A mildly GaaSaku fic that will span just a few chapters.
I do not own NARUTO
Follow the Sun
Static. Disorientation. No sense of control.
Panicked, she tried desperately to inhale, to suck any sort of breath into her collapsing chest. But to no avail. All that filled her was that pulse, that shocking, electrifying pulse that infiltrated her body and tore it to shreds. She had been scattered to the wind, thrown into something she could not comprehend, could not make sorts of, and somewhere within those first dreadful moments, she lost herself.
Something real beyond the static, beyond that buzzing of electrical plasma, pressed down. A bridge to feeling, a moment of clarity amongst the mindlessness. It was a hand on her arm. A very strong hand. One she knew well to fear.
Sakura didn't know who he was, where he had come from, but it was clear who had sent him and what he wanted. Sasuke. But no, not yet. He hadn't been ready yet, that's what the man had said. He wasn't enough of…something yet. So that's why he was there, to help Sasuke along, to cut his ties to the village he was predicted to abandon. Kakashi had put up a good fight, so had Naruto, and she had done her best to keep their fighting condition strong, avoiding injury as best she could to further take care of them. But she hadn't been distracted enough to miss it, miss what she had so wanted to be a misjudgment or simple mistake.
It was his hesitation. Though only for a moment, Sasuke had hesitated in his attack, seeming to contemplate the advantages of continuing to fight for his comrades in arms. Naruto was too blinded by his worry for his friend to see it, but Sakura had. And so had their attacker. He had been waiting for the doubt to play across those onyx eyes of his, for the wavering of loyalty and creed. He had accomplished his task, sowing the seeds of doubt, birthing a mirage of clouded and ever darker thoughts in an already tainted mind.
Only one thing left to do, cover it with pain and water it with hatred. His eyes set on Sakura then, amusement and determination thick in his voice as he taunted her team.
Irritating, isn't it? He had said. How she can so quickly undo all my hard work.
He had promised her death then, his eyes flickering daringly over her team, challenging them to try and stop him, and as he charged her she was sure it was the end. But the static from his touch surprised her, the crackle and pop and whistle that filled her ears, and instead of blistering electrical heat as she had expected, she was zapped into a sense of numbness that overtook her.
But here she was, with that same hand pressing down on her arm, giving her a moment of clarity while he dragged her. For just that moment, Sakura found herself. From her arm, she found her fist, and after clenching her muscles she felt her body flare to life within the pulsating whirlwind in which they flew. Anticipating that this sense of sudden orientation was unexpected and wouldn't last long, she quickly wrenched her arm from his grip, trying to kick against anything she could contact, anything to get her distance.
The iron grip on her arm gave out, and at the mercy of her attacker's little trick, she was cast from the skies. Like she was thrown from lightning itself, her body seemed to burst forth from the air, spinning rapidly and without control. Suddenly blinded, she held out an arm to try and break her fall but huffed loudly as the wind was inevitably knocked from her lungs. Her back hit the ground, her chest heaving and desperate for air. She gasped, shielding her eyes from the harsh light above her, as hot, dry air filled her lungs.
She coughed, her ribs aching from the solid impact and she groaned as she shifted to her side, her left arm sinking into the ground below her. Coughing again as her heart and lungs ached and throbbed, she stared as her fingers slipped into the ground and it swallowed her hands as she propped herself up.
Blue skies awaited her as she sat up, clear and cloudless, stretching from horizon to distant horizon. And where the blue bent down to touch the earth it was greeted by a swelling sea of sand. The desert.
Her heart sank.
She looked behind her, and to her left and right, all around, eyes straining against the blinding sands for a sense of direction, for a glimpse of life-saving green. Nothing. Like she was trapped in the ocean, she was at the mercy of the desert's crystalized waves. The distant dunes along the horizon, back where the glossy mirages permeated the dry sands, looked manageable enough, but Sakura knew that in the flesh they were monsters. They towered dauntingly over the actual floor of the desert, hundreds of feet tall, with bases that might not have truly shifted for centuries. This was an ancient land, a land filled with stranger and harsher dangers than her forest home, and she had marooned herself here.
