Title: Shadows of Grey

Author: Eeevee

Genre: action/angst

Rating: M for explicit violence, mature language, sexual mentions…

Forewarning: READ THIS PEOPLE. This will be a DARK fic. Will most likely include the following: yaoi, character death, graphic violence, torture, and possibly lime and/or lemon (doubtful, but you never know).

Disclaimer: Again, if I owned Naruto I would happily trade Haku for Sasuke. Oh, and do more with Lee and Hinata because I feel they get the short end of the stick most of the time. Alas, the underdogs shall remain kicked and Sasuke will stay alive. No, I don't own Naruto nor am I making a profit from this (unless you count sadistic enjoyment at stretching the dark part of my muses, which have badly needed exercise since I finished Bitter Sweet Retribution).

Prologue

I wasn't afraid of the shadows. No matter how the lengthened or waned, they were just that: shadows. It wasn't the shadows that could hurt you. Not unless you were afraid of being in perpetual darkness, which I wasn't. Sometimes it felt like my life was just one black void.

For example, right now my life was just too troublesome.

Sandaled feet hit the rough bark with silent scraps and the air was slightly chilly around us. Dusk had passed on into a velvety night of dark lavender and navy blue with slate-colored, flat clouds. Flat clouds never were that good for watching, since they tended not to move much nor hold interesting shapes.

Sometimes I wondered if that was just like my personality: flat and dull.

Leaves whipped my face harshly leaving stinging marks on my skin and deepening my frown. This mission… it reminded me too much of my first mission as a team leader. The one where I almost lost those under my command.

I had vowed to become stronger, if only to protect those who placed trust in me.

But saying is not the same as doing. I still wasn't enthused about getting up before noon, nor about training my skills. I did it; I always did it. But I could never become passionate like Lee or dedicated like Neji; it simply wasn't me.

On a normal day, I would wonder why I was chosen and not one of those two. The lazy, unmotivated genin who had to be shoved in the ring by a super-nosey ninja. The boy who always slept through class and never cared what kind of trouble he got in for it. Someone whom you couldn't even bribe to do training, unlike Chouji who would do anything for an all-you-can-eat dinner out. On someone else's tab of course.

"Shikamaru…"

"Uh, I know." I grunted back, already having anticipated this sort of trap. As long as everyone did what he or she were supposed to, then there shouldn't be any trouble.

Fizzles filled the air, warning of explosive tags that had been wedged on the bark of unsuspecting trees. You could always tell when it was just about to explode because the hissing went really low as the force was building in the tags.

Bark, leave, and other objects rained down like a light mist clinging to my hair and jacket. It got under my fishnet making itchy spot, which I'm sure would be red later on. Gunpowder stung my nose and eyes, but I didn't have time to sigh because the branch I had landed on gave way. Rather than immediately catch myself, I let my body plummet down below the battle zone.

It meant that grabbing and stopping myself would probably make my hands raw and bloody, a reason why I shouldn't have been so lazy when I left this morning, but it would give me an opportunity to get a hold of my bearings as well as my absence breath.

Luck, for once, seemed to be with me. Rather than having to snag a branch as I fell past, I managed to hit one square on. The horrible cracking noise must have been my back, yet I didn't feel any pain. Actually, I didn't feel anything at all, which almost sent me into a panic. Almost.

Once my ears stopped ringing shrilly and I had the use of my arms, I slowly, cautiously probed behind me. I could feel where my jacket had torn straight through leaving useless straps of canvas hanging down and where my fishnet had ripped like ribbons, exposing flesh and muscle to the mercies of the branch. Not that the branch had been particularly merciful with my tender body. My fingers brushed across the mutilated and broken expanse of skin feeling slick, warm blood and soft, crushed epidermis. Worst of all, there seemed to be a bone sticking out. I had never been especially interested in medical knowledge, although I did acknowledge that having a med. Nin on the team would be a priceless asset. However, old traditions were hard to change or revoke, even if the main backer was the Hokage herself. Now I was desperately wishing I knew exactly how many vertebrae were supposed to be in a neat line down my spine and why this one was so wayward.

