Dark Play (a Naruto Fanfiction) by Seth's Kiss:

A/N: Hello, ladies, gents and everyone else, I hope you're doing well. Best of luck to ALL of you in these harsh times, happening nearly all over the world right now. Each and every one of you has as much of my love and support I can offer and give, so please stay and be strong.

If no one minds, there are a couple of topics I'd like breach upon before we start, because I feel rather strongly about them, and I cannot keep quiet about them. First off all, Black LivesMATTER. They really do just like all LIVES matter, ALWAYS; regardless where people are from, how they look like, what they believe in or what they chose to be, ALL lives still bloody matter. Please, please remember that if you value your life, please value others' lives as well. Second of all, I'd like to wish to anyone concerned Happy Pride Month. I might not be in the community myself, but I have many friends who are and I don't where I'd be in life as of now without them, so this is for you, dears! Last and not least, a person who is born male or female but grows to feel uncomfortable with their birth gender and thus wishes to reassign it, should NOT be anyone's concern nor business. At all. Ever. It's their choice, no one else's. Just as people chose their own career path, their own religion and their own long life partner in love, then it ought to be so for gender too. Please, PLEASE stop judging and interfering in others' lives and please try to respect others as much as you possibly can. It's possible, so at least try. Nobody's perfect, nobody in this life is a god, and if we all bleed red, then we are all, ALL of us, human. No more, no less. Thank you for listening.

And now that my heavy heart feels a smidge lighter, I have a few happy announcements I'd like to make, so please tune in just for a short moment, because it will be epic, I swear X3 One, a big SHOUT-out to KurohimeHaruko (also known as LadySilverRaven); they are an amazingly talented artist, and I strongly recommend that you check out their art on Twitter, notably if you are - or think you'll be - a fan of a NSFW Itachi being SO criminally HOT X9 !

Two, please check out the Naruto fic Ash Like Frost, by Shit I am unknown (no, no; I'm not being rude, this IS their pen name, I swear it); please go show some love, it's really quite promising!

Three, several authors and I are all organizing a Halloween event for this year; it's still in the works, but if it hopefully goes well for us, please be prepared to find on FFnet a good number of Halloween fics this October X3 Please wish us all luck, ladies, gents and everyone else! Now, on with the fic!

Important Warnings: Out of all the chapters I've written for 'Dark Play', this one is a little tame. As in the usual language and verbal abuse; other than that, there shouldn't be anything 'bad'. The Uchiha siblings may come off as a tad bigoted, however there IS a reason for that.

To Guest 1: Hello there, and thank you so much for your lovely review! That IS the question, isn't it? We can only wait and see. Maybe it'll be sooner than we think? Thank you for being here and enjoying 'Dark Play' so far. Take care and be safe, dear. Until next time, Bella Ciao!

To Guest 2: Hello there, and thank you so much for your lovely review! Aw, you're MOST welcome, dear. Hope you enjoyed it as much as I had a blast writing X3 Thanks for sticking around, and I hope this chapter and the next will all be to your liking too X3 Take care and be safe, dear. Until next time, Bella Ciao!

To Guest 3: Hello there, and thank you so much for your lovely review! Well, that's great! That you find yourself liking 'Dark Play' so far... Isn't it? I mean, I kind of get the 'damn' part though, LoL XP Thank you X3 Take care and be safe, dear. Until next time, Bella Ciao!

To Yarl: Hola Yarl-san, querida! Encantador saber de ti otra vez! Mis más sinceras disculpas si mi español no está bien, no lo he usado en mucho tiempo, así que perdone cualquier error que haya cometido. Antes que nada, quería agradecerles por 'review' nuevamente, eso realmente significa mucho para mí, ¡gracias! Y eso que hiciste en español me hizo muy feliz por alguna razón; como mi primera reseña en español, ¡yay ! Por favor, siéntase libre de comentar y 'review' en el idioma en que se sienta más cómodo, ¿de acuerdo? De hecho eres muy valiente, bravo X3 Haré todo lo posible para responder. Siempre responderé a todas sus encantadoras críticas y las de todos los demás, sin importar cuán largo o corto, ¡así que muchas gracias por ellas! Además, si hay algo que pueda explicarte porque no estaba claro o era confuso, no dudes en decírmelo, me encantaría ayudarte. Ahora, para responder el resto de su comentario, honestamente me siento halagado por sus amables palabras, que usted piensa tan bien de mí, eso realmente significa mucho, muchas gracias. Lo intento y haré lo mejor que pueda. Y mi más sincero agradecimiento por seguir este 'fic' hasta ahora. Espero que los futuros capítulos también sean de su agrado, querido. Sin embargo, me disculpo si encuentra que esta historia es un poco oscura en los costados, tiendo a encontrar que es más fácil escribir sobre temas controvertidos y asuntos que encuentro absolutamente horribles en la realidad. Pero gracias por seguir estando aquí a pesar de eso. Tienes toda la razón, Sakura y los hermanos Uchiha nunca se conocieron antes de conocerse en el 'fic', aunque están conectados de alguna manera. Pero, lo siento, no diré cómo, ya que estoy a favor del suspenso y el misterio. Y sí, la pobre Sakura ha pasado por algunas dificultades. Y pasará por cosas peores. Me siento mal, ¿soy horrible? Qué interesante es que Sasuke y Sakura sean su OTP, por lo que sé, a muchos no les gusta ese emparejamiento a pesar del hecho de que es 'canon'. Pero a cada uno lo suyo, ¿verdad? Muchas gracias, muchísimas gracias por su maravillosa reseña, me encantó, ¡y espero tener noticias suyas nuevamente! Cuídate y mantente a salvo, querida. ¡Hasta la próxima vez! X3

To A Friend: Hello there, and thank you so much for your lovely review! Aw, thank you so much, I really, REALLY appreciate the compliments, goes straight to my heart, thank you X3 ! I also really thank you for the wonderful advice; I'll see if I can give it a go, thanks X3 Thank you so for believing in me X3 Take care and be safe, dear friend. Until next time, Bella Ciao!

To Guest 4: Hello there, and thank you so much for your lovely review! Aw, thank you X3 ! I'm really glad that 'Dark Play' is to your liking so far X3 I truly hope the following chapters will meet your expectations as well. Take care and be safe, dear. Until next time, Bella Ciao!

To Guest 5: Hello there, and thank you so much for your lovely review! So, um, I'm not sure if this is the same person as the one above, since it is literally word for word the same review, minus the different punctuation. But I decided I didn't want to risk being rude, so thank you! For liking 'Dark Play' so far and for being enough curious to stick around and give your time to this fic. Sincerely hope you'll still around longer still X3 Take care and be safe, dear. Until next time, Bella Ciao!

Important Note: Normally I wouldn't do this, but given a good number of you were thinking this, I feel the need to interject. Despite the fact that there IS a distinctive connection between them (I won't say what yet), Sakura and the Uchiha brothers DO NOT personally know each other prior to their first meeting in this fic. Those unnamed kids referred to in the flashback, though having dark eyes too, had dark brown hair, not black hair (Uchiha brothers).

Chapter 11: Beyond Patchwork (Part 1)

They had been talking for a while now, speaking in low voices, barely higher than whispers...

Sakura had been told - ordered - to remain where she was in the lounge, and not go anywhere. And she didn't - nowhere she could go, without her keys or phone, and with sealed windows all over and a locked door; kind of redundant, really.

But since they hadn't said anything about not moving, she was currently seated on the cold comfort of an armchair, her knees brought up under her chin as she hugged her legs tight and close to herself. For some semblance of comfort, as she awaited fate, with tense apprehension.

Mittens however was up and purring by her side, happy to see her again, so she indulged him, gently scratching behind his ears and petting his soft fur. But was doing it like an automaton, barely aware of her actions as she tried to hear what was being said all hushed in the hallway.

She would have gone to the door to listen in better, but she didn't feel comfortable getting too close, especially since she was now already pretty deep in- whatever this could even be called.

And since she was in THAT deep any way, call it insane or morbid curiosity, but the young woman surprisingly didn't attempt any escape. Plus, like she still didn't have any of her keys, so, by the time, she did find a way out, by some miracle, the terror brothers would have easily caught on, as it would literally require she walked right past them, at some point any way. And last Sakura checked, she hadn't been cursed with invisibility.