At the thought, she quickly reached for her side, where she kept her field satchel secured to her belt…where it had been secured.
She huffed out a shaken breath of dread, her brow knitted together in frantic thought. She had taken her belt off to better access her utilities, her field medical kit, to quickly stop a nasty gash from slowing Kakashi down too much. It had held her knives, her scarf, her goggles…her canteen.
"Shit," she hissed through her teeth, once again searching the distant dunes for anything familiar, anything to indicate some sort of civilization.
But wait, was that actually a good idea? Sakura thought back, to not six months ago, to the attack on her homeland by their perceived allies from the desert. Flashes and broken bits of memory danced through her head; the blood in the streets, deception thick in the air, and monsters set free from their nightmares. In the end, she had a front row seat to that fight, to what he had become. That crimson color that stained her dreams, those dead eyes that held contempt and hatred for the waking world, the way he looked at her…like she had done something to him. Something terrible. But she had done nothing, it was him, him and his people that had done the unthinkable.
They had infiltrated her village under the pretense of peaceful sportsmanship and they would have leveled it to the ground too if left to their own devices. She was still uneasy, still upset and feeling the pressure of the rebuild. She walked by rubble piles waiting to be hauled off and patch worked buildings every day on her way to her new training. But she knew better than to continue with her suspicions, though, for they had all been played in the end.
Their leader killed, his place taken by a wanted criminal, and their soldiers used as pawns for a game that not even they were intended to win, Suna had been quick to do what they could to make up for their transgressions. Without a Kage they were now in need of allies more than ever and they had been dispatching mixed teams on missions, aiding in the rebuilding of trust between soldiers and their lands. But here in the desert, as a native of the forest, she was told to exercise caution. The western lands; the kingdom of unforgiving desert sands and the hardiest of survivors, was to be considered hostile grounds.
A chill ran through her, suddenly and unexpectedly, an echo of the electric cage she had ripped herself from. It was very much out of place amidst the dry and sweltering heat that was already beginning to dampen her brow, and it brought her mind back to her predicament. Whatever had brought her here had only dropped her, not stopped the travel altogether. Though still at a loss for which direction she currently faced, she gathered they must have been traveling a general direction of crudely west. One had to if they wished to reach any part of the desert from the Konoha lands.
Surely she couldn't stay here, the man might very well come back for her and finish what he promised. Or perhaps even worse, keep her alive. She couldn't imagine being taken as a prisoner and used in bartering or held for ransom.
But where had he dropped her? Her relation to the forest was unknown thanks to the endless expanse of the sands surrounding her, and she felt as though she wouldn't be catching an eyeful of green anytime soon. So instead she wondered where she was in relation to Suna. The city itself was large and held a surprising number of people, at least to a native of more fertile lands. But the people of the desert were steadfast and resilient, capable of hardships unmatched by other lands and seemed to take the teachings of the desert wherever they went. It was a difficult life out here, where dunes constantly shifted and winds whipped up storms that could tear flesh from bone, but it was possible to survive.
Sakura took hope from that.
She looked up, to where the sun perched high above her, watching with boiling scrutiny as it awaited her next move. Once again, her heart sank. They had been attacked late morning and it seemed whatever travel method her attacker possessed did not take much time to cross a given distance. She guessed she had disappeared from the battlefield in the forest not even a full hour ago. This was a lot of things, but good was not one of them. At high noon, the desert was going to be barren of all life besides her. Poor, foolish little her.
Water couldn't hope to survive under such conditions, nor could her sweat so she had no hope of staying cool from a stray breeze, and she could already feel her throat start to dry from breathing the scorched air. Vaguely, Sakura wished that she wasn't human, that she was smaller and capable of all the wonders of the natural world. Like all the things that lived out here with little more help than instinct. Bugs and spiders and lizards all hid from the sun that baked the sand at her feet, waiting for it to sink and cast shadows over the du-
"That's it!" she gasped, throwing a hand over her forehead and turning her eyes to the sun.
