As Sasuke's eyelids inched ever so slowly, she had no idea of where she was
A/N: Hey there, folks!
So here it begins – the winner of the poll, and probably one of the most tragic love-stories I've EVER written!
But, before getting to the business…
A word of warning. This fic is yaoi/yuri-free, so no worries in that field, but will include EXTREMELY dark themes (such as rape and attempted suicide). The rating may rise as the story scrambles forward. So… eh… Not recommended for the faintest of souls, un. (sweatdrops)
And, to avoid confusion... I played around with the characters' ages a bit (only a year or two, though) to make the plotline as interesting as possible. Just thought I should mention. (grins)
Yes, and of course… DISCLAIMER: Me, own something? (laughs oneself to near-death) Yeah, maybe in my dreams. (sighs miserably)
Okay, okay, let's get going then! I REALLY hope this was worth the voting!
(One more thing! To those who've voted... The results as to which story finished second were almost stunningly clear. 'Darkest Hours' will appear as soon as I manage to write the first chapter.)
" Time is too slow for those who wait, too swift for those who fear, too long for those who grieve, too short for those who rejoice, but for those who love, time is eternity." (Henry Van Dyke)
/ Last Chance, Last Dance /
- tribute to love that was doomed before it even begun
CHAPTER 1: Prologue
During his career, Dr. Kakashi Hatake had seen many cases that'd most likely never completely leave his nightmares. But what he came across that evening – not to mention the events that were to follow during the upcoming months – went beyond all that.
No matter how much of a doctor he was, he couldn't keep emotions from showing as he entered a emergency room to face a sixteen-years-old girl with long black hair and unnaturally pale skin laying completely motionless, her eyes closed. It wouldn't have required a doctor's degree to notice the blood caked wrappings around both of her wrists.
Voice of a nurse named Shizune's managed to pull him out of his thoughts. " Kakashi, thank heavens! She's lost a lot of blood – we need to work fast."
Blinking himself to full alertness, he dashed to the patient. Quick check up revealed she was unconscious, but not sunken deep just yet. " What's her name?"
" Uchiha Sasuke."
He nodded, surprised by the boyish name, then spoke a bit louder than necessary. " Sasuke, can you hear me?" To his utter surprise, the girl made a faintest moan and frowned, obviously displeased. " You're in a hospital. We're going to take care of you."
Sasuke moaned once more, emitting something that sounded quite close to " Please don't…", before she slipped back into darkness.
It took much longer than he'd expected to get the damage fixed, but eventually both wrists were stitched up and securely covered by thick, fresh bandages. " Whoever found her did excellent job with trying to help her. Who was it?"
There was an extremely sad look in Shizune's eyes. " Her older brother, Itachi."
He shuddered, taking a glance towards the unconscious girl.
Why on earth did she do something like this to herself?
As though something inside had urged him, he found his eyes sweeping across the girls arms, and frowned upon seeing the huge, dark bruises on them, obviously left from being restrained. One glance towards Shizune revealed she shared his opinion. No matter how strong the person who'd attacked Sasuke was, the bastard shouldn't have been able to leave damage like that. Those bruises weren't normal.
A dark feeling suddenly filling him, his gaze moved downwards, eventually stopping to the girl's pants. The bruises were momentarily wiped from his mind. For despite dark fabric, he could quite clearly see an even darker stain of blood.
He had to swallow hard to restrain nausea. " Shizune… Could you go and get a rape kit?"
In a room only a couple of floors above, Naruto bounced into a sitting position in his hospital bed, gasping and feeling twigging in his chest.
What exactly it was that'd woken him, he had no idea. But no matter how hard he tried, he couldn't shrug off the jolting in his chest as a trick of imagination or result of a nightmare.
" Naruto?" So deep in thought he'd been, that he almost jumped with startle upon hearing his foster father Iruka's worry-lazed voice. " Are you alright? Are you in pain?"
After a couple of blinks, he managed to compose himself enough to turn his head and give the man a somewhat weak grin. " Nah, I just… had a odd dream." His expression then turned into a warning one as he spotted the dark circles around Iruka's eyes, and despite darkness noticed how pale the usually tanned man was. " But what are you still doing here? You've got early classes tomorrow – you should be sleeping!"
