Disclaimer: I own these bastardized characters.

(No, I don't, and I certainly don't plan to dispose of Kishimoto-sama for the mere pleasure of saying I do.)


You know, I've been wondering if it's unhealthy to be a sadist. This whole 'putting nonexistent characters through passionate hell that I hope never befalls my hell-bound self'. Because you just know I'm driving the bus down there.

So, I'm leaving for vacation Friday-

(For those of you in the US of A, I'm heading to the East Coast; Myrtle Beach, SC, specifically. Then NYC.)

-and I decided to get this up before I left.

About the chapter: A bit lighter than expected, but trust me, angst will come. Main pairing is obviously perfectly imperfect SasuSaku. The rest? Whatever I make, because I won't promise that they'll remain static. In fact, I'm pretty sure they won't.

And on an obvious note...this is a sequel. So if you are interested in this, you need to just click my profile and find "Self-Destruction", because I swear if I get one review that is all confused (because of never reading the first one), I will become the most sadistic and vicious person you've ever met.

Seriously. I will carve out your kneecaps with a rusty kunai.

But if you're confused like you were when reading the first one, good, that was my intention. And this all comes together in the end, even if it doesn't seem like it will.


Virulence: Extremely severe or harmful in its effects; highly infective; bitterly hostile.

Damashi: (Japanese): (the act of) deceiving.


(crosses fingers). Dear gods, I can't do beginnings, here's hoping I pull this off!

Because it was never meant to be easy, nor do we deserve any such solace. Amidst this war, we do our duty. I am alone. You are alone. Let us suffer. And smile as we do.

:: Of Blood and Wilted Blossoms ::

Chapter One: Bonds of Virulence



Like her head, swaying with just an unhealthy tinge of dizziness.


Liquid traveling like silk and tumbling over more of the same, reaching up the sides of the crystal clear wine glass like blood. Chills played a haunting melody, enveloping every ivory vertebrae of her spine as sounds of life echoed around her. Exhaustion weighed heavy upon her as her shaking hand jerked out of her control, affected so heavily from lack of sleep.

Damn my pathetic stamina.

Vision blurred, she struggled to focus on the swaying glass in her hand.


His voice was incredibly warm. Deep. Comforting.

Tilt. Tilt. Thumb and forefinger played see-saw, pupils focused on the blood running in the glass, cascading over the sides as it went back, forth, back, forth, and the material was so cool in her burning fingers.

"Sakura-chaaan!" Whine.

"Oy, forehead!" Bitchy tone.

"Sakura." Sultry; a tone so frigid that it diminished other voices, warm to her ears.

He roughly took her wrist.

Dimly aware of them staring, she leaned forward slightly and let him take the glass from her hand; the resounding 'clink' sounded unnaturally distant.

"She's exhausted."

"I know...Hinata passed out an hour ago," Naruto replied, nodding down at the Hyuuga's sleeping figure. Her head resting in his lap, blue hair splayed across it as he shoveled food into his mouth, occasionally dropping steamed rice and noodles into her long locks.

"She should get some rest, we all should," Shikamaru said knowledgeably, raising his glass to his mouth. His dinner had been long abandoned for the thick sheaf of paper he held in his other hand, eyes scanning the page with keen eyes only rivaling Sakura's when it came to detail. Said girl had left her information under her wine glass; it was now stained with a gray ring that soaked through several pages.

"I'm fine!" Sakura snapped abruptly, shaking her head and sliding the papers to her, but she did not peruse them as the others did. To escape the familiar, intense stare she was enduring, her eyes fell upon her barely touched plate of food. Pushing it away, she reached for her wine glass and Sasuke's hand shot out, grabbing her wrist again.

"You didn't eat enough."

"Not hungry," she replied, though without noticeable conviction. Her uneasiness would not be quelled by food or drink, but she could sure as hell try.

Kakashi glanced at Sakura over the papers he was skimming and then at Sasuke. "Take her to bed, Sasuke."

Naruto burst out laughing with a mouth full of food, showering the table, the occupants, and Hinata's long hair with sizeable chunks of meat that he hadn't bothered to chew. The dark-haired shinobi gave him a smouldering look and Sakura flung a steak knife at the blonde, missing by inches. Sasuke rose his eyes to meet Kakashi's one. The latter dared to grin.

"You haven't given us the room keys," he muttered monotonously, pursing his lips insufferably as Sakura snatched her glass from his reach and drank, avoiding his dark eyes.

