AuthorsNote: -Blush- I was so flattered by the number of reviews that I got for POL! You don't know how much it meant to me! I've been so happy about them, each and everyone! Both to those who have reviewed the whole time, and those who have reviewed only that time X3 I hope that you all enjoy this, the sequel to POL, and I hope you continue to review (encourage!) me! Much, much love! Sephy J



The first thing that he felt was pain. Something he had become so accustomed to the past few days, so much that it almost felt it had always been this way.

The world was red with pain. Whips sliced through paper thin skin like razors, and brands burned it like the flesh of a common game animal, filling his senses with the awful smell of burning meat—his own. His voice was high and pitiful as he cried out endlessly, at each and every new way they found to torture his slight body. Heavy leather straps, bruising his pale skin where they hit. Sharp, thin knives that cut slivers from his slender form like choice pieces of a delicate dish. And even like this they found it in themselves to violate him in the very last way that they could. And after they tired of shoving themselves into his torn and used body, they came up with many more creative ways to humiliate him.

Consciousness was a slippery and tricky thing. Kabuto thought that he was awake many times, only to fall back into his private hell of delusional tortures. His body was soaking wet and felt heavy as if something lay over him. Head aching terribly, his limbs felt constrained and stiff, protesting each and every move, down to the very breath he needed. He itched all over, and something shifted under him when he did manage to move. Dark eyes snapped open in an instant as he tried to sit up, fingers gripping the sheets as something sharp sent a searing pain through his left arm. He cried out, reaching to remove the object but a hand laid over his wrist. Lucky for the owner of the offending hand, Kabuto's reflexes were not exactally up to par as he moved to lash out. His other hand was caught as well, and held firmly. The room was almost too dark to see, but he made out the shadowy figure in front of him. Just as he was about to shout again the other spoke,

"Kabuto-sensei, it's alright! This is your room! Calm down!" The male said in a hushed tone, and he hated it at once. Since when did someone speak to him like that!? "It's the IV, leave it in! Hey, stop moving or you'll—!" But the silver-haired medic was already curling up in pain, giving a low groan of anguish. He coughed, bandaged arms wrapping around his tightly wrapped midsection. His ribs were aching badly, his stomach so badly bruised that he knew the muscles were damaged. "The medicine's wearing off. Here, take this." The man reached to the bedside table, lifting the glass of water and a few pills. The bandages itched, they constrained his breathing and his movement and he hated it—and they were everywhere! Anything that hindered his movement right now was nothing but a horrible reminder. Forcing himself to sit up, he grabbed the pills and popped them into his mouth.

His first attempt to swallow them made him choke, water spilling over his fingers as he covered his mouth, soaking the sheets under him. The medic at his side frowned and reached to assist him but Kabuto batted him away. Ashamed, he took the soggy pills back into his mouth, swallowing them slowly this time. It left an awful taste of chalk, and he fought the urge to gag that rose up in his throat. He was still sweating, something probably brought on by his body's natural reaction to fighting the infection that had set into his wounds. He needed to see them, to assess how bad that they really were, and to make sure that they had done everything correctly while he was apparently sleeping. One look at the expression of the man in his room told him this was going to be impossible.

"...Light a few candles, I can't see." He said at last, his voice rather raw. The other seemed to think this request was alright at least, and he went about the room lighting them as asked. "Now... go and get me something stronger."

"You can't take—"

"I know what I can take!" Kabuto snapped, but then he changed his tone with a groan. Shouting had made his stomach and chest throb with a not so dull ache. "Nnnngh...Kono-kun..." He whined, and the man seemed surprised that Kabuto had remembered his name. "Please, it hurts...Just bring me something from my lab. A bottle of pills labeled 'Opiate Six'." He murmured feverishly, his breath coming a little fast. Kono seemed to hesitate, probably trying to think of exactly what the medicine was. "GO!" He shouted, and the younger man jumped, nodding his head as he left the room in a hurry. Kabuto gave a sigh of relief, tossing the sheets off of his body.

