Title: We Are Not Okay
Fandom: Naruto (by Masashi Kishimoto)
Character(s): Sakura, others
Genre: Drama, Suspense
Word Count: 2, 480
Summary: Sakura tries to piece them all together.
We Are Not Okay
The ligaments in her ankle stretched and throbbed with a pain she knew she had to ignore. She landed on another tree branch, muscles coiling painfully as she gathered momentum to spring forward. The added weight of her sensei nearly sent that ankle flopping sideways, and she wondered not for the first time how many of the fibers were torn down there. But there were others to worry about. But she could heal them all – even if it took everything she had. She could heal them. Just a little longer. A little longer, and she would feel safer. Safe enough to stop –
Sai. She nodded at him and took the lead, dropping down to come to a rest on the moist grass beside the creek. Gently, she let Kakashi slide off her shoulders, and she guided him down slowly. His breathing was shallow. Immediately, she went about healing the wound in his abdomen, just enough to close it and prevent further infection. Sai landed next to her, and nearly collapsed himself. Sakura was up just in time to make the trip to the ground a smooth one.
Sai was dirty. His belly was smothered in ink. Having lost his scrolls halfway through the battle – burnt to ashes by a fire-breathing monster – he had been forced to use his own skin as a canvas. Other than that, his injuries weren't critical. Painful, yes – in the form of a dislocated shoulder and several colorful bruises – but not urgent.
Yamato was in terrible shape. Her jaw dropped silently before coming back up and setting rigidly as she went to work at the long gash from shoulder to hip – samehada's gift. Sai leaned over her shoulder, face screwed up into an expression of anger and hopeless worry. She mentally counted the minutes, waiting for everyone to show. There was the sound of another body landing nearby, and Sai moved away from her.
"Good God, that's heavy," the boisterous newcomer crowed, rotating his arm around and around after he dropped the two bodies he had been holding. One grunted softly upon impact and the other sounded like a sack of bones.
She spun around, glaring as the man grinned at her with sharp teeth.
"What?" he murmured defensively. "You can't blame me for dropping 'em when I can't hardly stand myself. My chakra is so depleted I can hardly move! And I'm thirsty to boot."
To punctuate that sentence, he fell hard backwards, landing on his butt. His aquamarine hair was puffed up and charred – the only visible damage. Most of the bombs had seemed to bounce off of him – sliding like water. Sai knelt next to the two he had dropped with some difficulty. He rolled the girl over – prodded around for a pulse. Her eyes were opened wide, staring at nothing through her shattered glasses.
Sakura barely registered what Sai had said, she was so intently focused on the other form.
Her thoughts were temporarily frozen. And then Sai had picked him up – was laying him down right in front of her.
"Naruto!" she gasped, eyes wide as she turned to glare hard at the man who was now panting and inching his way toward the creek water. "Naruto was carrying Sasuke," she croaked, voice hostile.
The man shook his head and grinned – wide across his face with sharp teeth.
"Geez, what kind of guy do you take me for? That guy kept slipping, so I decided to carry Sasuke for him. No biggie – it's not like I ate him or anything."
He did nothing to alleviate Sakura's fears, and she held her breath, training her eyes on the foliage at the end of the small clearing. Sai flicked his fingers against her cheek then, turning her attention back to the injured.
"He'll be here soon," he said quietly.
Sakura's fingers twitched. "But he was right behind us," she whispered.
Sasuke chose that moment to cough. The sound was wet and raspy. And the worry in her mind came tumbling loose.
"Sasu...ke," she whispered, brushing her fingers softly against his cheek, feeling the flutter of his lashes as he struggled for full consciousness. The scratches there could wait, and there was nothing to be done for the psychological damage. She pressed her palms to his naval and focused on the internal injuries. But she had to close her eyes. His face was too distracting.
It made her want to cry.
"Yamato's whiter now..."
Sai kept her grounded, and she quickly switched her attention to the other man. The critical injuries came first, and Sasuke was out of the danger zone now.
Several minutes passed. Her ears focused on her own labored breathing and Sai's slow, painful rasps. Every now and then she heard the guy with razor teeth yawn and splash his face with water. Kakashi's breathing was even – slow and restful. And Sasuke made little grunts every now and then. But Yamato was becoming even more silent, and that made her heart throb more insistently. The birds chirped and fluttered through the leaves, and every time she heard them move, her chest tightened and she strained to hear the footsteps of her missing teammate.
Naruto, where are –
A blur of orange and yellow leapt out of the trees then, and her heart soared.
The world was still okay. Until he tried to land, and instead of coming to a swift and graceful stop – the way a ninja was trained to – he slipped and slid forward a good ten feet, finally tripping to smash face first on the ground just beside Kakashi. She would have laughed at him if she had been any less concerned.
There was a long silence, and her stomach dropped with dread. Then, he lifted his face. His eyes were narrowed pathetically and his lips came together in a childish pout.
"Sakura-chan," he whined. "Stop laughing!"
She wasn't, though. At least, not out loud. Naruto looked away from her then, directing his eyes to the guy sitting at the creek. He gave him a sheepish smile.
"No problem," he answered, cupping his hands and fishing out more water.
Sai scooted over and wrapped his arms around Naruto, helping him to sit up properly as well as checking for injuries.
"Stop that, stupid – that's too close!" she heard Naruto protest loudly. "Besides, you're hurt way worse than I am! Hey, Sakura-chan! Make him quit it!"
"Make sure he's not hiding anything from us, Sai," Sakura piped confidently, smiling secretively as she heard Naruto squeak in disbelief. She surveyed her careful arrangement of patients and felt a surge of sureness as she poured even more energy towards Yamato's still form.
This was right. Everything was fine now.
"Hey – watch where – hey! Sai!" Naruto was twisting and turning trying to escape Sai's grasp, which despite his injuries, seemed to be very resolute. Sai had a surprisingly severe look on his face, though, and that didn't quite mesh with the supposed hilarity of the situation. Within about three minutes, he had managed to drag Naruto to the other side of Sakura, and was forcing him to lie down beside Sasuke. The action was not terribly successful.
"I said let me go."
Naruto's voice had dropped an octave.
Sakura glanced peripherally at him, noting how tightly he had wrapped his coat around himself and how his legs were curled defensively. Ensuring that Yamato was stable for the time being, she slid over to Naruto's side. Leaning over, she planted a hand on his shoulder. With one strong shove, he was in the grass, staring up at her with wide, impossibly cornflower blue eyes.
"Naruto," she murmured softly, reaching out to grasp his wrist. He relaxed somewhat.
His voice was equally soft.
"Let me see," she said, quietly, tugging as she tried to unfurl his limbs. "Trust me, Naruto."
He smiled painfully, averting his eyes from her face. He started as he realized just who exactly was beside him. Scrunching up his eyebrows, he looked silently at Sasuke. Then, he turned his attention back to Sakura. She had one hand on his chest, and he covered it with his own.
"No," he breathed. "Trust me, Sakura-chan."
"Not everyone will heal like I do, and you don't have enough energy to spare."
Yamato chose that moment to start wheezing, and before she could argue with Naruto, her body was pulling her to her most critical patient. Her heart may have disagreed, but...
Naruto was right.
Her mind was whirling.
Vital organs repaired. Liver functioning, check. Left ventricle, good. The atrium of the heart was fair. But there – the pulmonary valve.
She had repaired it, but the backflow... In fact, the bicuspid – that too! Why weren't they preventing backflow?
Function, she screamed in her head. Function!
She squeezed her eyes shut. Focus.
Sasuke coughed and groaned loudly.
Sai's accusing voice broke in.
"The blood was making you slip, wasn't it, Naruto-kun?"
"Shut it. I'm already healing."
Was he really healing?
Sasuke choked and took in a deep breath of air. Gasped.
Or was that Naruto gasping?
"Get your hands off my eyes," Sasuke whispered. His voice was gravelly but still the voice Sakura knew and loved.
"No," she heard Naruto answer coldly. "You've worn yourself out."
Just a glance, she thought. Just one. Naruto had his hand over Sasuke's eyes, cupping his face almost reverently, or maybe that sentiment was merely in her mind. Sasuke's posture was disappointed (failed mission) and yet relieved. He leaned into the touch (surprisingly receptive) but voiced his annoyance.
Yamato's pulmonary valve was behaving better.
The world was still all right.
"I told you to get your hand off my eyes, idiot."
Naruto sounded...odd...come to think of it.
He moved his fingers in something like a caress, and Sakura thought perhaps that it was hard to contain so much emotion. She knew it. She felt it. And she and Naruto were one in that aspect – emotions so strong they merge to form the worst storm imaginable. And she wanted to hug them both. Because the world was going to be okay now that they were together and oh, if only Kakashi-sensei would wake up they –
"What the Hell?!"
That damned voice was most certainly not welcome, nor was that too-wide mouth full of sharp teeth.
But Sai looked disturbed too, and it simply wasn't right for him to look like that. His eyes were skyward, and they were twitching. Quickly, he got to his feet, armed with only a paintbrush and looking like a wild animal ready to defend his den. Sasuke was confused, hand brushing softly against the hand massaging his face. Naruto looked absolutely calm.
In his blue eyes, though, she saw the reflection of red. No abnormal pupils. Just red. Smoky and murky like blood.
"What the Hell is up with that sky?!" Suigetsu was on his feet and pointing wildly.
She followed their gazes. The sky was stormy...and crimson. Like the world was ending.
But, she reminded herself, it couldn't be. Not anymore.
Her hand tightened in the torn fabric of Yamato's shirt.
"Gah!" Naruto screamed suddenly. He flipped away from them, landing near the shallow edge of the creek, a kunai sticking awkwardly out of his left shoulder.
"Naruto!" Sakura couldn't help the horrified gasp-scream that left her mouth. As Naruto stepped backwards, he slipped. He slipped on the blood that was running down his legs. Wildly, she searched for the source of the attack.
"Get back!" Kakashi was on his feet, breathing heavily. His eyes were open and wide, sharingan spinning wildly. He shouldn't have been standing, though, and Sakura frowned.
"Kakashi-sensei, you should be resting. Your chakra is too drained to – !"
"Get away from Naruto!" his voice was guttural, and it frightened her.
"Kakashi-sensei...?" she whispered.
Sasuke had opened his eyes and was sitting weakly, mouth pulled into a frown. In his right hand, he clutched his sword. Sakura saw him snarl and then his eyes turned red, angrily focusing on Kakashi.
A wicked laugh interrupted the tension.
"Very good, Kakashi-san. You've seen through my unique mimicry."
She whipped around to see Naruto straightening up. Any injuries that seemed to have been affecting him were no longer a problem. He tugged the kunai out of his shoulder and dangled it from his little finger. His breathing evened out and he smiled. It was a very thin smile that was most certainly misplaced on his face. Sakura knew Naruto's smile.
That was not Naruto's smile.
Sasuke knew it too.
She watched in horror as Naruto took another step back, feet splashing in the creek – the creek that reflected the red sky like a river of blood – and laughed even louder. The voice was no longer his. And the wind and the leaves blurred his clothes until they turned black and red and there was hair that was not blond blowing in his face as he took on a form that she did not recognize.
"No..." she whispered, reality rushing to catch her thoughts.
He chuckled and gestured smugly to the sky.
"You're too late. The process has begun."
His voice turned vindictive.
"The dawn has come, and your jinchuuriki is never coming back."
Kakashi's next kunai hit him straight in the heart. In a cloud of smoke, his form faded from existence, leaving not a trace of anything behind.
"Bunshin," Sai muttered, tone laced with anger and sorrow.
Sakura blinked, hands slowly going numb.
Yamato's bicuspid was working properly again.
Was working properly again, but...
The world was not all right.
The name was ripped from her throat, raw and bleeding with a horror that she could not contain. Everyone was a blur and Sai tried to grab her wrist before she leapt but he couldn't catch her. Kakashi was shaking and Sasuke was screaming (almost louder than she was) and the sky was red and where was her heart now?
She was suspended in the air, rushing through the trees. Memories and thoughts rushed through her head at the speed of light. She gathered the only strength left in her muscles, preparing to land on the closest branch and launch herself forward. Two blurs passed her.
Then came the series of pops as her ankle crashed completely sideways. She fell hard, head hitting a branch on her way down. But the ground was soft and wet, and a pair of unfamiliar arms closed around her middle. The eyes looking down on her were amused, and a fang peeked from grinning lips.
I don't want your help.
"Shall we go?" he asked, having the gall to look excited.
As he lifted her on his back, she imagined she could hear Naruto screaming.
Notes: Goodness - haven't written in so long. It's rather refreshing. For those of you who have not caught on, this is a spur-of-the-moment fic. The intent is a voice that is not omniscient; rather, the point of view leans heavily toward Sakura. Thus, the vague sense of confusion permeating the story. There is a seesaw effect of uncertainty and forced bravado. The aim of the atmosphere was to create a feeling one might experience in that actual situation. For example: confusion, emotion. In the end, everything unravels at a rapid pace, and while Sakura is not quite certain what is going on, she knows one thing and one thing only: Naruto is in dire straits, hence the imagined screaming. I gave only enough information to create the disharmony I wanted. (I apologize if this is not your cup of tea.)
Now, on to that which you don't need to know but wouldn't mind knowing. The Akatsuki member is left unknown on purpose. There's too much recruiting going on in the manga at the moment, and I didn't want to label an original character. The assumed talent is a special kind of mimicry, and while I toyed around with this unknown having the ability to "read his enemy's heart and emotions and use the information to his advantage," it felt out of place here and let's face it…superfluous. It is assumed, however, that he fears the Sharingan finding him out, and thus, covers Sasuke's eyes.
Ah, another detail. I don't hate Karin. I merely killed her so they wouldn't be able to track Naruto or read the newcomer's chakra signature, which is what I'm assuming she does well. As for the missing Juugo. I don't foresee Juugo being a survivor of any major battle, due to his lack of ability to keep his wits about him for long. That, and I believe he would be quick to sacrifice himself for Sasuke, a la Kimimaro. That's my reasoning for his absence anyway. (Okay, so he just didn't mesh with the scenes!) In answer to the villain-like "portrayal" of Suigetsu, I never intended him to be a specific "bad guy" in this piece. Merely, I suspect that since he is most certainly not in Sakura's comfort zone, he would be met by her hostility. (I love Suigetsu.) Oh, and lastly, this is specifically non-canon with the slight flavor of recent manga chapters. My mind likes to create conflict at every possibility. Because it's fun.
Thank you for reading me!