Iruka gave him a look that could've been described as amused or wry. " Don't you dare start to worry about me, Naruto. I'll be just fine. Right now, you need to focus on getting yourself stronger. You gave me quite a scare when you fainted yesterday."
Naruto chewed his lip, feeling guilty although he knew he shouldn't have. (He'd lost track on how many times Iruka had tried to convince him into believing the condition of his heart was none of his fault.) Soon enough, however, his serious expression was replaced by his usual grin. " Well, if you refuse to go home, then you'll have to sleep here." The blonde cast him a stern glance while making room. " And that was an order."
Iruka was forced to restrain a chuckle while he – after some debuting – laid down beside Naruto, regardless to the fact that the bed was too small for them. " You're much too old for this, Naruto", he stated softly.
The blonde shrugged while closing his eyes. It was at that moment – as moonlight revealed just how pale Naruto was – he once again realized just how exhausted this brief talking had made the teen. How little time there was left. (According to doctors, Naruto's heart would last less than a year. Transplant was the teen's only hope.)
He was glad Naruto had already fast asleep as he pulled his foster son just a little bit closer, then – and only then – allowing tears to slip through closed eyelids.
He knew how much Naruto hated seeing him like this.
Unlike majority of people, Sakura had always liked hospitals in some twisted way, even the strangely secure sterile smell. Maybe it was because everything in there worked with reason and logic, everything had an explanation. That's why she'd considered herself the luckiest girl in the entire world when she'd – although she was only sixteen – been granted a volunteer worker's position in a hospital. She wasn't allowed to do much, of course – she only spent time with the patients and sometimes helped with feeding – but that was far more than enough for her.
That night of late fall, she found herself regretting her decision of asking for the position for a very first time.
At first, she only saw Shizune as a small group met her path in a hallway, and she already lifted a hand for a greeting, not noticing how rattled the older looked. But then, the hand fell and her eyes widened to nearly impossible size when she realized who was the one helping the woman carting a hospital bed, and ominous weight appeared to her stomach. Itachi Uchiha wasn't crying – the boy would've never displayed his emotions like that in public. But the expression upon the older Uchiha-sibling's face was most definitely that of one who's whole world was falling apart.
She opened her mouth to ask what was wrong, but all words were slammed into the very back of her throat as she recognized the girl in the bed.
She and Sasuke Uchiha had been best friends for as long as she could remember and beyond. During that time, she couldn't remember many occasions when Sasuke would've allowed even her to see the girl fragile and broken – not even when she and Itachi's parents had died. But those were the only words she could find to describe the suddenly almost unfamiliar-looking, impossibly pale girl resting in the hospital bed that seemed ridiculously huge for her, eyes closed softly.
Her whole world spinning, Sakura eventually managed to regain her capability to function and sprinted to them. " What… What happened?!" she managed to choke out while placing a hand to Sasuke's ivory cheek. The girl didn't react.
Itachi shook his head, apparently unable to form another word. It wasn't until then she realized just how badly the boy was trembling as shock washed over after adrenaline had faded.
" Sakura." Shizune's voice was firm, but also held such tenderness that told the older understood. " We need to take her to recovery room."
She nodded somewhat dumbly, then in a spur of a moment took Itachi's hand. The older Uchiha shuddered, but didn't pull away. " C'mon", she murmured, her throat feeling tight and scratchy. " You look like you're about to collapse." She had to blink against the burning in her eyes as she glanced towards Shizune. " You… You'll come and tell us if she wakes up, right?"
The woman nodded. " Of course."
As she dragged Itachi (and, if she dared to be honest, herself as well) away from Sasuke, neither said a word. In fact, nothing was said during the entire time they sat in the cafeteria, staring at their untouched mugs of coffee with unseeing eyes.
There was nothing any words could've done to change things anymore.
