Disclaimer: It's so obvious I don't own the Naruto brand, including characters and concepts. That all belongs to Masashi Kishimoto and I'm not making any form of currency out of writing a mini story based on his work. We clear? Great! xD
This is another SasuSaku focused oneshot, inspired by BlueGreenApples's brilliant SasuSaku story, 'Color Theory'. This scene, like the last one I wrote, hasn't actually happened in BGA's fic. Again it just borrows from her story context, and so it's a spin-off/my own interpretation of events. In this scenario, Sakura is again on the run, in a forest that Naruto, Kakashi and Sai also happen to be in. She thinks that she's lost Sasuke in the trees. Little does she know that he has been tailing and watching her all along. Mwahaha. Cue the tension filled drama! Hope you all like it. And to BGA...this is for you! Thanks so much again for being so inspiring and writing such an awesome story! And I think this one's even longer than the other one by the way. Lol. Enjoy people!
''I told you not to run.'' - Uchiha Sasuke
Chapter VI, Color Theory
Deadly silent. Deadly still. Perched high up on a branch, concealed by a thick canopy of deep green leaves, he gazed down at the scene unfolding on the forest floor far below him. Onyx eyes fixed onto the two people who were about to meet; two individuals who had once been, seemingly an entire age ago, his team-mates, his most important people.
The eyes were fixed like a predator's; a hawk; a bird of prey. At any moment, at his soonest fancy, he could dive down to lower ground and catch them both off guard. Stabbing. Mutilating. Cutting those cursed bonds once and for all; severing all remaining ties with lethal, heartless precision.
Sakura had not reached Naruto as a result of her own skill and ability. She had reached him because Sasuke had let her. He had let her believe that she had somehow managed to lose him in the trees.
The raven-haired shinobi knew that somewhere in this vast forest, Kakashi and the ghostly pale boy; his replacement, Sai – were also searching for the kunoichi. Which is why he was choosing to bide his time, waiting for the perfect opportunity.
Sakura had not escaped. Far from it – she was now even more trapped than ever. Because she had led Sasuke, unwittingly, straight to the very person she was trying so desperately to protect.
He watched with impossible empty eyes as Sakura reached the brief clearing in the trees. He saw the way her visibly anxious expression changed as she caught sight of her blonde-haired friend. She called out to him in surprise. Naruto twisted from his position behind a growth of wild bushes. Sasuke's hawk-eyed vision spied his former team-mate's eyes widen in shock.
'S...Sakura-chan?!' For a moment he simply stood, frozen, stupefied.
'Naruto...!?' The coral-haired girl stumbled forward, the dust, dirt and remnants of partially healed scratches on her face doing little to conceal an innocent beauty so bright that Sasuke could literally see Naruto's eyes light up.
Then Naruto was moving too, almost tripping over his own feet as he pushed his way through the wild scrub-life. The flora ensnared parts of his clothing, as if trying to hold him back. As if trying to give him warning of the unknown threat that loomed high above him and Sakura. But he pushed harder, causing the strained branches to snap.
There were mere seconds between the two, and a slight smugness filled Sasuke, knowing that if he pleased, if he felt like it, he could intercept them in the blink of an eye.
But he let them have a moment. He allowed it.
Moments later they had reached each other and Sakura surprised Naruto again by doing something she had never done before. She threw her arms around him, legs buckling underneath her as sheer relief flowed through her body. She couldn't believe he was here. She couldn't believe she had somehow managed to find him, against all the odds.
She didn't care if it seemed strange to Naruto that for the first time ever, she was embracing rather than punching the living day lights out of him. Gladness filled her heart as she leaned against him, not quite carrying her full weight, eyes squeezed shut. After the threatening, dangerous situations she had been forced to endure from the moment Sasuke had forced her to accompany him and his team, she was relieved to once again be in the presence of someone who made her feel safe and comfortable.
'S...Sakura-chan...' Naruto said softly, and then awkwardly, clumsily, wrapped his arms gingerly around her small frame, seeking to comfort her as best he could.