The cold air hit him like a physical blow, causing him to suck in his breath which in turn sent a throb of pain through his ribs. Wincing, he slid the needle out of his arm. Slowly, he slipped his long, bandaged legs over the edge of the bed. The stone floor was cold, but it felt almost good on his feverish skin. Grabbing the edge of the table he stood uneasily, legs wobbly and weak. Pain erupted from his thighs and hips, knees buckling, but he kept his footing. His mirror was across the room, he could make it... Each step seemed a mile, his balance difficult to keep when he was feeling so dizzy form pain. Fingertips slowly left the table, and he was on his own. The distance felt impossible, but he made it somehow, clinging to the edges of the mirror as his breath created a fog onto the shiny surface.

From neck to ankles bloodstained bandages covered his slender body, and what was not covered seemed to be bruised or otherwise marred. With a trembling hand he unwound the bandages on his right arm. His left followed, and then his chest. Tears rose in his eyes as he beheld his once flawless pale skin. Bruises on his arms, his wrists badly chafed and bloody from the rope—he cried out as the bandage on his right one stuck to the wound, ripping it off angrily. On his sides he could see the marks from where the lashes had curled around, as well as the ones that had been given to the front of him as well. The left side of his chest was purple and black, and from what he could tell at least two ribs were broken. All of the wounds were fresh, infection all cleaned away by the Oto's careful medics, red blood flowing freely from where they had been suck to the bandages. At least they had done that right... For a moment he rest, pressing his cheek against the cool surface which was wet from the fog of his breath. He sobbed dryly, giving a small, private whimper of pain as he pulled back to continue. His left leg... bruised, lashed, long burns on his thighs from the hot bars they'd used. And his right... Kabuto had just gotten them unwrapped to his knee when he caught sigh of something that made his heart skip a beat. Turning slightly to the side, the tears that had risen from pain began to fall.

"" He barely breathed, voice shaking. No, no,but hadn't that healed!? That was his back... They had given him another one! Broken nails dug into the newly revealed wound, and bile rose up in his throat as blood began to run down his leg. He shook with more sobs, and the pit in his stomach rose suddenly. Knees buckling, he caught himself with his hands as he fell, emptying the contents of his stomach onto the bare stone floor. Hair fell over his face and he moved it aside angrily, wiping the back of his mouth swiftly. So much for the pills... The door opened and his body gave a jolt of shock.

No, stay calm. You're home.

"Kono-kun, hurry up..." He breathed, nails digging in again.

"Kabuto, just what are you doing?" An unexpected voice snapped, and his eyes shot to the door. There stood his master, looking quite angry and perplexed at same time. His mouth fell open for an excuse, but as the Sannin approached him he backed away quite suddenly, blocking his face with one hand, as if it could block all of his shame.

"Don't..." He couldn't hold a sob back. "Don't... don't look at me..." Voice shook, and it was barely coherent it was so quiet. "I'll... I'll be alright in a few days, just... please...don't look at me...!"

Orochimaru frowned, "You shouldn't even be out of bed, you little fool. Don't look at you? What vanity! You have seen me at my worst." The pale ninja almost hissed, and he came to where his medic was now huddled by the wall. Reaching down he grabbed his wrist, the one that seemed to be clutching his thigh. Kabuto tried to protest, ripping his hand back, but his master saw it. Golden eyes widened, and his fists clenched. The blood that was on Kabuto's wrist that had gotten onto his hand soon mixed with his own as his nails dug in to his own pale palm.

A brand.