As Sasuke's eyelids inched ever so slowly, she had no idea of where she was. All her senses managed to catch immediately were whiteness that seemed to continue to eternity, and a small, muffled sound she just couldn't identify, no matter how hard she tried. There was also a stomach turning, extremely strong scent in the air.
She blinked sluggishly.
Was she dead?
Surprisingly enough, that thought didn't make her as happy as she'd expected.
Her head impossibly hazy, he tried to lift one hand to rub her eyes, but became alarmed upon discovering that she couldn't, for something was restraining her.
Her breath hitched just a little and she almost managed to panic, until Itachi's familiar voice carried into her ears. " Sasuke? Are you awake?"
Extremely slowly, the simple motion requiring a massive gathering of strength, she turned her head to face Itachi. She immediately regretted her decision.
Itachi's red, puffy eyes – filled with exhaustion, anger and utter worry – as well as the huge dark bags underneath them clearly gave out her brother hadn't slept for a while. The teen's skin also held this unhealthy pale shade.
She swallowed thickly, already knowing exactly what was to come.
She'd lost count on how many moments of heavy silence had passed until the older finally drawled out. " Sasuke… Why?" Gosh, she'd never heard such devastation and desperation before! " Why…? Why the hell did you do that to yourself? I could've helped you, I…!" Her brother sounded like he'd been choking. " Why didn't you tell me?" Those eyes boring into hers held a loud question. ' Don't you trust me?'
She looked away and buried her face into one hand, mentally cursing how badly her eyes stung. She pulled her hand away from Itachi's, remnants of her tormenter's touch still much too raw and tender. It seemed to take forever before she managed to find her voice, and when she did, it didn't sound anything like hers. " I… I'm just so tired, 'Tachi."
She was glad she wasn't looking, because even if she wasn't she could still feel the wave of agony and misery that radiated from Itachi. As though coming from another world completely, her brother's words carried to her ears. " Sasuke… Who did this to you?"
She absolutely hated hurting her brother like this, but she just couldn't bring herself to speaking anything more. They'd already been through far too much – she just couldn't throw this at Itachi, too. She was already a pathetic weight load enough as it was. This was her burden alone.
That's why she simply kept her eyes closed and allowed herself to drift away into soothing numbness.
Damnit, it would've been so much easier for everyone if she'd just succeeded!
As he looked at his sister, who seemed to fall asleep, Itachi felt this unbearable burning rising into his eyes, and it took his all to not emit a whimper.
He had to stay strong right now, for Sasuke's sake. He couldn't just break down.
He just managed to blink away the burning sensation as the door behind him opened, and there was a stunningly calm façade upon his face as he faced a silver-haired doctor in his late twenties. The doctor smiled a bit, offering a hand. " Hello. I'm Dr. Kakashi Hatake, your sister's doctor."
He took the hand, something swelling in his throat. He had to clear his throat before words agreed to come. " Uchiha Itachi. How… How is she?"
Kakashi's expression turned into something beyond serious. The silver-haired's gaze flickered to sleeping Sasuke before moving back to him. " I assume you already know that Sasuke lost quite a bit of blood, and that she was raped." The last word came out with unnecessary bitterness.
He nodded, the nausea from before returning tenfold. It took a long moment before he managed to ask. " Are they going to catch the freak who did this to her?"
Kakashi eyes turned even darker than before. " We got an excellent sample, so the chances are better than average."
Itachi wasn't sure which one was stronger – the urge to heave or kill.
So the asshole hadn't bothered to use protection.
He barely heard as Kakashi went on. " Right now, we're hoping that bastard's in the police's register. If so, he'll be caught in no time."
Itachi nodded, this all becoming too much for him to take in and process. His face seemed deviously blank as everything swirled underneath the surface.
In a few years he'd graduate as a doctor, damnit! What kind of a doctor would he make if he couldn't even protect his own little sister? The court had trusted Sasuke into his care, and he, he'd…
He swallowed again, barely able to keep himself from throwing up.
He wasn't entirely sure which one he hated more – himself or that bastard who'd done this. But what he knew for sure was that when he'd face that freak, only one of them would walk away alive.
