Disclaimer: Naruto is the property of Masashi Kishimoto. I did not make any money with this story. Indeed I remain penniless.
Author's Note: Reviews are so appreciated, even if you don't like it. More coming.
Sai's interest was tweaked. This must be 'pain'. His eyes had slid open that morning to a funny reddish glow, and, upon squinting, little white stars. Not knowing how to react, he efforted a smile. That hurt too. Peculiar.
He entertained himself with this self-torture for a little while before remembering the book on the bedside table. Thick, florid letters spelled out 'Lessons for the Modern Artist' on its cover. Savouring the series of sharp pinches that rippled down his spine, he pushed himself further up on the mattress and opened it to the bookmarked page.
He read precisely one page, stopping even though it ended in mid-sentence. Today's lesson: 'The artist must draw what he sees. The…" He was determined to make it last as long as possible. And even so, he was still well into it. The material was boring. In script equally as embellished and large as the title of the book was approximately one 'rule' of art per page. Sai knew that most of it was utter nonsense. Yet he read the same amount every day, unfailingly.
Now pondered it, almost like savouring the taste of a daily tonic, until something in his mind snapped back into self-awareness. White sheets. Window. Curtains. This wasn't his room. He… hadn't been here the day before. The machine beside him beeped louder and faster. Fragments of memory returned to him in a phase-like fashion. He was increasingly aware of the acute throbbing in the back of his head.
He remembered seeing feelings. That meant he had not been around Danzou-sama. He hadn't been feeling them, of course. That would have been absurd. Sai had no use for feeling. It was an impractical way to use one's energy. His whole body was like a percolator for all that happened around him, and whatever was strong enough filtered through the layers of his consciousness and came out as drawings. To him it was that thing he did because he could. Now he reached for his drawing pad and began to sketch what his memory presented to him.
He remembered certain facial distortions, and, he had read, these could be connected with certain emotions. Naruto and Sakura… yes, he had been with them. With considerable clarity he could remember that Sakura's eyes had been watering, and her mouth had been quivering. Sorrow, yes, that had been it.
It was Naruto's face that had surprised him, he recalled. It had been completely blank. It was so contrary to Naruto's usual extroversion. There must have been something to cause this…
Then Sai recalled a third figure. It was black and hazy – that meant a silhouette. And he had had to look up – that meant it was elevated. Sai remembered having the strongest inclination of feeling with this figure, even though the face had been indistinct. He had sensed a surge of intense something effusing from the figure. Something dark. Sai furrowed his brow in irritation. Imprecise language was so irritating. Finally he found the word. There had been anger.
Then it had moved; the figure had come closer. Sai's memory was played out before his eyes like a pantomime. For a brief moment, the light had caught the figure's eyes. A shoot of 'pain' scythed through Sai's head, but he ignored it. The machine beeped faster, its dull intonations blearing out a certain sense of urgency to his thoughts. He reached, with some difficulty, for his pastels.
Fifteen minutes into his drawing, there was knocking at the door. Sai hurriedly stuffed the drawing under the sheet before the door slid open. It was Sakura carrying a tray laden with food.
"Hello, Sai-kun! Sorry, I didn't know you were awake." she said.
"Sakura-chan," he said. After some hesitation, he added, "nice to see you."
Her smile suggested that he had probably chosen the appropriate pleasantry. But her next move was punishing. She drew back the sheet slightly to align his tray properly, and noticed the piece of paper.
"What were you drawing?" she asked, picking it up to observe.
In front of her were two beautifully-drawn eyes. Sakura froze. In the bottommost corner of one of the irises she saw red. The colour was flowing over the eyelid. It was the only part of the picture that was coloured. She stood trembling in terror as she saw the pattern subtly printed within the irises.
She thrust the barrage of emotions that normally would have sent her fists flying into that crowded part of her where her feelings had been stored for the past three years. And building up pressure.
Still, she twitched. "It's…" she began.
She knew she could not hurt Sai for this. She wanted to. But what had he done wrong? Her fist lay shredded at her side in trembling fingers.
Sai's eyes fell to his pastel set under the gravity of that awkward silence.
"…nice." She handed it back to him and started to leave, when her question escaped.
"Sai-kun…" she began. "Why is he crying?"
"Maybe he's in pain, Sakura-chan."
Something burned in Sakura's eyes and she turned away. "You… you wouldn't understand." The machine's beeping was accompanied in the gap of speech that followed by her laboured breathing.
Sai simply stared at her. He could not put words to the look on her face. He was drained. Emotions were really such a waste of energy. One not only had to manage one's own, but apparently also analyze those of others and act accordingly. A growing irritation built up within him upon the realization that he could not see all that was there. If he was deprived of that entire supposedly-glorious realm of experience called feeling, why should he not be fully able to at least see them?
He blinked. He was not supposed to think this way, he reminded himself. He is not supposed to want anything. He already had been given everything he needed. Such was the string of ideas he always pulled through his head in the times he began to think like that. Self-interest like that only led to disorder. Her voice shook him out of his thoughts.
"Are you going to name this one?" she asked.
"I don't know."
Sakura nodded slowly. Then she adopted her nurse mode and took his temperature, felt his pulse. Her hands were like clockwork. It occurred to Sai that he had never actually seen her hands up close, excluding the times when they connected with his nose with considerable force. He noticed they were trembling.
"You should be able to come off the IV soon," she said, tonelessly. "But you're really low on chakra. You should go to sleep once you're finished eating." Then she left, unaware that she was carrying the food tray with her.
When she left, Sai became aware yet again of the pain radiating from his head. The rhythm of it had a lulling effect, and he closed his eyes. And right before sleep claimed him, Sai gave his drawing a name. "Blindness," he mumbled.
Artists are to draw what they see.