"Who am I sleeping with, Kakashi-sensei?" Naruto asked, unaware that the girl in his lap was awakening to the loud sounds of the bar. "Shikamaru is too lazy to put the cap back on the toothpaste-"

"Naruto, I told you not to tell people that I complain about my boyfriend!"

"-and Sasuke is all obsessive and puts everything all organized and says that I snore!" He ignored Ino's frantic outburst completely, and glared good-naturedly at Sasuke, whom did not return it.

"You do snore," Sakura muttered into her glass, rolling her puffy jade eyes.

Sasuke snickered quietly and wrapped his fingers around his own drink, bringing it to his lips.

"We have four rooms, and for good reason, given the circumstances for the roles we're playing," Kakashi announced quietly, keeping the information solely at their table; not that there were too many others at an inn this late that frankly, was in the middle of nowhere. The first sign of civilization they had seen for three straight days.

"I don't see why that is," Sasuke muttered.

"It's quite simple," Shikamaru interjected, straightening his information with a flourish. "Naruto and Hinata, the latter posing as Hanabi, of course, Ino and I, Kakashi to his own and of course, Sugiyama and Tenshon, the two shinobi you two are impersonating." Jerking his head toward Sakura for emphasis, he shrugged nonchalantly at the explanation that was thoroughly puzzling Sasuke.

"Aw, Sasuke, if it's such a big deal you can just put Sakura on the couch!"

Sakura socked Naruto in the arm, glare set, while Sasuke rose a pretentious eyebrow at his clueless friend.

"I'm not...going to make her sleep on the damn couch," he murmured gruffly, disguising his gentlemanly courtesy by lowering his eyes to his drink and taking a long drought. "Hn."

Sakura rose her glass and drank heartily as well, not lowering it as their company stared at them curiously. They were missing something obvious, and since Naruto seemed to be along with them...well, it must be very obvious.

Kakashi narrowed his eyes suspiciously, though his twinkle of amusement was none too discreet. "You do realize that married couples usually share a bed, correct?"


Sasuke abruptly choked, Hinata's head hit the bottom of the table (evidently, she had been listening), and Sakura's powerful hand, coursing with chakra, shattered her glass to pieces. Ino ducked with a screech as shards flew past her head, embedding themselves in the walls around the inn. Other customers were looking around curiously to find the source of the lethal weapons and commotion, and Hinata sat up quickly, blushing furiously.

One single shard rested in Sakura's palm; jade eyes, jagged, in emotion and in color, as sea glass unearthed from the softest sand, rested on Kakashi's crinkling smile underneath his mask. Sliding her long nail under it-


Even her mentor did not expect the incredibly intimidating power she possessed in just one finger, and as it sliced a lock of his graying hair clean off and embedded itself in the cushion behind him, even Sasuke had to smirk. Unfortunately, the latter was still choking on his liquor and did not emerge from his fit, nor did anyone think to help him as he kept his eyes to the table, pounding a fist upon it. Hinata was sinking lower and lower in the booth, maroon forehead barely visible above the edge.

"MARRIED?" Naruto yelled, cerulean eyes alight with mischievousness. "You mean like, with a ring and everything?"

Raising the heel of her hand, the medic slammed it upon Sasuke's upper back and cleared his throat, sending his body crashing into the side of the table. Syllables, sharp and dangerous, silenced present company as she inquired: "Explain."

"You didn't read thoroughly, did you Sakura?" Kakashi's voice chastised her amiably and it irked her to no end.

"Explain," Sasuke interrupted curtly, eyes watering from his coughing fit.

"As you know, the whole point of this mission, in the end, is to impersonate the members of that foreign organization. Sugiyama and Tenshon were two extraordinarily powerful and impressing members, and you two are to be them, in looks and in personality and yes, in marriage."

"They don't have the same surname," Sasuke replied slowly, while Sakura nodded in agreement.

"Technically, they do, but organization protocol required Tenshon to retain her maiden name in official listings."


"But, Kaka-sensei," Sakura began, struggling to find a justified argument as Sasuke remained dangerously silent.

"If you did not read the biography thoroughly, I apologize, but there's no way around this, Sakura," her former sensei replied, his voice low and significant. "This is your mission. Put personal feelings and qualms aside."

A loud snort caught the attention of the table, and Ino set down her glass. Raising her slightly shaking fingers, she formed invisible quotes in the air and mocked Kakashi. "Personal feelings," the blonde drawled, rolling her bright eyes, "What an understatement."

