Disclaimer: Thank GOD, no. I would NOT want to be Kishimoto right now. Therefore, I don't own. Comprende?
When Sakura awoke, Sasuke was gone. Not, of course, she thought, a tinge of bitterness creeping up inside of her, that this is something new.
Still, she had woken up with a vague hope that, after his niceness yesterday, he would be there. She thought that, by now, she had learned her lesson about placing her hope on Sasuke, but apparently she was a masochist. Of course, this time she hadn't placed all her hope on Sasuke and his niceness, as she had been wont to do so many years ago, but still, the disappointment always felt the same, no matter what degree of disappointment it was. It seemed that when it came to her roommate, Sasuke and disappointment went hand-in-hand.
Pushing away the remnants of her angry thoughts, Sakura padded softly into the bathroom, hell-bent on taking a shower, considering Sasuke didn't allow her to yesterday. The marble beneath her feet was cold, but Sakura paid it no heed; if she asked Sasuke for rugs, she had the feeling he'd stab her.
Shirking her clothes, Sakura turned the water up high on hot and stepped in. Though the pressure and the heat first initially burned, her skin got used to it after a few seconds, and Sakura leaned her head against the marble wall, closing her eyes.
She had had a dream last night, one that involved forbidden memories—when she was awake, apparently. In her dreams, that stubborn wall she kept up crumbled, leaving her bare and open to her bittersweet past. The dream itself wasn't important, just an inane mission that Team Seven had been forced to bear, but Sakura had woken with her heart racing furiously in her chest and goosebumps raised on her arms.
If Sasuke had been there when I woke, would he have cared? she wondered, but the answer she already knew came immediately, and she swallowed, opening her eyes. Her eyes burned, but that, she told herself, was from the heat of the water, which was rapidly cooling. Sakura scrubbed her hair thoroughly, then lathered down her body quickly before turning off the water and grabbing a towel hanging on a rack outside of the shower. It smelled faintly of Sasuke, but she stubbornly pushed that acknowledgment away.
It was then she realized that she hadn't taken any clothes with her, and Sakura paused, mentally slapping herself. Honestly, what if Sasuke was out there?!
Not, of course, that he would do anything (though a tiny part of her disagreed—what if Sasuke had changed more than she thought?), but regardless, it would be damn embarrassing to be around Sasuke in nothing but a towel. Squaring her shoulders, Sakura inhaled deeply, forcing herself to be calm, before she cracked the door open a little and stuck her head out. No one was in the room. Breathing a sigh of relief, Sakura walked out of the bathroom and hurried over to the bag that held her clothes. Once she gathered those, she hurried over to the bag that held her (newly bought) underwear. She refused to allow her mind to be brought back to the events of yesterday, grabbing everything she needed before she scampered back into the bathroom.
Once all her clothes were on, Sakura set about to brushing her hair with a brush on the counter of the bathroom sink. She thought that Sasuke might have bought it for her, but didn't dare to raise her hopes. This was, after all things were considered, still Sasuke; besides, the image of Sasuke carefully preening his hair into those wayward spikes of his generally reduced her to hysterical fits of laughter and rendered her unable to speak for a good ten minutes. Even now the mental image caused her to grin.
A knock at the door startled the kunoichi from her daydreams, and Sakura blinked. If it had been either Sasuke or Suigetsu they would have just walked in; she hadn't met anyone in this place that was polite enough to knock. Sakura walked out of the bathroom, standing by the doorframe; years of training had not been knocked out of her in the time span that she had been here, and a mental voice reminded her that absolutely anything could be used as a weapon.
"Come in," she called, feeling only a slight annoyance at the fact that she couldn't open the door herself. The doorknob turned and a large man entered, carrying a tray. He smiled slightly when he saw her, and Sakura found herself unconsciously relaxing slightly.
"Sakura-san?" His voice was soft, gentle, and he was clearly attempting not to frighten her. It was then that Sakura was aware that she must look like an animal backed into a corner, which might have explained why he had not moved after entering the room. His sheer size must have intimidated normal people, and even Sakura had been mentally sizing him up when he walked through the door. Still, if he was here then he was clearly part of the Akatsuki organization.
"How do you know my name?" she inquired cautiously, and the big man before her smiled again; without meaning to, Sakura relaxed. She sensed no ill-intent from the being before her, and besides, if she trusted Suigetsu then she was most certainly capable of trusting the man in front of her.