It'd been several years from the last time Kakashi had come as close to crying as he did now, watching the siblings – the last of Uchihas, as papers had told him.
It'd only been a little over a year from when their parents had died. (Sasuke had spent for over a week in a hospital after that.) Since then, Itachi – although he was now only nineteen – had been taking care of Sasuke alone, and Sasuke had been barely hanging in there despite medication and intense therapy. And now…
Exactly how much did fate see fit to put those two through?
He was almost startled when there was suddenly a knock right behind him. Turning his head, he was mildly surprised to see the strange look upon Shizune's face. " Kakashi… Can I talk to you for a minute?"
He nodded somewhat stiffly. Before going, he squeezed Itachi's shoulder, although he knew the gesture would most likely bring no comfort.
He allowed himself to frown only when he was safely out of the room. " What's wrong?"
The woman swallowed thickly. " Those tests you ordered for Uchiha Sasuke… The results just arrived. It was all negative for STDs, but… They found something else."
He was starting to feel extremely cold. " Yeah?"
" According to the tests, there was severe abnormality." The woman offered him some papers, incredibly sad look in her eyes. " You should take a look at these. Even with the blood loss, these results are alarming."
His hand trembled a little as accepted the offering. The more he read, the more ashen and tense his face became. Damnit, how he hated being right sometimes…
Several minutes must've passed until he found his voice again. " We'll have to make some more tests", he all but sighed, folding the paper as though it'd been the most repulsive thing in the entire universe. " Let's just hope we're wrong."
Shizune nodded darkly. For a moment, she looked like she'd been about to say something, but in the end started to leave. " I'll go and schedule those tests right away."
Kakashi nodded numbly, his voice unwilling to work.
Once he was left alone, he turned his gaze towards the door of Sasuke's room and swallowed.
He had no idea of from where he'd manage to summon the courage to walk in and deliver the news.
Sakura had always been proud of her capability of concentrating in such situations that would've went over most peoples' heads – that was a huge reason to why she'd chosen to work in a hospital, and perhaps one day become a doctor or a nurse.
But that Saturday morning, all that fit into her chaotic mind was Sasuke. She knew where her friend's room was, had even approached it for several times, but each time her courage had failed her. After all, the only thing she'd ever feared was damages she couldn't fix.
She nearly jumped when hearing Naruto's voice. " Sakura-chan, you've been playing with those flowers for ten minutes." The blonde was looking at her with a small frown. " What's wrong?"
She flashed the teen a guilty smile. Naruto had – despite the fact that he could drive anyone up the wall – been one of her favourite patients since she'd started. She felt bad about spacing out around him. " Sorry. It's just…" She debuted for a long moment before answering. Her eyes no longer met Naruto's. " A friend of mine… is ill. I'm worried about her."
Naruto blinked with confusion. " Then why don't you go and see her?"
She looked down once more, finally leaving the flowers alone. " I…" She swallowed, then sighed. " … suppose I should."
" Then go." Naruto smirked radiantly when faced with her frown. " I'll be okay. Besides, Iruka will be here soon."
Officially out of any excuses, she smiled a bit at the boy. " Thanks." She then started to leave, guilt gnawing her chest. " I'll come and check up on you later, 'k?"
" I know." The blonde's eyes seemed to gleam a little. " Maybe we could eat here together."
She snorted, rolling her eyes. " In your dreams, Uzumaki." With that, she waved and took her leave, her heart gaining a foreign rhythm as she realized what she was heading towards. " See you later."
The journey to Sasuke's room took far longer than it should've. Once there, she stood frozen behind the door for a longest moment, almost sure that she'd never, ever manage to summon the courage to enter. But to her immense surprise, she did.
Sasuke was sitting on her bed with legs brought tightly against her chest, eyes cast towards the room's window. The raven's head snapped to side immediately as the girl heard the door being opened. For a moment, black eyes that'd gained several emotions that shouldn't have belonged to them looked straight to hers, then turned away, most likely embarrassed.
She managed a quivering smile, although Sasuke couldn't see it. " Hey. I thought I should come and see how you're doing." Her voice sounded strange and brought a sour taste into her mouth, but at least it worked.
