Title: "600 Seconds"
So, instead of working on the stories I need to update, ( hides face ), I finished an idea I started a while ago.
There are five parts; each part is written in a different point of view. Please don't skip to the end to spoil the answers, and please review, whether you like it or not. I did this for a challenge, to be honest, so I don't expect it to be something amazing.
Though I do like it. :3
:: 600 Seconds ::
600 seconds: The clock ticks, m'dear-
I cross the threshold diligently as chimes echo in the distance. Masked by crashing, toiling thunder, in all it's frightening glory.
Greeted by a solemn bellhop in typical attire, I lower the umbrella and immediately grimace as I soak the expensive carpet beneath my feet. Jounin boots, an oversized mantle belonging to my roommate and yes, the umbrella; all saturating the carpet and earning me a few reproving glares from some uppity lords 'n' ladies. If they ever really stopped and thought, ever realized how many times I and a host of other new, young, inexperienced jounin saved their rich pompous asses.
Times over, times over...
Here I go, being ungrateful again. Trust me, I understand it's my job and sure, it's not as if I don't receive any payment or those irreplaceable memories to laugh about over a cup of sake, (Jounin tradition. Thursdays.) Now the looks I'm getting are a bit more sympathetic, and I slip my bloody kunai into it's sheath to keep the crimson off their stupid, spotless floor, the atmosphere is unnaturally tense. I'm not the first to come in, soaked, solemn, striding into the tender yet sophisticated atmosphere with a military purpose.
"Someone I can find for you, Miss?"
I scan the room and spot them, in the corner of course; wouldn't want to be noticed.
And I just...can't...
I dither, undecided.
"I need ten minutes. And a drink."
"Straight sake, on the rocks."
My dismissal is a curt nod and he takes it into stride, and I really should tip him well because I could never handle this job without slamming my fist into someone's primped, aristocratic face.
Speaking of aristocracy...
I settle into the unnaturally comfortable chair, and I feel the material in my stained fingers, the stitching. God, I could never stitch. Drink in hand, I watch them in their corner.
Ignoring the world, if only to secure just ten minutes to themselves that while they don't believe they deserve, they do. Despite how I felt when I was younger, despite the fact that other hearts have been shattered into pieces along the way, I realize now that it was inevitable. A rivalry stemming from the pettiest (and now that I'm reflecting, disgustingly pathetic) things is now a memory, one of many, lost among others that just aren't important anymore.
In a dimly lit, out of the way place, quiet and refined and too much for either of them to fully enjoy, they remain silent. Not present this dreary night because he's some sort of hopeless romantic ( hopelessly unromantic, that's better suited), but because he was threatened eight ways to Sunday if he didn't take her out. It's not that he's insensitive or purposely tries to hurt her feelings, no, he's just...
He's Uchiha Sasuke. Former missing–nin, S–class. Cold. Aristocratic member of a clan that was damn near royalty and he takes pleasure in wearing that label with the utmost pride. Never cares what others think, despite his reputation, reserved in public. That same reputation precedes him whether he's in a relationship or not, so it's still strange to hear his name coupled with hers.
She is a loyal shinobi of Konoha, possessing a temper and talent far surpassing Tsunade-sama's. The mother of team seven (because no one else would do it), the girl that saves lives on a daily basis and remains so beautifully, tragically, devoted to him.
My best friend: Haruno Sakura.
They sit quietly. Jade eyes focus on the flickering candlelight in the middle of the table, then lock on his, and a tiny smile is on her face. I'll never know what she sees in those tainted, obsidian eyes, the defining characteristic of a man so cold. Hah. The only time I ever see a damn hint of emotion is when he looks at her.
There. He's staring back.
Yeah, I can give them ten minutes.
–ten minutes: a farce! Envelop in fear-
But it's not enough and it never will be, and they aren't the fairytale couple that everyone wants or expects. They do deserve it. Well, Sakura does, at the very least, because even though she was selfish at a point, we all were, and I'd say she's redeemed herself. Her job is saving lives, for god's sake.
If I didn't know her better, I'd say it was all she had ever tried to do. Save his life, save hers.
They are sitting and having those silent conversations; those mannerisms. They breathe and they blink and they shift comfortably and they are ridiculously close, hovering, and they
My drink arrives, and I pay the kind soul who brought it to me, too much. I do not realize, nor do I care. I could not do his job; I barely survive in my own.