Besides, she now really wanted to know what was up with these two brothers. Unpredictable and sinister they were, but what if, there was something...else, something more to their story?

She knew she wasn't being rational - like at all - but her flight instincts had dulled long ago. Longer than she led others to believe, since existing 'safely', behind lies, came easily to her. It was one of her rarer, yet stronger, points. To lie, act and be what she wasn't with sinful ease - as hideous as it was to admit this side of her. But doing this, being this, was all she ever knew.

"Deep down, we are nothing more than broken, blank mirrors, reflecting absolutely nothing."

Green eyes snapped shut then, as her thoughts began getting far too dark. She needed to calm-

"Haruno-san, I believe we need to talk."

Alright-y then, looked like Sakura wouldn't be able to calm down any time soon: '...Screw it.'

Steeling herself and bringing back to her features an ersatz of buried emotions, the young pink-haired woman slowly pivoted towards the terror brothers, unnerving her with how quiet they could be, given they were now both standing right behind the armchair she sat within, with her not hearing nor sensing them close in. Were their shoes magic? Or padded, like cats?

Saving that particular train of thought for later, she came to notice that the younger sibling was scowling down at her, still visibly on edge, and as for the other brother-

Sakura blinked then, a faint frown steadily appearing as she stared at the taller dark-haired male - leaning on his brother, for what seemed like support - and the bandages over his eyes.

...What had happened? What had she missed? Was he injured? Ill? His voice had been rather hushed when he had addressed her just now, very quiet, as though raising it, even by a bit, would hurt his throat.

Her more natural and compassionate instincts kicked in before even realizing that they had, as she shifted a bit more towards them and, in a trance, reached a hand over to the hidden eyes, initial intents lost on the way as she went to trace whatever injury the older sibling had.

But Itachi easily caught her wrist before she could, startling her with the sightless precision he had, before he slightly turned his head towards her with startling accuracy, cautious curiosity colouring the now casual, but still rather chilling, tone of his: "Can I help you, Haruno-san?"

Snatching her hand away as if she had been burnt, and clutching it tight to her chest as she coiled up on herself, Sakura went still, looking like a dear caught in headlights: "No, I- I just- ...Sorry."

After an uncomfortable moment of still silence, she caught sight of the furthest corner of his lip slowly, very briefly tick upwards, in what she could only assume was amusement. However, the younger sibling's glaring had abruptly switched from 'how dare you complicate things for us' to 'how DARE you try and put you filthy paws on MY brother', with the latter glare looking far more menacing than the former dark look had initially seemed.

Sakura raised her eyebrows at that. Well, he certainly had...issues. And she really wanted to snort loudly at that but then abstained from it, since her own issues were no better, far from it.

Both brothers eventually ended up filing away her behaviour just now as being as odd as ever, but before either could begin talking, the young pink-haired woman carefully spoke up again: "I- What have you done...with my friends? Where are they?"

While Sasuke merely rolled his eyes, Itachi realized she indeed had no idea what befell them, hence her worry. So, he decided he could offer a bout of generosity to her here. Just a smidge. Besides, given what they were both about to embark her in, well...

"We had them both leave. They should be well off at home by now, going about their lives."

After a beat that seemed to never end, she finally reacted, eyes going wide and her jaw dropping ajar, a roll of wild emotions filing through her being. Not a single one of them good.

"I- You- WHAT?"

At the sheer disbelief in her tone, the older Uchiha couldn't hold back from chuckling this time: "Clearly, you don't believe me."

"My deepest apologies if I say NO," she retorted with a biting sarcasm she really didn't feel like quelling, as she crossed her arms in a frail attempt to hold her ground while regrettably appearing defiant...which instantly caused Sasuke to flare up. Again. Further.

"My brother has no reason to lie, you little-"

"But if it'll ease your mind, Haruno-san," interfered Itachi smoothly as he went and gently set a hand on his sibling's shoulder, all while reaching out - again, with amazing precision - and setting something within Sakura's hand "Why not just give them a call."

Uh. She had several questions as, so far, none of the thoughts in her brain were making sense.

Not since the surface of her skin had abruptly started to prickle horribly with icy goosebumps, and tighten around her like a vice of some sort. Kind of metallic and rusted, like a heavy cage-

'Breathe,' she told herself, urgently trying to keep her totally off-kilter emotions at bay before they went and did a full one-eight-hundred - which would be bad for everyone, them mostly 'Breathe, Sakura. You're here. This is now. That was then. Back then is gone and over. Breathe, and forget. Breath, and focus. Remember. Nothing is about you. Breathe, and focus. Naru and Hina-chan. Focus on them. Breathe.'

Though unaware of all the nasty panic welling up within Sakura, both brothers did notice that she was no longer 'here' at the moment, a distant look clouding her eyes for several, long seconds, before she blinked it all away and focused on them with a slightly darker green gaze.

"You," eventually ventured Sakura warily, like it was impossible, or far too good to believe, as she stared hard at the mobile phone she hadn't seen for days now in the palm of her hand "You let them go?"

"Of course, we did," confirmed the older Uchiha, clearly sounding just as offended as his brother looked "Wasn't that what we had agreed upon? Did we perhaps misunderstand you?"

"No, but I- Just like that?" she persisted, using every bit of her strength to not just have her jaw drop again, before her eyes narrowed then with critical scepticism "...What's the catch?"

"Oh, nothing dramatic. I'm a hundred percent positive they won't tattle. Hence, there's that."

That confident, was he? And she could only shiver, unable to stop trembling at how utterly and unbearably foreboding it sounded to her. Of course, her friends would 'tattle' - knowing them, they would never stand leaving her behind, even if she was the one to ask it of them. Why wouldn't they?

Still baffled and utterly unable to make sense of why they would just let Naruto and Hinata go without reconsidering it or outright ignoring her pleas, the woman then riveted her bewildered attention on the phone in her hand, edgily wondering what she ought to be doing here.

Evidently, she desperately wished to know if her two friends were indeed safe and sound, as the terror brothers claimed they both were. And yet, she couldn't help but waver, and be wary.

What if this was another 'game'? ...A trap? Would they even let her make the call? Or would they snatch the phone right out from her hand the second she would go and dial their number? And let's say they would allow this phone call, what if it never rang? Worse. What if... Nobody picked up? He had just said, with alarming confidence, her friends wouldn't 'tattle'. But why wouldn't they? ...Unless they somehow, couldn't.

Her breathing became heavy then, strained, as her self-loathing escalated to menacing levels, like relentless coils wrapping around her throat, ready to choke her rotten life right out of her. Lifting a hand to the beading perspiration budding across her forehead, she let out a strangled sound of distress, whilst snapping her eyes shut, attempting - and failing - to keep it together.

The mere thought of her friends being harmed, or so much worse, because of her, when it could have very well been avoided had these two horrid men... No. Had she never let Naruto, Hinata and all her loved get close to her in the first place, they would NEVER have had to be in danger like this. Again.

After all, Sakura should have known better. A monster - a monster like her, a freak of nature like her - had absolutely NO place amongst angels.

This, all of this, this living nightmare, everything that was happening, and that had happened, was her fault. No one else's. She couldn't blame anyone else but herself - she had no right to.

'Dying' was hard, wasn't it? Well, surviving had been even harder for her. And she hadn't lied when she had said that, apart from her friends, she had nothing left to fight for, nothing more to live for. Nothing. If anything had happened to them, she was done. So. Utterly. Done.

Simmering down a bit, Sasuke was watching with faint intrigue given how eerily silent the young woman now was, clutching onto the phone like a lifeline, but otherwise not moving an inch or saying a word.

And when the young woman eventually, yet all of a sudden, opened dimmed green for eyes again, it literally looked like her entire being had shut down: "...No, I'll take your word for it. I'll believe you. Thank you for keeping your word and letting them go. Now, please kill me."

Silence fell then, like a huge weight of several bricks, hackles standing on the siblings' necks.

Growing up, Itachi and Sasuke had come to learn, the harder way, not to trust anyone, ever. They weren't the absolute best at detecting lies - they weren't the mind readers, fortunately enough - but they were good enough to call BS when it lit up like a fire cracker, right in front of them. And their reactions then would usually either be amusement or aggravation or both. But never, in all their lives, had SUCH a blatant lie struck either of them as terrifying as hers...