"As if you'd know," the medic spat, jumping to her feet, so eager for a fight. Short tempered, violent, sleep-deprived Sakura was ready to take a fistful of primped blonde hair and throw the girl around by it, slam her body to the floor–

Her graphic and sanguinary thoughts were interrupted as she felt calloused fingers latch around her wrist, tugging, not with the incessant childlike pull that reminded her of Naruto. Rough, impatient, sending shivers dancing across her spine from the anger emanating in the wake of just his touch. Letting out a curse and a screech in protest, as she struggled to resist his blind anger.

Sasuke dragged her exhausted body across the seat of the booth, letting her hit the floor and then pulling her upright. Coated in dust and red in the face, Sakura shoved him in the chest. She noticed the room keys clenched in his fist at his side.

"What's your problem?"

"Don't cause a scene. We're going to the room."

Her eyes narrowed. "You're not my husband, nor my father, and even if you were, I wouldn't listen."

"I'll make you listen."


Growling in annoyance and embarrassment as people twisted in their chairs to better view the commotion, he spun her around by the shoulders and poked a finger into her spine. "Walk."

Barely a minute's pause before-


"Gladly. But you don't get that privilege."

And with that, Sakura stalked off with her pretty head held high, cursing amiably under her breath as she tossed the room keys up, down, up, down. The fingers of her other hand curled around Sasuke's pant leg, dragging him across the dusty floor.

The Uchiha did not say a word, keeping his arms folded and glare set as every occupant of the room watched the door of the bar swing shut.

Hinata had her fingers pressed over her mouth tightly, still pink in the face. The sounds of their voices rose to a din as they stomped up the stairs. Kakashi took the liberty of breaking the tense silence of the table, littered with apparently amusement at the whole ordeal.

"Hmm. I forgot to give him Tenshon's ring."

Naruto stuck out his palm obnoxiously, waving it up and down with a grin on his young face. "Gimme it, sensei, I'll go-"

"Unless you want your body to be embedded in the drywall like Sasuke, you probably don't wanna do that," Shikamaru told him, shaking his head and straightening the sheaf of information with a flourish, eyebrows furrowed.

"That's all right, Naruto. Tomorrow is another day. And besides, you should take Hinata and make your way up to bed as well," Kakashi exclaimed cheerfully; his amusement was almost cruel.


Vitriolic in nature

Blind to faults and to a nonexistent loyalty

Where does it lie?

I can't decide anymore.

Affected by this torture that wander so willingly in the midst

Of my shattered purpose.


Raising a steady hand, she shielded her piercing eyes from the blinding light that danced on the horizon. Like something carefree that had already severed it's strings from any hardship that dared cross it's path. Unfortunately, it did nothing to soothe her, and as she let her heavy, metal weapon slide from her back, she realized this was all she had left. Loyalty was a farce at this very low point in her personal affairs, though...had Gaara been right? Was the world going to fall at Itachi's hands?

Did this matter?

A breeze granted her comfort, whipping from the not so far away shore and surrounding her with the bitter salt air. An ocean, accessible just beyond this glittering city of lights and sounds and hopefully, somewhere in there she could blend in and just forget–

"Ungrateful bitch."

It took her a moment to realize how harsh the words sounded from her own mouth. Raising fingers to her lips, she mouthed it again with deliberate precision, those syllables that were accusing her from an unconscious she tried to ignore. And in that moment she also decided how foolish and weak it would be to disown herself this way, pretending that nothing was happening or simply closing herself off to ignore it all.



The fallen.

She had seen it on her way here and wondered how long it would be, before this city fell victim to the same virulent affliction sweeping villages at a time. Oblivious to the rest of inner society because they were small places that had to fight to keep their names on any map, but it would be the ignorance of these warnings that would let the city crumble.

"It would be prudent to let them fight their own battle."

Temari kicked her backpack underneath her bed, disguising her foiled attempt to leave the village, once again, with anger that was so normal for her it did not raise questions. "I'm leaving...isn't that enough?"

"You're going to find a loyalty, for I am sure that after recent incidents you won't be able to find it in your heart–"

"You're one to talk about HEARTS! About FEELINGS!" Temari screeched, perfectly aware of her low blow and not sorry in the slightest.

"Why do you bother anymore, Temari?" Gaara inquired flatly, shaking his head ever-so-slightly. "They have walked into their own destruction. In the end, man and shinobi will destroy themselves."