That idiot. Daring to hesitate when he leads a life like this, so hectic and variant and hardly ever mentally satisfying, only toiling, ingraining nightmares. If he took her now, swept her off her feet now, into some dark corner in which I could never see… I could find someone else. Someone else could do this mission.
But no, it is too late. Legs, my legs, shaky from the draining weather, move of their own accord; I rise to my feet, they propel me to that dark corner and I nearly wish death as they both turn their gazes upon me. Onyx. Jade. Long and slow. Knowledgeable eyes that drink me in and simultaneously assess my purpose.
"Hey," I so offhandedly whisper, as if attempting to catch her attention. As if she were laughing and reeling and distracted, yet this is not (never is) the case. "Sakura."
The medic's smile is soothing, for she knows exactly what is happening and there is no impediment for the situation, and of course she accepts with smile, so fake.
Shadowed eyes smolder, crumble. He disguises it with his aloof demeanor, his coldness, but I'm no idiot. I know. Sakura knows.
I produce the scroll of order, so carefully curled and daintily tied it is a facetious insult. Taking it carefully, slitting the tape aptly, reading it comprehensively and absorbing every detail; I faintly smile, remembering Genin days and just how damn smart she was, rattling everything off better than the all-encompassing books could ever hope to be. Perhaps I am not the only one reliving precious days we took for granted, the foolish and petty events we wasted our young efforts on, and as I watch his dark eyes watch her, there is some emotion in there I rarely see. He is angry and wrenchingly worried and will never admit it because he's a typical male, being so prideful.
His expression holds a trace of pride when he looks at her. I've come to the conclusion that it's simply an Uchiha thing.
Their food is left as if mice had gotten it: Picked around and pushed around with utensils. They had to have known this was coming, to not even try to eat.
It's horrible, how tuned they are.
I come to as I feel her hands on mine, resolutely chilled, as if she, not I, had been the one to endure the rain.
"Sorry you had to come out all this way, Ino," she says quietly, squeezing my frigid fingers and looking up at me with those truly sorrowful eyes. It's hard to believe that we fought for so long.
She's still so short.
"Come, Sasuke-kun," she whispers, not looking around at him, but instead holding my hands in a vain attempt to warm them and knowing he will dutifully follow. I glance above her head to see him take her coat from the back of her chair, but she steers me forward through the tables, still displaying that smile.
We gather at the door. Every eye watches us with interest and it disgusts me because this is no intermittent routine. The people know, and choose to gawk rather than put themselves into our shoes and care.
Sakura lets go of my hands. "Did you have an umbrella?"
Before I can answer, Sasuke wordlessly extends the handle to me. Where he picked it up, when, or how the hell he found my umbrella I don't know, but I give him a grateful smile, and he nods, so curtly, though not rude. His attention is redirected: He holds Sakura's coat open and at her height for her to gracefully slide into, so warm and inviting, letting her lean against him as she finds the sleeves, buttons the front, straightens the collar. She lets her head fall back on his shoulder, gently pressing her lips to his cheek in thanks.
I am surprised when she leaves him, links arms with me, leads me out the door and into the rain. I open the umbrella and we incline our heads against the winds that whistle and howl so angrily, footsteps in startling synch, like when we were children, playing in those flower fields. We are comfortable and happy and having our moment, and I realize I miss her.
So I say it.
She looks at me with those eyes again and replies, "I miss you too, Ino."
We huddle together, two children in the rain. We hurry to our lives now, of chaos and death.
I glance behind me and Sasuke is dutifully walking behind, directing his gaze above us as not to intrude.
I suppose he's not that arrogant.
"Come home safe, Sakura. Don't do anything stupid."
"Lovely sentiments, Ino-pig. And I won't."
I watch their expressions as they agree to it, even though I know Sakura-chan doesn't like it, and any idiot could see that the teme doesn't enjoy the mission details, either. Technically, no one is supposed to be present for briefings except the issuer, (Tsunade-baa-chan), the people taking the mission (Teme and Sakura-chan), and any ANBU in the room 'cause, well, they're allowed to do that. Why am I here, then? Well, I'm gonna be Hokage someday; I'm getting closer, and don't you forget it!; so I'm allowed to do it, too.