And the reason why it felt so terrifying to them wasn't because they had just heard it before. But because they went through it. That one horrific, defining moment when one just...gave up.

Her tone sounded so resigned, so empty, it instantly set both siblings badly on edge somehow. It was like she had suddenly lost all and any will to live - regardless of her final, chilling plea - as if she was fully accepting that the brothers could have very well murdered her friends, and were currently glossing over the matter. And, by extension, they had both also - or at least were going to, if her sudden behaviour was any indication at all - killed her along as well.

At this point, even acknowledging the fact that this woman didn't believe them wasn't the issue here - and it should have been, since it was akin to calling them fibbers all over again. What was unnerving both of them was that the woman was so genuinely attached, so devoted to these people, to her friends that them no longer being alive, meant she considered she no longer had a purpose to exist for. And it was startling as it was fascinating.

Because, generally, humans were selfish. Terribly so. However, Itachi found he could relate. He honestly and firmly believed, albeit knew, he could never recover should anything happen to Sasuke. ...Hell, he wouldn't want to live a second further either.

"Call them, Haruno-san," insisted the older Uchiha, tone firm but not unkind, drawing her blank, deadened gaze his way "I swear to you, Haruno-san, they are both very much alive."

"You...swear," echoed the woman chillingly, without much emotion in her flat, hushed tone.

At that, Sasuke shivered as discreetly as he could. All too recently, he had been imagining what she would become like, once he and his brother would have ultimately broken her spirit. Like those before her, would she fall down to her knees and scream? Would she weep? Cry? Rage and rant?

But no. Again, ever the exception since day one, she did none of all the above, and somehow opted to reflect a reaction painfully familiar to them. And for that he truly, TRULY hated her.

"Just fucking call them, would you? So we can get this over and done with," snapped Sasuke, terse irritation rising back up to mask the unsteady discomfort he felt, before he reached from over the armchair and with unnecessary force, snatched the cell phone from her still, lax hand.

Unlocking it with ease, the younger dark-haired male searched through the contacts, until he found what he was looking for and pressed 'call', before jerkily thrusting it towards her again: "Here."

When the young woman didn't react at all, even in the slightest, Sasuke let out a low, annoyed snarl and swiftly caught her slackened wrist with his free hand, forced the phone into it, before raising it up to her ear and forcefully keeping it there: "Come on, little liar. Wake up."

Dim and deadened eyes flitted to him then, still just as eerily empty, but before he could bark something else her way, her green gaze suddenly lit up and brightened with so much life, Sasuke's words swiftly caught inside his throat, dark eyes going wide with honest amazement.

Because all it had taken was the voice of one of her friends ringing very much alive in her ear.

"Sakura-san!" chirped Hinata happily, and so loudly that even the Uchiha brothers could hear her from where they were "There you are! It's been a while, hasn't it? Is everything alright?"

The sweet relief, which was currently surging through Sakura's entire being like a tidal wave, had her thudding down onto her knees, before she rested her forehead against the cool floor, long hair cascading around trembling shoulders, and sliding over her face like sets of curtains.

Clutching onto the phone now with both hands like it was a lifeline, uncaring her knuckles were now whiter than white, the young pink-haired woman let out a soft sob, as she sincerely and profoundly thanked whatever blessed deity had opted to take the side of her dear friends...

Hinata's voice then was what brought her back to the present again, leading the young woman to realize she hadn't said a word yet and her friend was slowly growing concerned due to that.

"-akura-san? Sakura-san, are you there? Hello~?"

Taking a swift, deep breath, and burying along with it her current plague of predicaments, Sakura beamed, letting only brightness and shine seep into a carefree, jovial tone: "Hey, Hina-chan! How lovely to hear from you! I'm fine, thank you. How about Naru? And baby-chan~?"

Sasuke and Itachi both listened in, slightly startled to note that the young woman, out of all of her lies, had never faked her affection and devotion for her friends. She genuinely loved them. Loved them enough to lie right to faces, if only to keep them safe, rather than scream for help.

"Naruto-kun's doing alright, thank you. Oh, and about baby-chan, we both have something to tell you!" shared Hinata happily, utterly unaware how she was presently ebbing away at the strain that had been tightly wired round Sakura's heart "Well, we would have told you about a week ago, but you haven't been answering your phone for a while now. And then we came by, but you weren't home, so-"

Only focusing on the fact that her friends were truly safe and sound - no way could this phone call be fake - all of a sudden, Sakura's thought process just about did an exact three-hundred and sixty degree turn at that given information. Because, wait... WHAT?

"Hina-chan, what did you say, just now?" inquired the young pink-haired woman bluntly, by now fairly startled and really hoping it didn't show as she hurriedly interrupted Naruto's wife.

"...Um, that you weren't at home? Wait, so you were? But then, why didn't you answer the-?"

"I- No, I- Indeed, I wasn't home," the pink-haired woman lied on the fly, cautiously doing so after the menacing look of warning the younger Uchiha sent her way while he shook his head "I was- I had a- A late shift. Yeah, I worked in late. Um, Hina-chan?"

"Yes, Sakura-san?"

Rueful and utterly repulsed with herself at the relief she felt when Hinata's ended up sounding more worried than suspicious, the young woman tried to understand what the hell happened: "So, uh, what did...? What did you do? When you came over, that is? Did you two come in?"

"Um... No, I don't think so. Ah, speaking of which, I think Naruto-kun lost your keys, again."

In spite of having her heart deafeningly pounding within her ears, Sakura managed to make a little light of the situation, her tone going a little high: "Wha-? Again?! This is the fourth time, Hina-chan! ...Please tell Naru that I will throttle him next time I see him."

"NO! Don't hurt my husband!" exclaimed Hinata as if horrified, yet she was unable to hide the mirth in her voice, before she sobered "Oh, and to your answer your question, Sakura-san, Naruto-kun and I came over - since we hadn't been hearing from you and all. But there was no one home. So, we just left. ...Sakura-san? Hello? Sakura-san, are you still there?"

Only, if she was being fully honest, the young woman was actually lost somewhere within her the back of her brain right now, alarm and apprehension muddling her ability to think straight. There was something very, very, VERY- if not ABSOLUTELY wrong here. And Sakura really did NOT want to believe it. Because this was too familiar for comfort, and it was almost like-

"They have no recollection of yesterday's events, Haruno-san."

The young woman startled so badly she just about dropped the phone, before impossibly wide green eyes slowly looked up towards the terror brothers, directing her focus especially on the older sibling's bandaged eyes, rather fearfully seeing them in a very different and new light. And begging every single deity in the godforsaken world she was in that she was dead wrong.

"You wished to not involve them," continued the eldest sibling evenly, while the younger one silently but raptly regarded the newfound and raw fear etched within the woman's expression, as he wondered where on earth this kind of terror had been until now. And what had caused it.

"And so we courteously kept them out of the game. Do not be a fool and bring them back in, Haruno-san," advised the older Uchiha then, with a rather harshen smile "Because if you do-"


Jolted by the sheer state of her nerves, this time the woman did drop the phone, prompting her to swiftly reach for it as it hit the ground and, in a rushed flurry of fumbling, quickly brought it back to her ear, before Sakura paused, heart and mind racing near a hundred miles per hour.

Luckily enough, the eldest of the two brothers had been talking far too low for Hinata to have heard a word he said - at least, she hoped that was the case. However, she on the other hand, was about positive that if she opened her mouth again, the young woman would definitely not be able to keep a steady tone. But if she didn't say anything...

"Do not be a fool and bring them back in, Haruno-san."

"Sorry, Hina-chan," she apologized sheepishly, trying to sound more drained than distraught as she half-lied this time "It's just- I'm on my meds right now. Still a tad out of it, I'm afraid."

"Oh," uttered Hinata in immediate understanding, causing Sakura to again feel horridly guilty "It's alright, Sakura-san. No need to apologize, at all - not for something important like that. Say, is all your medication covered? Do you have everything you need?"

"Yeah, I should be ok on that," assured the young pink-haired woman, as she absentmindedly did a mental headcount of the time she had to be still under the influence of Haloperidol... before realizing that, approximately, she ought to have about less than sixty to fifty hours left. And, cue to a whole other level of honest terror and lethal panic, Sakura went alarmingly pale.

