Full Summary: In the confrontation between Team 7 and Hebi, just after Sasuke finally succeeds in killing Itachi, both sides are worn down and ready to end it. Sakura's determination to retrieve Sasuke leads to the two being trapped in a cave, both nearly out of chakra, with nothing to pass the time until their rescue or suffocation but conversation. After 3 years, what is there to say? What has changed, is anything the way it used to be? And what the Hell is taking the 'rescue team' so long?
Eventual SasuSaku, very dialogue-heavy.
Spoilers: Chapter 345
Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto.
Theory of Time
Time is relative; it speeds up and slows down according to what is occurring around you. It slowly drifts by on lazy Saturday afternoons, watching clouds pass through the sky as the day begins to wane. In the heat of battle it's fast, like everything else around you. Adrenaline pumping through your veins, electricity in the air, a series of split-second decisions that will either lead you to victory or death. You stay on your toes, think, try not to panic. In some instances you swear time must have slowed down for you to counter in time, in others everything happens so fast you barely comprehend what's happening as your body acts on its own out of nothing but self-preservation instincts. You can taste the danger in the air, the sense of peril is almost thrilling and you're on a natural high. Because time isn't slowing down, and who knows where you'll be a second from now; you might very well be dead.
Time is relative, because even in the heat of battle, even as she felt power flowing into her hand, concentrating her chakra as she slammed her fist into the mouth of a man she didn't know, even as he crashed into a wall, going clean through it, and even as she kept alert for any surprise attack; she was aware of his presence the second he appeared. She felt his chakra, but beyond that she felt him. And even as the assaulted man with curiously sharp teeth got up, cracking his neck for effect and swinging a sword that must have been taller than he was, time slowed down as Sakura saw the face she'd been searching for. The face had changed, the look in his eyes was colder than it had been before; and they had seldom been warm. But even through all the emotions flitting through her mind with the commotion of battle raging on around her, their eyes locked, and time slowed down long enough for her to take in his face before turning in time to send the charging man flying.
She didn't need to turn around to know that Sasuke wasn't where she'd last spotted him, but she didn't panic. She'd seen in his eyes that this was a battle he'd stick around for; that she wouldn't have to worry about him wandering off while she had her back turned. She knew that by the end one of them would have the other pinned, and she was thankful that time was relative. It slowed down long enough for her to take him in, and even while she dodged a woman with fiery hair time slowed down long enough for her to notice the way a chidori, whether from Sasuke or Kakashi she wasn't sure, had hit the rock wall next to them. Karin fell back as she took in the way it cracked, unstable, and Sakura was thankful that she had time to see that she had been wrong, they were all falling back. Sasuke landed near her, stooped, either recovering from an attack or a dodge and Sakura was thankful that somehow the lack of time allowed her to make the split-second decision to slam her chakra-powered fist into the splitting rock that was not only around them but above as well, sending it crashing down on them. As they were cut off from the others and attempting to run farther in, Sakura was cursing the way she could barely keep ahead of the falling rocks when she blacked out.
Chapter One: Reunion
The first thing Sasuke was aware of as he drifted into consciousness was pain. A lot of pain, seeming to be focused around the back of his head. As memories flooded back into his throbbing head, the first thought he had was 'stupid'. He wasn't thinking about Sakura's antic, though that was certainly something to consider, suicidal madwoman. His mind was focused on himself, how the great Sasuke Uchiha had been taken down by a rock. He was drained by his fight with Itachi barely hours before, yes, but that wasn't why he'd been caught. The rock had hit him because out of the corner of his eye, he'd seen a pink-haired girl fall. He'd been caught because he hesitated, because even as the small boulders rained down on them his body was half-ready to turn around and go back for her.
"You're awake." A statement, not a question. Sasuke's eyes shifted to his right, to see Sakura sitting propped up against a wall, hugging her knees to her chest. Her eyes were different. They didn't look at all scared or worried, she simply looked complacent. Her face seemed basically the same, a little less round and child-like than he'd remembered. From what he could see of her she looked more toned, almost a bit rugged. She sighed and lowered her knees, revealing that her legs certainly weren't the only things that had done some growing. Sasuke hastily moved his eyes back to face the other wall.
"I have no idea how long you were out, if that's what you're wondering. I only just woke up a few minutes ago." Sakura supplied. Sasuke remained silent. It was pitch black, without the sharingan he probably wouldn't have been able to see Sakura at all. Which led to the question of how exactly she'd known he was awake- but that wasn't what he wanted to ask. Sasuke was a man of few words; he chose most of them carefully.