Plus, they're my two best friends, and Baa-chan knows how much I care; maybe that's why Kakashi-sensei is here too, pretending to read his perverted book even though he really isn't and I know it because he isn't giggling, and he's laughed while reading his books in front of Baa-chan before. Or maybe that book just isn't funny enough today. I don't know.
What I do know is that Sakura-chan looks a little annoyed, like she's going to punch in Baa-chan's huge wooden desk and leave it in splinters, which believe me, she can do. But she also looks sort of sad and maybe a little scared, which I don't blame her 'cause it's probably a lot for her to take in, but I wouldn't be bothered, of course. Then again, I wouldn't be doing what she has to do. So it probably makes more sense for me to compare myself to Sasuke, even though that teme won't come out and say exactly how he doesn't like this mission, 'cause it's his Sakura that has to go pretend to be… well… you know.
Uh-oh, I see the expression on Sasuke's face, and it's going to get ugly.
The situation, not his face.
Believe me, I never like these missions either, for any of the girls that I know, because while most of them end up okay, some… don't.
"Sakura's an expert, Sasuke," Tsunade says in this calming, placating sort of voice, but he sure isn't placated.
"Should I honestly be flattered that she is talented in being a whore?" Sasuke demands, and he's getting that steely, angry look in his eyes, eyes tinted with a frightening shade of red. He often talks back to Tsunade as if she were nobody, which he really shouldn't do when she has that insane strength of hers, and Sakura did learn from the best, and yeah, Sakura's hit him before, too. Surprisingly, he shuts up after that, though you can usually hear him mumbling and hoping that whatever bone she decided to punch, heals.
He usually smiles after, though, with some strange sense of… well, Kakashi said it was pride.
Right now, Sasuke doesn't have pride that Sakura-chan can near-flawlessly pose as a prostitute.
"I mean, honestly-"
"I'm pretty sure she can handle it, Uchiha, and I normally wouldn't ask. We're stretched thin after our recent loss outside of Tagoshi-Ebara Prefecture; I can't send any kunoichi under Chuunin rank for this type of assignment."
The teme's eyes are narrowed and there's a muscle jumping in his jaw, like the one I see when I get on his nerves when I'm babbling about ramen or Hokage or how I can kick his ass.
"There are no other Chuunin or Jounin on base right now, for this assignment?" he asks, his voice sharp and demanding and very Sasuke-like. When he wants to know something important and someone, (anyone, even Baa-chan or a feudal lord or an ANBU officer), doesn't provide him with what he wants, angry is prob'ly an understatement.
"Unless another squad happens to return early, that is, before tonight, there's nothing I can do. You and Sakura will be dispatched at 2300 hours… without guard, unfortunately."
Uh-oh, that flash of red again. "She is not doing this-"
"She has no choice!" Baa-chan barks, so loud I jump, because her fist is likely to follow-
"STOP DISCUSSING WHAT I CAN AND CAN'T DO, WHEN I'M RIGHT HERE!" Sakura bellows, silencing the entire room. All eyes watch her, watch her pretty face contort into this really angry look, all red and patchy and there's color real high in her cheeks.
"We will do it, Tsunade-sama. Sasuke-kun, stop arguing with her."
"You know damn well what happens to the women they send on these missions," the teme growls, and his voice is lower now, darker.
Yeesh, scary. He could do movies.
-Entirety! They tangle each other-
"It doesn't happen often," Sakura-chan replies obstinately, folding her arms as if the matter was settled, and now I watch that muscle in his jaw twitch again, 'cause she's asserting herself again. You know, it's bad enough that he gets anxious about her working hospital shifts, sometimes late, sometimes not, (because surprisingly, scary things happen in a hospital, 'specially if you work with the prisoners… guess those bastards need to be healed too), throw in the fact that he's obsessive and possessive and all us shinobi do is go out on dangerous missions, it sure puts a strain on them. I don't blame him, ('cause if any scumbag tried to hurt Sakura-chan, I would kick his enemy ass to the disbanded Otokagure village and back, if Sasuke didn't tear him limb from limb and Sharingan his mind to mush, first), but I feel really bad all the same. You wouldn't think it, but the teme takes things pretty hard; when any of us are hurt, you know he's angry even when he lies and tries to act calm, so Sakura-chan is no exception.