High above, dark eyes narrowed. It gave Sasuke little satisfaction to witness such an emotional moment between his former team-mates. A bitter and unpleasant feeling shot through him. The concentrated core of the emotion throbbed somewhere deep within his chest. His hands, which had been resting flatly against the bark of the branch he was balanced on, curled into tight, angry fists, before he could even register or begin to accept what it was he might be experiencing.
In Sasuke's memory, Sakura had always disliked Naruto. At most, she had expressed a polite tolerance for the loud-mouthed blonde, if only for the sake of holding the original Team 7 together. What the Uchiha now saw was something quite startlingly different. Just by looking at them embracing; something the younger Sakura would have never allowed, much less initiated herself – Sasuke could tell, he just knew, that they had grown a lot closer. Wasn't the old Sakura always pounding Naruto's head into the ground every time he asked for dates or looked at Sakura in a way that was evenly vaguely suggestive? Where had that intolerance gone? When had they become this close?
It was clear that Sakura, to some extent, drew emotional strength from Naruto. After all, she was seeking comfort from him. It was also plain to the Uchiha that Naruto still cared deeply for the pink-haired kunoichi; perhaps even more strongly and genuinely than he had before. Sasuke's anger rumbled like a gathering thunderstorm, intimidating, devastating, and furious. He did not know why and he refused to acknowledge why it bothered him to see his rival holding the girl who had always paid only him attention.
And perhaps, therein, lay the problem. Sakura had changed. In all the days spent in the company of Sasuke and his team, she had been little more than civil, choosing either to talk with Suigetsu or to remain silent. When she and Sasuke did exchange a few words, they were usually heated on her part and nonchalant and threatening on his. Apart from this, she had chosen to maintain a careful physical as well as verbal distance between them. The old Sakura would have chattered away about nothing in particular and done anything to get his attention. He found her change in disposition toward him - disobeying him, being troublesome and difficult, headstrong and obstinate - utterly maddening, frustrating and downright irritating. He couldn't decide which Sakura was more annoying; the old fangirl incarnation or the current, exasperating, defiant version.
But why was it a big deal? He had never batted an eyelid at her receiving attention from male admirers before. Back in their Genin days, he had thought nothing of Lee's pledges of eternal love to Sakura, or the displays of affection from other shinobi in and outside of Konoha. He had never cared. So why start now? Why, as he continued to stare down at his ex-team-mates, feeling the incredible urge to activate the Sharingan, did he feel like tearing Naruto to shreds?
He had felt jealousy before. It was an all too familiar emotion where Naruto was concerned. He had always felt it every time he had found out how much the blonde boy's strengths and skills had improved over such a short time, while his own had stayed seemingly static. That jealousy flared and burned more intensely now, as he watched Naruto hold something that did not belong to him.
The thought entered his mind, almost mockingly, and with a bitterness that stunned him. He somehow knew that his abandoning the village was greatly responsible for pushing the two closer together.
Naruto...and Sakura...they...The fragmented notion broke off as his Sharingan fully materialised. No sooner had it done so, Sasuke's eyes widened slightly as he gazed from a new, heightened perspective. He had seen all that he had been curious to see.
He had seen enough of this charade.
In a blink of an eye, the branch shook and leaves rustled softly in the breeze as the raven-haired nukenin's form disappeared.
Sakura pulled away from Naruto, eyes still tearful, as she took her own weight again. Naruto still held onto her shoulders, as if afraid to let her go. She smiled embarrassedly.
'Sorry, Naruto!' She closed her eyes briefly, suddenly realising how awkward and unprecedented her action had been.
'Are you hurt Sakura-chan?' Naruto asked worriedly. 'That bastard, did he-?'
He was cut off when a sickening, squelching sound filled the space between them. Sakura's eyes flew open and she felt as though her heart had stopped. Her mouth opened in a voiceless cry.
A long, painfully familiar and bloodied blade protruded from Naruto's gut, having been ruthlessly stabbed right through his lower back. The blade had missed her abdomen by carefully calculated inches. Sakura's eyes met crimson red. Sasuke crouched behind the blonde shinobi, the rest of his face concealed behind Naruto's shoulder.
