Chapter Two: Burn
(underneath the underneath there lied a goldmine of pyrite
"...and finally, number thirty-seven, a broken shoulder."
Sasuke just stared as Tsunade continued the listing of his injuries, which with great memory, she did without a paper. It was as if she was just trying to rub everything in his face and practiced reading (inflicting) the greatest way to get the most guilt and uneasiness out of him.
If he'd been correct with that interpretation, Sasuke wouldn't have been too surprised.
"...Luckily for you, Sakura was talented enough to heal all thirty-seven out of those thirty seven listed injuries, not including memory loss. It will heal in no more than a month or two, and that's more than unlikely for it to be as long as two months, but still possible."
Sasuke's face remained unchanging and nonchalant. In truth, he was far from excited. It wasn't as if he would be here for an extensive period, (first he needed trust, then when everything was peachy between him and the village he'd implement the bond to his advantage and journey again. Perhaps travel in constancy to build himself up then find his damned brother, challenging him to a grand full-out brawl. Of course, he himself would arrive victorious) and Lady Hokage only informed him about things that required no more concern than a broken nail.
"Now, you will–"
"When will he be back?"
Tsunade looked peeved at the interruption, hands on her hips reflexively, "Being rude won't get you anywhere, Uchiha."
Sasuke plainly ignored this, "When will he be back?"
"Naruto?" Sasuke almost snorted at that, because who else? And hadn't Sakura been asking Tsunade for him? Obviously, she should've known.
Sasuke nodded, and Tsunade registered this as "yes".
"Ah, yes," Tsunade replied, and Sasuke raised a dark eyebrow. "He's a Jounin now, you know, so he got an A-rank mission. It's unsure when he'll be back."
Sasuke grunted. It had been over two weeks. Maybe the dobe did hate him and didn't care.
He couldn't shake the feeling that something was off.
Tsunade cleared her throat, "Anyway, now that you're healthy, we'll begin interrogation tomorrow at nine in the morning. Don't be late, Uchiha. Every second counts on that life of yours."
Pivoting on her right foot, blonde hair swung as Tsunade exited the white of the hospital room.
"Are you excited?" Sakura whispered, following him closely in step with childlike playfulness. She didn't seem too worried about the impending situation, so seemingly she bluntly had complete faith in him. Or her mentor leaked out what she'd implement to torture Sasuke, and Sakura secretly wanted him to burn in hell and thus was greatly excited at out Sasuke's impending doom.
Considering Tsunade's less than affectionate speech the other day, he was slightly wary.
Sasuke simply gave her a look as if she was stupid.
Sakura shrugged, and her pale fingers reached to tuck a stray pink strand behind her ear, "Okay, so maybe excited isn't the best choice of word. But aren't you nervous or something? With that expression, you look like you're going in there to window shop." Sakura paused, "I know that you'd spill all of Orochimaru's secrets whether you were interrogated or not since they're probably not useful to you, but no one else..." Trusts me, Sasuke thought. "thinks you would. It's required and it would be unfair not to." Sakura frowned, and her expression formed to something beseeching, "Sasuke-kun, please try to be cooperative, okay? It'll go smoother that way, I swear. Shishou tells me about this sort of stuff all the time. If you cooperate, they'll–"
Sasuke snorted, and picked up his speed as Sakura (who insisted on coming along, and Sasuke didn't feel like saying more than he needed to when he didn't care if she went in the first place) mimicked his movement (which was stiff, because even though he could move out of bed, the seal on his chakra slowed and limited flow so he could not focus it well.) until she fell into step.
Sakura dropped the previous subject and resumed the one sided conversation, sometimes coupled with gestures. At times she'd mentally squeeze him into an invisible corner until he uttered something or at least pretended that he was attentive to her ramblings.