Guess it's because she loved him when no one else did, 'sides Kakashi-sensei and me, of course. But she loved him differently. I love him 'cause he's my best friend, my rival, and my… brother. Kakashi-sensei loves us all 'cause we're his favorite team, and he says so. We're like his family.
But his bond with Sakura-chan is different…yet sort of the same. I mean, she washes his laundry ('cause none of us like laundry) and cooks us meals when she is home at night and nags at us to pick up after ourselves; she says she feels like a mother. Even Ino says she the mother of Team Seven. She would lay down her life for any one of us, and all of us would do the same, and she doesn't love any one of us more than the other.
Kakashi-sensei and I talked about it a few times, 'cause I still don't understand completely just what this whole "love" thing is about. I don't know if it was what I felt for Sakura-chan, or if she is just my best friend, or if I just lost the "love" thing. I don't know. I knew Gaara couldn't love before, but that was his family, and you don't kiss your family and you certainly don't marry your family, (I don't think.) So somehow, all these loves are different.
I s'pose I'll figure it out someday, and I do hope I find someone who loves me for everything I am, and I know that Sakura accepted Sasuke despite him being cold and confusing and quiet and sometimes, a bastard, even if I know he's got a good heart inside. So if she can do that for someone who was almost lost in darkness…I bet there's someone for me too.
I feel sorry for them sometimes. I mean, it took them so long to be okay with each other and now, it just seems like one problem after another and Sensei said it's "typical" and "expected" but I'm not sure, I'm just not sure at all. We're all fine when we're together, it's basically like old times, 'cept the little things. You're probably thinking, "What little things?" Well, I catch them staring at each other, as if they wonder what the other is thinking and I bet they think the same thing, in some moments. He's a little more… touchy. Well actually, it's a lot more, but when we're out with other people it's not as much as when we're home and I'm looking for one of them, and I always seem to come in at the wrong time…
And they seem to go from angry to happy all in a matter of a few seconds. I don't know if they both have mood swings or maybe, that's what being in love is? Well, it's Sasuke and Sakura: Or, the teme and Sakura-chan, as they are known to me, and that's what they'll always be.
And all I really want is for them to be happy. I think they'll be best with each other.
Anyway, I think it's time to leave now, 'cause they only have a few hours, and they keep glancing at each other, like this hit-and-miss thing. Maybe they're scared to see what the other thinks. I think they need to talk.
I hope this assignment goes well…
The four of us were supposed to go out for dinner tonight.
-Terrible, how they (we) break apart.
It is quiet tonight, in our normally raucous household.
I am no stranger to it, for it is a recurring sort of thing, the reason to which I can adduce as, it is one of those nights.
I am settled in my chair with a book and a faint, somber expression. I watch the fire burn, burn down to its glaring embers that crackle, ominously. We do not react to the noises, punctuating the nearly silent room. Page turns, occasional shifts, a cough, the scraping of a branch upon the foggy window. All so familiar and yet, unwanted.
Predictably, normally hyperactive, thoroughly obnoxious Naruto has little to say this night. Sits with his knees drawn to his chest and his wide eyes fixated on something far beyond the window at which his gaze rests. Perhaps he is trying to block out the occasional outbursts that sound from upstairs, or he may be wondering just how… "involved" this mission will be.
I dislike assignments such as these. I do. Have I seen them before? Definitely.
Though that makes it no easier to let it occur.
So many years I've been around, many things I've experienced; many missions I've been through, and plenty failed. Situations such as these allow no failure. Technically, yes, but the only other option is death.
It is a test of stealth and subtlety, and is some unwritten, never-spoken rule among female shinobi, that these missions are the very worst, and not only the most dangerous, but the most impacting.
The first time she had gone, she had gone alone.
Pure luck was the only reason she managed to kill the corrupt, feudal lord and get away before he had the chance to raise the alarm. She returned critically injured but still very much alive, and the repercussions were far from minor.
I remember holding them back, both of them, as they strained and fought to see her. I remember their expressions as Tsunade-sama explained what had happened, speaking loudly over their retorts, their cursing.
I remember Sasuke's dangerous silence. His expression, so shadowed and yet, fearful. And when Sakura awakened, I can recall his mannerisms, how he was relieved. Shaken, but relieved.