The brand of Konoha's Leaf was right there on his thigh. Jaw tensed as he watched his medic make his way back to his bed, but he only managed to grip the sheets as he lay his head on the mattress, sobbing pitifully, and heavily. Kabuto knew that his master was holding back. The entire way home, he had known it. The Sannin's silence... Orochimaru knew that if he pressed it, if he shouted and lashed out as was in his nature when he was upset, that Kabuto could not take it. He could cave in, and retreat somewhere into his mind from which he could not ever recover. Each silent, furious glance that he had sent him had gotten such a cringe from the medic that Orochimaru himself felt ill. And so they were at a stand still, with neither one able or ready to speak to the other. Kabuto sobbed brokenly over his bed, and the snake Sannin left the room without a word.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Orochimaru slammed his fist into the stone wall, crumbling a good portion of it. His breath came fast, and he felt a pleasant throb of pain where his knuckles bled. He could hear Kabuto in the room just behind him, still sobbing on his bed like an abandoned child. He had only seen his medic cry twice before, and both times had been because of pain. This was something else, aside from pain; yet not completely separate. Seeing that brand on his servant's skin had been the last straw. His burning hatred for Konoha had just gone up a few more notches, if it was possible. How darethey... How dare they mark his property!

Torture him, yes. He had expected that much. But to brand him like common cattle—this was an insult that he would not take lightly! He had thought it was enough of one to have his right hand man captured by the enemy, but he had been wrong. Yes, the boy was loyal to him. Of course he had not said a word to them, because Kabuto was a loyal and therefore valuable ninja. Irreplaceable... The proof was in the room behind him, anguished sobs berating his master's ears for listening. Kabuto had been caught in the first place in order to save his master the perilous trip back to the lab. Orochimaru's body had been rejecting him much sooner than expected, and the medicine that he needed was in another base completely, leaving them no other choice. Caught because of his master's weakness, and tortured within inches of his life. The boy had been convinced that he had been left to die, and still he kept his lips shut.

Oh... if only he hadn't found out. Then this could all be simple. But no... His medic hadbetrayed him. He had betrayed his master in such a way that he had to this day never experienced until now. And oh,he did notlike this feeling. A fist had reached straight into his chest and gripped a hold of his very core, twisting it tightly to the point that nothing else seemed to matter right now. Not the revival of his current base, and not the things that had been lost in the other. There was nothing for him but this dull, sickening ache in his chest. He could still hear those unforgivable words, whispered in a voice that was reserved for only the most desperate of situations, when his medic had run out of options and was forced to be honest and true.

/"STOP! S-Stop, Orochimaru-sama... please..." / And the insolent brat had even grabbed his hand! Orochimaru had been confused for only a moment before he caught the look that his most valuable, most loyal, most treasured servant had given his enemy.

Hatake Kakashi. The insolent little whelp with the foolish father. The one that had been the sensei of Uchiha Sasuke before he had come to the Oto, and the one who had tried to put a lock over his curse seal. Kabuto, hisKabuto... had been with his man. It was painfully easy to see, with just that one shared look and pathetic plea. Then that kiss had been... What? A goodbye? It had not been a distraction at all, at least not in the way that he had thought. Sleeping with the enemy... He had thought that only the young and foolish did something so obviously stupid, without gain.

That night with Kabuto and Kakashi like some kind of gods damned star-crossed lovers, Orochimaru—who was there to rescue his medic from a slow death at the hands of their enemy, had almost become the "villain" instead! It was infuriating. He wished to race back into the room and with his kunai, cut the offending brand from the once smooth, pale, soft thigh of his faithless l... His fist slammed into the wall again, but this time he shook it off as he began to walk down the hallway. He licked his bleeding knuckles slowly.

Lover. He had thought of the word lover. But Kabuto was nothis lover, he was his servant! Just because lately he had invited the boy to be his companion in bed more frequently than in the past did notmake him his lover. It was his medic's job to take care of him, right? And it was simply the service that he had required...

Slender and pale with smooth and softer than the skin of any ninja Orochimaru had ever touched was Kabuto's body. Young and toned, possessing all of the youth and vigor that his master so obsessively tried to obtain through immortality. And Kabuto used it carelessly, shaking off anything and everything that was thrown at him with his seemingly unlimited healing. But they had found those limits several times, and it seems that those times were the only times that Kabuto realized his own mortality. It frightened him, and he understood his master best in those times. Together, they shared sides of themselves that were never meant for the public eye. In bed, they were honest, passionate, and truthful.

Or so he had thought.

