concern," Kakashi mutters. He can't begin to explain the anguish that came with being framed for Minato's death, and he isn't foolish enough to reveal his secret to someone as untrustworthy as Genma. He wouldn't be surprised if Genma tried to kill him for it - it wouldn't be the first time a samurai or another Ronin made an attempt on his life for revenge or notoriety.

"I must be strapped with the dullest SOB on earth," Genma sighs. "Lucky me." Kakashi simply lets the insult pass over his head, favoring the silence. He's known Genma for less than 24 hours and already finds the man's desire for constant conversation incredibly obnoxious. Thankfully, the palanquin comes to a halt soon after when they approach the daimyo's castle. The two step onto the bridge leading to the castle gates.

Genma gives a groan as he stretches out his back and legs. "Finally," he sighs. "I would've gone crazy if I'd been stuck in that rat trap with you for another minute." Kakashi ignores him and gazes at the grounds, the ornate buildings and lush greenery reflecting the daimyo's wealth. He never thought he would live to see something quite like it.

"You, there!" A guard calls out at the end of the bridge. He starts walking toward them with a young woman at his side. As she approaches them, Kakashi notices that she's scowling and dragging her feet as the guard tugs roughly on her arm. She must be Kizashi's daughter, Sakura. It's not difficult to make the connection - her hair is petal pink like her namesake, and the elaborate koi fish stitched on her yukata speaks of her high standing.

"Lord Kizashi entrusts you with his daughter's life," the guard says. "See to it that she arrives unharmed at master Arashis' quarters in two days' time, or else you will both suffer death by execution."

"Woah, woah," Genma says, holding up his hands. "Nobody said anything about an execution. If you really think we're stupid enough to-"

"Understood," Kakashi cuts in, patience dwindling. They need to be on their way before the sun begins to fall. He observes the girl, who has yet to say a word. She's burning holes into the ground with her eyes and looks utterly miserable.

"Very well." The guard gives them an informal bow and walks back to the gates. The three stand together in a tense silence. Kakashi clears his throat, feeling unusually out of his element. She looks no younger than 17, but her attitude reeks of a petulant child's.

"Well...at least she's cute," Genma says, rubbing his chin in thought. "Pretty flat chested, though, don't you think?"

Kakashi can't say he entirely minds the satisfying sound of Genma being cracked across the cheek. Sakura's chest heaves with a small fury, cheeks turning bright red.

"I'm not going anywhere! Especially not with this idiot," she hisses and points at Genma, who's laughing a little. He's not sure whether he wants to give her a pat on the back for her moxy or kick her sweet little ass, but at least things are finally getting interesting. He would've offered himself for execution willingly if he'd been stuck with another Kakashi.

"You're a nasty little bitch, aren't you," Genma says, rubbing his cheek. "Now I see why your father couldn't find anyone else to look after you."

"Don't call me that!" Sakura exclaims, balling her fists. "You...you asshole!" It's the first time she's ever openly cursed in her life, and it sounds like it, too.

Genma just laughs again. "Whatever. So, you tell me: should we do this the easy way, or the hard way?" He reaches for his katana, but Kakashi snaps a hand over his wrist, using just enough pressure to make Genma wince.

"Now, then. Let's all be a little more civil, shall we?" Kakashi slowly releases Genma's arm, the other man glaring at him in disdain. Sakura exhales loudly and tries to fight back the tears gathering in the corners of her eyes. As if things weren't bad enough, her father had the nerve to saddle her with a stuffy old jerk, too.

"Look, jiji. I don't know who you are, but I don't have to listen to you," Sakura snaps. "You try being forced to get married to some guy you've never met and then tell me how it feels!"

Kakashi frowns. "Actually, I'm 22. And blame your father, not us."

"Well, I don't know about you, but I've had enough of this little song and dance," Genma sighs. He darts behind Sakura and grabs her firmly around the waist before she can fight him off.

"Hey! Let go of me!" Sakura screams, kicking and punching his back as he throws her over his shoulder. "Stop!"

"Love taps, sweetheart," Genma says, grinning and shaking his head. "Now shut up and let's get going."