A choked sound escaped Naruto's lips. Sakura screamed.
Sasuke jerked the Kusanagi violently out of Naruto's body. He watched Sakura's expression make the transition from initial shock, pure horror, and finally, sheer terror. As Naruto toppled forward, Sakura's pale, slender arms stretched out to catch him. But in a puff of smoke the body disappeared and Sakura's arms caught nothing but air.
For a moment she simply stood frozen in her position, with nothing but empty space between her and Sasuke. The combined relief at the realisation that it had been one of Naruto's shadow clones that Sasuke had dispelled, and the sinking feeling of horror knowing the raven-haired shinobi had found her almost made her legs buckle beneath her again. But the screech of harsh birdsong and the crackling of electricity, as well as an all too familiar aura of smothering, deadly chakra, snapped her out of her stunned state. Sasuke's eyes were still pinned on her own, and something in their expression whispered to her that he had been here, watching her, all along.
Dizzily, still in disbelief that Sasuke had stabbed Naruto, clone or not, she stepped away. Sharingan eyes, full of a steady, cold fury, tracked her movements. She continued to move away until her back hit against the trunk of a tree. She stumbled over part of a thick root that was turned up through the surface of the ground, tripping back and falling to the floor in a less than graceful fashion. But she didn't care. Her eyes fixed on the grass in front of her, at the spot where Naruto's clone had stood. They moved to the tip of the bloodied Kusanagi, which crackled with malicious blue energy.
When Sasuke spoke, his voice took on a note she had never heard before. It was positively furious, but in such a detached, frightening manner that she could barely suppress the shiver that shot through her spine.
'Next time it will be the real Naruto.'
The image of the expression on the Naruto clone's face as Sasuke had impaled him was engraved in her mind. Sasuke had known it was a clone all along. But still he had chosen to let her witness what she believed had been the real Naruto being stabbed. He had let her feel a level of horror and terror that she had not needed to experience. The heartlessness of the gesture sparked fury and frustration deep within her.
'Y...you...' She began in a low, trembling whisper, suddenly overwhelmed with a feeling she had never thought she could harbour toward Uchiha Sasuke; a feeling akin to loathing.
He was advancing, slowly, like a lion about to pounce on helpless prey.
Sakura's intelligent mind raced. She was furious, but she couldn't afford to lose it now. Somewhere in these forests, the real Naruto was racing to this very spot, having received the information from his dispersed clone. She knew with an odd certainty that Kakashi and Sai would be with him. They were coming for her. Sasuke was expecting her to retaliate, to explode with anger, to fight. If she could just hold him up, delay him somehow, for as long as she could, maybe, just maybe, they would find her.
She had to keep him talking. Fighting was initially out of the question; he would disable her in moments. But if talking failed, she would have no choice.
'You let me come here.' She said at length. 'You let me believe...' Her voice trailed off.
How foolish had she been to get her hopes up? She couldn't escape Sasuke. Certainly not on her own. He was too powerful. Too fast. Too smart.
He stopped a short distance in front of her, tall form towering over her grounded one.
'What did I tell you before about running?' The voice now addressed her in an emotionless monotone.
'If you run, I will hunt you down'. The words echoed in her mind, taunting her for her stupidity. She had failed to outrun him once. What had possessed her to try a second time?
When she didn't respond, he spoke again.
She had had enough. Enough of his threats, enough of his controlling every one of her actions, monitoring her as if she were his personal property. She was now having difficulty restraining her anger. Inner Sakura screamed at her to show 'Sasuke-kun' exactly what she thought of his power games.
'Get up.' The voice was more forceful this time, more demanding. It absolutely commanded that she obeyed him.
When she didn't respond again, he added threateningly, 'Don't make me force you.'