"Shut up!" she hissed, clenching a headband in her fist. "They don't deserve that. We broke our alliance, we lied, we attacked and we paid for that, remember? Or do you not remember the assassination of the Kazekage?"

"Speaking of Kazekage, I've been removed from my post."

Shock reduced her to a dull silence as her eyes widened. "No."

"I do not know the reason they fed the public, but the real reason is very obvious, isn't it?"

"What the hell would someone like...Itachi want with us? With any other village?"

Snorting derisively, her brother surveyed her through heavy-lidded eyes. "As if we know what goes on in that man's mind."

Crossing to the door with the heavy footsteps of a man with a final decision, he leaned against the doorframe and watched her over his shoulder. "I want you to leave. But don't get into this. Those orders you were given...they were orders, and you couldn't change that."

"As if you fucking understood!" she spat, hurling a dulled kunai at him; the point embedded itself in the drywall, dangerously close to Gaara's pale hand. "You have no idea!"

"Maybe it's your fault, then," he muttered quietly, his tone not accusatory in the slightest, and perhaps this was the reason why Temari grew angrier; he was pitying her. "To an extent, love is a weakness."

"To an extent." The key words that created a false sense of acceptance.

Sliding her hand into the depths of her robe, she emerged with two headbands and flung them from her. Tumbling over each other, colored fabrics rippling in the ocean air as they came to rest a few feet away in blatant mockery of all that she had once had, and the many things she had lost. Clink. Metal on metal, two different symbols, two different loyalties, two different sides of her that vied for a spot in her cold heart.

"You don't have any remorse, do you?"

"You have no idea, Shikamaru," she muttered, lifting her dangerous fan over her shoulder and watching the tiniest lights, the stars emerging from silky folds of ebony. Night was moving swiftly over the city and even now, the neon shone brightly amid the people on the streets and the music echoed, able to be heard from where Temari stood.

"Do you have any idea...how much she means to me?"

"I know," she whispered. "You loved her."


She stiffened in painful remembrance.

"I swear if you make another move, I will kill you."

"Then why didn't you?" Raising her head and screaming to the darkening sky, as if it had done her a personal wrong. Maybe there were answers there. Fingers gripping the handle of the fan with such intensity, shaking as she grasped the cold metal in her perspiring palms and eager, too eager to cause some untoward destruction.

A strangled cry erupted in the air: A sob, caught in a throat unwilling to cry and a noise of potent fury; a growl. Whatever the emotion meant to be conveyed, it came in full glory and those lilting syllables of heartbreak so delicately intertwined with the sound of an unsheathed weapon-

She swung her fan high, watching through blurred vision the tiny prisms of reflected color from the neon signs, so close and the salt air, already taking over her eager lungs.

Escape this nightmare.

Slamming it down, the powerful corner taking no damage as she watched it crush the clasp of the headband into pathetic shards. Of former loyalty, of former trust. Grinding it into the dust, leaving the other beautifully untouched in the dim, dissipating light. Dusk.

Gasping quietly, she lifted the fan up easily and settled it over her shoulder once more, still staring at the shards, scattered across the dust for several feet. Existed one shattered purpose, left in her fading footsteps.

Struck with reckless, daring, initiative, she hurried scooped the other object into her robe pocket and steadied her fan, gazing over her shoulder at the city, now positively blossoming with light and glorious sound. Smiling slightly, she ground her heel into the shattered pieces and whispered:

"The city of Damashi."

I rest at his mercy.

They echo, his lies.

Or maybe they are truths that I cannot disguise.


Two wrongs do not make a right. Under any circumstance.

Ethereal eyes of white, knowledgeable and experienced they as they may be, cannot create this answer from intuition alone. So he remained tense, struggling to uphold composure under a being and a force that strips it to the innards. Pale hands gently touching her perspiring neck as he felt those eyes, those damn eyes–

I'll find a way to kill you for this, Uchiha.

"Oh Hyuuga." That emotionless lilt of syllables, the delighted growl of this sated product of insanity.

"Neji..." she whispered, baring her teeth viciously at the man. She was weak, Neji was weak, the young girl Neji was holding at the neck had no chance.

Itachi smiled down at Tenten.

"Stop," Neji hissed, fingers pressing against Kami's neck; she swallowed, perspiration sliding down her frigid skin, unable to look the shinobi in the eye.

"Which one is going to die?" The minacious, mocking inquiry, spoken so calmly it was killing the Hyuuga to hear it.

A life equals a life. A girl for a girl. One he did not know, one he cherished more than he would ever admit.

