Author's Note: This chapter is reminiscent of the beginning of this story. I hope it's a nice change.

Disclaimer: All characters are owned by Masashi Kishimoto


Chapter 9: Bitter Surrender

"Stand up. Stop groveling on the floor."

"Screw you."

The sound of cracking bones soon followed as Asuma finished dealing his prisoner a heavy blow to the ribs. A shower of blood splattered on the floor as the victim slumped forward with haggard breathing.

"You know what?" Asuma bent down on his knees to look square in the young man's piercing eyes. "I don't want to do this and you don't want to do this so why not just confess? It'd be a hell of a lot easier on the both of us, Gaara. What do you say?"

A ferocious, bloodshot green eye glared up in response.

Asuma shrugged indifferently as he wiped the specks of blood that tainted his brass knuckles. "Whatever you want, kid. Kakashi will be in to see you soon." With that the ANBU officer left the cell of Target 50.

Gaara lay seemingly immobilized on the floor as the single light hanging over him flickered in the dimly lit cell. The smell of blood permeated the cramped space– with no window to allow air to circulate, one would feel the suffocation of an imminent fate. However, it was just precious air to a prisoner who had the acquired smell of blood imprinted in his mind everyday for the last three years.

Gasping for air, Gaara struggled to remain conscious for his promised rendezvous with Kakashi. If he surrendered to the sweet bliss of darkness, Kakashi would take that as a sign of weakness and believe that his interrogation was finally getting somewhere after three long, unproductive years.

Sure enough, Gaara could soon hear footsteps descending the steps that led to his door. In seconds, the handle of the doorknob turned and in came the leader of Paradise. Hatake Kakashi stared down amiably at the bleeding young man sprawled out on the floor in front of him with the usual crinkle of the only visible eye. Sidestepping the poor victim, Kakashi headed toward a wooden bench on the far side of the cell and sat down comfortably–after all this was a routine chore.

"How are you today, Gaara?"

Sucking in a sharp intake of breath from the his aching side, Gaara managed to prop up an elbow and slide himself up against the wall adjacent from the silver haired man. He was determined not to look weak and defeated in front of Kakashi. Not now, not ever.

"I've always wondered why you would speak so politely to people then turn around and kick them like dogs."

Although a black mask hid most of Kakashi's face, Gaara could make out a wry smile underneath. Kakashi chuckled softly and nodded in agreement to the previous insult.

"True, I do lack in hospitality despite my manners," He stood up and in three strides had reached the other side of the cell. "But today, I want to follow all the way through."

"What do you mean?" Gaara spat defiantly as Kakashi stooped to his eye level.

"It's been quite awhile since you've been out of here, Gaara. How about we take a walk?" Kakashi paused as Gaara narrowed his eyes in suspicion. "A walk outside. In the sunshine."


As the steel doors opened, a pain shot through his eyes and immediately, Gaara raised trembling hand to shield them from the penetrating glare of the once familiar sun.

"Yes, it's been quite some time…four, five months perhaps?" Kakashi mused as he walked over to the shade several trees in the center of the courtyard. Gaara clumsily fumbled his way over to the darker area as well.

"Why did you bring me out here?"

"You don't enjoy some quality time?"

"No." Adjusting his eyes to the blinding light, Gaara could make out the cemented courtyard, the healthy trees in their prime at the beginning of summer and all of the guarded doors that meant no possible option for an escape. He turned his eyes to Kakashi who merely shrugged off his surly attitude.

"I guess no matter how long I keep you locked up, it'll never dull your senses," Kakashi folded his arms in a matter-of-fact fashion and cleared his throat. "The reason I've brought you out here is for a celebration."

"Get on with it you bastard."

Kakashi laughed clearly enjoying the taunting. "Maybe it's your subconscious reacting to this ominous feeling that always comes with my tidings because you clearly don't have a grasp on what exactly I'm aiming at. Or it is possible that you could just hate me."

"That's a fact all right."

"Well, I guess since you hate me, you'll just love getting the bad news."

Gaara could feel his throat constrict with a terrible foreboding that sent a cold shiver down his spine. The last time he felt this was right before he'd learn of his elder brother's death…

"I've found the last piece of the puzzle."

Kakashi turned to see Gaara's arrogant countenance shatter into horror and shock and melt instantly to utter disbelief.

"Damn liar."

"I assure you I'm not. My team has found the last 'Target' as we say around here and it is only a matter of time until we get the information from her as well."