Her mind was racing once more. If she didn't get up, he would act. Sasuke didn't make empty threats. Silently, she raised her right hand, a plan forming in her head. The seemingly innocent, sudden gesture caught Sasuke by surprise. His eyes moved to examine the small, slender, gloved fingers that reached up to him, in a wordless request for assistance. But Sasuke was no fool. Narrowing his eyes in suspicion, he concentrated his chakra, ready to instantly discharge a disabling current of Chidori Nagashi through her body if she tried anything less than honest. His hand seized hers, fingers closing in a firm grip. She did not act, simply allowing him to pull her up with ease. As he jerked her closer to him, ready to carry them both to the refuge of the tree tops, she sensed the electric energy lessen as she remained motionless. When he replaced his Kusanagi in its sheath, she thought it withered away completely as he dispelled all remnants of the lightening attack. His left hand still held hers as his right moved to capture her other arm.
It was at that moment she made her move. With as much power as she could muster, she twisted without warning, driving a chakra charged foot toward his ankle. It was a move Tsunade had taught Sakura to use when arrogant, assuming men made the mistake of thinking they could touch her. Sakura guessed Sasuke fit that description pretty well.
His speed saved him once again as he managed to move his foot to avoid it being completely crushed under Sakura's devastating lunge kick. Before he could focus to discharge electricity into her body, she tore her hand with great strength out of his, heel coming down on the ground, causing cracks to instantly splinter across the earth. As the ground rumbled and crumbled, Sasuke was forced back, furious at her disobedience once again. With a yell, she slammed a fist down into the ground again, and Sasuke was forced to leap into the air. As he tore the Kusanagi out of its sheath once more, he didn't know whether to be completely outraged or silently appreciative. Just like the previous time, she wasn't going anywhere without a fight.
A useless, hopeless fight, but a fight all the same. So help him, she left him no choice but to physically disable her.
A blur and he was gone. Sakura's heart leapt. No. No! She would not let his speed cause her to panic, as it had the last time. She knew summoning a basic replication of herself would be useless, because he would see right through it; but she told herself that if she timed it so that it appeared at the exact moment that he did...maybe...just maybe...she could buy seconds of time. And seconds were priceless now, as she prayed to whoever cared to listen that Naruto, Kakashi and Sai were on their way.
She decided to take her chances as she kicked against a tree and propelled up toward the nearest branch.
The suffocating aura of his incredibly potent chakra flickered instantly behind her. A low voice addressed her over the sound of crackling electricity and the rushing wind.
'We've played this game before.'
She detected the smug arrogance in his voice and it drove her anger further. How dare he? What right did he have to think he could toy with her like this?!
Now was the time.
He caught her arm in a cool grip and a small triumphant smile touched her soft, rosy lips. He knew the arm he held wasn't the real Sakura's. He threw the clone into the tree trunk he was moving towards and as it disappeared, he spoke in a scornful tone of voice, dismissing her Genin choice of battle strategy, eyes scanning the area below him for the real body of the kunoichi.
'The Sharingan can see through replacements.'
This time it was her soft voice which came behind him. He hadn't expected her to nor seen her move higher up above him. She was a lot faster than he remembered.
'Sasuke-kun, I know all about the Sharingan.' She intoned sweetly.
He knew she was drawing a fist back to strike him even as he moved in mid-air and turned his face up to look at her. Her dark apple-green eyes were furious and determined. He caught her angry fist, moving with breathtaking speed as he gripped her arm and roughly twisted her light body, using the momentum to reverse their positions. Now he was above her, and Sharingan eyes captured hers as the two fell through the air. The breeze blew strands of raven hair across his pale face and into his mesmerising eyes but he did not blink as his gaze remained locked on hers. To Sakura, at that moment, he looked devastatingly handsome. For what could have been an eternity, she was helplessly caught in those crimson eyes, watching as the tomoes spun hypnotically.
The only warning she received for what horror feel upon her next were his emotionless words. They contrasted sharply with the oddly almost regretful look that flashed for a split-second in his eyes before promptly vanishing.
'You are foolish to keep testing me, Sakura.' He said in a near whisper. 'You leave me no other choice.'
She didn't see him move his right arm. Everything became a blur and the only thing she could clearly detect was the intensely burning sensation that suddenly shot through her left shoulder. Her anguished scream caught in her throat as waves and waves of ruthless electric current were poured into her body through the wound, sending every nerve and fibre of her being into disarray and causing her muscles to contract painfully. The screech of birds filled the air, and the sound was as beautiful as it was deafening.
