Oh we said some things that we can never take back,
It's like a train wreck tryna hit the right track,
We opened up the wine and we just let it breathe,
But we shoulda drank it down while it was still sweet,
It all goes bad eventually
- "Mean" - P!nk
It was a dream.
The kind where you knew it was a dream because, really, how could it be real?
Akane thought it was nice though, peaceful.
She was lying on a large hammock, made of silk or satin or something of that sort, wearing a summer dress. But the entire landscape, as far as she could see, was covered in snow. The trees were bare, except for the two holding the hammock up. Those two trees were covered in bright orange and red leaves and the sky was reflective, like a mirror. A fire work shot up from somewhere and exploded in midair. The sparks reflected in the sky. Hundreds of sparks glared down at Akane and she could see large cracks running through the sky, marring its surface.
Akane smiled. The sight of the broken sky made her… not happy, but content. She didn't exactly know why, but it did.
There was a soft drip, drip, drip sound somewhere close. It sounded as if it were right below the hammock. Akane leaned over the side to peer beneath it. There was a scarlet puddle in the snow. Akane put herself upright and lay back against the hammock again, pushing the thoughts from her mind, thoughts that screamed unpleasant things inside her skull.
Something rough and cold brushed against her hand and stayed there. Akane wrapped her hand around the object. It was a hand. She looked down at it, examined it.
The hand was callused, masculine with large digits and a wide palm. The fingernails were long, broken, completely disgusting looking compared to her own short, smooth nails. Akane ran her fingers up the wrist, to the forearm. The skin was warmer there, but just slightly so. She traced the tattoo on the inside of the arm, a few inches from the crook of the elbow. Akane recognized the image, but she didn't know where from. She raked her brain, shuffled through all her memories, trying to place it.
The hand closed around her own so roughly that she squeaked.
Akane looked up and immediately wished she hadn't.
Naoki stared back at her. Blood was smeared down the sides of his mouth and his skin was extremely pale. Akane squeaked again. Naoki seized her other hand and forced both of her palms to his chest. His shirt was sticky and Akane didn't even try to fool herself that the liquid seeping through her fingers wasn't blood.
"Please, Ak…ku…Akane, you…you can't let me die," Naoki choked out, fresh blood dripping over his lips.
Akane didn't know why, but she screamed so loudly that it hurt her own ears.
Akane sat up in bed, breathing as if she'd just sprinted three miles. Her hands were sticky and she panicked, reaching over the flip on her lamp. It was just sweat. She wiped her palms on her sheets and lay back against her pillow, trying to control her breathing. Recognizing the attempt as fruitless, Akane vaulted from her bed and opened her bedroom door as quietly as she could. The kitchen light was on.
Akane turned into the bathroom and run her hands under cold water. She pressed her hands to her face, over her eyes. Her own skin felt feverish. Akane splashed more cold water on her face and turned the tap off. It was no surprise that she'd had a nightmare, really. But, mostly, the nightmares were about a cell and a meat locker and syringes and screams. Akane guessed they were repressed memories or something. That psychologist they made her see told her that the memories might return but Akane didn't believe the man. But, since she got back from Snow country (the second time), they had and she hadn't gotten a decent night's sleep in days.
And that had been the first time she'd really thought about Naoki.
Akane turned the bathroom light off and returned to bed.
Last week, Moe had finally thrown something down (a plastic cup of lemonade, actually, but I digress) and told Akane she did not need babysitters walking eggshells around her. She assured Akane that she wouldn't commit suicide, would seek help if she became depressed, and would most certainly invite her to lunch every once in a while, but she needed to get back to work. Akane agreed to pass the message on to Umeko, whenever she saw her again, and went back to work herself.
She was back on the grave-yard shift (10 p.m. - 7 a.m.) from Wednesday to Sunday.
Akane realized that the door across the hall lead downstairs to a large, cellar-like room filled with rows of filing cabinets and metal shelves stacked with boxes that were filled with files. Her job was to catalogue and keep track of everything down there, help anyone who came down in locating a certain file, and delivering files to different department.
Okay, it wasn't that different from before. She hadn't even changed departments because she decided that going through another month of training was useless. The first thing she had to do was inventory. She was in the middle of her task when the phone rang. Akane rushed over and set the binder down on the desk before answering.
"Files and Records," She said into the receiver.
"Akane?" A voice on the other end asked. Akane recognized it.
"Setsu-sama," She said. "The mission went well?"
"…Yes," Setsu answered. "I need a few case files delivered."
Akane wedged the phone between her shoulder and ear and picked up a pencil. "Which ones?"
"Umm, let's see. 5048...5090, 5109, and 6002," Setsu responded. Akane repeated the numbers back to him off of the paper and he hung up.
The files were closer in the front, being newer. The first three were in the same filing cabinet and the last one was in a box on the shelf behind the desk. Akane piled them together and headed up to Setsu's office. The door opened up immediately when she knocked. Setsu stepped to the side and allowed her to enter. She went to put the files on his already cluttered and messy desk while Setsu returned to his seat behind it.
"I heard you were ambushed," Setsu said, casually.
Akane felt herself straighten up, fingers tightening around the files, and she glanced at his face. He was staring at her in the same way someone would look at something they'd like to eat. She felt like she was forgetting something she shouldn't have and his gaze started to make her feel uncomfortable. Then she realized she hadn't responded.
"Yes," Akane answered. "We were. Naoki's dead. Masaru's in extensive care."
"Relatively unscathed," Akane responded, finally putting the files down in front of him. Setsu reached forward and caught her left arm as she pulled back.
He turned it over, rubbing the pad of his thumb over the brand. Akane tried to pull against his hold, but he didn't even notice. She couldn't read the expression on his face. He mumbled something to himself, it sounded like a different language, and looked at her face.
He fixed her with another look that made her insides squirm before he asked, "Can you remember anything?"
His thumb was still heavily tracing the brand. Akane felt like he was a snake about to swallow her whole.
"Bits and pieces," Akane answered, pulling against his hold again. This time he released her arm. Setsu looked mildly disappointed at her response.
"You seem tired," He noted.
"Nightmares," Akane said. The disappointed look slid off, only to be replaced by the same stare he'd given her earlier. She made an excuse about the unfinished inventory and left, completely sure she felt his eyes on her back as she closed the door behind her.
After her shift, Akane went straight to the Hyuuga compound and asked to see Umeko. The housekeeper left her at the door before returning and telling her Umeko hadn't actually been home in a few days. After that Akane tried a few of Umeko's favorite training grounds.
She finally found the younger girl at the one just inside the forest. Umeko was leaning against a target stump, a black duffel bag underneath her legs. She had her eyes closed, sleeping.
"Hey," Akane greeted, standing over her. Umeko's eyes opened slowly. She rubbed the sleep out of her eyes, but didn't respond. "Where've you been?" Akane continued.
Umeko stood, stretching, before crouching back down by the bag. She answered quietly, "Just around."
Akane was about to say something, but stopped when Umeko pushed her bangs back from her face. Umeko's forehead was bloody and an angry red line went across it, promising to be a serious scar. Her seal was gone. The skin looked irritated, but Akane didn't see any traces of green left.
"When did you have your seal removed?" Akane prodded.
Umeko looked up sharply from the bag, shifting the strands of hair back in front of her forehead. Akane got the feeling she wasn't supposed to notice. Umeko looked back down, her hair blocking the view of her face, before she answered. "Yesterday. Someone found out how to trigger it, so they had to remove it."
She was lying, Akane could tell. But she didn't call Umeko out on it, just answering with an "ah". Umeko stood, shouldering the duffle bag and shoving her hands in her pockets.
"Listen, Uzimaki-" Umeko started.
"Uzimaki?" Akane asked.
Umeko closed her eyes, sighing heavily. "Akane," Umeko corrected herself. "I have a briefing for a mission later today. I have to go."
She brushed past Akane, avoiding eye contact.
"I'll see you later then?" Akane asked. Umeko froze in her tracks, glancing over her shoulder. She didn't answer and continued walking. Akane felt like she'd been in a fight with Umeko and the younger girl was still angry with her, but that was crazy. Was she still angry with Akane for taking the mission?
She'd have to talk to Hideki. He saw Umeko more than she did.
Akane easily located him in the training field behind his house. He was practicing kicks against a mounted dummy. She waited for him to finish before approaching him.
"Hideki," She said, drawing his attention.
"Hey, Aka-chan," Hideki greeted brightly, giving her a hug.
"I wanted to talk to you," Akane told him after he'd released her.
"You don't wait to jump the gun, do you?" He said, jokingly. At the expression on her face, he added, "Okay, what about?"
"Umeko," Akane answered. "Has she seemed a little off lately?"
Hideki paused to take a drink of water from his water bottle before he responded. "Yeah, but I just thought it was because Gaara's daughter's in town."
"She's in town?" Akane asked.
Hideki nodded his head. "Yeah, with her dad. The meeting's today."