So, his dear medic had been spreading those long legs of his for not onlyanother man, but an enemy. An enemy that was close to his future host, and possessed possibly one of the greatest threats of all. What secrets had be been whispering to the Jounin? What pillow talk had he filled the Copynin's ear with? The thought of their last base flashed through his mind, but he shook it away. No, Kabuto had not been disloyal in that way. He had not told his master's secrets in any way that would bring them misfortune or harm. Once again, his tattered canvas of skin was proof of that. Likely, Kabuto had learned a painful lesson about his affair. Kakashi had been useless in saving him any pain, regardless of any passionate, sinful moments they had shared.

And so the worst part about all of this scenario was not that his medic had done something harmful to the Sannin's village. It was that it hurt. It fucking hurt.This had been exactly what he had been trying to avoid ever since he had left Konoha. Attachment to another human. Perhaps he had let the boy stay overnight in his bed once to often. Or maybe it had started when the medic had whispered to him in his hot, breathy whisper, right in the middle of sex, that he loved him. It could have been when he stayed by his side night and day when no one else dared to, and stubbornly gave his master every bit of medicine that he needed. He fought his master's old teammate for him, deceived Sasori for him, manipulated enough things for Sasuke to arrive safely, lived a lie for years... He didn't know when it had started, but it didn't matter.

His chest was in pain, and it had nothing to do with the rejection of this body. That sobbing, ragged boy in the room now down the hall from him was an attachment. One he wished to break, while at the same time discover just what he had done wrong. Just whyhad Kabuto needed another bedmate? Why the enemy? Why Kakashi? He wanted to slap the boy until he gave him the answers that he wanted, but he knew that in his current state that if he got violent the medic would never recover from it mentally. Then what could he do?

A light was on in Kabuto's lab, and the Sannin's eyebrow rose. He spotted one of the other medics exiting the room with a bottle in his hand, and something sparked.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Some time later, Kabuto sat atop his bed once again, holding the roll of bandages in his teeth as he attempted to rebandage his chest and stomach. His body was beginning to protest every breathsimply because it required him to move, but if Kabuto was anything at all, he was stubborn. He ripped the piece he needed, securing the bandage around its self and panting as he took a break. Both arms down. But he was still running a high fever, and his skin was wet with it. Soon, his body was going to feel the withdraw of all of the medicine that he had taken simply to make it home.

Soldier pills, supplements, chakara boosters, and pain killers. All on an already empty shell of a body. As it turned out, his healing when he had killed Jaetou was next to nothing. Perhaps he had only killed the pain for a moment, long enough to step across and strike him. If he didn't get his chakara back up to normal soon he was ... all of these marks... he was going to be permanently scarred for the rest of his life. He didn't think himself vain—at least not completely. Sure, Kabuto was proud of his nearly flawless body; what ninja wouldn't be? His superior healing and knowledge of medicines were to thank for that, and he was proud of his skill. Most of the wounds were not terrible enough to scar him badly. Only a few of the whip lashes were deep enough to worry about, and the bruises of course would fade. Some of the burns might scar his once smooth and beautiful thighs, but he could live with those...

But gods... Cruel, cruel gods. Why the brand? It wasn't fair! He had never belonged to Konoha in the first place! If he would have noticed the brand before he had killed Jaetou then he could have focused on healing it. Anger was making his head feel even more fuzzy, and the pain was beginning to set in as his every muscle ached, and every nerve pinched. Just as he finished bandaging his midsection the door opened again, and he was more than a bit relieved to see Kono with a tray in his hands. Kono's eyes lowered as soon as he saw his superior, moving toward the bed and setting the tray on the table.

"Let me help..."

"Just give me the medicine, Kono-kun." Kabuto spoke quietly, though his throat was tight. Kono swallowed hard, filling a glass of water and handing the other medic a set of pills. Antibiotics. Well, that made sense. His body was likely swimming with infection from the dirty cells, and this would help him recover faster. He swallowed them with only a little trouble. Panting as he licked his still dry lips, he held out his hand for the second set of pills. After a moment of silence he turned his dark eyes up to meet his subordinates blue ones. "Kono-kun, the Opiates?" He asked, frowning irritably. Kono swallowed, picking at his glove a bit.

