(imdisclaimingimdisclaimingimdisclaiming)

(wuzzup wuzzup.)

(thanks for the love last chapter.)

(dude, i got my cartilage pierced over christmas break and i can't freaking wait 'til i can take it out for the first time.)

(so. close.)

(PM fact of the day: i plan on being an english teacher, although i originally planned on doing elementary education.)

(who knows, i could always switch.)

(but god help the children that fall under my tutelage.)

(:D)

(what're your future career plans?)

(and for the love of pikachu, are there any males who read my stories?)

(not that i don't love my soul sisters. PM is just curious.)

x

peppermint swirls and stutterbug girls

(t)(w)(e)(n)(t)(y)(-)(o)(n)(e)

judicious

x

"Hold still," Gaara told me sharply. It was one of his better days, when he acted only mildly psychotic and I could stand to look into his unfocused eyes.

I straightened my spine obligingly and tried veryvery hard not to cry, the apple on my head weighing as heavy as my reluctance. Gaara grinned, crooked and sideways and wrong, and poised with the bow and arrow up, the ones he stole from the gym at school, face set in complete stone.

"G-gaara," I said for the millionth time, and the smile died. His face was smooth and pale as a baby's, but it had the look of something much older about it. "Maybe-"

Before I could finish, he released the arrow.

I shouted, flinching away, apple tumbling off my head and into the grass. When I looked up, I was shaking and I could feel hot tears leaking out onto my cheeks.

The arrow sailed through the space where my heart would have been.

I looked over at Gaara.

"Pity," was all he said.

That was the first time I heard him laugh.

x

"Hold still," the Supervisor tells me sharply. He wraps the bandage around my wrist nice and tight, and I keep my face steeled, like a soldier, a warrior, a fighter facing his opponent does not show weakness.

It is days, weeks, months, years since I have last seen a friendly face. Sasuke might be dead. Hinata must be sick with worry back at Konoha, Sakura sick with drugs and misplaced hope.

Earlier today, I had found a razor blade hidden away behind a loose tile in the floor. There was dried blood on it, browned life force caked against cold steel, what we all are reduced to. I'd held it between my fingers, running the tips over the edge of the blade in curiosity

(killed the cat killed it dead)

I'd sliced my finger a little by accident, like a paper cut. And I kept my face steeled.

I watched the tiny line of blood materialize out of nowhere, believed it to be some sort of sorcery or evil scientific experiment, the modern man's dark magic. Brow furrowed, I'd brought the blade to my wrist and

(wound wound wound wound wound)

And here. Now I'm here.

"Look," I say to the Supervisor, "Look at what I did."

He rolls his eyes, but I know he is impressed.

I glance again at the corner of the sterile (muchmuchmuch too sterile, too white, too pure and cold) room, where ceiling and walls converge. The little black camera is still there. A blinking red light announces its presence like a lighthouse beacon. I squint at it. Make faces at it. Abhor it.

Who's watching?

"Goddamit, stay still."

My wrist feels stiff and tight with the scratchy gauzed wrapped around it. I lift that hand, point towards the camera.

"Who's watching?"

He looks over at the corner in exasperation, confusedly regards my focus point, says, "Don't know what the hell you're talking about, there's nothing there."

Liar.

I glare at him through half-lidded eyes, considering.

x

It's suffocating me.

I tear at the snake around my wrist, shouting, screaming, sobbing, gotta get it off have to get it off god help somebody helphelphelp the bandage is gone there's a snake trying to squeeze the life out of my arm, I can feel my hand go numb and the hiss of its breath the tips of its fangs oh god nonononononononononononono-

And then the door to my room bursts open, two monsters come in, so much worse, just so much worse than even before when it was just a boa constrictor on my wrist. The two monsters are disguised like Supervisors, and they hold me down to the bed, shout things at me in deep, hellish voices.

It is more constricting than any serpent.

x

The next time I wake up I am in a chair and I cannot move my arms or legs. The therapy room looms around me menacingly.

When I glance down at my wrist, I see it is naked of bandage or snake, covered in dried blood and fingernail scratches, a landscape of carnage with a two-inch radius, a battered field across my skin. The razor cut is long and thin and dark.

Sometimes you get battle scars fighting yourself, too.

When I lift my head, it is so heavy that I think they must have filled it with sand while I was knocked out with whatever drugs they pumped me with. I let it hang low, shakily glance up at the odd angle instead, and immediately scrunch my eyes closed with a grimace.

