Lets try this again, shall we?


M for a definite reason. Sexual abuse, angst, violence—there isn't much left to the imagination. All right to anything concerning Naruto—disclaimed.

Version Three


Chapter One

Don't Touch me

Kioji

Homecoming


"Curling orange shooting through red,

hazed crimson bleeding with dread—

Mother earth screams for mercy

though torn ragged with terror,

bides time, frozen behind eyes

turned inward for hidden strength,

finding none, lays down for length.

Silence—,"

"What the hell are you reading?"

Holding back indignation, Sakura looked up at the assailant, miffed even though it was Sasuke. She huffed, returning the ribbon to the crease to hold her place and squared her shoulders.

"It's called poetry. I thought everyone would enjoy a little out loud reading."

"It's kind of depressing," piped in a voice from behind, laced with revulsion. Trust Naruto to dis one of the most hauntingly beautiful works of literature. She sighed.

A polite cough sounded at her elbow. Kakashi walked along side, his lone eye watching her with patient curiosity.

"I didn't know you enjoyed poetry, Sakura."

Perking up, she nodded and brandished her worn companion. Someone appreciated good reading!

"Maybe you've heard of it—? It's—"

He patted her patronizingly on the head, whisking his own book back in front of his face.

"Perhaps you should read silently. You never know when an enemy could…drop by, or something," he vaguely stated, slowing his pace to walk behind Sakura—no doubt to dodge the killer glare she sent him.

Exasperated, she shoved her beloved Summer Sunset and Other Poems back into her bag and let out a rumbled growl.

"Fine! Just walk in stuffy silence, see if I care!"

Sakura crossed her arms like a petulant child and sulked, bored with the unchanging scenery and perturbed about being shushed like a yappy dog. If Naruto could vent about his bottomless stomach and his feet and his back and his sunburn—then didn't she have the right to read some simple verse to appease her burning desire to dissipate the tedium?

"You shouldn't scowl so much. You'll get wrinkles."

Apparently not.


Sakura stretched her arms towards the sky in glee, ready to shed her pack and treat herself a long, long bubble bath, complete with candles and music. The gates of the village loomed close, close enough to break into a jagged sprint, if she really wanted to. Twisting around to send Sasuke an unappreciated smile, Sakura released her outstretched arms and almost allowed herself a hysteric giggle. The silent march home was almost the death of her. Though, she had to admit, the sunset on the last leg home was breathtaking. Almost made up for having to walk the rest of the way in the dark—almost.

Waving vaguely at the shinobi stationed at the gates to catch their attention—there was no knowing if they might be mistaken for intruders in the darkness, trained gatekeepers or not—Kakashi dog-eared the page and tucked his book safely away, breathing a lofty sigh himself. Sakura beamed in relief as they collectively came to a lolling stop just inside the village, already feeling the warm tap water through her fingertips and imagining the sweet sight of bubbles doubling over themselves in a race to flood the bathroom floor. For once, she had no urge to ask Sasuke to walk her home. Not when she could run home like a ninny and be out of her sand-ingrained dress just that much faster.

"Feels good to be back, no?" Kakashi dimly noted, observing the relieved silence fallen over the three. He sighed.

"Since you're all so eager to get back to business, meet me here tomorrow, nine AM sharp. We'll have… doughnuts."

He received three groans in response.

Kakashi chuckled behind his mask, nonplused by the journey and notion of returning to mindless D-class missions.

If Sakura had the energy, she'd be envious. As it was, she cracked her knuckles and announced her departure, making sure to lavish a certain teammate with a goofy grin before spinning away. Sakura didn't know whether to be glad or disappointed no one called after her, so distracting was the layer of grime she knew coated her scalp. Roadside bathing was rather lacking.

Besides, she'd have all day tomorrow to coax Sasuke into a lunch date.


Moonlight streamed down around her, the rays almost palpable. Sakura gazed around entranced, wondering when the moon had time to climb so high in the sky without her notice. The air had a stillness about it that seemed to hold time in place, not a leaf stirring in the shimmering silver light.

Sighing, she took in a lungful of air, savoring the smell and taste of home. It held a little moisture, not so much to be muggy, but enough to make her feel refreshed and relaxed. Though The Land of Waves had plenty of humidity, it was foreign, unfriendly. It felt glorious to be back.

Sakura reached the end of the road before she even knew it. Giving the serene village one last gaze over her shoulder, she grinned and jogged the last stretch up the cobblestones lining the fence, flinching at every jarring bump of her loaded backpack (never—never—again was she going to let her mother pack her bag).

The lights seemed to be on, signaling a conscious individual inside. Perhaps the door was unlocked—

Sakura took the doorknob in her hand and twisted it joyfully. She pushed her way through with her shoulder and dashed into the kitchen, slipping out underneath her pack and dropping it in the doorway without even hesitating to close the door.

"I'm ho—"

"Sakura!"

Engulfed by a flying blur of red, Sakura blinked and did her best not to topple over. Recognition set in.

"Oh, mom—I missed y—!"

"You were only suppose to be gone a week! Why didn't you—!"

"I did! I sent—oh. I didn't."

Sakura bit her lip, looking down as her mother released her to grab her by the shoulders and admonish her with a lethal glare.

"If. You. Ever—for the love of all that's holy—forget to contact me when you will be gone longer than you told me—I swear to the ever-loving—"

"I know, I know…,"

"—I will skin you alive and spread your innards across the yard—"

"I'm sorry, mom! A lot—a lot happened…I,"

"—won't fix you dinner for a week—and forget doing your laundry—"

"—and I—please don't yell at me!"

Setsu paused, halting her diatribe long enough to spot the tears welling in Sakura's eyes. Sighing, she released her white-knuckle hold on the girl's frame and held her tightly, afraid she'd fall apart at the seems if she didn't. She was rewarded with a few strangled sobs into her shoulder, followed by a flush of hot tears seeping into her collar.

"Oh, baby…,"

She pulled her daughter into the kitchen, propelling the suddenly stricken girl onto a stool by the counter, never breaking contact as she brushed through Sakura's hair with her fingers, crooning comforting words. Setsu stood silently, surrounding Sakura with as much love and strength as she could muster while she waited for the storm to pass.


Pulling a brush through her thoroughly washed, conditioned, detangled, and moussed hair, Sakura sighed and wondered how she ever lived without her fully stocked bathroom. It was just a comforting thought to have anything and everything in an arm's reach, from Midol to fingernail clippers.

She hummed while rotating her head side-to-side, pausing to frown at the coin-sized bruise forming over her right cheek bone, compliments of an off-track kunai and her negligence. First day back at training and she already felt the need for a vacation. It would take a lot of cover-up to fix, she figured—if only her mom allowed her to use it. She rolled her eyes and squished her eyebrows into a frown in the mirror, mimicking her mother.

"You're still too young to worry about make-up," she muttered, fixating her gaze back on her blemished face. Old enough to throw knives at people but too young for eyeliner—where was the logic in that?

A loud rapping on the door distracted her from her thoughts, followed shortly by her mother's irritated voice.

"When are you going to be done in there? I thought you said you were going to pick up groceries for me?"


Sakura strolled down each isle, her normally active mind quiet as she mulled down the messy list her mom snuck into her fist as she walked out the door. Frustration set in as she realized she passed the rice for the third time without picking any up. Doubling back around, she came to an abrupt stop soon as she pivoted on her heel, her forehead hitting square in the middle of the obstructing man's chest. Her immediate response was muffled by his coarse shirt.

"You should watch where you're going. You never know who you're going to… run into."

Sakura rolled her eyes, relaxing when she realized it was just Kakashi. Backing up, she mumbled an apology and snide comment about lack of originality and continued on, really quite ready to get home and watch her show. It was a nice surprise to come home to a box full of video tapes and realize her mom recorded the entire last part of the season for her. It would be a shame if she missed precious time watching them—for another lecture of all things. He had rode them all pretty hard that day.

Reaching for the rice on sale, she accidentally loosened her grip on the basket, losing her hold and dropping her ware on the ground. She nearly swore as she watched the oranges roll down the isle.

Grumbling, she tried her best to ignore the low chuckle sounding from behind her, reciting the last of the list in her mind like a mantra.

She finished her shopping within fifteen minutes, deciding half an hour was long enough to mull around the dessert isle. It just felt heavenly to be in a store selling more than withered vegetables and smothered canned beef. Sakura didn't know how prosperous her village was until she finally traveled elsewhere.

Blinking, she moved ahead in the check-out line, catching herself before she could slip back into her wayward daydreaming. The line moved quickly, giving her little time to focus on the tabloids cluttered above the shelves of candy. She almost felt bewildered, being back in a place where people could just go and get whatever they needed. Even just what they wanted.

Sakura gingerly touched the glossy cover of the closest magazine, wondering how much it would cost were it in the little grocer back in The Land of Waves. Well, maybe not that much anymore, since the village would see a huge increase in profit from the completion of the bridge—

"Are you going to stare at me forever or what?"

Sakura started, realizing she was the last one in line. Her gaze had settled to the dainty nose of the cashier.

"Oh. Sorry, here," she mumbled, handing over the money. The girl clicked her tongue and handed half of it back, obviously thinking Sakura a moron for giving her too much. Sakura went back to staring at the magazine, noticing the feature article was about a familiar celebrity. Without thinking she picked it up and whisked it in front of the clerk, nonplused by the seething glare the girl sent her.


Sakura never noticed crickets before.

On the way home, she was startled by a patch sounding up in unison along the path, the pitchless drone roaring out from complete silence. Kneeling down to investigate, she discovered a wild bramble berry bush coated with ripe fruit. While eating her find, she found 2000 ryō by the trunk of the tree she leaned against, wadded up and bound with a rubber band. She walked away with a positive impression of the insects, figuring they were as lucky as legend suggests.

As she strolled up to her door, she paused and looked out at the sunset, happy to witness such a sight from her own doorstep for once. Smiling, she entered her home and called out for her mother, making her way to the kitchen with her arms loaded with food. Without looking, she dropped the thick paper bags on the counter and let out a relieved sigh. It was then Sakura noticed the tense silence.

She slowly turned, her pulse starting to accelerate as her senses picked up.

Her heart stopped.

Her mother was leaning over the table, a frightful expression on her face with her mouth open in mid-sentence, hand curled around a kitchen knife. She gaped at Sakura with transmittable terror, her normally restrained red locks streaming down her back and neck like crying fire. Sakura flicked her gaze to the other being standing casually across from her mother, his shaggy burnt crimson hair falling across his dark eyes. Strung haphazardly across his shoulders was a ratty jacket, patched and torn with obvious use, clashing rudely with his polished, official-appearing black boots and tailored pants. It wasn't the rusted katana strapped to thigh or his hand resting threateningly on the hilt that alarmed her—it was the dangerous way he held himself, the disturbing presence he brought to the normally serene kitchen. He appeared half-crazed, starved for something for far too long and about it snatch it up in his teeth.

Sakura didn't recognize him at first, a frozen thirty seconds passing before a thunderbolt hit her senses.

Her father.

Her father was home. And something was terribly wrong with him.

She eyed her mother again, noting her knuckles curled tightly around the handle of a potentially dangerous weapon. Ninja training told her something was definitely amiss, conflicting with her disbelief and familiarity. Even if he did leave—abandon—them not a year ago, he was still family. He couldn't be a danger…but that look in his eye, that obscene light…

"Sakura."

She jolted, not sure she saw his lips move when he barked out her name. He sounded nothing like the voice she remembered in her mind.

"D-dad…," she stuttered, trying to take a cue from her mom.

Before Sakura could mount another response, he closed the distance between them with an eerie stride, never moving his focused glare from her face. She swallowed and groped for her mom's reaction, unsure if she should relinquish control to her body and run or continue to stand there. Sakura felt like she balanced barefooted on steel wires—on wrong move and the situation would plummet into disaster. He was so wolf-like.

His lips seemed to move quicker than his words. She missed the first part.

"—or I'll—"

"That's enough."

Sakura's mother slammed the knife into the table to illustrate her severity, her chest heaving with emotion. She addressed Sakura without moving her eyes from the back of the man's head.

"Go to Ino's—"

"Setsu. I have a right to—"

"You leave my daughter out of this. This is between you and me!"

Sakura instinctively cupped her hands over her ears, her face collapsing in despair. Even the battlefield had less violence than raised voices in home, she thought vaguely. She peered at her mother with a wavering lip. Setsu's face passed through a shade of crimson before she expelled another command at her daughter.

"I said GO!"

She knew an order when she heard one.

Sakura dipped her head and ran for the door, waiting until she got outside to let out her breath.


:p