"Neji! Don't listen to hi-"

Neji's head whirled around as Itachi cut her off. Her words. Her air. Chocolate brown eyes narrowed, she struggled furiously against the arm around her neck, holding her down with minimal effort. So weak, she was so weak-

"Please don't!" she shrieked, holding his powerful limb away from her bruised neck. "Neji, she's a child, please-!"

Admiration could not be helped at this crucial point, as Neji stole a guilty, covert glance at the girl. No struggling, no pleading and not a single tear in her bright pink eyes, heavy-lidded and cast to the ebony tiled floor. The only amount of fear he could find was a tensed neck, pulsing wildly under his slippery grasp.

"Weak. So weak. She is weak, and you, Neji Hyuuga, are the same."

Tenten could not keep her mouth shut: "SHUT IT!"

Kami inhaled sharply as Tenten's body hit the floor, hard. The young shinobi with white eyes remained still.

"Take her life," Itachi stated calmly, the ultimatum. "Or I take," he raised his booted foot above Tenten's lifeless form. "Hers."

"Don't touch her," Neji muttered through gritted teeth, a muscle twinging in his jaw. He wouldn't do it. He couldn't do it. For the first time, he was lying to himself, disregarding all facts if only it could comfort him, somehow.

Itachi raised an eyebrow, eyes glinting in the dim light. "I do not appreciate your defiance."

A strangled cough erupted in the tense silence. Tenten sat up and struggled to lift her lids, fingering the curved blade in it's sheath at her side; without further pretense, she slashed.

"Fucking lunatic!" she burst out, voice vindictive and high-pitched as she swung the blade from her position on the floor. Itachi did not react as it slit through his pant leg, severing the material covering his shin.

A tiny sliver of blood bubbled between the folds and surfaced.

The Uchiha blinked; his eyes burst into brilliant crimson and Tenten gasped, dropping her blade and clutching her hand, wrapping her fingers around her wrist. Shaking uncontrollably, curling her knees to her chest as she fell on her side, biting her lip and trying, desperately, not to cry out.

"The...t-the bones," she stammered, the flush from her anger draining from her face. "You're c-crushing them! STOP!" she screeched, suppressing tears.

Apparently, Itachi did not appreciate her defiance either, because a second later he swooped upon her, grasping her chin in his fingers and forcing her, for that necessary millisecond, to stare into his eyes.

"Nonononono," she rasped, weak protests against the genjutsu she could not fight. Eventually, she began to scream.

Neji stared at Tenten writhing on the floor and came to a decision.

I'm sorry. Bringing back two powerful fingers, he held Kami by the neck with one hand, avoiding the tears welling in her pink eyes. Please don't scream.

A sudden exhale tickled Neji's lips; the girl's last breath of precious air. Feeling it caress his perspiring, dirty face. His fingers knew fatal pressure points by muscle memory alone.

Thankfully, she did not utter a sound as he let his fingers go limp, Kami's body sliding to the tiled floor.

Itachi seemed satisfied, and blinked solemnly, letting his eyes fade to onyx once more. Watching the brunette convulsing on the floor, smirking almost fondly at the Hyuuga, whom had turned and taken a few steps toward his teammate. Unable to comfort or touch, only observe in stony silence.

Reflexes kicked in: The sharingan wielder took a smooth step forward and kicked Tenten's limp form... Rolling over and over, stopping, with a whimper, at Neji's feet.

"Take her."

Sorrowful, she kept her exhausted jade eyes cast to the bag she was currently rummaging through and ignored his intense stare. Silhouette stretched upon the blood red carpet, lean and muscular, created by the fluorescent light of the bathroom that spilled through the open door. He tried, however, to stop staring; it was not making her turn around, nor did it feel particularly right to let his eyes roam her half-clothed figure. She was hunching over his backpack, searching through his clothes looking for one of his shirts to wear to bed, and yes, he was annoyed about her display of humiliation in his regard.

He was trying to be a stubborn, insensitive prick, but as her eyes so heavy with apology settled on a dark, navy nightshirt and she stood, fiddling with the buttons, he sighed.

Leaning against the door frame, he let her sweep past without looking at him and scoop her hairbrush from the counter, pulling it roughly through her tangled pink locks. Tossing it aside. It hit the tile with a piercing clatter.

Sasuke watched her over his shoulder as she buttoned his shirt halfway, leaving the top few hanging loosely as she rubbed her eyes, tumescent in the pale glow of the light.

He turned.

