Inner Tourniquet

Disclaimer: The usual…

Chapter Three

Kakashi's POV:

I walked on ahead of Sakura, keeping my eyes focused on the shadowy layers of the walls that surrounded us. I didn't want anything taking us by surprise again, and walked in front to make sure the ground was steady. Nothing had happened for what it seemed like hours but my apprehension had not dulled in the slightest.

'Not after that meeting with Obito…' I gritted my teeth, forcing that particular subject away from my present thoughts. I would always think of my old teammates whenever I visited the memorial stone, which I did everyday. I would stare at their engraved names, thinking of all the possible scenarios that would have ended differently.

"You take everything." What did he mean by that? More importantly, why did I hear those words when Sakura and I…

Forget it. It would be best to not dwell on any thoughts until we leave here. Whatever happened, just ignore it. They aren't real, anyway. I stopped walking, noticing that I didn't hear Sakura's rhythmic footsteps behind me.

"Kakashi…"

I turned around, staring at Sakura who had her head bowed down so her pink hair covered her eyes. I took a step closer to her, wondering what happened. 'Did she see something?' I thought, glancing around quickly to find nothing.

"What's wrong?" I asked as she walked up to me.

"I can't find the way out. I'm a horrible guide… there's nothing. I can't sense anything that would lead us to the exit. We'll die in here…" she said softly, her voice filled with tears.

She buried her head in my chest, reaching up to grasp my black shirt with her fingers tightly. Tensing at this, I placed a hand on her shoulder feeling the familiar yet strange tingling warmth effects begin again. I stared down at her pink head, feeling her shake slightly.

"Sakura, if you can't find anything then you will complete your jutsu and get out of here. There's no sense in risking both of our lives for this, it's not worth it." I responded tonelessly.

She didn't reply, but her shaking increased.

"Sakura… don't worry." I said intently.

Sakura stiffened, finally looking up at me with teary green eyes. She reached up with her small hand and brushed her fingertips right alongside the edge of my mask, under my right eye where my skin was not covered. Frowning, I grabbed her hand and pulled it away instantly.

'What is she thinking?' this isn't normal Sakura behavior.

"You always tell me not to worry." She said as more tears fell from her deep green eyes.

Thrown off guard, I was reminded of all the times I told her that. When she was worrying about Sasuke's curse seal, when she was anxious about Naruto returning from the Rescue mission… I didn't like seeing her cry. She seemed fragile, like she could be broken into so many pieces that she could never be whole.

I always knew Sakura wore her emotions on her sleeve. For a ninja, it was a dangerous and foolhardy. Sakura, however, that was just the way she was, open and honest with her feelings. I wouldn't know how to react if she suddenly changed.

I could feel fingertips brush the back of my neck, sending jolts of warmth down my spine. I blinked at her in shock, but all she did she smile lightly and step closer. Immediately, I stepped away from her.

I stared at Sakura teary disposition and wondered what the hell was going through her mind. 'Why would she…'

"Kakashi!" I stilled, hearing Sakura's voice in back of me call out.

I turned around instantly, seeing Sakura run up to me with a cheery smile on her face. 'Sakura…?' I thought, suddenly realizing something was very wrong.

I turned back to see nothing was there. My eyes scanned everywhere, but there was no crying Sakura in sight. 'That was just another illusion, a mind trick?' But what could that one possibly mean…

"I thought I saw something back there and thought it was the way out. Sorry I didn't say anything; I just wanted to make sure." Sakura said with a reassuring smile, striding on ahead. "We should probably keep moving."

"Right," I said, knowing Sakura didn't see the fake image of her.

'This is my mind. Why would my mind portray Sakura in that way?' I clenched my fists at my sides as Obito's words echoed in my thoughts. Doubts lingered heavily, clouding my better judgment over the situation.

'What was I supposed to think?' I kept Sakura in my peripheral vision, making sure I never let her out of my eyesight again. This was a territory that I would never have even considered letting myself enter. 'But I know…'

This was something I couldn't ignore.