It was? It'd totally slipped her mind. Oh, wait, Hideki was saying something.
"- and she's been crushing on the girl forever. She's probably just stressing out on how to ask her out," Hideki finished.
Akane arched her eyebrows. "So stressed she hasn't been home in days and looks like she hasn't slept in weeks."
Hideki furrowed his own eyebrows. "You saw her?"
"This morning," Akane said, absently rubbing her forehead. She glanced at her wrist watch and groaned. "Okay, Hideki, I guess I'll have to see you later."
"You've got somewhere to be?" Hideki twisted the top back on the bottle.
"Yeah, doctor," Akane answered, tapping her cast. She gave him a hug and left.
Halfway to the hospital Akane was starting to think scheduling an appointment right after a ten hour shift wasn't the smartest thing to do. She'd yawned almost the entire way there and had almost fallen asleep in the waiting room. They'd removed the cast and taken x-rays and everything. She'd been required to wear a sling until they put another cast on and was just falling asleep when the door flew open.
"Alright," Sakura said, entering the examination room. She had two x-rays, one in each hand. "You are definitely Naruto's kid."
"What?" Akane asked, groggy. Sakura held the x-rays up to the light for Akane to see.
"Your arm is almost completely healed. This kind of break would have taken almost two months for anyone else to heal naturally," Sakura said.
"I thought it was because of the medic's healing chakra," Akane said groggily.
"Well, no. The nurses who attended you aren't shinobi. Your mom checked you out before we could heal you," Sakura replied.
"I didn't notice," Akane said. She really hadn't been paying attention to what the nurses had been doing. They could've amputated her arm and she wouldn't have noticed.
Sakura unfastened the strap of the sling and tossed it on the cluttered desk in the corner. "You don't need this."
Akane stretched her arm out, flinching. Catching the expression, Sakura asked, "How does it feel?"
"Just sore," Akane answered.
"Alright," Sakura said, looking through the papers on her clipboard. "Have you been taking your antibiotics?" Akane nodded. "Do you need another prescription for pain killers?" Akane shook her head. "Have you been sleeping well?" Akane shrugged. Sakura leaned forward, examining Akane's face. "Did you go to sleep last night?"
"No," Akane answered. "I came here almost straight from work."
"I was looking for Umeko," Akane explained. "I found her but she wouldn't talk to me. Is it true she hasn't been home?"
Sakura nodded. "I thought she was staying at your house. She wasn't?"
Akane shook her head, then quickly changed the subject. "How's Masaru?"
It took a few minutes for Sakura to respond. "…uh…he's fine, not conscious though. Everything seems in order so you can leave. There's a coffee shop by the gift shop."
Sakura was gone before Akane even registered what the older woman had said. She stared at the gaping open door, open-mouthed. What just happened? Just then she yawned. Akane grabbed her bag and headed down to the gift shop.
"You want hot coffee?" the man behind the counter asked, incredulous.
Akane would've cocked an eyebrow, but was too tired. "Did I stutter?"
"You do know we're in the middle of a drought right?" The man continued. "You could die of heat stroke."
"It looks cloudy to me," Akane replied, nodding towards the window. A thick layer of clouds had rolled in from the north and blocked out all sunlight. The man just rolled his eyes and pushed forward a Styrofoam cup with a little cardboard sleeve. Akane paid and took the drink with her. She tried to got up and see Masaru, but the nurses wouldn't let her into the extensive care unit. They told her that he was very susceptible to infection at the moment and if she checked back in a few days, they might let her talk to him.
Akane downed the entire cup of espresso and milk while she was leaving.
As soon as she turned onto her street, she started digging through her bag for her house keys. After a few moments, she stopped walking and started to empty her bag of folders and random objects. She checked the front and side pockets. Then, she checked all the pockets on her clothing. Lint, knives, and change.
Groaning, Akane realized that she must have left them in the desk at work.
She weighed her options. 1) she bangs on the door until Tayuya wakes up and opens it for her, probably resulting in extreme injury. 2) she climbs through a window and risks startling Tayuya, resulting in injury/death. 3) she drags her ass back to work, gets her keys, and comes home with little to no damage done to her.
Akane had heard all of Naruto and his friend's war stories about when Tayuya had been pregnant before. The terms "bat-shit crazy", "pissed off for no reason", and "soil-yourself violent" were used frequently.
Akane chose option 3.
Grumbling the entire way, she made it to the building in about fifteen minutes. She had trouble explaining to the girl on shift in Files and Records that she wasn't trying to steal any files. She was just there for her keys. The girl didn't even let Akane off the staircase until she flashed her I.D. and told the girl about how cranky she could be when she didn't sleep.