"Sasuke-san gave it to me, along with this tray of breakfast. He said to tell you that he would be training for the day, so I'll be bringing your food. Is that okay?"
The more he talked, the more Sakura liked him. Absentmindedly, she wondered why he was here (wherever that was); he seemed too nice for such a merciless job. She offered him a sunny smile, pleased when he returned it. "Of course. What's your name?"
"Juugo," he told her, and Sakura smiled again.
"Well then, Juugo, thank you very much for the breakfast."
He smiled, pleased, his cheeks dusted a light red. Sakura couldn't remember the last time she had gotten a guy to blush over something she had said, causing her smile to widen. She couldn't remember the last time she had smiled so much.
"You're welcome, Sakura-san. I'll be back in a little while to collect the tray." Bowing his head in respect, Juugo left. Quirking her lips, Sakura considered the closed door. He was the nicest person she had met so far in this damned hellhole. Shrugging, she pushed Juugo's kindness from her mind and decided to eat; she hadn't realized how hungry she was until he had walked through the door with food.
Juugo had set the tray down on the desk, so she pulled the chair out and began to eat. Eating, such a mechanical, instinctual thing, left her mind free to wander--which it did, and into dangerous territory to boot. Such as: why would Sasuke bother to tell her he was out training? He had never deemed it necessary for her to know where he was before, why now? Was it some kind of threat? Somehow Sakura doubted that, though the only other option was absurd, that Sasuke did it just because, and just because was the most dangerous.
The door was flung open, and then Suigetsu was lounging against her doorframe, grinning down at her. "Hey there, gorgeous." He winked at her and Sakura snorted into her food.
"Do pick-up lines like that ever actually work?" she mused aloud, amusement coloring her voice.
"Nah," Suigetsu admitted casually, "but they're hella fun to say."
Sakura laughed at that, almost choking in the process. The pale-haired man shot her a warning look. "Hey now, careful, 'cause I'll be the main suspect if you die. I have a feeling that Sasuke will kill me slowly, painfully, and unmercifully if I so much as harm a hair on your head; I don't want to think about what'll happen if he believes I killed you."
Suigetsu's words brought an uncomfortable reminder of Sakura's inner musings, so she hastily changed the subject. "A man was here, earlier—"
"Cheating on me, Sakura? I'm hurt!"
"—and he said his name was Juugo. Do you know who he was?" Sakura plowed on, ignoring her new friend's playful jibe. Suigetsu grinned easily.
"Juugo? Oh yeah, he's part of the group that Sasuke recruited, one that I was included in."
"Hmm," Sakura hummed thoughtfully. Somehow, she could envision Juugo being powerful, but with his gentle disposition, Sakura didn't think it likely (didn't want to think it likely, more like). Still, if Sasuke recruited him, then he must have something Sasuke needed.
"He has the curse mark as well. He goes absolutely crazy when he gets into one of his killer moods—kinda frightening, actually—and the only person who can stop him is Sasuke."
Sakura froze. Juugo had the curse mark as well, then? Unwanted, unbidden, her mind conjured up the image of a twelve-year old Sasuke, cursed power spiraling around him, black marks taking up every spare inch of his body, an insane smile alighting his face. Suigetsu must have noticed her tense shoulders, because he called out her name curiously.
At that moment, Sakura wanted nothing more than Naruto to be there with her; Naruto would know how she was feeling, how much that mental image made her hurt inside—the curse mark was what took Sasuke away from them, and started this destructive chain; it was what unleashed the greatest pain Sakura had ever known, and it was almost like Sasuke had been taken from them once again. For a moment, Sakura struggled to breathe, unaware of Suigetsu's curiosity turning to faint panic.
"Sakura? Sakura? Hey, are you alright?"
Sakura nodded her head, feeling emotionally drained. Right then and there, Sakura ached for Naruto more than she had the entire time she was kidnapped.
"I was there when Sasuke got his curse mark," she said quietly, and Suigetsu crouched down next to her stiff figure, staring at her intently. "He screamed so horribly. I thought he was dying." Her dry eyes burned with the ghost of all the tears Sasuke had ever forced her to shed. "When he came to," she did not mention the time frame that he awoken at, that he had woken up when she was in trouble, "he was this creature who was slightly Sasuke, but more Orochimaru's." Sakura swallowed heavily. "That was the beginning of the end."