Sakura's POV:

'There's something wrong with Kakashi…' I thought worriedly, staring at my sliver haired ex-sensei. He hasn't said a word since we started walking again… 'Not that I blame him.' I thought, mentally disturbed by all the images I've seen so far. 'Imagine how Kakashi feels.'

But that's just it. I stared into the back of Kakashi's jounin vest as he walked on, seemingly without a care in the world. His hands were shoved into his pockets and his shoulders drooped in a lazy slouch. If we were in Konoha, I would have assumed he was just taking a casual stroll to the bookstore to claim the newest edition to his favorite book Icha Icha Paradise.

'How can he act so calm?' I thought, frowning. But then again, this is Hatake Kakashi… it would take a lot to throw this ninja off his cool demeanor. I wondered how much. I knew I didn't want to see another one of those haunting images again…

'Are these the things that are constantly on Kakashi's mind?' I would guess so, since they actually manifested themselves in his thoughts. He must think about them constantly, never forgetting them for an instant. Or never allowing himself to.

Suddenly I felt the heavy pressure weighing down on me more acutely. I shrugged my shoulders, putting more power into my stride as I lifted each foot in front of the other, against the gravity pushing downwards. It was as if I was forced to carry a monstrous load… a heavy burden, even.

It hit me like a kunai to the heart. 'Guilt...?' is that what Kakashi's holding over himself? I thought back to his father's words… and then to Uchiha Obito – Kakashi's teammate's – statement. Kakashi's frantic, hurried reaction after that particular image faded away.

I felt a pang in my chest as I sighed, knowing it would be useless to talk to the Copy Ninja about this. It would be as easy as talking to a solid brick wall, since I would get the same response. I was forced to notice that even though Kakashi was a sensei of mine, I did not know him that well.

In fact, no one did.

I stared into his back once again, noting as his eyes would occasionally drift backwards to me just to make sure I was keeping up. At times, especially this one, it was as if he were a ghost. Right now, it felt hollow around him, as if he wasn't really there. Like I could just reach out and touch him but my hand would pass right through…

Hatake Kakashi: Field Scarecrow.

'It's almost scary how his name fits his character.' I thought, noticing for the first time the similarities.

'Kakashi, whose first purpose is to protect the last few important people left. A scarecrow is just an empty sack of straw that keeps the field it guards safe from predators.' I looked down at the misty ground, knowing I didn't like comparing them anymore.

I stilled, feeling a thrumming sensation run right through me as I snapped into alertness instantly. 'What was that?' I thought, gasping as I felt the same steady thrum of chakra course through me again.

"What is it?" Kakashi asked, breaking his silence.

I blinked, focusing as I felt it once more. It was as if it was pulling me forward, egging me on to walk faster. 'But what could this mean…?'

"You'll know the exit when you feel it. Your chakra is leading your way through Kakashi's mind… just trust yourself, Sakura." My shishou's words echoed in my ears as I turned and grinned at Kakashi happily.

"I think I know where the exit is!" I exclaimed in relief.

"How?" Kakashi cut in, arching a brow in shock.

"I just know! I can feel my chakra; Tsunade-shishou said it would be like this. Follow me." I said confidently, so grateful to be finally getting out of this place.

I ran, needless of the gravity, as Kakashi followed beside me. I felt something brush my right shoulder as I looked down; blinking in a stupor to find a leaf had fallen on me. I picked it off as I turned to Kakashi to question this.

He frowned and looked up expectedly; I gazed upwards as well to marvel as now many leaves were falling down above us. 'Why is this happening?' I thought cautiously, already not trusting that this would be a good sign.

More and more leaves continued to rain down on us, some even getting in my hair as we both stopped walking. I outstretched my hand and watched in silence as one broken leaf fell into my palm. I stared at it, somehow transfixed, and clenched my fist tightly. I opened my hand slowly once more and started to see the leaf was gone, as if it had evaporated from sight.

"Sakura… we have to move on." Kakashi said urgently in a serious tone.

"Right," I replied with a firm nod.

'These falling leaves… where have I seen them before?' For some reason, I could have sworn I've seen this happen before. But where? And what did it have to do with Kakashi?