Sasuke knew she was trying to keep something alive because she presented herself so awkwardly. She would drift off during a sentence and start a new subject, twiddle her hands, or glance at him out of the corner of her eye. (he caught her 3 times, and each time she turned her head so fast he thought she might cry out in whiplash) Sasuke wondered what the hell she was trying to keep alive (or revive, because right now whatever it was felt dead) and why. It couldn't be normality, because unless Sakura was still stupid enough to think things would ever be normal again (or maybe he just gave up too easily on things, and an inner voice added, "At least if they don't carry out mass murder on your clan.") she wouldn't attempt to foolishly do so.
Yet somehow Sasuke could not muster the acrimony to inform her of that.
"We're here," Sakura announced, feet planted as she gazed at the structure. Sasuke wondered why she was always so pointless. She journeyed here everyday to work, as did everyone else, didn't she? If anything, he should gaze, but Sasuke wasn't one to gaze and he settled for simply being indifferent. "I'm not exactly sure where they go for the actual interrogation, Sasuke-kun. I'm sorry."
Sasuke was tempted to ask, "What the hell are you apologizing for?" And indeed, like a cat with a mouse dangling in his eyes, he had leapt to the bait and asked– quickly regretting saying it when he didn't mean to– like a cat who ventured too far and returned with a mouse trap on its hand, "What the hell are you apologizing for?"
Sakura seemed surprised at this, eyes wide like she was suddenly caught in the spotlight of a stage. She bit her lip, as if wondering how to reply in the game Sasuke riddled with scattered explosives, and settled for avoiding it entirely, "I'll see you later, Sasuke-kun. I'll probably be with Ino-pig, or you could ask Tsunade-shishou..."
Sasuke nodded, not eager for a reply in the first place, and her back rotated to face him; red shirt with that simple white circle, glossy hair long and pink like a strip of sky in a sunset he'd once seen. Her footsteps were graceful in her black boots and the white sleeves of her off-day uniform fluttered.
A starkly different Sakura.
Perhaps it was his last comment that unerringly (yet unintentionally) bulleted into territory best left unexplored, or maybe the way her shoulders stood tall with her out-of-place silence. Maybe it was simply something that did not concern him in the least and he should therefore ignore it completely.
Or possibly it was just the simple attraction to someone who still talked to him like years ago.
Hardly. Sasuke had no attachments. He did not append to anything. Not his teammate who was as foolish as she was loving, not his other teammate who was probably as stupid as he was brotherly.
Like a hurricane, Sasuke had stormed into the building undeterred, and if there was a sea it would've immediately parted for him. It wasn't the way he walked, per se; at least not entirely. It was more the way he carried himself with an atmosphere of, 'look, don't touch' that clued strangers into how the man ticked soon after encountering him. His shoulders were back, his stance tall, spine as smooth-straight as rich marble tiling. His gazes was forward, as if anything else was below him. One glance from Sasuke, sharingan or not, could intimidate even the bravest of men to a puddle.
The only people who did not see this were his two teammates, blind as if they stared at Maito Gai's teeth far too much than necessary.
His fingers curled against the brass knob of the wooden door. His feet padding on the hardwood suddenly seemed to jump in volume as he pushed slightly against the door and the air seemed to sink into his lungs.
Why was he so scared?
He sighed. It would be alright. He could do this. He'd exit alive and well, Konohagakure's pure oxygen deluging his insides and clearing his senses. He'd avenge his clan, and from the ashes the Uchiha would once again stand proud with his wife by his side. There would be children frolicking in happiness inside the boundaries of the Uchiha estate gate that was far too large for simply himself.
Far too large.
His arm stretched out to open the door as light flooded into the dankness of the hall he was in.
Smoke burned the inside of his nose, and Sasuke remained outwardly unfazed. When he was thirteen, he hadn't pictured himself bound to a chair with various seals with craftily tied rope and at the mercy of the infamous Morino Ibiki four years later.
Then again, he hadn't imagined himself a missing-nin, or at Konohagakure without the head of his brother.
In truth, several years later (had he resided in Konohagakure rather than leaving) he might've been here working. Sasuke may have preferred more adventurous missions, but his sharingan would prove as a valuable asset to the interrogation group.