Then realisation hit her and it was utterly unforgiving. Sasuke had stabbed her with the Kusanagi. Her mind could not accept it. Sasuke-kun, the boy who had always protected her from harm, the boy who had always hurt those who hurt her – had just pierced his Kusanagi into her left shoulder and pumped Chidori Nagashi down the blade for disabling, numbing measure.
The tears were falling before she could even fully comprehend what was happening. Her muscles were constricting in agony, causing her entire body to break out in toturous spasms. Through the anguish she felt the contrasting almost gentle touch of the palm of a hand press against the back of her head. Her tear and pain-blurred vision cleared momentarily to see Sasuke lean his face forward, aristocratic nose brushing lightly against the side of her own small, rounded one. His lips were so close to hers that she felt his steady, warm breath on her face as he uttered in a low voice:
'Still so weak.'
Her eyes closed. Something within her snapped at that comment. Whether it was her heart, her mind, or her very soul, Sakura did not know. A whirl of memories assaulted her mind's eye; a younger Sasuke telling her she should train instead of running after him, a younger Sasuke making her feel worthless, a younger Sasuke telling her she was annoying. The vision of the younger Sasuke merged into the young man who had stabbed her now, again making her feel useless, dictating what she could and could not do, forcing her to comply to his wishes. Pain mingled with a level of rage she had never felt before. The waves of electricity still surging through her aching body were overwhelming her chakra, which was trying so desperately to heal her many injuries. She abruptly stopped focusing her energy on healing.
Sasuke sensed her body go limp. They had almost reached the ground, and he knew he needed to pull the blade out from her limb if he didn't want to cause heavy, permanent damage. As he began to move his right arm to draw the Kusanagi out of the torn skin of her shoulder, he was caught completely and utterly by surprise. Sakura's eyes opened and fixed onto his. For a moment he simply stared at their brilliant colour, seeing his reflection and the pain deep within the green depths. He hadn't predicted to see the pure fury and defiance that surged up to blot the pain out like an overwhelming fire. He had believed her to be disabled. Everything in her physicality suggested that she was. But Sakura fought against the electricity, gathering her very last ounces of strength to deliver one final attack.
'I...' She breathed, voice hitching in agony. 'I...am not...weak!'
The Uchiha thought she was going to try to push him away. The last thing he expected was for her to pull. His eyes widened slightly in alarm as her right hand closed in a tight fist over the crackling metal above her shoulder. She could no longer feel her left arm.
'Sakura-' He began in warning, realising that she was pushing her fragile body too far.
Electricity filled her again and she squeezed her eyes shut, almost losing her last remnants of furious strength. But she was known for her excellent chakra control. Eyes snapped open again and with all her power she pulled at the blade, plunging it deeper into her wound, crying out at the fresh assault of stinging pain that shot through her. With the pull of the sword came an unprepared and visibly shocked Sasuke. He could not release the hilt of his sword because if he did, if he left the Kusanagi in her, the impact with the ground would surely sever her entire arm from her body.
He certainly did not intend for that to happen. He had not intended for their spar to go this far. He had not intended to cause her this much injury and pain.
'Sakura!' He said again, through clenched, angry teeth. She was being foolish and if she didn't stop, they would face consequences that they would both regret. 'Don't-!'
He was cut off as the momentum of a final mighty pull and that of gravity made him fly forward, straight toward her falling body. With great difficulty and in a great deal of visible pain she moved her right hand, and Sasuke noticed the flickering, faltering chakra gathering in her right fist too late. He barely managed to grab onto her left wrist in time when her right fist connected with his gut; the same place he had stabbed Naruto's clone. The air was knocked out of Sasuke's lungs. She didn't put anything close to her usual devastating power into the punch; she was severely weakened and knew that she needed to preserve the majority of her chakra to heal her injuries, but it was still enough to push Sasuke back. The knowledge that she had finally scored a direct hit on him dulled the pain ever so slightly. Or perhaps she was already losing consciousness after spending the last fragments of her energy. Her heavy eyelids began to close and grey surged up to seize her world in darkness.