"Why do you always wear my clothes to sleep in?"

"Because...I can."

Raising a pretentious eyebrow, he stepped forward and stood behind her silently, breathing down her neck and not hesitating as he reached forward. Sliding muscular arms around her waist and pulling her small body to his with the intent of being gentle; unfortunately, breaking habits were difficult after so long. Needy, rough, possessive groping was his forte and really, was only expected given the personality he portrayed.

Her knees nearly gave as she leaned back, accepting his less than tender embrace; he felt shivers from fatigue send shakes into her arms and torso, head falling back to rest on his shoulder.

"You are so annoying...now go to bed."

"You...you're...you are such a..." she whined, vainly struggling in his grasp, throwing back her limp hand to smack him. Her fingers hit his taut, bandaged shoulder and rested there.

"I'm sorry," she mumbled, struggling to stay awake. Fingers descended lower, feeling rather than seeing the zipper of her jeans. She tugged on it, the metal cold in her fingers, continuing to mutter. "But like...Kaka-sensei said," she breathed, clutching the top of her jeans, hands shaking as she pushed the material off her hips. "Just a mission, after all, we don't have a choice, right?" Tilting her head back, she let it fall sideways onto his collarbone and spoke against his neck, words slowly losing clarity as she pressed her body against his. "We'll get through it, just like always...just a mission..."

Sasuke, though quite used to frowning at numerous things, listened to her words. Derisive. Mocking.


She clung to him still for support as she pushed the material further, over her thighs, and let the jeans crumple to a heap around her ankles, leaving her legs bare. His long shirt reached nearly to her knees, admittedly covering much more in the front than in the back. Turning her face into the sleeve, she inhaled deeply and rolled her eyes at him.

"So when it's over...you can go back to...to being a bastard," she whispered, snickering quietly in her nearly unconscious state. Kicking her foot haphazardly, she muttered, "Stupid pants...", as the jeans slid off her ankle.

"Now take me to bed," she murmured.

And with that order, she collapsed against him with a fluttering sigh and one last curse.

Sasuke's lips twisted into somewhat of an offended pout.

Did she have to say all that?

Unfortunately, he felt he deserved it, and as he slid an arm under her knees and carried her bridal style over the threshold, into the darkness of the hotel room, he sighed again. So typical of her, pushing herself to exhaustion, so annoying, how she felt the need to humiliate him in the bar, so cute, the way she insisted on stealing all his damn shirts.

So bitter, her words. Because they were true.

Despite her rekindling his tolerance of other people, that just didn't seem to include her.

Though sorely tempted to drop her, he set her sleeping form carefully upon the bed, roughly yanking the covers over her and folding his arms as he stared down. Eyes glittering in the darkness, watching her intensely, as she curled up at the edge of the side, somehow aware that she was required to leave room for one more.


'Cause you're always dancing

Just out of my reach

How long can I practice

What I've always preached?


And in the darkness, shirtless, he laid carefully on his own side of the bed and rested his tired head upon folded arms. Thinking.

Looking to his right, he watched her back rise and fall as she slept contentedly on her side. She had kicked the blankets off her body completely, revealing her legs, ivory in the moonlight cast across the sheets. He rolled onto his side, watching her through those same obsidian eyes, always guarded and disguising everything.

In that same moonlight, his fingers were just as pale as he reached out, unsure of exactly what he wanted to touch, but he needed to. He needed to feel something.


So sensitive...makes me sick.


They settled upon the gentle curve of her hip, squeezing it roughly.

"Tenshon, Sakura."

He grimaced.

"Sugiyama, Sakura."

His grip tightened. His voice was raspy, thick, low in the stillness of the night.

He remembered how that man had spoken to her. Mocked her.

Touched her.

That was whom Sasuke would have to be.

Unnatural adrenaline flooded him for one pivotal moment: He sat up quickly, removing his hand from her. Boldly, he bent over her sleeping, angel-like form and lowered his lips to her ear. Heavy, hot breaths fluttering against her, lips touching her skin as little as possible. He whispered:

"Uchiha Sakura."

Like a hiss.


It rolled off the tongue just too easily.

Raising himself cautiously, he turned over, his back now facing her.

Distancing himself once again.

On opposite sides they rested through the night, both dreading the light of dawn. Neither turned. Neither moved. There was always tomorrow.

Another day to fight.

Another day to keep himself away.


I'll be okay.

Just trust me when I say...

We're better off alone.


Goodnight, Uchiha Sakura.