"Kabuto-sensei... Let me help you get bandaged again. I brought you medicine for... for the burns..."

"Kono-kun, do not treat me like an invalid!" Was this what his master felt like at the time that his arms had been cursed? It was terrible, but at least Orochimaru was able to have confidence in his medic's skills... This medic was merely a Chuunin. "Just give me the pills, and let me handle it." He held out his hand more imploringly.

"I-I... we all know... what you've been through... We respect you. W-we don't know why... he's angry with you, but... I'm sorry..." He swallowed again, and Kabuto frowned. If his master was angry with him, there could only be one reason, but he didn't want to think about that now.

"Don't worry about Orochimaru-sama. I'll handle him. Don't I always? Just give me the Opiates and be on your way. Or stay, I don't care. Just give me the pills!" He snapped, but then he caught himself. It was hard to maintain his good side when he was feeling this much pain and irritation. He closed his eyes for a moment, and then he gave a slight smile. "Look, Kono-kun, if you forgot them I won't be angry. Just go and get them..."

"I can't!" Kono whispered, but it was loud enough for Kabuto to hear. The silver-haired medic frowned.


"I... I can't! We're not allowed... to give you... any kind of pain medication. I'm sorry, Kabuto-sensei... I don't know why he's angry, but I'm sorry! He's told all of us that if we give them to you... You know the rest." He said reluctantly, still tugging at his glove. Kabuto felt all of the blood drain from his face, feeling a chill spread throughout his body from head to toe.

"N...No... he wouldn't do..." His voice died off, Kono's face saying it all. He had. His master had ordered such a thing. Knowing full well what it would mean for his medic to go through, he had given such an order. Kabuto tried to swallow, but a lump in his throat made it hard. He felt sick to his stomach again, but he knew that he could not afford to lose the medication he had just taken. His dark gray eyes became pitch black, and his voice was almost too low to be heard, as he stared at the mirror across his room. "...Kono-kun... Please, help me with my bandages, and then leave me to sleep." He said quietly.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Hours later, when the sun outside had fallen to reveal the waxing moon, there was not a silent hall in all of the current Oto base. Stone was a great substance for carrying sound, anyone who lived near mountains would tell you this. Take a maze, more than a mile of twisting, winding hallways and rooms and give it stone walls, stone floors, and ceilings, and you had a wonderful concert hall of sound. Of course, there were jutsus and fuda to get around such things normally. But one room did not have such things present at the moment. Ninja avoided that hallway like the plague, staying as far as possible from the offending room.

Inside of the room, Kabuto had woken to full withdraw, fever, and the blinding, searing pain of his wounds. Well, perhaps to say that he woke up was a stretch of the truth. The medic was dead tired, exhausted from the exertion forced upon his body, but his fever raged and his wounds ached. Bandages itched, skin slick with sweat, hair clinging to the sides of his deathly pale face as he gripped the sheets, arching his back in pain.

At first, he had tried to stay silent. Teeth clenched tightly, he gave himself a headache trying to keep sound from escaping his tormented frame. Every time he closed his eyes he was greeted with the awful sight of his torturers. Every throb or twinge of a lash or burn was laid anew in his mind until he forced his eyes open again. High, desperate whines began to slip through as his body broke out in sweat, writhing slowly, twisting into his thin sheets. Kono had left his bedside, and he was never more glad to be alone. Whimpers broke free as his eyes began to water, his stomach protesting being given nothing but medication for the past few hellish days. Not an hour went by before he was locked in the full grip of his misery.

Currently one hand locked onto one of the headboard's bars, the other clutching the sheets tightly, he twisted himself to the side as a wave of pain passed through his body. Eyes opened half-way, begging away the nightmares that came to him in his half-asleep, nearly delirious state, tears slipping over flush hot cheeks to soak his hair and pillow as he turned his face into it, sobbing openly. It hurt to gasp for breath as he was, each heavy pant feeling like a stab to his lungs from his broken ribs. "Nnn...nnngghh! Hah...Ahhaaa...!" His voice rose, high and pitiful. "Nn...Naaa...Gg-hhss...!" He pressed his head back into his pillow as his back arched, stomach cramping up tightly as he curled back up swiftly, writhing in the pain that made his gut feel like it was being ripped from his body.