But our path was quickly destroyed by two raging storms of a bloody red and screaming black energies. They swirled from opposite sides of the walls, actually tearing out of the dripping blackness as the figures formed into familiar shapes.

I froze in shock as my eyes centered on the black figure… the shape, no person it formed into made my heart constrict as I forced my lungs to breathe. 'Sasuke-kun…' it had to be. All those cursed marks that littered the boy's pale skin could not hide that fact. I stared into crazed crimson eyes as a shudder of fear ran down my spine.

'If that's Sasuke-kun…' I tore my eyes away to the other figure at the opposite side, knowing who it had to be. 'Naruto…' I thought sadly, as the angry red chakra wrapped around the blonde Kyubbi container dangerously.

'I don't want to see this.' But I couldn't look away.

My two teammates, no, the fake images of my teammates fully separated from the wall as they eyed each other warily, as if not even knowing we were there watching them. Their two crimson gazes locked in a standstill as they both rapidly formed seals of their signature moves.

With an angry battle cry, they ran for each other at a blinding speed but to me it all happened in slow motion. Furious red energy of the Nine Tails swirled around Naruto, possessing him as it changed his features entirely. Black marks rippled and spread across Sasuke's skin, truly turning him into a hellish visage of a demon.

'…No. I have to stop it.' I thought instinctively, moving forward but Kakashi's steel grip on my arm prevented me. 'They'll kill each other… Sasuke-kun, Naruto…' I shook my head, already feeling the rapid sensation of tears behind my eyes.

'It's too real…' It's all too possible.

The Chidori and the Rasengan appeared powerfully in the two boys' hands, their eyes locked on their vastly approaching enemy. Solid conviction glinted in Naruto's eyes while a dull emptiness was all I could detect from Sasuke's. Time finally sped back up again, but by now it was too late.

My heart stopped in my chest as I saw Sasuke's Chidori plunge into Naruto's chest. His Rasengan dug into Sasuke's shoulder, like at the last minute he couldn't aim for a killing blow. The two best friends stood there, unmoving.

I dropped to my knees, staring at the two with a mixture of horror and fear. My body itched to move, to help Naruto as millions of medical Justus ran in my head. I tried to shake off Kakashi's grasp but it proved useless. All I could do was sit there and watch it happen… unable to do anything…

'Just like always.' A voice crept into my mind, accusing.

Naruto's eyes glazed over with sorrow, guilt, and filled with unshed tears. He sagged forward, leaning against Sasuke as the raven haired boy had yet to remove his arm. Blood seeped heavily from Naruto as he grew limp.

"…But I promised her…" Naruto whispered brokenly as I could feel my heart shatter like glass.

Sasuke's emotionless eyes widened a fracture and suddenly, without warning, pulled his arm free of Naruto. The blonde fell to the floor and I watched horrifically as he began to slowly melt into the dark mist. I could feel Kakashi's grip tighten measurably as Naruto dissipated completely.

I looked back up at Sasuke who stood there solely, his head bowed so his black spikes covered his eyes. His fists shook at his sides but he didn't make a single sound. I wanted to yell at him, ask him so many questions yet I knew I wouldn't make a difference.

'I wouldn't be able to make a difference.' I amended, free of delusions or hopeful wishing.

"Sasuke-kun!"

At my own voice I whipped my head to the side, staring wide eyed as I saw the very image of myself run towards Sasuke. Tears were falling down her pale cheeks, mirroring me at this moment. Her arms were outstretched, reminding me painfully of the day in the Chunnin forest, when Sasuke lost control of his curse seal the fist time. I remember wanting things to go back to the way it used to be so desperately, never giving up hope that things will never change.

But they did change. Everyone did.

It all happened in a flash as quite instantly, Sasuke's arm crackled with another black flamed Chidori. This didn't deter the Sakura as she continued running, seeming to have the need to reach him, through any way possible. Her green eyes glistened with tears and a heartfelt plea that made me want to look away.

Sasuke's fist found its way into her stomach as she choked, arms reaching out determinedly and hugging Sasuke tightly in an embrace around his middle. Her head buried into his chest as she refused to let go. Blood spilled from her mouth and lower back but she held on with unshakeable force.