It glared back at her, challenging her as if to say, What? What could you take from me to help you now? She only smirked back at it, her answer clear in her eyes. Direction. She had learned throughout her teachings how to find direction with nothing more than your surroundings, all basic survival skills that any good ninja would know. But being from the forest she had been taught their own techniques. Her father, a more cultured man of travel, had added other variants to these lessons as well, such as things he had learned when traveling with the common folk of other lands.
She stared off towards the west, towards what she assumed was the general direction of Suna, of troops, and patrol scouts and traveling messengers and teams for missions. Even stumbling across one of the nomadic tribes of the wild country would have been a saving grace. Even if they refused to share their water or their food, they could still tell her where to find some. It would have been the difference between life and death out here. This land may have looked barren, but it held a litany of life that all had the potential to either promise her refuge and safety, or misery and death.
She very much hoped for the former of the two outcomes.
Setting out, she tried to make a plan in her head, something sort of like a map to follow, or a way to gauge direction. It would only get hotter and she could expect to dehydrate, she was already starting to wipe away sweat from her brow, and without a cloak or robe to keep her sensitive skin from the desert sun, she would only lose moisture even faster. As if hoping on a dream, she yet again tried to touch her canteen, as if wishing she had just missed it earlier. No such luck. She had no scarf to keep her face from burning, no goggles to protect her eyes against the microscopic particles of sand, and no food for energy.
She was as on her own as she had ever been. Her knowledge could help her, she knew, but that took an insider view of the land. Someone from Suna could point her the right way, she was sure of it, but finding someone in this wasteland was a challenge in itself. Being as conscious of her feet as possible, she walked as straight as she could, expecting to waver in her stride every so often on her dominant side, and headed toward the west, intent on following the sun until it gave her some sort of reprieve.
Sand stuck to her feet, kicking up behind her and spraying across her bare calves as she walked. Unused to walking on sand, she didn't favor the way that she had to compensate for the ground shifting continuously below her, ever needing to regain her balance as to not tumble down a dune. She had a certain one in sight, a tall and daunting thing in the distance, toward the west, that she was sure could give her a good view of the surrounding country. It would be a tedious climb from the lower, shallower dunes that she currently walked, but upon seeing the height of the dune she reserved some hope of finding the towering stone walls of Suna.
There was nothing. Not a single thing that offered sanctuary for her. Her shoulders slumped, her knees gave out and she fell to the ground. It was a mistake, given that the sand had been baking under the sun all afternoon, but what was she to do? Her shoulders and cheeks were starting to feel tight, sunburned most likely, and her shirt stuck uncomfortably to her back and under her breasts. She thought of removing it, no one was around to see but she quickly thought better of it. She was warm, much too warm for her own liking, but exposing more of her skin to the parching sun would only spell more trouble for her.
She groaned, the sound scratching passed her dry lips, and she settled on rethinking her plan.
The dune had not proved resourceful in gaining her position, it showed her only the same nothingness for what surely seemed to be hundreds of miles around. She gave up thinking she could find her way through the shifting dunes by herself and instead focused on ways of getting noticed. Had she been in the forest it would have been as simple as finding a large boulder or rock face. Just one punch, one concentrated, focused punch, and everyone within a five-mile radius would notice at least something from it. Even hitting the hardened dirt, whether ripe and damp with life or parched and sundried, it always sent a shock wave.
Sakura's eyes fell to the ground. She pursed her lips, unsure it could even properly be called ground. After all, the sand wasn't very solid, just sort of in…piles. Albeit very big piles. She stepped down and her foot sank through the surface, absorbing her impact and dispersing her weight to the grains around her, and she was quickly convinced that the waves that normally got her noticed wouldn't go even half as far through the sand.
She had used chakra pulses before, to be noticed, to distract, and most recently for long distance terrain mapping. She had become better, much better than anyone had expected, and was propelled by her natural gift for control.