Another long wisp of puffy gray, presumably miles darker than Kakashi's hair, triggered the thought that he hadn't recalled Ibiki smoking. Not that he knew him well in the first place. It wouldn't have surprised him in the least if Ibiki completely used cigarettes to taunt those who were addicted to the essence of nicotine or disgust those who preferred not to. Or enhance his already threatening image.
Sasuke, by a stroke of (bad) luck, (or karma, because he didn't think he'd been much of a good boy lately anyway.) was one of the latter. Except he was much more disgusted by cigarettes than the average person. Sasuke thought God had done so to balance out his somewhat admirable self-control.
Tsunade had, after her lovely greeting, explained to him the process of his interrogation. They would blindfold him for two reasons: one, no one except the interrogators and the Hokage were to be aware of where the questioning took place. It was secretive so that no one would know where to break in if they called for back up or if back up came for the captured. Two, his sharingan could be used manipulatively, and of course, Konoha did not want that.
Three, Sasuke supplemented silently as an invisible rule, to scare those who relied on vision.
Obviously, it intimidated some to not know what was going on around you. The interrogators could hold a cigarette in your face and you'd be unaware, they could grasp a blade in hand and you wouldn't know to brace yourself, etcetera. You could know what was happening, but the uncertainty of where that blade or weapon was frightening. Sasuke himself was strong in vision, so to prevent excess reliance he made sure that he balanced himself in taijutsu, ninjutsu, and weapon handling with his kusanagi. His sharingan covered most of the genjutsu he needed, and the techniques he knew were mostly moves that supported his current fighting style; aiding him where he lacked or building himself up to a climactic final move.
If you did know what was going around you...well, you wouldn't get very far with your natural body flow blocked; your chakra.
For some reason, Sasuke found himself contemplating Sakura's earlier words in the beginning of the questioning. The last thing Sasuke wanted was a hassle, and grudgingly, he swallowed his pride and complied. If not, the next interrogation would be leveled up; being tortured for information her could care less about was not on his to-do list.
"Uchiha," He heard Ibiki say, "You're the type of man who doesn't like to beat around the bush, am I right? You've answered all my questions with ease, and you're not lying. You're almost done with interrogation, and soon you'll be able to run off to your pink-haired girlfriend."
Sasuke understood that the girlfriend comment was just Ibiki's way and ignored it. That, however, did not stop him from snapping his head up or parting his lips to venomously deny it (which, thankfully, was halted before he said something he'd regret) and answered curtly, "Yeah, and?"
Cool. He had to be calm. Hold down his anger until he could leave.
...Sasuke would see if he could organize training on– with some (unfortunate) trees later.
Sasuke could feel the smirk in Ibiki's voice, "Well then, Uchiha, let's talk about your sharingan for a moment, shall we?" Sasuke thought he heard Ibiki pace and his ears perked to try and decide where Ibiki was.
"Your sharingan," Ibiki began, "About how often do you use it? On average, I'll guess about four to five times a day."
Sasuke replied with a short, "Five" in an attempt to get the whole ordeal over with. He had to be (or pretend to be) cooperative, he thought, thinking back to Sakura's words. Sasuke wasn't sure what Morino was trying to do.
But whatever it was, it unnerved Sasuke. He was giving Morino what he wanted, he could feel it, so Sasuke had to be cautious he didn't reveal something better left unsaid.
If only Sasuke knew what.
"Really now?" Ibiki said, "That's quite a lot... so every week, you'll use it about thirty-five times? Then every month, you'll use it... at least 140 times?" Ibiki did not stop there, and like an eagle he swerved in for the finishing blow, "I think you're a bit...dependant on your sharingan then, huh? It leads me to wonder... how strong are you without sharingan? Especially without your sensei..."
Sasuke felt himself go rigid at Ibiki's words. A chill snaked down his spine and even though Sasuke knew it was a trick– it had to be– he wondered.
How strong was he without sharingan? Without a sensei?
"Well, that's not important right now," Ibiki shooed it off in false disinterest, knowing fully well it was important, "Kakashi...have you heard anything interesting about him while you were away?"