This was not good. Not good at all. She didn't- couldn't deal with this now. In fact, she would rather much never have to deal with it, at all, but now, was perhaps the WORST time, to run out of Haloperidol - ESPECIALLY Haloperidol. The young woman was usually more vigilant when it came to self-medicating, and she would always acquire whatever it was she needed in advance, often dreading the worst and attempting to prevent it as much as she possibly could...

But due recent events, courtesy of the terror brothers looming over her, Sakura hadn't had the time to consider the fact that she would eventually run out, since she genuinely thought that they would have grown bored of her much earlier on, and killed her already. So much for that.

Apart from that, her main concern at the moment was that time was ominously ticking away and she had to get her hand on another dose, for even though it wasn't the perfect solution, it did help her, a bit. It kept the voice at the back of her head at bay. Under control. Silent. Dead.

And if ever Sakura wished to keep it that way, which she desperately did, she needed it. Bad.

As a bead of sweat trickled down the side of her face, she weighed her options, forcing herself to remain calm and collected, in spite of the ugly fear sharply piercing her from the inside-out.

She couldn't leave, obviously, that much she knew; not only would the terror brothers see that it didn't happen, but it would also involve an altercation Sakura would rather avoid at all cost. And getting either, or any, of her friends back within this nightmarish predicament was out of the question. Meaning, amongst what was left of her few alternatives, she could either ask, beg if she had to, the terror brothers directly if they could kindly bring some Haloperidol - and hope they had enough 'humanity' left somewhere in them to do so. ...Highly unlikely though.

Green eyes widened all of a sudden. AH. But she did have one more possible solution here. She was on the phone after all, meaning normally, she should be heard. If she used that name.

'I mean, I could, I just... I haven't seen or spoken to him in so long. And the last time I did, I simply brought trouble his way. And I'd only be bringing it to him again...' shivered Sakura, while she chewed on her lower lip nervously, before her wide eyes darted the brothers' way 'But... Maybe-'

"Call me," he had told her, hand carding through her hair as his pitch-black pupils bore into hers, before flickering to gold for the fraction of a second "Whenever you need me, call me."

"Ano, Sakura-san-?"

"Gen-chan gave me another batch, before I left the hospital," she blurted out, hoping both to keep her friend at ease, and that Sakura would, maybe, be heard. That he would hear her. He would decide then, if he wanted to help her or not. It would be all up to him. And, no matter what his decision, she wouldn't hold it against him. Never. Not him.

"S-so, I'm good, but thank you, Hinata, I appreciate it. But I'm fine, I swear."

On the other side of the line, back in the comfort of her home, Hinata couldn't help but pause, a slight frown appearing upon her features as she blinked.

...Gen-chan? Who on earth was Gen-chan? Sakura had never mentioned this name before, at least not to her - and not to brag or boast or anything, but Hinata had a fairly good memory. Well, in general. Lately? Not so much apparently - and rather bizarrely enough.

Sure, she, her cousin and Lee were all far from being as sharp as Naruto and Ino were when it came to picking up on 'Sakura's super special lingo' - which was what Neji opted to name it - because the two blondes knew Sakura much better and had also known her longer after all. Even so, something just now did strike Hinata as strange within that sentence, like Sakura had purposefully chosen to mention that specific name, for a reason unbeknownst to the Hyuuga...

Alas, the young lilac-haired woman had no idea what to make of it. She would have to check later with Naruto, and see what he thought of this. Because it sounded truly odd. Everything about this phone call was odd, but instinct told her to not vocalize her thoughts at the moment.

"How very nice of them. ...As usual," slowly added Hinata as afterthought, while she acted as if she knew exactly what, and who, her friend was talking about, before she paused lengthily and then questioned softly, all too quietly "Say, Sakura-san, would you like us to come ov-?"

"No can do," cut in Sakura firmly, leaving no room for argument "You do NOT need stress, hun; I think you've got enough to fret about as is. Also, Naru's bedside manners are HORRID with anyone who isn't you, so thank you, but NO thank you."

The young lilac-haired woman could only giggle at that, as that was actually awfully accurate.

As much as Naruto was of an immense affection and generosity when it came to his friends, the only one he'd never say 'no' to, like EVER, no matter what he had going on, was Hinata.

"I very much appreciate the thought, Hina-chan, light of my life. Though I'll be fine, really..."

Despite being reassured and earnestly cajoled by her friend, the young lilac-haired woman didn't like the exhausted tone of voice her friend had: "You're absolutely sure, Sakura-san?"

"Swears," uttered her friend in a soothing voice, gently ebbing away at the young Hyuuga's concerns, if only for a brief instant "Promise you, I'll be right as rain. And I- Love you two!"

And the Hyuuga just melted then and there, a hand fluttering up to her heart as she gushed: "AwWe love you too, Sakura-san! SO much. Always will. So rest up, feel better and please call us as soon as you feel better. Or if you ever need anything. Anything at all, alright? Neh?"

"Ok, MUM," let out the other with droll wit, making Hinata laugh again "Talk to you later?"

Over within the tragically tense atmosphere that was once her rather nice and quiet home, Sakura held onto her front with a painfully forced grip, as she spoke softly and giggled along giddily whilst she and Hinata bid their goodbyes: "Later it is then, Hina-chan. Yep, ok. Bye~"

She hung up then, still with a smile eerily plastered to her face, as if she had been face-to-face with her friend the whole time and that her expression had had a part to play too in the ploy to keep the other as unawares as possible.

But then, the smile vanished to naught, and a chilling air clawed itself across her face instead as she slowly looked up the terror brothers' way, with her green eyes shimmering intensely and becoming much larger than what should be normal, a sinister sight, made even worse by the tone of her voice, which was no more than a whisper: "WHAT. Did. You. Do. To them?"

Her voice was on the verge of becoming hysterical, like all what she had held in during the phone call with her friend, in hopes of not alarming the latter, was nearly begging to burst out.

Though he was somewhat impressed by the sheer control she'd managed to summon for this, Sasuke was far more intrigued by the dark terror now alive within her eyes. Reflecting them, as if the brothers had been the cause of her distress this time. Not that he was complaining - he very much preferred being feared, as well as preferring fear to no emotion - but he wasn't sure he understood the reason for its abrupt appearance, because though apparently afraid of them she was, never had it quite yet been of this...whole other calibre. As though her past had suddenly merged with the present, only to become infinitely worse...

Relatively enthralled and curious, but filing it all away for now, the younger Uchiha grinned with unbridled condescension whilst he crouched down to her level and settled into an elegant stance, before he then loftily drawled out: "I'll try and make it simpler, for a dummy like you. Essentially, Aniki can quite literally become a god to whomever he wants."

Despite going completely still, the young woman's hand twitched for no more than a second, like she had wanted to either strike or reach out to the man who, despite being at her level, still loomed a head over her and was looking down at her. From above.

Unable to inquire on what the young Uchiha had meant, nor was she sure she wished to know, Sakura found herself relapsing within her earlier realization, and again hoping she was wrong. But there was that word, that one word that would change her entire perspective of these two.

"Gods amongst demons and men," voiced the beast, its sibilant whispering right by her ear "They exist, you know - Gods, that is. And you, dear child, shall never, ever harm them, do you understand me? They are the only ones, in this entire world, whom you are not to harm or kill. Besides, even if you wished it with all your being, you couldn't. Our blood forbids us."

It would explain so much, and yet not enough...

"Is that what you think you are?" she asked then, tone and expression unchanged, not really paying attention when a cold leather-gloved hand pried her phone away from her "G-Gods?"

Sakura stared, afraid of what her thoughts were whispering to her, afraid that they were right. And they could be - with the gut feeling too real to ignore. But something did not make sense.

The name was wrong. It wasn't the same family name. Of the four names she had been given and forced to venerate, no matter what, as a little girl along with the other beast's 'children', none of those names had been 'Uchiha'.

And yet, an ability- THE ability to make a person forget, anything...was a Kami's power (1). Definitely. There was no doubt about it. None. And she would know. Since it had been used on her so many times, before she turned ten. More times than she could count. Or even recall.

Dark eyes glittered then, appraising her features quite closely, curiously: "...Who knows? I won't speak for myself, but my brother most surely is - no thinking involved though, he IS."

"Oh my, so much praise, I'm honoured," chuckled the older sibling with what could easily be interpreted as pleasure...but to Sakura, it somehow sounded a little more pained instead.

Swiftly getting back up, the younger Uchiha pivoted towards his brother and tossed him the cell phone, which the other caught with amazing precision and ease, before Sasuke declared, his voice gentle: "It's the truth though."

There was no mistaking how much the younger one revered his older brother given the sheer amount of pride which laced his words. It was almost, somewhat, just a tiny bit maybe, sweet?

Somehow, the young woman, in spite of the fact that her mind had come up with the attribute, could not for the life of her accept that that word described him, in ANY way.

Sadistic, OH YES. Aggressive, YES. Cruel, YES. Indifferent, maybe? Out of his mind, most DEFINITELY. But, sweet?

...Was she still somewhat drunk? That had to be it. Didn't help though that she was relatively horrified with herself. GOSH, she hated the way her mind worked...

'Freaking focus, Sakura, damn it.'

"What did you do to them?" she asked yet again, whispering this time, and afraid of the reply.

At that, both brothers turned her way, with the younger one seeing while the other sensed her still present dread, eating up at her viciously, and again, Itachi took pity on her. Faintly, but he did, before he mused on how odd and rare an occurrence this was for him. Usually, he didn't care much for anyone besides his brother. Anyone else was just a hindrance, or a tool, or a victim, or an enemy. He had no friends, no allies...no family - not anymore.

But in all his frigidity and cruelty, the older Uchiha liked to believe that he did have a certain level of rationality within him, and the truth here was, he and his brother were messing up this woman's life. Badly.

She hadn't asked for any of this, and quite frankly neither had they. She was simply at the wrong place, at the wrong time... Well, technically it was the other way round, since they stumbled upon her house in a time of dire need, and she just happened to be home. It was an unfair and twisted situation, both for her and for them, he would at least admit that. But there was no turning back now. And besides, once they were eventually done with her, this would be nothing more than a bad dream for her, a nightmare...that had never, ever even happened.

"I swear to you," spoke up the eldest of the Uchiha, tone of voice still hoarse but firm and sincere, having taken his decision on how to deal with her, at the very end of the road "We did not hurt them - well, no more than we had already had at least. And if you do keep up your end of our bargain, we'll never have to cross their paths, ever again."

"As in you'll leave them alone? For good?"

She knew well that she had to be repeating this question in different variations for quite some time now, but she NEEDED to hear, hear them say that they would stay true to their promise.

She had been lied to all her life. She had lied all her life. How on earth could she ever possibly know that these two had been telling the truth, even though they loathed being seen as liars? And the terror brothers had lied to Sakura. That much she was sure of, only what they'd lied about, that however she had no idea...

"Indeed," voiced Itachi solemnly, as he placed an open hand on his chest "You have our word I promise you that. Besides, that is what you wished for, right? And in return, you said you'd do absolutely anything. That does mean anything and everything, you know, Haruno-san?"

With his voice turned lethally lower at the end of his sentence, the young woman shivered, nails digging into her palm. She had said that, hadn't she? And now, that her friends safe and out of the picture, she was going to pay the price for their freedom and safety.

Letting out a shaky breath, Sakura closed her eyes then, picturing Naruto and Hinata, both safe and well, back at their home, with their soon-to-be baby grown up and running towards them, all of them smiling, happy and without a burden or care in the world...

'Worth it,' she admitted to herself then with a soft smile, as her trepidation went and steadily deceased 'Totally worth it. These two can do their worst now. I don't care. Don't care at all.'

Seeing her still wary but now significantly calmer than what she'd been a second ago, Sasuke tugged on his brother's hand, leading the latter to reply with a curt nod. They could talk now...

"Is your mind now at ease? If so, may I speak, Haruno-san?" drawled out the eldest Uchiha, not waiting for any confirmation on her part before he smoothly carried on "As I was saying earlier, you were not meant to see through our belongings. You had no right."

She'd been just seconds away from screaming at them in rage at the audacity in his tone and words, but at the last second, her mouth snapped shut along with an audible click of her teeth.

The nerve of them. How dare they? The hell were they making all of this sound like her fault?

"And since you did, you unwittingly involved yourself in our endeavour. Given your position in the medical field which could be beneficial to us, I'll be indulgent, and give you a choice."

She couldn't help but bristle as soon as the word 'choice' was said, mind dipping somewhere dark. She shook it all away however before she slipped in, and firmly focused on the present...


So, if she got it right, she was being offered an option based on the fact that they needed her? That felt...unrealistic, for some reason. Like an excuse of some sort. Or was she overthinking?

Apparently sensing her confusion, the eldest of the two terror brothers opted to clarify further for her, while his brother swiftly moved off to the side to rummage in one of their many duffle bags: "If you're indeed a med student as you claim to be, it's possible you may know...people we are looking for. And that is the case, it'll make it that much easy for us to locate them."

The faint pause before the word 'people', had her thinking he wanted to utter something else. Something far much uglier and vile. However, the young pink-haired woman wasn't given the opportunity to dwell on that much further, as the younger Uchiha approached her, handing out a sheet of paper her way.

Glancing at him questioningly, Sakura found that he still appeared to be rather aggravated, as though he was thoroughly against her being involved.

'Well, that makes two of us, trust me,' she thought hotly, as she crossed her arms, in defiance.

Irked, the dark-haired male snapped dark glaring eyes to lock onto her, while gritting out low: "Take. It."

Resisting the urge to childishly pull out her tongue at him, Sakura snatched it from his hands, ignoring his twitching eyebrow - a clear indicative of anger - in favour of peering down at it. It was a list of names - neatly written by hand in several rows across the outlined paper sheet. And it was not short. And as if that wasn't unnerving enough, a few names were crossed out...

S. D. (2)

Aburame Muta

Gengetsu Hozuki

Nara Ensui

Iwa Gari

Kinata Dosu

Amado Code

Amado Delta

Furido Fuen

Furido Fuka

Kara Ao

Kara Boro

Pein Ajisai

Maki Pakura

Zuunaki Taika...(2)

And it went on, and on, both in recto and verso, leading Sakura to blink. Not because of what the paper obviously was, but because she didn't recognize a single one of the nam- Hold on.

The young woman carefully, slowly read the list again, before she paused a couple of times, and then fought with all of her might to maintain her expression as blank as humanly possible - what with the youngest of the terror brothers closely gauging her reaction all of a sudden...

One particularly looked very familiar to her. Wasn't it that family, the one who adopted...him?

Unsettled by the coincidence, given she hadn't seen nor thought about him in a while, Sakura wracked her brain, trying to recall what he had told her about the family that had took him in. And overall, from what she did recall, it was nothing good.

"...If I could, I wouldn't be here," he muttered around his cigarette, as he casually lounged out on the grass beside her, a hand propped underneath his chin "'Cause I smell rat, you know? Something's way too fishy, about the old man. Dirty even. Then again, fish smell, no?"

"Rats do too," pointed out Sakura, quite used by now to his peculiar tendency to jump from one subject to another, seemingly without rhyme or reason "Say, why not just leave though? You're of legal age to do that, aren't you? More than. ...How old are you anyway?"

Nonchalantly ignoring every other question following her first one, he leaned his head back, dark eyes admiring the lone clouds up above as he leisurely contemplated her initial query: "Meh, I could run off and never look back, but out of convenience, I won't."

"I don't get it," she admitted, knowing that beating around the bush would never work here. Not with him.

"Better than hiding in plain sight," he replied then, shifting over to her the darkest gaze she'd ever seen in her entire life "'Do what you'd never do. And 'Daddy' won't ever find you...'"

As usual, Sakura felt a little nauseous upon remembering that last bit, having always hated when the beast would be called that by some of them. It was mostly mocking, denigrating, pettish... And yet, she still loathed it - the beast couldn't pass for 'fatherly', not even as a joke.

Shaking her thoughts away, Sakura, shaking a bit, directed her erratic focus back onto the list.

Also, the Amado Twins? Weren't those two like super popular celebrities - pop singers, right? She was not a fan or anything, and the only reason why she suddenly remembered their names was because of the noise that their very sudden deaths had made, nearly three years ago today. It had been a rather ghastly story, vividly etched within her mind, despite her total disinterest.

Another 'name' that caught her attention almost instantly, but not due to recognition this time, was the one with initials S.D. Not only was it in first place and the only one written in initials, but it was the one name that had been written off very angrily, the pen which had been used to trace it, scratched the surface of the paper so viciously, it had pierced straight through, in certain points. Like the initials themselves had been punctured - or rather stabbed to death. Whoever this person was, it was painfully evident that they were dreadfully disliked, resented.

Speaking of which, if this list was indeed what she assumed it to be, the young pink-haired woman was actually being demanded to-

"I refuse," instantly came her staunch and unwavering reply then, astonishing both brothers, utterly unable to hide the sincere disbelief from their features.

"Refuse?" echoed Sasuke, stunned "The hell do you mean?! You don't even know what we-"

"You want me to help find these people, so you can murder them. Or something macabre like that. So, I refuse. I UTTERLY refuse to shed blood," she declared categorically, tone strong, all while she deafeningly screamed inside the depths of her mind 'More than I already have. I'm done. So bloody DONE.'

Regardless of the fact that she'd left far behind the sheer violence and utter dementia that had been her life before now, being implicated within this kind of death - all over again - even indirectly, was bound to draw the beast's attention. So, no way was Sakura having that. Nope.

"Do what you'd never do. And 'Daddy' won't ever find you."

And NEVER had truer and wiser words ever been spoken - heck, she could make a freaking, bible out of his life advice, and not regret a minute of it. He never steered her wrong after all...

"You won't have to, Haruno-san," the older Uchiha proclaimed evenly as he delicately shifted his stance, grimacing faintly and going rigid, drawing the younger sibling's concerned gaze immediately "No one said anything about you shedding blood - that's not what we're asking."

"Fine, I'll rephrase. I refuse to be a part of someone's death. Might as well just end me now."

"Aren't you contradicting yourself again, Haruno-san?" pointed out the younger sibling with a sneer, all while he tried to grasp the now undecipherable expression she was now wearing "Besides, you just agreed do everything and anything we said. ...Forgetting that already, hm?"

"But when I- When you said that, I thought- I thought you were- You'd be kil- hurting ME."

Still silence made itself at home for a couple of seconds, as the brothers tried to get her words.

Just how absurdly volatile could this damned woman's behaviour even be? It was like talking to a bloody honey badger (3) or being confronted to a Russian roulette. It was startling, really.

One minute she was deathly afraid, the next she was abrasively defiant. And then, she would become docile and distant again. At times, she was this overly compassionate being, but other times, it was as if she lacked the ability to feel a thing at all. One minute she would dread death, the next she was practically asking for it. And sometimes, she'd clearly feel like prey, but sometimes, just sometimes, it was like she was the actual and REAL predator in the room.

But that last notion was truly beyond ludicrous, because no matter how many times he found himself considering it, Sasuke simply couldn't see it. Yet alone conceive it.

And so, just like that, with smooth ease, he turned his misconceptions into biting mockery: "Neh, Haruno-san... Masochistic much?"

Rather than bristle and blow like he had expected her to however, the young woman only just evenly glanced his way, gaze remote and rather tired, before an air of reticence appeared then.

"Like hell I am - who'd enjoy pain anyway?" she intoned slowly, as she swatted a stray strand of hair out of her face, sounding miffed but not putting much effort into showcasing it "Besides, it's not like I have a say, do I? You'll just be doing whatever you want in the end..."

"That is true. Well, if you'd rather let us choose for you, so be it," stated Itachi unhurriedly, right before a sinister smile underlying terrible and ill intent slowly touched his lips "But I wouldn't spit on our generosity if I were you, Haruno-san - we can only be nice for so long."

She felt her jaw drop open on its own accord, feeling like she had suddenly turned real stupid.

...Nice? All that, all that happened, everything they had put her through, was them being nice?

As that gradually registered along with her incredulity, she could only feel herself grow cold with immense dread at her very next thought. Then, what would them 'being not nice' entail?

Though the question had come from her, she really didn't look forward to knowing the reply. One she, alas, wouldn't have to wait long for. Had she known, she would never have asked...

"Now, if you could be so kind, Haruno-san, take your clothes - all of them - off, would you?"

At the same time, somewhere else, in a different conurbation within Japan's territory...

'-the Uchiha brothers, Itachi and Sasuke, two notorious criminals who are still on the run. On a violent killing spree since their teenage years, these two sinister serial killers and rapists have committed the most atrocious and heinous of crimes. And have yet to stop. Armed and extremely dangerous, they are, without a doubt, cold-blooded, madmen. We highly recommend, no matter the circumstances, should anyone meet the brothers that they directly run for safety. If anyone has any information, from sightings to chance encounters, please do not hesitate to contact-'

The news was hammering the same story over and over, had been doing so for days, months, years...and Inuzuka Akita(4), body gone rigid and hands clenched upon her throbbing temples as she glared at the screen, was but seconds away from forever deleting her TV's existence. Literally. She even had the hammer innocently laid out before her on the nearby coffee table...

Her current demeanour wasn't the most rational, since she was doing this to herself, on her own. All she had to do, to no longer be burdened with the constant plague of sick reminders dancing around in a guilty-ridden conscience, was to switch channels, right? Simple. But NO.

Here she was, seeing and hearing it all again, and again- Hell, she knew the words by heart, able to tell when they would omit, add to or alter the news report, alive for sixteen years now.

It was easier for her to admit that this was some sort of self-inflicted punishment she was giving herself, that she deserved the remorse and oh-so ugly feels tearing at her from within.

This, listening to this, was nothing, compared to what she had witnessed. To what she'd done.

She had been scarred and scared, for life and, in the end, had no one else to blame, but herself.

And she had never regretted her line of profession - which had always been the dream job for her, ever since she was younger, the dream to be a caring ear to those who needed to be heard - up until she had chosen, of her own volition, to get involved with the wrong crowd. ...Blindly.

Letting out a short, shuddering breath, Akita finally decided she had endured enough for today, reaching over for the remote, and finally switching her television off, before reclining her head back upon the side of her sofa, closing her eyes and letting out an exasperated, exhausted sigh.

As necessary as this was - at least to her - she still needed to be in shape for tomorrow morning, when she would - should - be attending her line of work, in the office room below. And become the ear she was meant to be.

It was odd, and even ridiculous to her, that most would be less offended to admit they were seeing a therapist or a counsellor, rather than sharing they were being seen by a psychiatrist.

And in her almost seventeen years of practice, she had seen and dealt with a whole lot of cases. Some were rather recurrent, similar, and even familiar by now. But others, which presented a real challenge, were much rarer, unique.

And speaking of rarer and unique cases... Her dark gaze flitted over towards a patient's folder, already open upon her cluttered desk, leading an agitated frown to swiftly appear upon already stressed-out features - making her look so MUCH older than she actually was.

Out of all the patients Akita ever had and worked with, this one was perhaps the only one that had genuinely fascinated her the most. Just as much as she was equally frightened by them.

It wasn't so much the patient that was frightening - point in fact, they were rather delightful -nor was it the eventual diagnostics of what the psychiatrist had come to believe was the intricate state of their...condition. What frightened Akita was the actually patient's attitude. ...In general.

See, the patient, upon their very first meeting - brought to her when they were barely a fifteen year old teen - had seemed so...incredibly ordinary, not showing at all that anything could be remotely 'unhealthy' about their mental state. Which had instantly intrigued the psychiatrist, because from the little information Akita had been able to garner about this girl - both from the latter's adoptive parent and the detective following her case - and the horrifying, traumatic past childhood which brought the child to her doorstep, the poor girl should have been a mess.

Instead, that day, the psychiatrist met a rather shy, very sweet and soft-spoken child, quite easily flustered, awfully caring and with a heart of gold. Which wasn't AT ALL what the woman had been expecting, if she was being completely honest. Even so, Akita had ignored that, having learnt to not outright judge a book by its cover. That motto like came with her job description, and had never failed her - well...Kind of never failed her.

And yet, session after session, that first impression, never appeared to falter, never eased up, never vanished, not even by a smidgen, or enough to leave room to something else, something the psychiatrist actively and desperately searched for - a terrified, traumatized little girl with a horrendously cracked, if not broken or completely shattered, mind.

Even if Akita didn't have every single little detail, with what the girl had been through overall, at such a young age, such sordid, unspeakable horror must have left several, if not many, scars.

But the girl showed none, revealing nothing, keeping all of it tucked away, hidden somewhere deep down as she sat there with her pretty little smile on frozen features of fabricated serenity.

It was like facing stone, like the girl's trauma swallowed up her ability to express emotions...

Or perhaps even feel them in an accurate and normalized manner, rendering her to be so much more at ease to be using an 'I am perfectly alright' card, instead of blowing up and exploding, raging and going mad. Which was very surprising, if not downright startling from someone of such a young age. To be that in control.

Not even a normal person could do that. Not on a regular basis. There were just SO many factors that simply couldn't allow for that kind of behaviour, within our every day's society. Between stress, depression, aggravation, loss... Eventually, sooner or later, everyone snapped.

But, no matter the approach or method Akita used, the young girl remained a smiling stone - which perturbed the psychiatrist to no end - and she was now convinced that the girl was concealing her more genuine feelings, as well as the raw pain that should be so close behind. Whether she was doing so willingly and skilfully, or upon sheer accident however, was yet another answered question.

And if it was some sort of coping mechanism? Well, it was an extremely unhealthy, and very dangerous one, because, once again, everyone snapped. It was part of basic human nature, and no one, not even the sanest individual, could really flee from that one impending reaction, with all the deadened, silenced emotions piled on top of each other, suddenly bursting to life. No amount of control could help or be of any use then. Nothing could contain a ticking time bomb after all.

Apart from that, there was this other rather unsettling feeling Akita often got, upon figuring out that she had been confronted to layers upon layers this one patient calmly stood behind, was that during each session, the psychiatrist was perhaps dealing with someone else, entirely.

And as unnerving as that ought to be, this was the one possibility she was hoping she was right about. Since between a split personality disorder and emotional repression, Akita would very much deal with the former...for various reasons the psychiatrist would rather not share.

And if this was the case, then she had never met the real 'Sakura'. It was always the lie, the act, the façade. At times Akita wondered if the original 'Sakura', the real one, even existed anymore. Or if the bleak and dark of a shadowed and unknown, but abysmal, past had forever wiped her entire existence away and to naught.

And the thing was, the girl didn't ever deny what she'd been forced to go through and endure. But she never spoke about it either, never venturing beyond what everyone already guessed. She would speak up and say when they were wrong, but never say what had really happened. She would acknowledge that she went through a living hell, but would always say she was ok.

But she wasn't. She was nowhere NEAR alright. And how did Akita come to this conclusion?

Even with the façade, even with the lies, even with the smile, there was one thing that Sakura had no control over, and her inability to hide it, sold her out instantly. It was her eating habits. Not so much the near religious manner in which she'd adhere to her excessive 'veganism', as the now twenty-four year old grown girl would often put it. But rather, how utterly against Sakura was to even the thought of anything at all constituted or made of 'flesh' in her vicinity.

Vegans had a specific code, if one could say that, where they wouldn't harm a living creature, consume it even less, since it was inhumane, barbaric...and so on. The protection of animals, wildlife and the beautiful beasts on the verge of extinction, and all that. A noble, beautiful, and even understandable cause. A less noble cause however, though these were few, promptly converted to veganism to be in shape. Or rather picked the easy way to never have any issues with becoming overweight. Most of the time it was one reason or the other that made a person want to become vegan at all. In Sakura's case however, it was neither.

"It makes me want to vomit," she would say blankly, with an absent air to her solemn features "The sight, the smell- The taste even. I can't stand any of it. It's just repulsive and sickening."

Even normalized or minimal, an 'eating disorder' - or as Sakura put it herself, a 'phobia' - this oppressive and this obsessive, effortlessly pointed out that something was very wrong with her, that 'veganism' was just an excuse, a front. And if her visceral reaction to being around meat was of any slim indication, it seemed far more trauma-induced, than a personal choice.

Of course, Akita wouldn't have deducted this out of thin air. It actually happened on complete accident, having seen first-hand the look of brief but utter fear cross her patient's face - instead of what should have been disgust - at the mere sight of a nice, fat, juicy steak peeking out from Akita's sandwich that one time.

Barely seconds after walking in on her psychiatrist a tad earlier than what had been convened, Sakura had instantly excused herself and ran out of the office, heading straight for the bathroom at the back and locking herself in. Genuinely concerned, Akita got up and rushed right after her...only to overhear strange dry heaving noises coming from behind the door.

Strange, because to the woman's ears, they sounded a lot less human, and more...animalistic. She did remember freezing and getting goosebumps in the moment itself, having never heard anything like it, but also recalled then having dismissed it later as just a severe panic attack. The young girl - around maybe sixteen-ish at that given time - had simply lost all control over her breathing due to the severity of her panic. That was all it was. Nothing else, nothing more.

When the young girl eventually unlocked herself and shakily ambled back out, nearly two hours later, she had gone deathly pale, with a haggard, distant look, but sweetly apologized to a then bewildered Akita with a beaming smile, before politely asking if they could reschedule.

They did. And neither ever spoke about the incident ever again - well, the psychiatrist tried to, but her patient neatly avoided the subject entirely, every single time.

Making a point to never eat non-vegan in front of Sakura again, Akita could only speculate. If it was indeed a phobia and it would occur whenever she'd settle her sights on anything 'meat', was because of blood? Body parts? Death? Had this poor, poor girl seen murder(s) first-hand? Escaped it? Committed it? Given what she knew of the girl's past, she wouldn't be surprised. Nor would she blame the girl. Being in hell tended to make a person lose their marbles a little.

So, maybe her young patient was afraid of losing control of her emotions, because she could and might kill again?

And yet, in terms of her professional career, Sakura had picked the path to become a surgeon. Which meant all of the above, from blood and flesh to demise galore, were involved. Leading to yet another question. Why surgeon? Yes, animal and human flesh were quite distinct, but a badly traumatized mind, wasn't always able to make that one distinction soundly. So, was Sakura making an attempt to redeem herself then? Or was she somehow punishing herself? Either way, again why? ...So many, many questions.

Despite remaining pretty steadfast on her deductions born out of close observation and the hint of a hunch here and there, the truth was the psychiatrist still had no concrete or clear idea, about anything concerning this one patient of hers. NOTHING at all. Heaven knows she tried.

"Is there a reason why you won't talk to me?"

"I thought we were talking, Inuzuka-sensei," came her patient' sweet reply, smiling softly as she always did during their sessions, a feat now beginning to both unsettle and irate Akita.

"You know about patient confidentiality, right? I would never-"

"I know," confessed Sakura, her frozen features betraying nothing as she effortlessly said so.

"...Would you rather change and deal with another-?" offered Akita, not wanting to suggest this, yet knowing she had to; the other however didn't let her finish, already shaking her head.

"I trust you, Inuzuka-sensei. I don't want anyone else."

"And yet you still tell me nothing."

"That's not true," tut Sakura, a bit offended "I tell you plenty- please, don't say that I don't."

"You do," relented the psychiatrist after a moment "But most of the time - if not all the time - it's not really about you, is it? It's either your friends, or your work, or-"

"But isn't that related to me?" jutted in the other, head tilted and looking genuinely confused "It's how I am, and I what I do, in my everyday life. Isn't that enough?"

"But we never about how YOU feel," insisted Akita, voice now faintly laced with frustration "We never spoke about that, Sakura. And we never get to."

At this, Sakura's expression shifted slightly as she seemed to consider this lengthily, before she gasped dramatically and blinked up wide at the other with a face of feigned innocence: "Ever?"

"Please, don't play coy with me, Sakura. Smart as you are, you should know exactly what I'm talking about. I would like to know how you feel."

"I feel GREAT, thank you for asking, Inuzuka-sensei," beamed Sakura still, childish emerald eyes twinkling with mischief amid the shadows dancing in the dark of her pupils "And you?"

Not appreciating the other's persistence at frivolity, Akita's eyes narrowed: "See what I mean? You either avoid the subject altogether, or lie to my face. How do you think I feel, hm? What would you feel, if you were me?"

All traces of humour sharply vanished from the girl's face so fast, Akita went still, her heart skipping a beat, swallowing nervously. There was nothing lethal about Sakura's expression, but the psychiatrist couldn't help but feel uneasy. Threatened even. And she had to reluctantly recall that this was a girl that - even though Akita had no definitive confirmation, only empty speculations - could have very well have killed to save her own life. And she REALLY had no wish to be on yet another patient's eventual hit list...

"Sakura, I can't help you, if you don't want me to," confessed the woman carefully, sincerely, as she currently hoped for the best and prayed against the worst that could happen right now.

"I wouldn't feel anything," eventually whispered Sakura expressionlessly, leading Akita to hold her breath "Because I haven't lied to you, Inuzuka-sensei - never have, never needed to. If I choose not to tell you something, that doesn't make it a lie. And even if I may lie at times, I've never deceived anyone. Besides, in life, no one's ever fully honest. Most of us prefer to play pretend, desperately wanting to fit in, locking far away, out of anyone's reach, the real 'us', holding it deep down inside, just to be sure, to be safe. Then again, what do I know?"

There was something...undeniably morose and grim within the young girl's words and tone, painful even, and Akita didn't know what to make of it. Was this...some kind of confession? What of?

But then, just like that, the blinding, bright smile came running right back: "Inuzuka-sensei. You help me so much more than you could ever know. I wouldn't miss coming to see to you for anything, no matter what my mother thinks of you. And no matter what you feel guilty of... I just LOVE our sessions!"

For the fraction of one chilling moment, Akita felt as though their rules had been reversed. Like she was the one being observed and taken care of by Sakura. Or had it always been so?

Shivering a slight, the somewhat startled psychiatrist stared at the sweet face of the smiling girl warmly, and decided that, no. She was only overanalysing things. And had just misheard.

True to her word, Sakura had never missed a single one of their sessions. And the only time she hadn't been able to make it, the young woman had called ahead - to let her know that two of her friends were tying the knot - and asked if it was at all alright to reschedule that specific date. However, for their very latest session, last Sunday, her odd patient never showed up. And this time without warning. Without even calling - Akita herself had tried that, to no avail.

She bit her lip, worried and wondering if the other was alright. And truly hoped nothing bad - or worse - happened to that girl, for Heaven knows she endured more than enough of all that...

Rubbing at her temples in a feeble attempt to quell her growing pains and concerns, the woman closed her eyes and sighed. Well, no one could say that she never went downhill in her career, now could they? Despite all her 'saved' and cured patients, Akita felt like a failure today, between the girl who claimed all was right as rain despite a ruined childhood, and those two sweetheart siblings, who were never even insane to begin with. If anything, they couldn't have been saner... And she didn't listen to them - her greatest mistake yet.

Regret seized her again, like a vice clutching at her already worn-out heart, but Akita brushed it all away. She couldn't alter the past - she knew that well, she tried - she could only focus on the present. And of her two most horrendous failures, she was still in close contact with one of them. And it would be real nice, some kind of meagre closure for the psychiatrist, if she could somehow manage to save Sakura, before the Uchiha brothers were finally able to find Akita. And come for her...

Snapping up to her feet, and leaving her wretched thoughts behind her on the lonely couch, Akita, mind still a hectic mess, robotically ambled over to her desk and stared at the file there, before pacing away, and then, moments later, pacing back to it again. She did so at least four times, before coming to a halt, as she began weighing her options while worrying her lower lip. Refusing to get her dear friends involved in her 'health' issues and personal problems, Sakura had given her psychiatrist/therapist only three cell phone numbers - other than her own - in case of any sudden emergencies.

One of them belonged to Senju Tsunade. And Akita would have called the blonde lady first and without a second thought - given that the woman in question was Sakura's sole parental figure. However, due to a certain set of events, they were no longer on speaking terms. Very understandable, given the circumstances in question - and if their situations were reversed, Akita wouldn't have talked to herself either. It had been an actual miracle Tsunade had entrusted Sakura to her, despite all that. Then again, Akita was good at her job. Too good at it. So good, it could be so bad at times...

The second phone number was that of a detective's, the one that had handled Sakura's case. And though she never said this to her patient, Akita honestly would rather NEVER be in contact with anyone related/connected to the police or other authorities in any way. Just NO...

And the third phone number...

Akita nibbled on her lower lip harder now, tasting a little blood upon the tip of her tongue. Sakura had once told her to never call this number, unless the situation was dramatic, drastic or dire. Not for anything else. She didn't add anything to that, not even saying who this was...

Akita had actually been tempted, out of sheer curiosity, to call whoever this person was just for the heck of it. But she didn't let such childish foolishness lure her to betray her patient's wishes - that wasn't who she was striving to become after all. And so, she never ever called this number. But now, it almost felt like she had to. And it made Akita even more nervous.

Maybe she was merely overreacting here. Maybe Sakura had a cold. Or had had a late shift. Or a family emergency. Or something like that.

And yet, the sinking feeling at the bottom of her stomach didn't want to leave, throttling her.

Rattling her nails on the desk at an irregular rhythm as she pondered on what do, she regarded the phone unblinkingly, as if it had all of the solutions to her current dilemma. Maybe it did.

Reaching for it, she punched in the numbers, hesitating on the last few digits before thinking what the hell and making the call, contacting this unknown, unnamed person for the first time.

Bringing the phone to her ear then and listening to the even ring with uneasiness, she waited. After the third ring, the mysterious individual on the other side of line picked up, and... Silence.

Steadily going wide-eyed, she strained to pick up on something, anything. But heard nothing. Not even breathing. To say that she was freaked out was an understatement, and she wanted nothing more to hang up there and then, before she abruptly recalled something rather specific Sakura had told her. If the psychiatrist ever needed to use this number, all Akita had to do-

Clearing her suddenly very dried up throat, the woman whispered no more than a single word: "...H-Haru."

The silence then lingered a bit longer, before a smooth voice finally resonated against her ear: "I'm listening. Tell me everything."

(1) Ok, explaining time! So, in Japanese, the word 'Kami' can mean 'God'/'gods' amongst its other meanings. And we'll be of course focusing on this definition for the fic; but just like for Akuma, the Kami in Dark Play aren't quite as simple and clear-cut as they might sound to be...

(2) Alright, so all of those names featured in the list are actual, genuine characters from the Naruto and/or the Boruto verse; however, for the purpose of this fic, some were given family names according to either the Arc they featured in or another character they knew (since they initially had none, or their family name was simply unknown within the series); an example is Maki Pakura. In fact, in the Naruto verse, Pakura and Maki are two different and separate characters, but they are connected (please see the Final Shinobi War Arc, or check on Wikia). For other characters in this list, their names have been altered. But ONLY for the time being; their identities will be revealed over the course of this fic. I hope that wasn't too confusing XP

(3) If you are unfamiliar with what a Honey Badger is, I totally recommend checking it out. Also known as the Ratel, is a mammal widely distributed in Africa, Southwest Asia, and the Indian subcontinent, and this animal is known for its 'crazy nastiness' and 'insane volatility'.

(4)Again, this character is not an OC. But I will declare and admit that little is known about her, and not just by me. She is a character newly introduced within the Boruto series (manga), so I'd understand if you don't know of her. Heck, I didn't know her. My friend told me about Inuzuka Akita and as soon as I wikia-ed her (yep, this is literally a verb my friends and I use), I fell in love with her, immediately knowing that I had to include her in this fic, somehow. So, essentially, what I'm saying is, while she may be an actual character, her personality and portrayal will be made-up. Also, Inuzuka she might be, it is not indicated exactly how she is related to Kiba. So, I may or may not have the intention to exploit that titbit of information X3

A/N: Um... This ended up being a much, much shorter version of what I originally wanted to post for Chapter 11; I basically cut it IN HALF, meaning that this chapter isn't finished yet (hence the lack of 'To Be Continued' above). The second piece should be on its way very shortly...whatever that means by my updating standards. I cannot stick to one regular schedule to save my life, damn it all XP I don't want to make promises I won't keep so let's say...soon?

Until then, thank you SO much for all your love and support, ladies, gents and everyone else! Bella Ciao!

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Sasuke couldn't help it though. He was beyond intrigued at this point. But was also starting to become a little...unsettled, unnerved.

There was SO much to unpack here, it left him wondering if they were better off not knowing. Still curiosity had a stronger hold here. And with that said, the bigger question really was, who WAS 'Sakura'?