There was quiet for a few moments. "Sasuke…he meant a lot to you, didn't he?"
Sakura laughed harshly but didn't answer. She had thought that they had meant a lot to Sasuke as well, but she was proven wrong in the cruelest of ways. Her love for him was built on childish fantasies and more lies than she cared to think about. Sasuke left in the end, and that was all that mattered.
"It doesn't matter anymore," she told Suigetsu honestly, standing up. Sasuke had made his choice very clear; she didn't know why Sasuke had kidnapped her, other than for his own sick amusement. It most certainly couldn't be homesickness. Sasuke didn't do sentimental, and she had been a fool for ever believing so; after all, look at what he had done to the boy who was practically his brother, whose life he had saved countless of times and then almost taken away just as easily.
Sasuke had turned his back on Team Seven, on Konoha, and his choice, in the end, had decided all of their fate. When she got back to Konoha, Sakura was going to have to convince Naruto to give up on trying to drag Sasuke home; they were fighting a battle that could not be won, not when their victory hinged on Sasuke actually caring about them.
Suigetsu studied her minutely, feeling mildly disturbed by how dark Sakura's eyes were. He had, apparently, touched upon a very sensitive subject. Still, what else had he expected? Sasuke had been, at one time, a friend; betraying a child with hopes and dreams was worse than betraying an adult, who had such things beaten out of them long ago.
"Hey," he said suddenly, "how was your little shopping excursion with Sasuke yesterday?"
Sakura turned to face him, an eyebrow arched, and he was glad to see her surprise blotting out some of the sadness her eyes held. "How did you know about that?"
He winked at her. "A little birdie told me." By little birdie, he meant Karin screaming and ranting her head off when she found out. Anyone within a fifty mile radius must have heard her. "Find anything interesting?"
Sakura thought about it a moment before brightening. "I got a deck of Go Fish!" she chirped, grinning.
Suigetsu quirked an eyebrow. "Go Fish?" he inquired curiously.
Sakura's grin widened and she began to teach Suigetsu the wonderful dynamics of Go Fish; when Juugo knocked on the door twenty minutes later (with a yelled affirmative for him to enter coming from Sakura), he found the two quite involved in their game--and from the scowl on Sakura's face and the way her eyebrows were drawn in the middle, it appeared she was losing. "She's just a sore loser," Suigetsu informed the big man cheerfully, easily dodging the punch his companion aimed at him.
"Beginner's luck," she growled. Juugo smiled, grabbed the tray, and backed out of the room quietly just as Sakura began to swear at the swordsman and accuse him of cheating. Although he didn't hear what Suigetsu said in reply to that, he did hear Sakura's snarl of irritation. Juugo shook his head; baiting Sakura, he was sure, was not a good idea. If she had chakra manacles around her wrists of that power, he was pretty sure without them, she had a very good chance of wiping the floor with the sharp-toothed male.
When Juugo came back later, Sakura was sitting on her futon, back pressed to the wall and legs crossed Indian-style, a huge book resting in her lap. "There's no need to knock," she told him, smiling slightly. "No one else bothers."
Juugo shrugged lightly. "It would be rude to not knock, Sakura-san."
Sakura's lips upturned at that; Juugo was like a breath of fresh air around here. Even the knowledge that he had the Cursed Seal couldn't abate her liking him. Not many people around here had manners like Juugo did, and she liked him almost as much as she liked Suigetsu. (When he wasn't kicking her ass in card games, that was. Not, of course, that Sakura would ever admit it, especially not to Suigetsu. The man had enough pride for the two of them combined.)
"So how long are you going to deliver me food?" she asked Juugo, who shrugged apologetically.
"I'm not sure, Sakura-san. Sasuke never specified, so I guess it'll be until he asks me to stop." Ask? More like demand. I don't think Sasuke knows how to ask for anything, Sakura thought, then snorted quietly to herself.
Juugo gave her a strange look, then smiled slightly to himself and said nothing. Stretching out her legs, Sakura placed her book down carefully on the bed, mentally marking the page she had been at, and sat down at the desk where Juugo had placed the food. She grinned at him and he smiled back before quietly leaving the room.
Sakura ate quickly—she hated to be away from her studies in general, but because now she (quite literally) had nothing else to do, she wanted to get back to it as soon as possible. Gulping down the last of the water, she stood up and folded herself back onto her futon, cracked open her book, and continued to study.