"Nn—hhkkk... yaaaaah, Ple... haaaaa!!"His screams broke out, full-voiced and ear-splitting. The halls resounded with his private hell, and every ear that heard them was wincing. They continued, unending and uninterrupted. "No, g-...Ta---aahhn...sto...Ouuhh... P-plea...!" He twisted and pulled at the sheets and headboard to no avail, the covers wrapped mostly around one bandaged leg, caught around his waist somewhere as well. "D...—hck---ahaaah!" Never in his life had he lacked so much control over his body. Every painful muscle spasm, every crippling stomach cramp, and every throb of his irritated wounds. After everything, to endure this in his own room... "Ahhh, O-Orochhh...nnaahaah...Orochimaru-sama...!"

/You can't tell me anything normally, can you... Orochimaru-sama?/

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Orochimaru watched another medic scurry quickly back down the hall that they had come from with a cold amusement. So, Kabuto really didhavesomeloyalty from his subordinates after all. He'd watched three of them come near so far, but as soon as they caught sight of the Oto's owner they had all turned tail and made a quick retreat. But the pale ninja himself was not un-phased by the sound of his medics cries. Quite the opposite. He felt every scream and sob as if they were belts, slowly tightening around his chest. It was almost hard to breathe, when he eventually heard his name shouted amongst the almost delirious sounds of agony. He leaned against the wall, directly next to Kabuto's door, where the sound was the strongest. Nails dug into his arms through his sleeves, eyes closed and breathing slow.

"Haaahh...Nnnaa, gaa—ouuh!" Kabuto's voice was raw with pain, so much that he had never heard it give such a pitch. His throat must already be sore, from the sheer volume of his cries of suffering. The belt tightened.

/I know... I know that his is harsh. But you leave me no choice, you foolish boy. I cannot touch you right now... Or I fear that I will forever break you./

"Ahh, Oro...Orochimaru-sama... Orochimaru-samaaah...!!" Kabuto began to shout, causing golden eyes to snap open. "Sa—Uhnnngg... Orochimaru-sama... Orochi...hah!"

/What are you doing? What do you want?/

"Orochimaru-sama!! ...rochi...aaahhh!"

/Ah, he's callingfor me?... Damn it.../ He could not do this...

The Sannin uncrossed his arms, calling for assistance. Kabuto had been unfaithful, and yet loyal to him... He couldn't let him suffer the pain he was feeling right now, all for the crime that he had committed before it. He had made his point. It had not gone unnoticed, the medic's infidelity, and the Sannin was not happy about it. For whatever reasons, Kabuto was going to have to decide that on his own. A medic came close cautiously, and he tried his best to keep his expression placid a he gave his orders. It was hard to concentrate with his servant screaming his name so painfully loud just behind him, but he managed, though the medic looked pale. Kono, wasn't he? One of Kabuto's younger students, and not the best at that. Well, he had been brave to approach, and he knew his medicine. The Chuunin left and returned shortly after with everything that he had asked for, and the Sannin lifted something from the bag, telling the other to wait before he opened the door.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Kabuto's voice stopped for a moment as his master stepped into his room. His sobs continued, but he limited his sounds to heart-wrenching whimpers and heavy, short breaths. "Orochimaru-sama...!" He whined, though he could barely see the Sannin through his tears. "Co... Mnnn, here.." He panted, and the other seemed to understand, moving over to the bed and grabbing the chair, scooting it closer. He sat down on it, golden eyes roaming over his servant's body once again. Kabuto was reaching for him, fingers grasping the sheets at the edge of the bed and releasing them several times. "Please...Don't let me fall back asleep. I-I'd rather... endure... then dream..." He pleaded, and the Sannin tilted his chin up slightly as he lent his hand. It was gripped tightly, and Kabuto's breathing seemed to lessen. Orochimaru winced at the force, but he said nothing. They were both quiet for a moment, as Kabuto fought the urge to curl up again, his body tense and writhing slightly, breath heavy.

