ChapterTitle: Stop

Summary: Dying slowly, dreaming of past and possibility, Tayuya arrives at the village hidden in the leaves.

Warnings: Gore; violence; mention of torture.

Rating: (15)

The forest is passing quickly, landmarks flashing by as fast as she can recognise them. Fever is settling in, and she has no idea what she's going to do when she gets to the Leaf village. Absolutely no fucking idea. She can remember her drills, her briefing sessions. She knows how screwed she is, how screwed she was the moment she chose this destination.

"If you encounter the following ninja," Kabuto told them, "You are not to engage, unless the situation is drastically in your favour." Names scrolled by, old photos with them. Pages of statistics, graphs. Tayuya knew that no one in the room was going to remember all of the faces.

The screen flickered through the A's, the E's, through a whole minute of Hyuuga names. There was a rustle of muttering from the seated crowd as some of the more famous names appeared. One ninja to her left muttered a curse at a 'Morino, Ibiki' who apparently specialised in Interrogation, and she eyed the scars across what was visible of his face with interest. On the same page a woman's photo smiled out at the room, smile too wide to be true. Murmuring filled the room at the statistics. 'Teacher', 'Known abilities'; Orochimaru could be seen smirking as the entire room tried not to look at him. Tayuya did not bother, only resolved that if she ever met this Anko, she was going to find out everything she could about why someone with the Heaven Seal could ignore that power.

A bored-looking kid stared out from the screen as they reached the Ns, and she frowned at the face. She knew that look, had made it twitch into fear, horror, pain. Another boy stood out, this one blond and grinning, who had tricked her. No. That hadn't happened yet.

One leg twitched, and she looked down sharply. Blood poured from shattered bones and torn skin; and she remembered that it was the other girl who did that, not the boy listed as 'Nara, Shikamaru'. Trees and leaves streamed through the screen, through the scarred faces and grim smiles of the enemy, until leaves and images became a single, blurring impression. The wind howled around her, making her want to scream defiance.

Her fingers twitched in a ghostly performance of the command melodies, somehow reassuring her. As the images became incomprehensible, Tayuya passed out. In her golem's arms, her flute stayed at her lips, her jagged breaths still ghosting into music.

There are panicked shouts in the distance.

The golems are leaping over buildings and scattering citizens with single-minded obedience, and her muddled curse is stifled against her instrument at a particularly harsh landing. Her aching fingers switch to another pattern, to the minor chords. Her breath comes softly, wetly, the music muffled. If she's identified as the summoner, it's all over. The spirits have stopped, bandaged and pinned faces turning to the ninja now surrounding them. In unison, anticipating the change in melody, they disgorge their chakra.

One slim civilian is devoured before she can think to change the targets. Fuck, that'll endear her to the authorities. What a stupid idea, mixing civilians in with a military area.

As her mind shifts and wanders, her minions waver. Tiles crack and crumble as they stagger into the nearest building.

In the blink of an eye, one golem is down, blasted from five sides with fire and blade. ANBU. There are fucking special ops on the rooftops.

The chakra snake screams defiance where the body cannot, and all but consumes one black-robed ninja before fading.

Tayuya can feel that stolen chakra coursing through her, feeding her reserves. Her seal pulses, sickly sweet against her back, telling her to keep fighting, to keep killing. The ANBU's finely-honed chakra, the civilian's mediocre potential, these steady her. Intelligent, practical. She is suddenly able to fight against the call of the seal.

The notes cease.

She screams as her protector drops her onto the cool pavement, its muscles going completely lax. Immediately, both remaining summons are destroyed, torn apart by swords and chakra until she can't see shit for the smoke.

Neither fought back and this seems to have confused the ANBU.

Whilst they step carefully closer, she slides the flute into what's left of her smock. If they weren't attacking because she was there, she has one chance to lower their suspicion.

"You, kid," one says, just as she convulses, hacking up blood and fuck knows what else onto his sandals. Her head cracks against the ground as she falls back, and she can hear another agent hiss a curse even as she tries to see past the bursts of light in her eyelids. "Get her to the hospital," a female voice, sharp and loud, commands, "she can't do shit like this. Code orange, level three."

Someone picks her up, and nearly drops her again as she automatically flails against the touch. "Oh, for-" the woman mutters, and Tayuya stifles a shout as she feels numerous scaly bodies, sinuous and dry, curl around her. The arms already holding her retreat completely, and then she's held aloft by what can only be fucking snakes, spread along her body like some kind of disgusting, hissing stretcher.

She lets out a whimper as they settle more firmly into place, tongues flickering across clammy skin, and tries to quell the sudden flood of images rushing up towards her. Dark rooms, a pale smile, and yellow eyes. Obedience, loyalty, what is expected. Constriction and poisons. She can name every single fucking one by the end. She can feel her seal throbbing eagerly, encouraging her to fear, to hate, and she barely keeps it down. The mark cannot be discovered.

One's head settles under her chin, and she loses it. The seal screams victory, taking over her skin even as she arches against the power, crying out as bone and open flesh rasp against scales suddenly tightening around her. She hears the name snarled, 'Orochimaru', like a vile curse, and then fangs sink into her throat, cool liquid forcing its way into her bloodstream, dominating and defeating the weakened seal.

"Get Tsunade," Anko Mitarashi snaps. (Tayuya knows now who it is, that smiling woman to whom Orochimaru taught his techniques) "Tell her we've got a girl with a seal. Meet me in third ward." ANBU are surrounding them, questioning, and watching as a broken body is restrained by a nest of serpents. She can hear blood splattering the floor and the angry hiss of a snake near her shattered knees.

Just her fucking luck, she thinks bitterly as her muscles spasm helplessly against the work of the paralytic venom. The one thing that she hates – that Orochimaru has made them all hate – and they're everywhere. One curls around her neck, tangling itself in her matted hair. Another is getting close – too close – to finding her flute inside her tattered tunic. She looks around, or tries to, and curses clot with the blood in her throat as her eyelids are gently but firmly closed. The seal's power collapses, and she feels warm hands and coarse net against her side before she loses consciousness again.