Oh yes, control, she had nearly forgotten. The heat must have been getting to her. She placed a sweaty hand against the back of her neck, peeling the damp strands from her skin, and pooled some chakra in her palm. She sighed with momentary relief as her hand cooled and chilled the blood to pass under it. She gave herself a blissful minute of relief, only to give herself once again to the mercy of the sun. If she could scatter the cooling well enough, she could keep her blood from getting too hot, from making her overheat, perhaps stave off heatstroke for as long as possible.
But with no food or water, no shade to protect her from the elements, she was sure her reserves would drain quickly. She had already felt fatigued on the battlefield. She needed timing and patience, something that was becoming more and more of a struggle as her mind turned away from logic and training, and toward the panic of being stranded and alone.
Sakura shook the thoughts from her head. It wasn't helping anyone, especially not her, and resolved to go through with her plan. Sakura was not entirely familiar with the mechanics of a sand dune but she was sure that pressure shocks were not carried as far through the shifting ground. And again, she did not know the extent of the abilities of Suna's ninja. Were some like herself? Were there others so naturally predisposed for sensing another's chakra, trained to pick out the slightest wavering of the magnetic energy that consumed living things? She could only hope so.
What was it that she had always heard before…fortune favors the bold?
She squared her feet, closed her eyes, and took a deep, steadying breath through her nose before slowly exhaling. A few more times and she was settled, her heart rate slowed, her blood pressure dropped, and she focused herself. She knelt to the sand, pushing her fingers into the loose grains and pressing down until she sunk to her wrists. Another steady breath, the feeling of a warm static building in her fingertips, and her hands pulsed.
She could practically see the shock wave ripple out from around her as it sent the tiny grains of sand shivering in its wake. Little rivulets cascaded down the sides of the dune, the only clue that she had done anything at all, and, as the dune settled itself from the pulse of energy, Sakura continued on. She started west again, trying her best to deal with the glaring heat as long as she could before cooling herself down again, before sending more desperate pulses into the empty country. Before losing hope.
Her mind flashed with red again as she walked from the spot of her first pulse, a clear beacon to a foreign presence. It was a very familiar shade of red too, one impossible to forget after last season's exams. Gaara Sabaku had been on her mind a lot ever since then. She hadn't originally paid him much attention, there had been so much going on at the time to distract her, and hadn't really understood that strange heaviness that followed him around until she saw him fight. Then it made sense. It had all made sense.
He wasn't just good, he was damn good. His confidence was not bred of arrogance and vanity but from hard work and spilled blood. His abilities did not belong to him but to the very beast that tried to drive him mad, and yet he wielded them like they were his own. With his mind cast astray by the teachings of his youth, he had wandered the plains of his life alone and assaulted by the scorn of those who had created him. To be forever misguided and misunderstood, both by those around him and by his own self. Naruto had held great hope that this stranger, this foreigner who shared his demonic fate, would only change for the better. Sakura could now merely hope that he was right.
Then again, Naturo had hope for a lot of ridiculous things.
She was in Gaara's element now, in his country and his territory, and at the mercy of his people. Even though it still frightened her to remember how he had nearly pressed the very life right out of her, she knew that if she could count on anyone being able to find her in this vast emptiness, Gaara was going to be her best bet. Her heart rate rose, a little panicked at the thought of a lone run in with him out here, and she tried to settle herself. The last thing she needed was unnecessary sweating to further dehydrate her.
With thoughts constantly drifting from her hopeful rescue to her team back in the forest, she didn't notice that, as she walked across the shuffling peaks of the dunes, her course took a slightly northern turn. The sun baked her skin, kissing it pink and red until it burned, it sucked the moisture from her pores and left her dry and desperate for the cool caress of water against her skin. The sand scratched her feet and stuck to her scalp, unrelenting in its torture as if punishing her for how unprepared she had been for her surprise rendezvous.
Sakura sighed, resigning herself to whatever lay in wait for her in these ever shifting sands and entrusting herself to the clemency of the ordinarily unforgiving desert.