"Why don't you ask me?" Orochimaru asked at last, and his medic's eyes were dark, glazed with pain as he turned his gaze towards his master. He licked his dry lips,

"I-I... ahnn... I know...why..." He replied, and the other wasn't surprised. It was as he thought, Kabuto had figured it out. But still, there was something fundamentally wrong with the picture of the servant seeking comfort from the master that was the very cause of his painful experience, both current and past. The hand that held his was damp, hot, and still locked his own in a painful grip. He decided it was time... He pulled his arm out from behind his back, revealing the syringe he held. Kabuto's eyes widened, not having expected this at all. He seized his master's hand in a fragile grip when he tried to find the vein in his arm, drawing the Sannin's annoyed and questioning glare. His other hand trembled as he grabbed his master's shoulder, fingers curling in the fabric as he pulled himself up and the other down until his head was tucked safely onto his shoulder.

"I'm..." His voice was quiet though the pitch was high with pain, and breathless, "I'm sorry... I'm sorry...So sorry!" he sobbed, "I'm sorry... I didn't know... I'm so sorry... I didn't know..."

/You are cruel, Orochimaru-sama... for never telling me. How could I know you.../

The needle broke his skin none to gently, but he didn't even wince. It was nothing compared to what he was feeling now, inside and out. Closing his eyes as the merciful medication slipped slowly into his veins, he sobbed into the Sannin's long dark hair, soaking the clothing at the crook of his neck. Orochimaru, surprisingly, seemed not to mind. He loosened Kabuto's death grip on his clothing, forcing his hands back onto the bed, and then his body. The medic lay on his back, bandages bloody and damp with perspiration, dark shadows under his eyes-which were red from crying, standing out against his once again pale face. The sheets were all a mess, tangled and even ripped where he had been holding them.

"What a mess..." The Sannin remarked quietly, reaching out to brush the silver hair from his face. Kabuto's eyes closed, and he rest his cold hand on the feverish forehead.

"Why didn't you...? Nn...I'm sorry..."

"Shhh. The medicine is going to take effect. Let it work."


"Quiet, you brat." His master snapped, and he obeyed. "You always were a quick learner...I'll take it away now. The pain that you have endured for me... When you are better, we'll talk about the rest." He stood up, but stopped when he heard a small whine. Turning back around, he leaned over the bed.

Kabuto's lips were dry and cracked, but he kissed them gently with his own smooth, silky ones. He broke the kiss almost as it began, pressing his finger to the other's lips. "...Hush. Concentrate on healing, Kabuto. You are still... irreplaceable to me." He said before he stood, leaving the room before Kabuto could protest. Once outside, he turned his cold eyes to Kono, who was standing before the door. "Replace his bandages, and give him another dose of that in three hours. If I hear him scream in pain again, you will be next to scream. Do you understand?" He asked, and Kono paled, bowing low.

"Yes, Orochimaru-sama!" He said loudly. The Sannin paused, glancing over his shoulder and into the room, where the silver-haired medic was almost asleep already. Kono moved past him, and he sighed.

/You little fool... Don't do that to me. No one has made me feel guilty for at least twenty years, but you... You understand now, but do not think that your punishment is over. It is not over until I know for sure, why you.../ Hands clenched again, but he held himself back. Worst of all, Kabuto was already apologizing. It meant that he knew that he had personally hurt his master by sleeping with another, and this did not do wonders for Orochimaru's pride.

The healing process was not going to be pretty, and it was not going to be short. By the end of it, many things were going to have to come to light; things that all of them would much rather stay buried. The price of loyalty was high, but the price of healing might prove its self to be just as tough.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Ps: This turned out longer than I thought, and I haven't even touched Konoha yet, nor have reasons come to light, so... Stay tuned, and remember, reviews are the currency of fiction! If I get more +Alert and +favs than reviews, I won't update until it tips. If you like it, don't keep it to yourself!