Sasuke stood there, his hand not quite making it all the way through her. His shaking increased as he looked down at the pink haired dying girl in his arms. His eyes widened and tore with emotion, so many I couldn't describe. Sasuke, with his free hand, reached up as his trembling fingers brushed her face lightly, smearing blood across her pale cheek.

"Sakura…" it was like he finally recognized her, saw her. His obsidian eyes filled with a liquid pleading to make it go away.

I noted that Kakashi's grip on my arm grew painful in its intensity. I glanced up at him to see his face was set hard, his gaze locked on the bleeding Sakura. Then abruptly, Sasuke began to melt into the ground as well, leaving only Sakura there as she clutched her wound, all alone.

Her eyes suddenly locked onto Kakashi's. She staggered towards him, a blood stained hand leaving her injury to reach out for him shakily. Her green gaze softened as she stared at him, taking another slow step forwards.

"Kakashi-sensei…" she whispered as her eyes dulled and half-closed.

Suddenly Kakashi stood in front of me, as if not wanting me to see to image of myself. She took another step to her sensei as I could see his arm's reach out instinctively as she began to fall.

Pink hair wisped behind her as she fell into Kakashi's arms, disappearing the instant she was about to make contact with him. She vanished into falling, broken green leaves as they fell into Kakashi's hands. I stared up, shocked and saw Kakashi exhale slowly as his arms returned to his sides.

I didn't know what to say or what to do.

"Kakashi?" I said quietly as forcefully his gaze snapped back to mine, his stare penetrating and cold.

"It's nothing, Sakura." He answered in a tone that left for no argument.

But I was far from finished, "But Kakashi, that was... how could you think those things?!"

'Does he really think this will be the future of our team? I refuse to believe that!' I thought, hurt and confused.

"It's a possibility." He replied vaguely in a monotone.

I glared through the tears, "Kakashi! I thought that you"-

I was about to continue my tirade but stopped as soon as I felt the frightening sensation of icy ropes tie around my ankles and wrists. I looked down, horrified and scared all at once, at the black vines that had suddenly appeared from the misty surface. Letting out a shriek, I struggled viciously as I once again started being pulled down into the ground, with an even stronger force than before.

'No! Not again…!' I thought, panicking.

"Kakashi!" I called out and he immediately, with his fast reflexes, grabbed me by the waist and pulled hard so we were flung back.

I fell onto his chest as his back hit the – thankfully solid – ground. I gripped his shirt tightly with my hands, nervous to let go and get swallowed up by the miasmic floor. I already had two close calls, after all.

"Wh- Why does that keep happening?!" I exclaimed after regaining my breath.

Kakashi shook his head tiredly, not answering as he stared at me with a blank expression. His iron grip on my waist loosened as he ran a hand through his silvery hair.

He glanced up at me expectedly, "Are you okay?"

I nodded, "I think so."

"Kakashi… do you really think that will happen to us?" I asked softly, looking down to realize that I was sitting on his knees.

"Sakura, I'm not discussing this here." His deep voice was final. "We should continue regardless… get off."

My firm grip tightened on the Copy Ninja as I grew angrier. I shifted so I was straddling his legs, making sure he could not get away unless he used force. His crimson and black eyes narrowed in question as I leaned nearer.

'How could he think this?' I thought, dismayed. He was our sensei, our leader. If Kakashi didn't believe Team 7 could exist together once more everything I worked so hard for would be ruined. All these years… the medic training… everything was to reach my dream of my teammates being together again.

'If Kakashi doesn't think there's a chance…' No. I wouldn't let doubt cloud my mind, not now. I worked too hard for this, hoped too long… waited for too long.

Our faces were only an inch apart as I glared heatedly into his emotionless, unfazed gaze. Even though his eyes were blank there was a dark intensity present, as if a war was going on deep within his cold depths. I tensed slightly but remained steadfast. No more secrets, no more masks, and no more hiding.

I needed answers.

"What are you doing, Sakura?" I frowned; even his voice was completely devoid of emotion.

'Not that I could even read Kakashi.' I noted with a hint of exasperation.