"Why are you in here?" He asked at length. She looked a bit puzzled by his question and pulled a face she usually reserved for insulting Naruto's intelligence, though she wasn't sure if he could see her.
"Because in case you didn't notice, there was a cave in. Big rocks in way." She replied, slowly enunciating each word. Sasuke growled slightly, Sakura was not the person he wanted mocking him right now.
"I realized that." He said through gritted teeth, he could swear she was smiling. His eyes flicked back over to the adjacent side of the cave in annoyance. If she was smiling he might have to kill her. "I saw you earlier, you focused charka in your hand and punched through stone. You could have gotten out of here while I was still…" He trailed off.
"Passed out?" She supplied.
"Unconscious." He returned in an acidic voice. It was her damn fault he was there in the first place, for more reasons than one; though he didn't plan on letting her know the second. This wasn't exactly how he'd expected their reunion would be, if it ever happened; his picture had a lot less sarcasm and a lot more fawning coming from Sakura. A lot less pain in his head as well.
"I could have." Sakura agreed. "I still have enough charka left for a couple good punches, but I'm almost out. I don't know how deep we're buried in here, and I don't know what's going on outside. If I'd done that then I may well have emerged, half-dead, only to find your… associates waiting for me, or I might not have even made it that far. Then I'd be stuck in here, defenseless, with you, which is barely more inviting. Besides, we've been trying to capture you for a long time," He'd looked over sometime during her monologue and saw that she looked a bit smug here. "I just did."
Sasuke's brow furrowed at that and he forced himself up, despite the protest from his head. He'd give this to Sakura, she was just as annoying as he'd remembered, but in a completely different way. He'd be damned if he allowed her to look down on him.
"Captured." He muttered to himself, the idea of her capturing him was ludicrous at best. Staggering to his feet, he eyed the stone around him, trying to figure out which spot was weakest. Sakura probably did have more chakara than he did right now, but he was still far above her. If he could just manage one more-
"You're not going to attempt chidori, are you?" Sakura asked, standing up as well. He saw her blink several times and look around, squinting. He felt himself smirk a bit. It was silly to get smug over such a thing, but he could see.
"Sasuke?" She asked. The enclosure they were trapped in wasn't very big, but it was impossible to tell that it had been midday before the avalanche. Sakura stumbled a bit in the darkness and Sasuke's hand automatically shot out to steady her. The squeak of surprise she emitted upon their contact made it worth it, maybe she really hadn't changed that much after all. When it came down to it, he was the one who had changed, wasn't he?
"No." He said finally in response to her earlier question. His thoughts flickered back to his fight with Itachi. "I'm out." He felt her nod beside him, taking a step away from him to examine the wall.
"We could have been out for hours." She commented. "The air supply in here won't last forever."
Sasuke took in this information wordlessly. Surely they hadn't been out for that long; someone would have gotten them out by that point. Unless they'd all killed each other, that could present a problem. Still, he'd be damned if he went down as the mighty ninja who suffocated to death after a cave-in, they'd be laughing at him for generations.
"You could punch your way through. Even if you don't make it all the way, I could finish it." Sasuke suggested. Sakura shook her head.
"That'll have to be our absolute last resort. With so little charka, I wouldn't have time to concentrate; we might wind up just burying ourselves alive. Let's just wait; I'm sure they'll get us out. I don't see why we're still in here, honestly, unless they're all to worn out to do anything." Sakura mused, sitting down. "I kind of doubt it."
"They're probably just too busy fighting to get us out right now." Sasuke said, reluctantly sitting down. He didn't like the idea of trusting his life to his team, or anyone but himself for that matter. He glanced over at Sakura to catch her glaring at him indignantly.
"My-our friends aren't just going to keep fighting while we're in here." She corrected herself. Sasuke looked away.
'Mine might.' He thought, wincing internally. Suikotsu would without a second thought, Jugo might do something. Karin… he shuddered involuntarily. He'd be damned before he trusted his life in the hands of Karin.
"I suppose they might have killed each other." Sasuke said emotionlessly. He caught a flicker of fear in Sakura, but it was quickly replaced by anger.