I know Team Seven. In some ways, I made them who they are today, and if I had to be honest I would confess that all of us have influenced each other; yes, they have made impacts upon me, too. I have for years looked upon them as if they were my students, which is prudent, but somehow I've ended up staying in their apartment for days on end. And having Sakura make my dinner, and laughing along as she plays Mother in the boys' regard.
She is the strongest, but the frailest.
As much as they feel compelled to protect her from the world's cruelty, the idea is unviable.
For the one that would rather die than see those he cares about hurt, again, his mind is one of guilt. It has been difficult for him, these past few years, to let her in and keep himself from becoming caught up a constant whirlwind of regret. Healing such a thing is long and difficult.
I don't know just what he would do if this mission happened to go wrong.
I rise from my chair and stow my novel carefully in my back pocket.
Of my uniform, that I always wear, for we are shinobi for every second of every day that this village breathes, and we are bound to such. It is forever or death, with happier moments few and far between.
My footsteps are silent, Naruto is silent.
I glance to my right where a clock rests upon an oak mantle:
-So 3,600 seconds, you'll have to show me-
They do not hear my footsteps that sound up the stairs; do not notice me as I mount them. Heavily.
I plan to walk past that open door and that argument, but I don't practice everything I preach, and being inquisitive is no sin.
She's saying, "Don't be, Sasuke, don't be."
He's mumbling, which he never does; he is an Uchiha, and a pretentious one at that, and dislikes anything unprecedented or unprofessional. And she holds him carefully like he will break, as if he would fall to pieces in her little arms, even though she is as fragile as he. Anyone would think their bond was barely held together, but it is simply not the case, illustrated within basics. They would not have lasted these three years if their bond were anything but unbreakable.
Our team, and every friendship and bond in between, endures.
We, as shinobi, endure.
Palms hit the wall: He looms over her. Her fingers are still twisted in his shirt as he steadies himself above her with no more words, just the expression that creates his emotional wall, and reveals everything to her.
She is no little girl anymore.
-3,480 seconds; you're trapped with me-
Instantaneous: The movements are harried, fumbling, impatient, and young; this is when I turn away, and I don't need to watch, nor do I desire it. I know what happens. I feel what happens. Experience. They will cling and clutch, make no effort to quell what they feel, and what they say when they are overcome. For those that are so careful in the words they speak, the actions they follow through with; they seek relief and thrill, and it means everything. When shinobi touch, they are not military, they are not machines, they are not defense. No discipline. A carnal yearning for escape.
Young. Experience. Been there.
I've entered to that lingering, heavy scent.
To watch a caricature of peace.
To see them tangled with one another.
To rip them from solace.
To rip them from their lives.
And the village breathes.
And I send them out, to preserve such.
Been there, done it. Been there, done it. Done. Done.
They're so young.
The world does not distribute heartbreak evenly, and there is no happy guarantee for those who have already experienced so much. Not for those who are forever broken, nor those who have devoted themselves to healing them.
Immensely grateful for shinobi stealth, I turn the knob with no sounds, guiding the lock lest it snap loudly into place.
-Confined to this-
-Forever, we are never free.