Several hours later, Sakura's brain was revolting against all the information she had crammed into it. Whoops.
Leaning her head back against the cool wall, she closed her eyes, trying to dispel the headache that was currently raging. She was convinced of it now: she must be a masochist.
Breathing in deeply through her nose, Sakura decided that she would have to meditate. Not only would it get rid of her headache (there were, of course, other ways of getting rid of it, ones that were much simpler, but as she had little access to her chakra, it was impossible) but she hadn't done it in a while, and now was the perfect opportunity to do so.
Crossing her legs once more Indian-style, Sakura focused on relaxing individual parts of her body. It would, of course, be harder without the majority of her chakra, but she was notorious for her tenacity; besides, all she needed to do was find her center and focus on it—for that she didn't exactly need chakra, it just made everything easier.
Swallowing the anger and resentment that flared against Sasuke, Sakura began to calm herself, eyes closed and posture relaxed. She let out a slow, even breath, and focused on carefully wiping her mind blank as well as relaxing her muscles. Once she was sure she was in meditation-mode, she began to focus on her center, leaving everything else behind her.
Sakura had forgotten just exactly how freeing meditation could be.
She wasn't sure how long she sat there, feeling more relaxed than she had in days, but the only thing that alerted her when the door opened and someone entered were years of ninja training.
And then a scent made Sakura's eyes snap open. She'd know that smell anywhere.
Sakura's relaxation was shot to hell.
Sasuke strode in, unminding of the blood soaking through his shirt. Years she spent training to be a medic kicked in, and Sakura unlocked her legs and stood up in one fluid motion, grabbing onto Sasuke's shirt. He cast her a baleful look, which she ignored.
"You're just going to wrap that up, aren't you?" Sasuke's expression didn't change, but Sakura knew the truth before he could deny it. She gritted her teeth so hard she could hear them creaking. "You're a moron, do you know that?"
Before he had a chance to send back a scathing rebuke, the door burst open and a distraught redhead ran into the room. "Sasuke! You're hurt! Let me—"
Karin caught a sight of Sakura and sneered. "Move aside. This isn't for little girls such as yourself."
Sakura visibly stiffened before pasting on a sneer of her own. "Yes, of course, I'm so sorry. It was just so stupid of me not to know that in matters of healing, the resident ho trumps the trained medic. I mean, it's not like I was the Godaime's apprentice or anything. Really, what was I thinking?"
"You're a bitch," the bespectacled woman spit out savagely.
"And you can go get me a bowl, antiseptic, a needle, stitching thread, and some hydrogen peroxide," Sakura responded mildly, finding the argument as good as won.
Karin shot Sakura a nasty look and began to roll up her sleeves. "Why would I do that when I have an effective method of healing right here?" Dark, broken circles littered her skin. Sakura didn't know what the hell they were, but they gave her the creeps.
"No," came Sasuke's voice from behind them. He was seated on his bed, carefully peeling off his shirt. His face was, as always, stoic, but Sakura knew that had to hurt. "Do what Sakura says, Karin."
Karin's face darkened, but she spun on her heel and stomped off to do what Sasuke ordered. Sakura sighed, shaking her head, and went into the bathroom to fetch a washcloth, a towel, soap, and bandages. When she came out, Sasuke was watching her. "I didn't know that you were the Godaime's apprentice."
Sakura raised an eyebrow at him. Sasuke? Initiating conversation? Were the seas turning to blood outside this place?
Sakura settled for shrugging. "After you left, I was forced to grow up," she told him simply. "There's a lot about me that you don't know."
Sasuke didn't reply—not that Sakura expected him to. Instead, she studied his wound, which was still steadily bleeding. "Sit up a little," she instructed him quietly, and placed the towel beneath him to catch some of the blood. The blood already staining his comforter, however, she could do nothing about.
Just then Karin entered with everything Sakura had requested. "Here," she snarled at Sakura, and threw everything onto the bed.
Sakura ignored the dangerous flaring of her temper. "Thank you," she murmured, though she shot the other female a look that had made ANBU quail and babble hasty apologies. "Ready?" she addressed Sasuke, who nodded once.
Sakura knew that she shouldn't be doing this. Sasuke was perfectly capable of taking care of the wound himself, and healing a missing-nin was technically treason to Konoha. