A/N: Warnings for violence.

Title: The Price of Loyalty

They only had a day's warning before the attack began.

One of Otogakure's smaller bases, which wouldn't have usually been too big of a loss—was in turmoil. Just over twenty-four hours ago they had gotten a warning that information had been leaked somewhere. Orochimaru was absolutely livid, ordering everyone to take what they could, and destroy the rest of it. Most of the important information had already been handled as such, though no one seemed to move fast enough for the Sannin's taste. He refused to leave the base, no matter his right-hand's advice, until everything was either gone or demolished. He would leave this base in ruins, even if he had to do it with Konoha right in front of them. And it just so happened, an hour ago, that that very scenario had become a reality. What little ninja were left had started a battle to stall them, but the forces that Konoha had sent were surprisingly large.

Fools… did they really think that Orochimaru brought Sasuke everywhere with him? He wasn't here, of course. He was safe, some seventy miles away in another base. With the front entrances and several secret ones invaded by Konoha, they had no choice but to use their own, the Sannin and his medic. However, just as they stepped into the dark tunnel, Orochimaru spun to grasp Kabuto's shirt.

"The seal in the lab. Someone will undo it. There's valuable information in there; I can't leave until it's gone." Kabuto placed his hand over his master's loosening his fingers.

"Then go, I'll handle it." He said quickly. Whether the Sannin wanted to admit it or not, he was in no shape. It was nearing the three year mark of his jutsu, and his body was already in enough pain that it kept him awake at night, and hindered his eating habits. Golden eyes searched Kabuto's dark ones for a moment. He didn't want to admit his weakness, Kabuto knew. He smiled, adjusting his glasses as he turned away. "Please, go. This will be nothing." He said before he took off.

That was what he said, but…

Three Anbu in his path went down swiftly, shortly after encountering the medic, but they were getting much higher in number. Switching to a less direct method, Kabuto used every back way that he could think of to avoid them. His gloves and shirt were both blood-splattered by the time that he reached the damned lab, and the entire area was crawling with Konoha's Anbu. He heard a familiar voice coming from within the lab, narrowing his eyes as he slipped off his headband, edging it past the door to see the commotion. Three Anbu had surrounded a ninja he knew as Keita, an apprentice to some of the scientists. He was a very bright student, but not very skilled in ninjutsu. The seal that his master was speaking of was on the wall behind them, almost invisible to the naked eye.

The Konoha Anbu didn't spare a glance as their teammate slipped into the room, focusing on the one ninja left in the lab. They didn't think anything of it… until two of them went down, one gutted with a wickedly curved kunai, and the other's throat cut, their comrade standing between them, oblivious to the blood that soaked his clothing. Before the genjutsu even fell, the medic had blocked two shuriken, and Keita had caught on. "Hold them off." Kabuto ordered, turning to the wall and forming the seals lightning fast and pressing his hands to the wall. A ripple passed through the stone, and the wall faded away slowly. At once, Kabuto grabbed a hold of a flask nearest him, sending it crashing to the floor. "Keita-kun, Katon, now!" Pressed his back hard to his comrade's, and the small brunette spun them around.

"Right!" The younger ninja shouted, forming the seals as Kabuto fought the opponents in turn. Fire burst forth from the small ninja's lips, catching the substance from the flask and igniting it at once. A split second later the contents of the room caught light, exploding with a force that threw both ninja to the floor hard enough to steal the breath from their lungs. Coughing, Kabuto stood up slowly. Several Anbu rushed in, and he saw Keita standing out of the corner of his eye—but the other was wounded, blood running freely down one arm that hung almost limp at his side. Must have been a piece of shrapnel… The fire was quickly spreading, nearing the computer equipment and rows of wetly glistening tubes and vials holding unspeakable substances. Shit! There wasn't any time! Pulling his kunai, Kabuto ducked low over one Anbu's too-high strike, merely skimming his stomach with his weapon as he darted past him.

Maybe he just wasn't fast enough. Maybe, just maybe he might have hesitated when he heard his comrade screaming his name behind him. Maybe, it was just fate.

The lab exploded into a flurry of flames just before he cleared the doorway, and seconds later, something hit Kabuto's head with such force that his vision went dark at once.