Maybe that was why I was numb from the waist down.

"Troublesome." I hissed to myself, hoping that at least my team had continued on through the traps without problems. They could always come and pick me up later, after they completed their mission.

Dragging myself with only my upper body proved difficult, and it made me wish I had done those many push-ups Lee had tried to goad me into. Aside from the basics and my shadows, I had no real skill to rely on.

In order for intelligence to be of use, you would have to have a means to carry out your plans. A broken body made it extremely impossible to do anything that involved moving quickly or agility.

There was a horrible scream followed by another. Startled, I stared up only to have burning liquid hit my face, running into my eyes and mouth. It was harsh and coppery. Any ninja easily knew what blood was, and I knew I was drenched in the liquid the moment it touched my skin, staining. There was so much that it really was a crimson rain that coated me, the tree, and various plants below in vivid colors of life. As gruesome as the rain was, I much preferred it to the hail of flesh, muscle, bone, and fabric. Bits of shockingly white bone and glistening muscle bounced and shot down past me while the forest green and navy blue cotton fabric floated on some non-existent wind, unheeding of the former masters' brains that were splattered over it.

Stunned, I didn't make a sound as a trio of shinobi ghosted over me. They hadn't even bothered to look down at the mess they had made, instead, they gloated to each other at the meaningless slaughter they accomplished.

"Did you see that one kid's face? It was fucking hilarious. Bam! Not a clue what hit him at all." The shortest one snickered. "They had no idea what they were dealing with, did they? Who let's their ninjas go into a mission so half-assed? Those Leaf people, they make you wonder what kind of crack they're smoking."

"It seemed, however, that we have won an empty victory. After all, it was achieved over under trained, ambushed children. Aside from that, even adults would have had difficulty extracting themselves from such a flawless and tasteless trap." The only woman of the three spoke up in a dark, sensible voice. "So I hardly think you have room to crow at your prowess."

"It was tasteless but our job wasn't to delay them. We were ordered to annihilate any pursuit by any means deemed necessary. We did that. If it doesn't suit your finicky, honor-bound morals then get on another team. I have yet to fail, nor do I ever intend to."

"Fucking teacher's pet." The first man sneered coarsely, undisguised hatred oozing out of his voice, "Just because you are a favorite and Orochimaru's new body, that doesn't mean you can be such an asshole to us. Weren't those your fucking allies anyway? Yet you blew them to fucking Kingdom Come without a second thought."

The following crack made both myself and the female flinch, and the male ninja rubbed his jaw in disbelief. I hadn't even seen the leader's hand flash to deal out the precise and painful blow to his subordinate.

"I am no one's ally. You'd do well to remember that, idiot."

Something about the voice tickled in my mind. That was Sasuke… Sasuke who had almost gotten us killed before. Sasuke who had turned traitor to the hold village, led by his lust for power and revenge.

I had heard what transpired between him and Naruto, although eavesdropping was not a habit I normally engaged in. In fact, I had just managed to drag myself up to the Hokage's office to return an overdue report on that very mission when I heard Naruto speaking in a low, angry tone. Anger wasn't a foreign emotion to him, but I sincerely doubt he felt rage like he was showing at that time. Even through the door I could hear it plain as day.

"Count them." Sasuke ordered. I could tell that he had matured over the last three years, just as the rest of us had. Black was still his color of choice, which, to be honest, was a relief. Imagining him with a large, lavender belt was slightly mind-damaging. His hair no longer stuck up. Instead, it had lengthened into shaggy locks that fell down around his ears and the knap of his covered neck.

The other two sprung away without complaint, the former lesson still fresh in their minds. As well as the man's jaw in all probability.

It didn't take a genius to know I was screwed.

All it would take was one of them to realize that they were missing a headband…

Sasuke himself paced above me. I drew the shadows from the night around me like a frightened, injured rabbit. Slowly, my fingers unhooked my headband. Despite the significance it held, I would rather lose it than my life. Metal and pride could be replaced with time: body and soul could not.

Letting the smooth cloth slide in my fingers, I got ready to throw it away from me. It was a pathetic ploy with little chance of success, but… but did I mention I was screwed.