"I don't know about your team, but mine's fine." She replied stubbornly. Judging from her worried demeanor, she was trying to convince herself more than him. Sasuke shrugged, not feeling the need to defend his team. He didn't really care if they were dead or not, but doubted that they'd be beaten that easily.
"He sees you as a brother, you know." Sakura said. He glanced up to see her glaring determinedly at the ground. When he remained silent, she finally glanced up at him. Getting a better look, what he'd mistaken for worry looked a lot more like anger. "Naruto. He sees you as a brother, even after everything." There was accusation in her eyes now. 'Even after you tried to kill him', then.
"I only have- I don't have a brother." Sasuke corrected himself. The same answer he'd given Sai a year ago would no longer suffice. He didn't have a brother anymore. Sakura took in this information with only mild surprise.
"You killed him?" She asked. He nodded, face blank. She starred at him for a few minutes, trying to analyze his expression, before looking away. He wondered what she saw. "Congratulations, or is that not the right sentiment?"
Sasuke almost laughed, he thought that the corner of his mouth might have twitched. He remembered Sakura begging to go with him years ago, saying that she'd help him kill Itachi. Looking back, though she'd been filled with conviction, he didn't think she'd known what that really meant. She had never killed anyone before; neither had he. He looked over at her now, mildly curious. He wondered if she'd killed anyone yet. He certainly had, and something about the way she carried herself now made him think that she had too. He didn't want to ask.
Sakura sighed slightly as they drifted into silence, each lost in their own thoughts. What was she doing? Here she had Sasuke trapped in a cave, after three years, and she had nothing to say to him. Who knew what would happen once they were out? She'd thought about all the things she wanted to say to him when they finally met as a pastime before. She hadn't been sure if she wanted to punch him or hug him, but she'd known that she wanted to do something All they'd managed so far was trivial banter and arguments. At least he hadn't tried to kill her. She'd been afraid of meeting Sasuke, she wasn't sure what to expect. It seemed like he hadn't really changed all that much, and yet so much had changed. She leaned back, resting her head against a rock, and wondered what on earth the rest of her team was doing. Surely at least Naruto had noticed her sudden disappearance?
"Sakura!" Naruto yelled, pounding his fist against the rocks.
"Will you give that a rest?" Suigetsu demanded with a roll of his eyes. He twirled his sword restlessly, annoyed at the temporary cease-fire. It had taken the others a good ten minutes to make him stop trying to chop off Naruto's limbs after Kakashi and Jugo had negotiated something that resimbled a treaty and he was antsy to get back on task.
"They're both still alive." Karin said, pressing her face against the rock. "But Sasuke-kun's out of chakra! The girl still has some, what if she tries to do something unspeakable to Sasuke-kun?!"
"That's something you'd do, Karin." Suigetsu reminded her, trying to forget her declaration of wanting to 'ravage him in his sleep'. She glared at him in return as Naruto took a step away from her.
"But how far in are they?" Kakashi interrupted.
"It's hard to tell." Jugo replied, leaning his ear against the ground. "Earth worms are harder to communicate with than other animals, they don't really have any depth perception. Pretty far though."
Kakashi twitched slightly. Sasuke had managed to rustle up some pretty weird freaks alright. He admired Sakura's quick thinking, but… wished that she had put a little more thought into it.
"I could turn into water and seep through the cracks." Suigetsu offered. While team 7 eyed him strangely, Karin just rolled her eyes.
"And then do what? Have 3 people stuck in there instead of two?" She demanded.
"I'm just trying to help, bitch." He replied.
"Well your stupidity isn't helping, asshole!"
Suigetsu saluted her with his middle finger and the others struggled to ignore them as Karin launched into a verbal tirade.
"I could use a Rasengan." Naruto chipped in.
"I have enough chakra left for one Chidori, shark boy over there could probably slash it to bits too, that's not the problem." Kakashi mused. "The issue is there are too many unknown factors to do anything. We don't know how thick or stable it is, if we act too rashly we could wind up bringing the rest down on those two. Not to mention we don't know whether or not they're awake, they might be unconscious right now."
"Well we have to do something!"
"They'll run out of air eventually." Sai said expressionlessly.
"I know!" Kakashi yelled, pinching his brow. This wouldn't be half as difficult if everyone would stop being 'helpful', shut up and let him think. "I know, we're on a time limit. This isn't an impossible problem to solve, we just need to calm down and consider how to best use our abilities to get in there. First of all," he turned to face Hebi. "what exactly do you guys do?"