The room is much too bright and constricting.

The door opens, closes, and I keep my head down.

"Hello, Naruto."

Orochimaru.

"Snake," I whisper into my collarbone, voice raspy. From here I can again see the raw redness of my wrist.

A sickly white hand comes forward, grabs my chin roughly and pushes up. I cry out.

"Look me in the eye when you talk to me Uzumaki," Orochimaru murmurs, and I glance up into his face, as fish-belly pale as the rest of him.

"That's better." He drops my chin, folds his arms across his chest, his business suit a cheap mockery. "I heard there was a problem earlier."

I don't answer, just glare.

"Tsk," he says. "We don't like problems here, you know. We have special solutions for such things."

I shiver.

"I know you had fun with Dr. Kabuto during your last visit here, hmm? Played a little Q and A."

I grunt.

"Maybe we can do the same."

A muscle in my jaw twitches.

"Good boy." He smiles sweetly. "Now, can you tell me what Sasuke Uchiha has spoken with you about since your last visit?"

"Nothing," I tell him, eyes darting around the room in panic, the walls now spinning. I feel sick and jumpy and unbalanced, as if the chair will tip me out onto the floor without my consent.

He narrows his thin eyes at me, bright as liquid amber. "Tell me what Tsunade has to do with it."

He's trying to confuse you.

Make him pay.

"I don't- you're trying to confuse, make me crazy, but it won't work."

"Why did you come here Uzumaki? What reason did you have to transfer?"

I laugh. Promises are sacred though, too good and pure and trusting for Orochimaru, so I just shake my head. "Mind your own beeswax," I sing to him, even while I think I made a failure of a promise.

He sighs. "I would prefer not to have to use more forceful means, you know. I suggest you stop being thick-headed and just answer the questions."

Make him pay like we've payed.

I narrow my eyes, feel my lungs go tight.

"You make me feel dead inside," I tell him, because it is the truth.

And that is when his face turns thunderous. He stalks forward, pale pianist finger jump up to wrap around my throat, and his expression is deceptively calm, like me, like a perfect little soldier, an android, devoid devoid devoid.

I choke on the laughter that bubbles like vomit in my throat.

Make him pay with blood and hurt and sickness.

His fingers close tighter, and a sound escapes my throat like a wounded animal. That is what I am.

"Listen to me, you little shit-"

And then the door flies open, and the sounds of shouting and muffled speech lays itself like a backdrop in the room.

Footsteps sound on linoleum. Tap tap tap out an uneven beat.

A police officer walks inside with his gun raised. Other cops flood in behind him, line that wall, trap us with authority and deadly weapons.

Orochimaru's hands drop immediately, and up goes the false smile, a wicked manipulation tactic of the ages. "Gentlemen," he coos, "If you'll excuse me we have a therapy session going on at the moment-"

"Put your hands up and try not to give me a reason to shoot you like the animal you are." The officer's voice is cold.

Orochimaru scowls, and obeys.

"Animal animal animal-" I chant lowly, blinking owlishly at the room as weapons are lowered and the cop at the door walks forward to wrench Orochimaru's arms back for the handcuffs gleaming there. "Animal animal animal-"

"Orochimaru, you are under arrest for assault, illegal distribution of narcotics, the endangerment of minors, illegal experimentation, and manslaughter."

(animal animal animal animal)

"You have the right to remain silent-"

(animal animal animal animal animal)

There are men undoing the straps on my arms and legs, placating me with soft words of pity and encouragement as Orochimaru is led out of the room, but I stay frozen in my chair, chanting, letting them know-

(animal animal we are all animals)

The lone female officer walks forward slowly, as if I am dangerous or skittish and oh, oh if only they knew.

They want to cage you.

(animal)

Her hand touches my shoulder. I wince, and the uneven chair topples over with the force of my flinch, the ground rushing up to meet me like a long-forgotten friend.

I welcome it.

When my head hits the tiled floor, I feel my skull bounce from the impact, then a humming.

Then nothing.

x

(confused?)

(you should be.)

(hmm kind of half-done with a sasusaku oneshot. if i like it, it'll be up soon enough.)

(unf.)

(don't really like the way this chapter came out. maybe i'll edit it laterrrr.)

(but hey, WHAT IS THIS. PLOT DEVELOPMENT? I BELIEVE SO.)

(and another cliffhanger-ish ending.)

("dude. wth is going on?")

(ikr.)

('til next time.)

-PM-