------

Thing came slowly to him, and the first thing to come was pain. Violent, crushing pain on his shoulder. Fighting not to groan, Kabuto tried to move his right shoulder and found it impossible. Voices echoed off of the walls, and the air was so hot and thick that he could barely breathe. As the voices drew closer the medic fought to remain calm, opening his eyes just a sliver. The vision from his right was tainted red and stung like hell, and his left eye saw only in blurred colors. He closed his eyes again when the voices were right on top of him, speaking quickly and heatedly. Enemy… and they had found him.

When the heavy object—whatever it happened to be, was lifted from his shoulder, it took all of Kabuto's willpower not to cry out loud, merely tensing slightly in response. Fingers self his neck for his pulse, and they must have given a sign, for they didn't speak. He somehow managed to stay lip as they lifted him, half dragging him out of the long, seemingly never ending tunnel. Oh, the pain in his shoulder was absolutely excruciating, but he endured it. This could be his only chance, after all. It was still dark outside, he could tell by the sound of the insects and the feel of the wet grass as the laid him out. They were all shouting again, and at last he was beginning to hear them.

"Got… ere… ive…I'm not su…"

"Fi…m?"

"By the… crushed…rious."

Things were quiet for a moment, before one voice spoke up, louder than the other's. A voice he recognized—"That's—!!" The voice said, but Kabuto's mostly healed shoulder responded quicker, and he shot up to swing the kunai he'd taken from his enemy. He only grazed the mask, cracking it and cutting the other's chin, before a heavy body landed on top of him and his still sore shoulder was smashed into the wet grass by an iron hand, arm twisted up behind him, weapon wretched away. At last, he cried out. Loudly. "Don't kill him!" The same voice that had tried to warm them shouted. The cold kunai pressed to his neck froze there, and Kabuto felt the intent to draw blood radiating from the other.

"Ngh… Hello again… Kakashi-san…" Kabuto groaned, his breath a little ragged with pain. He couldn't see the Jounin, but he knew him by his voice well enough.

"I didn't expect to catch you, Yakushi Kabuto. I thought you were better than this."

"Maybe I… missed your face?" The medic smirked, then clenched his teeth to bite back a groan as the man on top of him added weight to his shoulder. "Aa…ahh…!" A shudder passes through him, and he was still and quiet. He needed to save his strength.

"…Drug him. And get the others ready as well, we're leaving. This place is empty." The Jounin said flatly, turning his back, though his fists were clenched. Others…? They had caught others. Others meant increased chances of people talking under torture, and more secrets spilled. Damn it…! At least… at least his master had gotten away safely. The medic's silver hair was grabbed, his head tilted to the side and the needle jammed into his neck none-to-gently. He didn't give a sound in response, denying them the pleasure of it. Nothing could possibly hurt worse than his shame.

He had been caught.

------

Kakashi couldn't believe this stroke of luck, as well as this unfortunate situation. Catching the snake Sannin's right-hand man had never been expected, for they had come to believe that ninjas of any importance would be gone by the time that they arrived. It was fortunate… and unlucky. Kabuto wouldn't talk, he knew this. The teen had told him as much when he had first had the chance to capture him, and botched that chance. However, with the type of information that the young man held inside of his head, Konoha couldn't give up without trying. That meant that Ibiki was going to be called in, and Kabuto was going to be handed over to him.

/You idiot… how could you get caught? What could you possibly have been doing, staying around this late in time? We were right here. I can't do anything for you, you know that was our agreement…/

He sighed, feeling all kinds of things stirring inside of him that should never have been there in the first place. It wasn't as if Kabuto meant anything to him... He was an enemy, a traitor, a murderer of his fellow ninja. Still, this left a sour taste in his mouth, that he didn't care to stomach for too long.

------

For the next day and a half, Kabuto's memories were muddled, fuzzy, and delirious at best. Water was forced down his dry throat at one point, but he received nothing else that would classify as sustanance. His hands were bound tightly behind him, each time the person carrying him made a sudden move sending a fresh wave of pain through his blurry mind. It wasn't until things had quieted down for a long period that a quiet voice roused him.

"Kabuto-sensei... Kabuto-sensei...!" It called in a harsh whisper, and he felt something nudge his ribs.

"Ngh..." His eyes were unfocused when he opened them, but it was almost pitch black in the first place. "Don't kick me." He told the other, and a dark shape leaned over him.

"You're awake... How are you?"

"...Jaetou-kun? So, you've been caught too." Kabuto said, whispering as well. A small whimper sounded from behind them, and he forced himself to get to his knees to glance in that direction. "..." Eyes widened, "Keita-kun!" He said, a little louder. The younger ninja was huddled in the corner, face wet with tears as he trembled, biting his lower lip. Half of his face was burned, but not too badly, and his hair was singed. All together he smelled of a chemical fire, and the medic winced. He'd thought the boy was dead, for sure... this was not good. Glancing to his older comrade, they shared a look. Jaetou, his black hair astray and hanging in his face, nodded once. Just as Kabuto moved to slip his hands under his feet to the front of him, the heavy iron door screeched open with an awful groan, not unlike that of a human in agony.

"Well, well, well... All thee of them awake!" A cocky voice sounded, and all eyes turned to the man standing in the doorway. Though smaller in stature than Kabuto, he was no where near Jaetou's. "Ohh... Look at those glares. Nice. We'll wipe those expression right off of your face. Guys, you heard Ibiki-taichou. That silver-haired bitch is first." The man waved his arm, and three others filed into the small room. Kabuto didn't bother to resist as they lifted him up by his arms, merely gritting his teeth to fight the groan. One of them grabbing the back of his lose hair, tilting his head back. The first man walked over slowly, a smirk on his ugly face. "Now, you be real good for us, Yakushi-san. Wouldn't want to have to hurt you before Ibiki-taichou gets his hands on you... he'd be very upset." He mocked, but Kabuto gave him a smile.

"By all means, do hurry then. I doubt I can behave myself for long–" He was cut off as a fist slammed into his gut, unable to double over because of the strong hands holding him still. Coughing, Kabuto gasped for breath.

"I hear you're supposed to be good under torture... We're going to love breaking you, the snake's top bitch himself." He smirked again, and Kabuto spit into his face. The man pulled his hand back for another blow, but another spoke up,

"Wait, Gakyu-san! Ibiki-taichou said to wait, remember?" The man holding the medic's silver hair reminded, and the one called Gakyu glared, fist shaking.

"...Then let's hurry up." He cursed, reaching up to his own face to trace a scar on his cheek. He glared in the direction of Jaetou, but the other man merely gave him a stony glare. Glancing in the direction of Keita on the other hand earned him a whimper, and he smirked again, confidence restored. "You're next, pretty-boy." Gakyu said acidly, turning on his heel and leaving the dark room for the well-lit hallway. The men drug Kabuto after him. Cell after cell passed by, some of them locked tight with jutsu's all over them, and some of them open and empty. Kabuto only hoped that where had been only three of them caught...

The room they brought him too was larger than the cell had been, solid concrete walls and a stained floor with a drain in the middle. Various objects of interest caught the medic's sight, none of them he liked very much to see. A rack, a few frames, cuffs, chains, a smoldering pit, whips, needles, rope, a few metal chairs... His attention was drawn away from his fate, which was growing darker by the moment, and to the tall and imposing man standing in the middle of the room. His face, the area between his bandana and his collar, was scarred badly and his dark eyes were cold as they regarded the medic.

"Ahh, Morino-san...I remember you." Kabuto spoke unexpectedly, and Ibiki frowned.

"You look a lot different from the quiet boy who followed his father around. I always warned Yakushi-san against bringing his son to my sessions... Even thought you never batted an eye at the atrocities you saw happen right in front of you at that age."

"Hmm, I did have a rather rough childhood..." The medic said casually, and Gakyu snarled.

"What are you talking to him for, Ibiki-taichou! Let's get started!"

"Shut up, Gakyu. One more word and you'll never see the inside of one of these rooms again unless you're the recipient." Ibiki snapped in his rough voice, and the scrawny ninja was efficiently silenced.

"That's right Gakyu-san," Kabuto took it upon himself to explain. "Morino Ibiki is a genius at mental torture techniques. He thinks he cam make me talk by making me feel familiar to him. It's too bad though, that I never liked anyone in Konoha. This place was never my home, and I never betrayed anyone." His voice was calm, and Ibiki frowned more.

"I see... well then let's not waste time on words. I won't even waste them on asking you to talk, not so soon. Though, if you feel like giving up, feel free to tell me at any time, Yakushi." The fist hit the side of his face hard enough to split his lips, the blow that followed striking his gut, right where they had hit him before. Kabuto coughed again, and the men released him as the back of Ibiki's hand struck the other side of his face this time, half-turning Kabuto's body as he fell to the ground, coughing. He curled up, but the torture master's boot struck his ribs firmly, and he swore he felt at least one of them crack. Pressed on his shoulder with his foot, putting most of his weight on it. Kabuto's mouth opened in a harsh gasp, voice temporarily stolen with pain. "Ahh, I see...Tie him up!" Ibiki ordered, his voice changing suddenly from casual to threatening.

The men lifted Kabuto again, releasing his hands from behind him, tying them instead to a hook on the ceiling, which was quickly hoisted up until the medic's toes barely touched the ground. He cried out as his own weight pulled on his shoulder, and Ibiki smirked. The tall man reached up to grasp the pre-wounded shoulder, squeezing it tightly. Kabuto grit his teeth hard,

"Nnnn!!" Growled in pain, unwilling to cry out again.

"Boys...strip him. This pathetic excuse for a ninja doesn't have the right to wear clothing." The torture master said, stepping back and crossing his arms. He stood in front of the bound medic, watching as his men ripped and cut away every stitch of clothing that Kabuto was wearing. Through it all, Kabuto retained a placid expression, wincing whenever something was pulled too hard, putting more pressure onto his injured shoulder. Kabuto's skin prickled in the chilly room, and he shivered slightly when he was fully exposed, breath a little faster now. Ibiki smirked as he walked around behind him again, eyes raking the medic's already somewhat bruised body. He gave a low whistle, and though it made Kabuto's stomach twist, he smirked.

"Like what you see, Morino-san...?" He coughed, "Am I still the quiet child, standing with my father?" His tone was flippant. Ibiki chuckled, reaching up to run his fingers over the large bruise on Kabuto's shoulder.

"No, Yakushi, you're not. I saw intelligence in that boys eyes... but I guess I was wrong. Smart boys don't get caught in their own explosions, do they?" He asked, and Kabuto was silent again. "I thought not." He said, stepping back. "We'll start with the basics. Bring me my whip." He said, holding out his hand. The twelve foot bull-whip was placed into it quickly, and he snapped it once, so close the Kabuto felt the wind from it on his side. He gave a shudder, finding his voice.

"Mmm, do it, Morino-san..." He whispered, nearly a purr. Lip twitching in irritance, Ibiki laid the first strike. The bite of the whip left a bright red line, welt rising at once, from Kabuto's left shoulder blade to his lower back. Muscles flexing for just an instant, Kabuto cried out–though his voice was light. Twitching again, he laid another. He continued like this, striking with merely seconds between each one, and about every other lash earned him a short cry from the medic's stretched body. Never did he leave the muscles of his back tensed, and never did he give a cry that sounded quite like pain. No... he was being mocked. Even as the welts overlaid, and beads of red blood welled up to run down the medic's once flawless back in small rivets, Kabuto maintained his breathy tonePausing for a moment, Ibiki wiped the sweat from his brow. Gakyu growled, stepping up to grasp the back of Kabuto's hair and pulling it back hard, earning a groan as it pulled on his sore shoulder.

"The snake's bitch likes it, Ibiki-taichou." He said with disgust, but Ibiki merely grunted.

"Idiot. You really do know nothing..." The torture master sighed, glancing to his wall of instruments. "He's keeping the air from his lungs so that he doesn't give us the pleasure of hearing him scream. You'll also note the fact that: he's not hard, you fool. This is just as painful to him, but you're a smart boy, aren't you Yakushi? You think that you can make us give in by exasperating us?" A dark chuckle. "Everyone, grab a cane."

Kabuto swallowed slowly, closing his eyes as the men moved to do as told. The rattan rods were thin, not much more than the span of two slender fingers, and the length of each was a good four feet. Someone swung one of them, the sharp swish almost painful just to hear. The medic's heartbeat raced, and he tried to keep his body from squirming. The first blow fell across the backs of his thighs, the second falling only a split second later on the front of them, the third and fourth falling together on his chest and his whip-marked back. Arching again, Kabuto couldn't keep his voice controlled this time, and he cried out loudly–his voice a high arc of pain that echoed off of the walls.

The blows fell repeatedly, within split seconds of each other, striping the medic's skin with white welts that all too quickly became angry red ones. His slender body jerked with some of them, coughing as one fell smack onto his gut. Tears that had risen from the whipping finally fell, slipping down his flushed cheeks, salty, and very bitter. From chest and shoulders to both knees, they covered him with the unbearably stinging strikes. Kabuto's tears became sobs, his body writhing in helpless attempts to escape the punishing blows that fell mercilessly upon his skin. Ibiki called to stop at last, and though all men stopped as told, it still felt as if the blows were being made upon his once tender skin. The rods that had struck his back and thighs were both covered in blood, which was still slowly trickling down his back from the whip lashes, irritating every welt it found along the way. The medic was trembling now, his breathing ragged as he fought to regain control of himself.

"I think this is the perfect mark for a traitor." Ibiki's dark voice spoke, pressing the object into Kabuto's lower back. It was cold–freezing cold–but then the truth reached his nose before his mind could understand the pain. It wasn't cold, it was hot. Kabuto's piercing scream filled the room as his body arched again, as taunt as he could go, paying absolutely no mind to his shoulder past the scent of burning flesh invading his senses, and the excruciating pain on his lower back. A brand! Such dizziness assaulted him that his breath caught in his chest, and darkness closed in swiftly.

All too soon he woke again, icy water dripping from his hair and down his feverish body to bring the chill of the room back to him all too well. Even with his imperfect vision, he could make out the still glowing brand that Ibiki held. A leaf. Damn them! Damn them all to the nine hells! If he didn't heal that brand...! But no, he couldn't heal it, even thought he knew that it would scar. Closing his eyes tightly, he turned his head to the side, fighting tears again. It wasn't fair! He had never betrayed Konoha. He had never been part of them to betray them!

"I think I'll ask now." Ibiki said, and he walked around in front of the medic, tilting his chin up. "What do you think, Yakushi?" He asked. Kabuto smiled, licking his split lips with a dash of his pink tongue.

"Do you know... w-what I don't understand... Morino-san?"

"That's that?"

"W-when you want some...one to... talk..." Kabuto's body shuddered, stealing his breath for a moment. "...You torture them... and for reasons... they believe in, they... keep silent..." He voice caught in his throat, ad he coughed hard. The movement sent his whole body a fresh wave of pain, and he groaned through clenched teeth. "You piss them off." He spit acidly, and Ibiki shook his head.

"Was that an answer?"

"Go to hell, you–" He was stopped by the older ninja's backhand once again, the strike causing him to move his head to the side violently. He groaned again, feeling dizzy. Ibiki withdrew a long, very fine, very sharp knife from his pouch, running it along his thumb.

"Just as I thought... but I had hoped that it wouldn't come to this...Do you know what flaying is, Kabuto...?" Ibiki asked, a twisted grin on his scarred face.

"Skinning." The medic answered firmly, as if he was fearless. But Ibiki saw the truth in his eyes, the deep seated fear that rest there. Against his better judgement, against all of his previous accomplishments, for an instant... Ibiki doubted his ability to make someone talk. Whether he was just insane, or insanely loyal, the medic truly seemed to be willing to endure anything without speaking.

Impossible.

"That's right... it's skinning. And the way I do it..." The knife cut into Kabuto's welted skin, on his side, just above his hip. It was just deep enough to pass the epidermis, the first layer. The medic clenched his jaw.

"Hnn!!" Kabuto tensed, breath escalating once again.

"I do it... slowly..." He said, drawing the second, and then the third. "And it just peels right off, square inch by square.." There was a loud knock on the heavy metal door, and Ibiki froze just as he was about to cut the fourth line. Frowning, he motioned to Gakyu to answer it, which the other did promptly. He spoke for a moment with the person outside, turning back around with an unreadable look on his face.

"Sir... Someone is here to talk with you. He says its urgent."

"Tell him to go away, I'm busy." The knife went in again, and Kabuto closed his eyes, head falling back as he gave a high-pitched whine. He couldn't help it.

"It's Hatake Kakashi..." All eyes turned to Gakyu.

/Kakashi??/

Silence prevailed for a few tense moments, the only sound that of Kabuto's labored breathing, accompanied sometimes by his small groans.

"...Alright. I'll see him." Ibiki said at last, and Kabuto very nearly gave a sob of relief. The knife pulled out of his skin, and the entire wound throbbed, like his back throbbed–like every welt on his body throbbed. Kabuto was in pain; so much that he almost wished he could will himself to die.

He would not speak. He would die like this, if he had to. He didn't even bother thinking of why. It was just what he had decided to do. Ibiki was giving the others orders, but he barely heard them. When he was dropped suddenly to his feet, he collapsed onto the floor. His skin was hot and feverish, and the cold stone felt so good... He closed his eyes just as the hands grabbed a hold of him, lifting him. A weak sound of protest was all that escaped him this time, as his shoulder was stretched, his welts touched. They had to drag him out of the room, and down the hall to his cell. He supposed he was supposed to feel some semblance of shame, but right now, he could give a damn that he was nude. One of them opened the door, and the other two tossed the medic's battered body inside, causing Kabuto to half-land onto his comrade Jaetou. Keita began to cry loudly, as Jaetou tried to use his shoulder to help Kabuto sit up. The other ninja was badly injured as well, it seemed. They must have taken him while the others took Kabuto. Cheeks pressed together, they whispered as the door closed.

"Is it possible?"

"No." Kabuto answered.

"Can you...?" Jaetou asked.

"...Yes."

"He won't last."

"Not a second." Kabuto agreed.

"...You or me?"

"I'll get it done quicker, if I use it. Watch the door."

"Yes, sir." The older ninja moved away, hands tied in front of him, just as Kabuto's were. He made it to the door, sitting against it and pressing with his feet. Keita whimpered again, and Kabuto closed his eyes. Healing came to him naturally, and it was in truth Kabuto's one greatest skill. Welts faded away, the cut vanished, and best of all–that awful brand healed. His shoulder was still a little sore, but he could move it without the crushing pain anymore. He crawled over to Keita, who cowered away from him, tears running down his youthful face. Kabuto smiled.

"Keita-kun... What's wrong?"

"I know what you're doing! You left me back there in the lab! You're going to let me die...!" The brunette shouted, and Kabuto suddenly glared.

"You'll talk, Keita. I can't let you do that." He said firmly, and Keita's eyes widened. He moved suddenly, trying to crawl away, but Kabuto was on his back in an instant. Wrapped his arm around the younger ninja's neck, pulling back tightly as the other struggled beneath him.

"No! Please...! K-Kabu-to..sensei...!" He coughed, his body writhing frantically under the medic's. Kabuto closed his eyes, blocking his ears to the pleas. It had to be done.

"What's going on?!" One of the men from outside demanded, trying to open the door and finding it blocked by Jaetou, who was digging his heels into the ground as they tried to push it open.

"Ka-Kabuto...sen...!"He was coughing again, choking now. His body began to fight less and less, as the door was opening more and more. Finally, he went still. No sooner than he did that the door burst open, filling the room with ninja. They lifted Kabuto from atop Keita, throwing him against the wall as they knelt to check him, others holding Jaetou down.

"...He's dead." One of them announced. Kabuto smiled, and looked up. Ibiki stood in the doorway, glaring, and beside him...

Hatake Kakashi... Kabuto's smile vanished, witnessing the expression on the Jounin's face. It was a very strange look, almost... sadness. Suddenly, Kabuto felt a bit ashamed of his nakedness, and he turned his body away from the Jounin's piercing expression. They took Keita's body with them when they left, and the took Jaetou as well. No more cells together for them. Still, something bothered Kabuto.

He knew very well that this was against the rules, they had decided it. He didn't expect anything from him–he didn't need anything... So why the hell was he here?