Akane retrieved her keys from the bottom drawer of the desk and made her way back up the stairs. She was almost out of the building when-
"Uzimaki?" A voice asked. Akane slowed down, but didn't stop. She settled for a quick glance over her shoulder. It was Yoshiro.
"Hey, Aburame," Akane said over her shoulder, keeping her pace. He was walking beside her before she knew it. Yoshiro furrowed his eyebrows and looked through a few papers on a clipboard in his hand. She'd heard that he and a few other shinobi had been assigned desk work after Naoki's funeral, though she didn't know why.
"You aren't listed as one of the people on my shift," He said quietly, like he was talking to himself.
"I just came back for my keys," Akane responded, holding the key ring up as proof.
They left the building, apparently without him noticing.
Yoshiro wrote something on a piece of paper on his clipboard and then flipped to a page near the back. Akane was just about to turn onto a side street and leave him when he looked up and asked, "Are you going to sit in on the council meeting with your father?"
Because they hadn't turned when Akane had wanted, they continued down the street into the residential area just bellow the Hokage monument.
"I wasn't going to," Akane mumbled, stifling a yawn. Another yawn followed it. Akane rubbed her eyes with her thumbs.
"You're tired." It was a statement, not a question. His eyebrows pinched together again, but the rest of his face was straight. "How long have you been awake?"
Akane thought about her answer. It took her longer to come up with one than normal. She'd made the mistake of not taking a nap before coming on for work and that plus her shift and the three hours she spent looking for Umeko and at the hospital equaled… "Almost twenty-three hours."
His nose wrinkled in what she guessed was disapproval.
He opened his mouth like he was going to say something, but whatever it was, Akane wouldn't ever know.
There was a deafening sound just above them. Akane and Yoshiro immediately ducked down as small rocks and dust rained down onto the street. Akane looked up in time to see the second explosive tear through the Third Hokage's face. Akane cover her head with her arms to protect against the much bigger rocks pelting downwards at them. In this position, Akane heard the third and forth explosives go off.
She heard the sound of rock grinding against rock and looked up to see a large portion of the First Hokage's face start crumbling. The rest of the monument was developing dangerous cracks and looked ready to fall to pieces.
Akane's first instinct would have been to run into a neighboring street, but she realized that the five streets over on either side were going to receive just as much damage as the one she stood on now.
Akane began working through the hand symbols for a chakra shield. She could hear Yoshiro behind her, arguing with someone over a walkie-talkie. The person on the other side was panicking, trying to get teams to the top of the monument to retrieve the Hokage and council members while Yoshiro was trying to convince them to send a team to evacuate the residential area under the monument that was about to be pulverized.
Akane had just got the shield up when the Second and Third Hokages completely crumbled off and started smashing the building around them. Large pieces of rock crashed against her shield, breaking up into smaller chunks and sliding off.
The arguing behind her got louder.
"-Of course I know what kind of damage is happening! I'm in the fucking middle of it!"
Akane felt weak, her energy draining quickly. Her shield flickered slightly as another large piece landed on it. She felt as if she were going to pass out.
Lightning streaked the sky and it started raining really hard.
Akane looked up at the monument to see if anymore of it would crumble and fall. With extremely large chunks of the monument missing, it was easy to see the mansion from straight bellow. It was aflame with inky black smoke billowing out of it, the rain having almost no effect on the fire. There was a figure close to it. Akane focused on it as hard as she could. It was a woman with two large scrolls over her shoulder. Light from the fire illuminated her face.
Akane felt extremely weak and dazed, only realizing after a second that she recognized the woman.
It was Umeko.
She swayed haphazardly, arms dropping, and the shield faded. The rocks that had been sitting on the shield crashed down around them. Yoshiro said something about moving and his hands wrapped tightly around her upper arms, pulling her forward. Akane felt her eyes start to roll backwards into her head and her senses dulled. Everything went black.
Okay, you guys, I had this finished at least two weeks ago. I have no idea where my Beta is, or even if she's alive. I sent it to her a while back, right after I finished it, but I haven't heard back yet. Since it's seriously been a couple of months since I posted a chapter for this, I thought I'd edit it myself and get it the hell up.
I'm extremely sorry that it took so long to write. I got writers block with this one. I knew where it was going to go but not how to get it there. I could give you a million and one excuses (not involving my Beta, she was actually very helpful) but I'd rather not. I need a few ideas, so if anyone has any, I'd like to hear them.