"What about those who don't care for their fellow comrades are even lower than trash? You are the one who taught us that, and now you're going to throw it all away?!" I yelled, hoping my words would knock some sense into him.

"I wasn't the one who threw it away," Kakashi remarked coolly as I felt a bitter pang in my chest. "Get off of me Sakura, or I'll make you."

I noticed the tingling feeling once more because I was touching him and knew he didn't like it. I moved closer, using the Copy Ninja's discomfort to my advantage as I held on with all my might. 'I have to make him understand…'

"No! Not until you hear me out! Naruto and I can still bring back Sasuke to Konoha, it doesn't have to end the way you think!"

"You haven't changed from when you were twelve." I blinked, half stunned at his insult. "You're too naive, Sakura."

Does Kakashi think Sasuke is his sole responsibility? Suddenly words from the past echoed in my head. "There's a reason why I chose Sasuke to be my prodigy… he's very similar to me." My eyes widened as I stared at my ex-sensei, wondering if he held himself accountable for the Uchiha's betrayal.

"Now get off." He said lowly, his eyes growing sharper as if in warning.

He pushed me back but I held on, glaring at him anew.

"Fine, ignore me! It's not like I'm not used to it." I bit back, scalding.

His mismatched eyes widened before darkening dangerously. "Sakura… stop arguing with me. Now."

I laughed half-heartedly, not caring that there were tears running down my face. "I can't believe you, Kakashi-sensei…" I felt him stiffen at that as I leaned even closer, encouraged I could get some kind of reaction from the ice block of a human.

"Would you really let that happen to your team? You hypocrite… I didn't know you were accustomed to failure. So much for the great Copy Ninja Kakashi, master of over a thousand jutsu…" I went on, noting how his loose grip on my waist tightened to a painful, almost bruising hold.

"Sakura." He gritted out but I paid him no heed, continuing on with the eager notion that my words were causing a stir in the aloof ninja.

"I guess all that stuff you said about comrades was a load of crap. Come to think of it, we hardly knew anything about you and you were supposed to be our sensei! Well, great job you did, huh? Look at us now…"

Kakashi's visage was utter masked fury. I felt a frightened shudder make its way through me but was consoled that Kakashi wouldn't ever actually hurt me. 'I've never seen him this angry before, though.' Not even in battle. He was always the picture of absolute calm and control.

'I need to shed some light, to make him understand…' the only way was to make him angry… its only in anger does he show any type of real emotion. I needed him to realize Team 7 wasn't a lost hope… it's our only hope.

"In fact… you were never there anyway." I prepared myself for the final nail in the coffin.

"…You were always too late."

I gasped in surprise as I stared up at Kakashi now, my back digging into the cold, wet surface below. My hands were held above my head in a vice grip as my frightened gaze locked with Kakashi's intent, deadly one.

His fierce crimson and obsidian eyes pieced right through my green ones to my very core, not breaking for an instant in their contact. Penetrating and intimidating, his firm hold increased as he bent lower so I could feel his breath on my neck, even through his mask. I noticed with a twinge of fear I could not move.

"Is that so?" he murmured quietly yet darkly.

I gulped, panic stricken as my brain fought to keep up with the turn of events. 'What's going on?!' I thought confused, but still managed a steady glare directed at the silver haired jounin. My heart hammered in my chest to the beat of a drum but I somehow kept my bearings.

"You don't know anything, Sakura." He responded, a steely glint entering his gaze.

Stiffening, I tried to move but it once again proved useless. I stared up at him, trying hard not to flinch. This glare was the one he usually reserved for his worst enemies, not me. I knew then I must have hit a nerve, but part of me was surprised the easy-going jounin even had one.

Obviously he did. My insides twisted uncomfortably. I had never before in my mind connected the dangerous former ANBU captain, elite, and highly capable ninja in reference to my lazy jounin sensei. Seeing this side of Kakashi directed at me left me with a disturbed, unsettled feeling.

'Did I go too far?' I thought worriedly but knew now it was too late.

