Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto or any characters therein. They are all owned by Kishimoto Masashi.


I'm dying…

That was the last thing that went through Kimimaro's mind before he was engulfed by darkness. The sky moved overhead, but he stayed where he was. Stuck in place by the bones he had used the last of his strength to create in a final attempt to kill Gaara. He had failed. He had failed his mission… He had failed Orochimaru-sama.

Two pairs of feet came to rest on the branches of trees nearby. It was night time, so even if Kimimaro could have seen the pair approach he wouldn't have been able to make out the uniforms they wore. Or their masks.

A brief, whispered conversation was shard between them before they started carefully making their way up the bone spires that stood as a testament to the power of the last member of the Kaguya clan. A finger probed around his neck, trying to find a pulse.

'He's alive.'

No more was spoken, but the silent air was filled with the quiet chipping sound of rapidly blunting Kunai against bone.


'He has severe damage to his lungs…'

Leave me…

'…Cursed seal is still deactivating…'

Let me die…

'Begin emergency treatment, we have to…'

Stop.

'It's been almost three hours, switch with me!'

I failed him…

'Don't make a mistake in the cell ratio…'

Let me die…


A ceiling. Why was he looking at a ceiling?

Kimimaro was having a hard time figuring out whether or not he was dead, until he realised he was wondering whether or not he was dead. He also realised there was a tube down his throat. He instinctively retched. He would have tried to pull it out, but he didn't have the strength to move his arm. Plus, it was strapped to the bed.

'Please, don't fight the machine. Let it breathe for you.'

Kimimaro's eyes meandered around in their sockets dully, trying to find what had made the noise. After a few minutes, he was reasonably sure it was the potted plant next to him that had spoken. A soft hand touched his cheek and gingerly tilted his head a little to the left so that he could see who it was properly. It was a girl, probably a few years younger than he was, with pink hair, and eyes coloured somewhere between his own jade eyes and teal.

'How are you feeling?'

Kimimaro wouldn't have said anything, even if there wasn't a tube feeding him oxygen to deal with, in addition to the difficulty of forming words. Remembering the tube, the girl cast around for a moment.

'Are you feeling alright? Blink twice for "yes" and once for "no."'

With some grace, Kimimaro closed his eyes for a good few seconds before opening them again, and stared at her. She waited, just in case he was going to blink again. He didn't.

The girl scribbled something down on a clipboard before leaning close and pulling one of his eyes open and shining a light into it. He didn't even have the strength to cringe. She scribbled something else, and then excused herself, leaving him alone in a room with a potted plant, and a window with curtains.


'How are you feeling today, Kimimaro-kun?'

Kimimaro eyed Sakura dryly, but still said nothing.

'Better, or worse?'

He inclined his head stiffly, as best he could.

'That's good. You have to be in good shape to even have Tsunade-sama operate on you. I'd better change your clothes.'

Irritating. She was very irritating. Her pink hair, her fussing, and all her mindless chatter irritated him constantly. Maybe he could kill her while she was pulling the sleeve over… no, she'd remember that trick. Besides, clawing at her throat was a futile exercise if he couldn't even push hard enough to make a bone break her skin. All he could do was quietly fume while she changed his black hospital gown, unstrapping and strapping his arms back to the bed as she did so, all the while telling him all about how the other patients were doing.

From what he understood, he had been brought to Konohagakure by two ANBU members when he was close to dying. They wanted to study his bloodline ability, and for that it was preferable that he be alive for at least the first half of the study. In fact, it was probably also preferable that he be dead for the second half, but the new Hokage had refused to let them kill him partway through the study. She was a medical shinobi, so she at least had ethics. In his opinion, dying "right now" would be ethical, but the doctors and nurses would have none of that- much to his annoyance.

'Oh, don't make such a face.' Sakura said, pouting. 'If the operation goes well, you'll be able to breath on your own, and we can talk properly.' For just a second Kimimaro's arms strained against their bonds before he gave up on the idea of strangling her. How annoying.

Sakura was used to this sort of behaviour from him, so she took it in her stride. 'Ok, I'll see you in a few hours, Kimimaro-kun.'

It was all absurd. If the operation went well he'd be handed over to ANBU, and who knows what they'd do to him. Sakura probably didn't even realise it. But he could tell there was an ANBU squad just outside the window. Always watching. Just in case he ever did get a chance to kill Sakura.


'Kimimaro-kun?'

'Ag-h.' He coughed a few times. He did not feel good. Oh, no. He felt extremely un-good. The operation had been a "stunning success," he was still very much drugged-up, and Sakura was already trying to talk to him. He felt like he had been beaten up underwater, and his Earth Seal was pulsing irritably, amplifying his discomfort many times over.

'Do you recognise me?'

'…' speaking for the first time in a long while was difficult. His words were jumbled and inaudible.

'What?'

'Where is Uchiha Sasuke?' he managed, carefully connecting each sound until he had completed the question. Sakura went uncharacteristically quiet. At first Kimimaro wasn't sure if she was going to answer, but she did before he could repeat the question.

'He left…'

And if he wasn't here, he must have reached Orochimaru-sama. This raised some interesting points. He had completed his mission -sort of- and Orochimaru-sama probably thought he was dead. Although, since he had, effectively, outlived his usefulness, Orochimaru-sama probably didn't care so much about him. Then he was dead.

Suddenly, he felt extreme pain in his chest. He couldn't really do anything about it, either.

Sakura, who at the mention of Sasuke's name had apparently forgotten the reason she was there, reached out and put her palm on the painful area. He could feel her chakra entering him, and he immediately tried to push it back with his own.

'Calm down, it's alright' she said soothingly, eyes closed. She managed to get through to him, and he forced himself to relax as much as he could. He felt her chakra probing around inside his chest over…wait…that's what hurt so much. The Earth seal.

Sakura did the best she could to ease the pain with her limited experience. When it was finally over she moved her hand away, and the Earth seal was gone. Sakura said something about Irreversible Inhibitive Enzymes, but he wasn't paying much attention. The Earth seal -that Orochimaru-sama had given him- was gone.