Before I even got the chance I felt the branch sway and wiggle beneath me. Since my legs weren't working I had to let go of the headband in favor of using my hands to steady myself. The metal glinted and slid a few feet, resting innocently, caked with blood and gunpowder from the initial rain.

Sasuke prowled down to inspect it. I say prowled because that's what he did. He reminded me of a large, deadly panther intent on a deer, it's prey. Needless to say, it ended rather messily for the deer in question, which did not reassure me in the slightest.

"I found one!" The loud man called, hopping from branch to branch carelessly. He paused and leaned down, peering at Sasuke, "You find another one? Many, those poor bastards really learned to fly, didn't they? Heh."

"Two here. Did they only send four children?" The woman reappeared, glancing down at the metal in her hand dispassionately. Her dark, almost black eyes showed no pity or remorse. Instead, they were dead and lifeless. "How disgraceful."

I watched silently. Air was trapped in my lungs, but I daren't let it out. Not while I was surrounded and vulnerable. Passing out from a lack of oxygen would be far more merciful than being shredded with whatever ambush my team had trigger or facing the dubious compassion of my former classmate.

"We have completed our mission. I will clean up here; you two go ahead." Sasuke ordered in a deep, harsh voice. He flicked my headpiece at the woman and she deftly caught it and tucked it away as proof of their accomplishment.

Like shadows themselves, the two melted away.

"So you survived."

I had to give a half-smirk in response. Trust that bastard to know I was there.

"It would have been easier if you had died like your friends Chouji and Ino." Sasuke said deadpan. His black eyes stared at me without any excess emotion and I remembered why I never liked him. He had always been too full of himself, lacking compassion for others. "Now I will have to finish the job. At least stand and fight for your life rather than hiding in your beloved shadows."

"Heh." I snorted mirthlessly, my mind racing to figure out how I could turn the tables. The problem with night was a distinct lack of light. Those very same flat clouds from before blocked the moon leaving a gray morbidity over the area. Gray shadows. How troublesome. "I wish I could but this is so troublesome."

He glance me over, "You can't."

"Why don't you just finish me now and go back to your master, whipping boy." I managed a full smirk this time. A smirk with plenty of spite and maliciousness packed into my thin, curled lips. I had never favored the thought of a slow, torturous death, although in the back of my mind I accepted the risk that someday that might be my fate. "Otherwise leave me to watch the clouds. I'm sure some wild animal will find me a tasty snack eventually. Have you seen any panthers around here? I hear there's a man-eater in this forest."

He took a step forward and I studiously ignored him. Instead I studied the flat, gray clouds, wishing that maybe, for once, my personality had been white and fluffy. Then maybe more than just my parents would attend my funeral.

The sudden movement made me flinch as Sasuke bent down and flipped my slender body over. He inspected my back with the same listless expression, peeling back the shreds of clothing and skin with equal apathy.

"Your spine is broken."

Thank you for confirming the fact that my life was now useless. Kill me now.

I knew his hands were on me, yet I couldn't actually feel him. His firm, toned body was pressed against my upper back and shoulders for better balance. All I had to do was shift and throw him off balance. But suddenly fighting back just seemed so… troublesome.

His rough hands hit my side and shoved me up towards him. Suddenly I was in a very embarrassing position with my ass in the air for the world to view and his ass in my face for me to admire. The tight pants really wanted to make me advert my eyes.

"What…"

"I'm sorry."

"For what?" I asked, wondering why exactly I was getting a scenic tour on my way to the torture chambers. I couldn't think of any other reason I would be carted off, alive. The suicide capsule that I always kept, just in case, pressed against the back of my left ear. All I needed was a chance to rectify my mistake; the mistake of allowing myself to be captured by the enemy.

"For murdering your comrades." He murmured, easily carrying my weight despite his lean, short form. While his body had matured, it sure hadn't gotten much taller. "And for what I plan to do with you in the future."

A/N: Another challenge fic. M now, may become NC-17 and moved to a different site at a later date. Written to Audio Slave, The Rasmus, and Drowning Pool, my brother's "gaming" (aka killing things) music.