The Uchiha cursed; trust her to choose a moment like this to black out. He knew he could easily save himself the painful consequences of her punch and stop from slamming into the tree trunk behind him, but that would mean having to let go of the sword hilt and leaving Sakura to drop with the Kusanagi still embedded in her shoulder.
He also knew that if he let Sakura slam into the cracked ground, it would cause her even more grievous injuries. He couldn't risk that. She was already in terrible condition, no thanks to her own annoying, defiant stupidity.
A strange, alien emotion, something almost like pure desperation, hit him. He had split seconds to make his choice. It came to him frantically. He would have to take the hit. He had no choice. He was the least injured and the physically stronger.
He gripped the hilt of the blade and her left wrist tightly as he continued to fall backwards through the air at an unstoppable speed. He jerked the Kusanagi out of Sakura's shoulder, simultaneously pulling the sword away from her and releasing it to fall to the ground below. Then he pulled the pink-haired girl towards him. He gritted his teeth as an arm wrapped around her waist and the other ignored the sharp bruising pain in his gut to cradle her motionless head protectively against his chest as he prepared to smash painfully into the trees, taking the full force of the impact for them both. An explosion of wood and debris filled the air as he slammed, back first, into solid wood.
Dust and heavy smoke filled the air. After a few disorientated moments, Sasuke coughed violently, the air having been knocked out of him for the second time in mere minutes. He sat limply against the remains of the tree trunk, wooden and leafy ruin all around him. He could feel a stinging sensation and knew that he was wounded badly now in both his bruised gut and his cut back. Perhaps he had even fractured something in between.
His vision cleared and he looked down at the motionless weight he held tightly in his arms. He had protected Sakura from being hit by any flying pieces of splintered branches; his scratched arms were testimony to that fact. Her eyes were closed and she looked as if she were sleeping serenely. But as his gaze moved to the horrific wound in her left shoulder, he knew that it wasn't the case. She had passed out from pain; pain that he had inflicted, and he reminded himself that she had left him no choice.
He winced as he tried to move, his body initially refusing to comply. He would make damn well sure that Sakura never scored a hit on him again. His gut was badly injured and he knew she hadn't even put half of her monstrous strength into her tiny fist when she had connected the punch.
When she came around, she was going to be sorry.
You...He thought to her, glowering down at the top of her pink head. What had meant to be an easy and swift departure from the forest had turned into, literally, a delayed and ruinous disaster with him ending up just as injured as she was.
The irritation increased as he continued to scowl down at her. He had called her weak, but he now knew that he had made the mistake of underestimating her endurance. Nobody else dared to test him the way she did. And Sasuke silently wondered why the hell he had so much tolerance when it came to Sakura. His eyes, onyx once more, narrowed into furious slits as he burned an invisible hole into her head with his scorching glare.
He was drawn from his silent fuming by the sudden sound of familiar voices too close ahead for comfort.
'This is the place the explosion came from.'
'Sai, Naruto! Stay back. I will check the area first!'
Ignoring the aching, burning pain in his body, Sasuke forced himself to stand, carrying the limp body of the girl in his arms. Kakashi, Naruto and Sai had finally closed in and were almost upon them. He knew in his condition that he couldn't hold all three of them off at once. It was foolish to even try; they would very easily take Sakura back.
And Sasuke had no intention of letting the pink-haired kunoichi go. He was not going to let Naruto take her.
Moving quickly to retrieve his Kusanagi from where it was embedded in the ground, Sasuke gritted his teeth as he jumped onto the nearest tree and hastily began to move away from the voices. He was in no mood for any other reunions. He already had his hands full with Haruno Sakura.
Tada! My second Naruto story done, so let me know what you all think! I tried to make it eventful xD And in character; that was my main concern! BlueGreenApples, I hope you liked it as much as the last oneshot I wrote. Hopefully you liked it even more lol. Now I can finally move on to work on the you know what fic. To everybody else, I hope you enjoyed reading and please review for me! Then, if you haven't read 'Color Theory', go read and review it now. Coz it owns your souls mwahaha. Believe it!