"No, I don't think so." I said confidently, totally opposite of what I really felt. "I've seen your mind after all, Kakashi. I know better than anyone else. Is that what makes you mad? You can't hide behind a mask here, can you? Everything you really think – I've seen it…"

His smoldering eyes narrowed in a threatening manner.

I stared with my green eyes burning with silent conviction. "I know what you are thinking, Kakashi…"

"…Do you?"

But I never got to reply as suddenly my vision was overrun with sliver spikes and there was a harsh pressure on my lips. I blinked in shock, reactively letting out a muffled scream as Kakashi pressed harder against me.

'What?' My fogged mind couldn't even begin to comprehend that Kakashi… he was kissing me? 'But why…?' I don't understand. My eyes brimmed with unshed tears as I tried to move again in vain. He was too strong.

His body over mine deprived me of any escape as I shut my eyes, whimpering slightly in the back of my throat. His presence was suffocating… I couldn't breathe, think. I registered wet, warm lips were slanted against mine so that meant he tore off his mask…

I felt a ghost of a touch brush up from my hip to my right shoulder, adept, skilled fingers sinking into my pink tresses that were gathered there. The buzzing, tingling sensation shot through me so swiftly it left me dizzy with its effects because of the close contact.

Suddenly his lips left mine and he went to my neck, breathing low, heated pants on my sensitive skin. My throat dry, I struggled again but it seemed like he didn't even notice, lost in his own world. He buried closer, sighing heavily.

"Kakashi…" I whispered shakily, not bothering to keep the pleading tone smothered.

His head lifted and he started. Since he was so close I could practically feel every muscle in his body tense. His mismatched, hazed eyes found mine as his eyes widened once more. I took in a deep breath as his weight suddenly disappeared.

I sat up quickly, glancing over to the side to see Kakashi pull up his black mask over the brink of his nose. My heart still pounded unmercifully as I inched backwards, feeling numb with shock. 'Kakashi… did that.' I thought while still trying to process this – it was too much.

I covered my mouth with my hand, looking up at him in disbelief. His eyes slowly returned to mine, a complete blank, unreadable expression on his masked face. He turned away so I faced his back, shoving his hands into his pockets.

"I'm sorry." Kakashi said finally, his tone apathetic.

I stood with shaky legs, not moving. I stared at his back wondering what in the world it all meant. 'Kakashi would never…' but he did. Kakashi, my ex-sensei, 'What is he thinking?' I didn't know or maybe I didn't want to know.

I'm not sure.

I've never been so thoroughly confused in my life. The long line between teacher and student, friend to friend had been crossed and trampled over repeatedly in the space of just a few seconds. I didn't know what to make of it at all.

Scared, angry, stunned, shocked… every kind of emotion passed through me, only leaving me more disoriented than before. 'How am I supposed to feel? Upset?' This was a situation I never dreamed I would find myself in.

"Sakura…" I snapped my attention back to Kakashi, away from my muddled thoughts. "We should get going."

'Is he just going to pretend it didn't happen?' I don't think I can do that.

"R- Right." I muttered, avoiding eye contact.

He nodded and began walking ahead in the direction I told him to. I trailed thankfully behind, hoping we would get out of here as soon as possible. I didn't think I could stand much more of this place.

I licked my lips absently, frowning. 'What did it mean?' no matter how many times I asked that in my head I couldn't even begin to form an answer. 'Should I just take his lead and not talk about it?' Kakashi did apologize, even though he didn't sound sorry in the least.

'I don't even know how I feel.' I thought, making sure my gaze would not stray towards the elusive Copy Ninja. I really would eat ramen for the rest of my life to just not be here at this moment. The silence and tension were as thick as Lee's eyebrows.

'I do know one thing,' I thought discerningly, my perfect picture of the old Team 7 shattering and crumbling into millions of tiny little pieces. Me scolding a rambunctious Naruto, Sasuke acting all cool and detached, and Kakashi reading his perverted book happily: all these memories faded in my mind, washing away.

'…Things will never be the same.'


A/N:

That's the 3rd chapter done! Yay- and some good Kaka/Saku action as well. Sorry this one took so long – I was just really busy. Next chappie- up soon, I promise!!!

So how do you think it went? Please review!

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