Sasuke's eyes, staring into nothingness, darkened. " You should go, Sakura."
Her eyes sharpened and hardened as she finally regained a tiniest part of her usual self-confidence. No. She wouldn't walk out, no matter how much Sasuke wanted her to. She wasn't about to abandon her best friend like a piece of damaged goods.
Not saying a word, she took one of the books Itachi had left to the small table beside Sasuke's bed, then slowly sat beside the raven and started to read.
At first, Sasuke appeared irritated and troubled by her presence, but eventually calmed down, apparently realizing that nothing would convince her into leaving, that she could trust her. As Sakura cast a glance towards Sasuke some minutes later, she smiled a bit despite everything upon finding that the raven had fallen asleep against the pillows she'd propped herself into a sitting position with.
(It was bitterly amusing, really, that only months later she nearly held her breath with panic every time Sasuke closed her eyes and drifted into sleep, terrified she'd never see them open again.)
The next morning, Naruto woke up to a strangest sensation – quite a bit like the one that'd woken him some nights before. He groaned loudly. " This is getting really annoying."
It wasn't until then he properly registered the odd whirring inside his stomach. A frown appeared.
Blatantly ignoring the fact that Iruka and members of staff had told him to stay put for countless times, he staggered out of the bed and slowly made his way to the room's window. What he saw made him blink with surprise and something else he couldn't name.
On the parking lot right below him, a girl at his age with long, black hair was walking slowly towards a rather old-looking car, accompanied by an older boy who had his also raven, longish hair on a messy ponytail. All of a sudden, the girl's steps paused, and her head turned so that her pitch black eyes locked directly with his blue ones.
Air escaped from his lungs, and judging by the flash he could in those black pools, the girl wasn't any less affected.
Then, so suddenly he blinked with surprise, the girl turned back around and started to walk with the boy who was asking something from her, seeming worried. Naruto closed his eyes for a moment, though he had no idea of why. When he opened them again, she was gone.
He emitted a small squeak when the door behind him was all of a sudden opened. He could've sworn Iruka's eyebrow twitched a bit when the man spotted him up and about. " Naruto, do these people have to strap you to bed to make sure you rest?"
He pouted. " I've rested for ages already – I was going crazy in the bed! Besides, I'm feeling fine." Which was, for once, true. For some incomprehensible reason at that moment, he was feeling healthier than he had in years.
Iruka blinked with what looked like surprise, then smiled, seeming almost relieved. " Well, the doctors seem to agree with you. If nothing unexpected happens, you can go home tomorrow." The man revealed him a couple of paper bags. " I figured you're sick of hospital food already, so I brought you some ramen."
Naruto's entire face glowed as he grinned, those two good news making his chest heat up. He rubbed his hands together, sauntering towards his bed. " Then let's dig in. I want to be at my full strength tomorrow!"
To his surprise, Iruka turned solemn for a moment while he took out the food. " Naruto… I've been thinking…" The man cleared his throat, the topic soon to be voiced obviously painful to him. " What would you say if we moved? There's this one place nearby the hospital."
Naruto was almost shocked. Since the event they'd agreed to never speak of, this was the first time Iruka even mentioned moving, leaving their current house that held so many memories he was stunned the brunette hadn't lost it yet. Soon enough, however, his usual grin took place. It was good Iruka was finally ready to let go of the past and its demons. " Yeah. I think that's a great idea." He then attacked the food. " Now let's get to the business! I'm hungry!"
Warm smile yet again appeared to Iruka's face as they started to eat, Naruto blabbering constantly.
Outside the hospital, a sudden blow of wind picked on, as though universe itself had been awaiting with anxiety for two paths to soon tangle together…
" True love comes quietly, without banners or flashing lights. If you hear bells, get your ears checked." (Erich Segal)
A/N: (Heh, I'm not sure how well those two saying fit, but I just couldn't resist putting them in once I found them.)
So, there was the prologue! What do you guys say – should this story continue?
Thank you so much for reading! Please do let me hear from you! (sends HUGE, irresistible puppy-dog eyes)