-And I can't feel my face and I'm bleeding, I know I am and it's dripping from my skull, where it stings and I have no idea where I am or why I've come to, I should be dead, I should be dead-
-Details, details, you worthless shinobi, remember your mission details!-
-I come don't know why or how I've come to and my face is in the dirt, the dirt that smells of blood and shit-
-Details, details, remember why you're here!-
-I turn, roll over, my body useless and god I'm in pain and I see shapeless figures, and I don't know friend from foe, friend from foe-
-Remember that you were here to assist, assist-
-And I see a body on the ground, not so far away, and it's a beautiful girl and she's broken and twisted and her limbs are folded like paper, arms crushed beneath her lifeless frame as she lies in crimson; crimson is everywhere, it pools beneath her and soaks her white skin and her hair, and why's her hair pink?-
-Doll that fell from a shelf-
-Details, details, remember, you idiot!-
-Doll that fell from a shelf and broke upon the floor-
-There's someone near her. There's someone near her that is hunched over her body and his hair is dark and black and matted with the crimson, the crimson that she lies in and soaks in like brine, and he's shaking and his head is on her chest and he's yelling-
-I came here to back them up, because there had been no word, no word from them and Tsunade was worried-
-I'm lying on the ground and I can't move, I feel paralyzed and I'm lying in my blood and so is she and I don't remember how I ended up here, and I can't think about anything except how frightening he sounds and how very dead she looks-
-Doll that fell from a shelf-
-She looks so dead and he's beside himself and he's yelling and pressing on her chest but she's not responding-
-Now there's another man, and he's grinning at the sight on the ground and I don't think he notices me, all broken and bleeding, because he's watching the dark-haired shinobi press on her chest and he's still yelling, still yelling at the broken doll on the ground-
-Details, details! Sent by Tsunade-
-And she's still bleeding, the doll is bleeding and he stops pressing on her chest and he looks down at her with angry eyes, panicked eyes, red eyes-
-My focus sharpens and I can see her body clearer now, the doll's body holds a scroll tightly in her fist as if it is her lifeline and I look at her body and it's broken and bloody and-
-I think I'll be sick, I swear I'll be sick, and I look at the enemy shinobi and how grins down at her broken body and it's sick, it's sick sick sick sick-
-Doll that fell from a shelf, doll that was used like a toy-
-The enemy walks towards them, he's ruffled and his eyes are alight and he is sated by the sight of her on the ground, bloody and broken and violated and god I'm going to be sick, it's sick sick sick!-
"Don't come near her!" he hisses, the leaf shinobi hisses, spits, and his eyes are red and crimson, the same color that she lies in and that I am covered in and that drips from underneath his hair and streaks his arms and chest-
-His unwarranted salvation-
-And the enemy brings his sword back again, ready to hit the dark-haired shinobi across the skull again and he's too weak to do anything but lean over her body and press vainly on her chest and she whispers-
-Broken doll whispers-
-And I know they're dying, both of them drowning in crimson and the doll clutches the scroll like her lifeline and whispers-
-Her immersive purpose-
"I don't want this."
-And this is the last blow he can take, and he leans over her broken, bruised, violated body and shields the doll with everything he has and maybe it's all he has left because he feels like he failed her and they've failed everything, the mission and themselves-
-As long as the village breathes-
-The world is painted crimson-
-Therein lies their solace.
Little girl wanders, flower basket in hand.
It swings and bounces upon her thin arm as she jovially sprints through the tall grasses. Reaching out to her calves, they compel; wrap her in their naturist entity, leave their mark. The sun is high and the winds, swift and settling as they interlude across the fields.
She pauses in her flighty race against the clouds and falls to her knees amid a cluster of sakura petals; her presence is the coming of a whirlwind, sending the flowers skyward. Leaves tumbling over her bright face and wide green eyes, of which swim in merriment at the sight.
In her keen, young eyes she sees two figures, thrown into shadows against the glaring sun. They hold a sense of importance and studious command, and they traverse slowly but steadily through the swaying grasses without deviating from their straight, purposeful path.
Little girl edges closer, upon hands and knees in the crumbling, arid dirt, watching intently.
There is a man and a woman, walking. Walking with their heads held high, (Little girl's eyes widen at the bloodstained bandages), limbs heavy like lead, and still they embody a military purpose in their steps. They are deliberate in manner. His hand is splayed across her lower back and they tread carefully through the flowers, as not to step upon them. The woman is donning a vest that is much too large for her and every step she takes seems to drain her of stamina; he limps alongside her, still protectively guiding her. Typically.
Yet they are smiling.
It is subtle, but present.
Every step is another exhale of gratitude, to have the ability to breathe.
Little girls watches them pass her, watches them until they seem to fade within the dancing grasses of brown and green. It drowns them and blends with their vests until they are no longer seen, as if they simply passed on to a different world, and a boundary existed between.
The child fists her sundress and holds it in her lap as the breezes swirl around her, lifting long tendrils of dark hair which caper, unorthodox, a cadence; lifting from the ground the sakura petals, which are carried into a blithe dance. Tumbling once again, wafting almost wistfully after the couple that was now gone, walking to their purpose.
Little girl leans back, legs bent outward on either side, musing.
She wonders what their story is.
I: Ino II: Naruto III: Kakashi IV: Leaf Jounin, sent by Tsunade V: Young girl.