Gaara quickly thought of the possible options that raced in his mind.

Could this be another clever trick by Kakashi to get me riled up and extract my own information? Or maybe he has heard of something but is merely bluffing? It's been several years so why now? Why did Kakashi choose this time to break the news? Where did he get the information? But whatever reason he's got one thing is for certain, Kakashi does possess some knowledge since he knows the last person is a girl…

"I see you are beginning to have second thoughts?" Gaara snapped his attention back to Kakashi and found him smiling, apparently satisfied with the reaction he saw.

Damn.

"This is no jest, Gaara. I'm sure you know of whom I'm talking about," Kakashi began pacing back and forth in a slow methodical walk that kept Gaara's attention hanging on his every word. "She's young, around your age, I believe…a student in college, quite bright according to our intelligence report. She just moved here…convenient that she was all alone when we first caught her."

"You son of a…"

"Shh," Kakashi held a finger to his covered lips mockingly. "I'm just getting to the good part. Let's see, ah yes…she's rather skinny, has fair skin, the most innocent green eyes…" He suddenly looked at Gaara sympathetically. "Something that you use to have I'm sure."

Gaara trembled with rage as Kakashi listed the details that were slowly but surely forming a picture in his mind. Piece by piece, the image of the person that he had hoped all these years would remain hidden for all eternity played back and forth in his mind like a tangled movie reel. There was no mistaking it now. Kakashi knew who it was and there was no point in feigning an act as if he doesn't know.

The adrenaline pumping through his body unleashed a fury that overcame his recent injury in the ribs. Pushing himself off his feet, Gaara lunged at the silver haired man with a fist aimed for his jaw. But the seasoned fighter simply dodged the assault smoothly and stepped to the right causing Gaara's momentum to send him off his balance and crashing to the ground.

"Can't have any of that," With a single swift move he planted his right heel on Gaara's back pinning him down. Then he started grinding his heel adding pressure to the boy's cracked ribs against the ground. "I hope you realize that you're much worse than me when it comes to manners. Now, let me finish."

Gaara could only grit his teeth in pain as he felt the excruciating pain throb on his side simultaneously with his heartbeat. Each grind made his eyes water but he absolutely refused to let them fall.

"See, Gaara? Even after all of these years I have got the last target. All of your efforts were wasted. Every single torturing day you've endured through the last three years was for naught. Soon I will have the key to ensure this league's future." The pressure increased as Kakashi rested one arm on his knee and bent down lower to witness the boy's face.

"You sadistic bastar–" Another grinding of the heel made his sentence end with a gasp for air.

"You'll find out just how sadistic that is once Haruno Sakura gets here."

"No…"

"Yes, I'm afraid," Kakashi finally relented and lifted his foot off of Gaara's back. He dusted himself off out of habit and donned his calm demeanor once more. "I apologize about that Gaara, it's just I've bottled up a good amount of stress with you these past years and I just couldn't keep it in anymore."

He began to make his way back into the building and passed by the shivering Gaara curled up in a ball. "Oh by the way, it was your late sister who gave me the information I needed."

Kakashi suddenly caught a gleam from the ground and lifted his left foot in time to narrowly miss the dagger that had aimed for his Achilles tendon. In one motion, Kakashi brought his foot down and crushed Gaara's hand beneath his sole. The boy cried out in agony as several distinct cracking sounds came from his broken fingers. Kakashi kicked the crippled hand away and bent down to pick up the dagger. He examined the engraved symbol on the handle and smiled fondly.

"Beautiful. It brings back such good memories," Kakashi reached for his communicator. "Don't send for the medics yet, Target 50 needs some time to be by himself for now." Without another word, he pocketed the dagger, left and shut the door behind him with a resounding thud.

The heavy sound of steel against steel reverberated in Gaara's ear as he lay there cradling his crippled hand. Despite the broken bones in his ribs and hand, all he could feel was the numbness seeping from the wounds throughout his entire body. Everything was gone. His brother, his sister and the one chance of their secret dying with him was lost. They had found her and he had failed in his mission.

After what seemed like hours, the medics arrived to treat Gaara of his injuries. They fussed over his heart rate, loss of blood, fatigue, irregular breathing, broken bones and the list only grew. But he let them do their duty; let them fuss, let them take care of his weak self, let them do something they hadn't been able to do since he'd been captured and forced into solitude at this hellhole. For the first time in three years, Gaara finally surrendered to the darkness that rapidly enveloped him from the outside world.