Sasuke shook himself out of his stupor and– carelessly– replied vocally, as he was still a bit unnerved from the earlier statement, "He'd helped in a defeat of an Akatsuki." Sasuke, actually, had little to no contact with the outside world in terms of information unless it was notable, due to Orochimaru's sheltering, "as well as a few other–"
"His eye," Ibiki interrupted, "What about his eye? Haven't you heard about his sharingan?"
Sasuke had no intentions of speaking when he didn't need to, and remained mute.
"So you haven't heard about the rumors?" Ibiki asked, sounding quite genuinely surprised, "Well, Anko did tell me how Orochimaru was quite controlling with her lifestyle when she trained under him..."
Eyes searching above the crowd, Sasuke used his height to his advantage and in between a mass of colors he scanned the crowd for pink.
He had considered searching for her.
A few tedious questions later, and Ibiki allowed him to depart. Of course, someone was probably trailing Sasuke as he browsed along the city, but it was to be expected.
He would've been greatly disappointed if not.
Konohagakure's citizens, apparently, did not recognize him. Granted, the crowd was large and his hair color and eye color weren't exactly as unique as Sakura's own features, for instance, but Uchiha was a prominent clan.
He'd asked Tsunade about Sakura's whereabouts. Tsunade quirked a brow at the odd request (An inner voice snorted, "Well, you never seemed tocare before.") and said she ventured to the marketplace with Ino, "But she's due here soon to meet with me, so you might want to wait."
Sasuke was in no mood to wait (it was a miracle he even bothered to listen to her explanation.) So he nodded in a curt farewell, rude but certainly signature.
People were shifting in and out of his vision like ocean waves, and it was a miracle Sasuke had managed to find Sakura. She was at the new (Sasuke eyed the signs that boisterously stated so.) café type bakery, sipping on some grandly placed together dessert-drink, and Ino took a stab at her coffee brown cake as Sakura swallowed. She conversed with Ino, Ino occasionally nodding or opening her own mouth for a simple comment, but she mostly consumed her slice of pastry that was generously smothered with what appeared to be chocolate. The way Sasuke saw it, Sakura was confiding with Ino. Sasuke never expected for them to be close again, but he knew females could be as close as they were catty.
After much pushing and shoving, Sasuke had managed to enter the humble bakery, the door opening with a jingle. The place was fairly popular; not too busy, not too empty. Sasuke wondered if he could find something he liked, considering he wasn't entirely fond of sweets.
Sakura sat at the round table at the far left, and Sasuke seated himself a few tables behind her. ANBU would note if he was staying close to the Hokage's apprentice and not simply planning an escape plan. Staying close to her would show his willingness to appeal the Hokage and be obedient.
Just until he could escape. Itachi was waiting.
His eyes trailed back to Sakura, Sakura whose eyes were cast downward and her hands folded conservatively in her lap. Sasuke hear a small handful of words.
"...tell him...he's dead...how? ...still...don't hate...why?"
Sasuke strained his ears, somewhat interested, but next to him, had been a loud squeak. A blushing waitress eyed him, clearing her throat and asking, pen and paper in hand, what Sasuke wished to order. Sasuke, who hadn't looked through the menu, ordered the most ordinary coffee drink there. (He didn't have much money anyway; just some wrinkled bills he found in his old wallet, which Sakura had handed to him)
Sasuke's eyes darted to the noise, and there was Sakura, staring mournfully at her watch, "I'm gonna be late! Bye, Ino!" Slapping some bills on the table, and gathering her stuff, she and Ino departed, leaving Sasuke alone.
...to be continued...
I'm struggling with Sasuke's characterization, please bear with me. For those of you curious about the length of this fic, I think it'll be surprisingly short. Chapter length will probably be 4-5 pages in Verdana 8. I've somewhat planned to the end. (with some difficulty so far. Note the interrogation scene.
I lack consistence with diverse adjectives, it's riddled with mistakes, and my updates...ew. But for dealing with me, I have to say I love you, dear readers. Platonically, but I love you nonetheless.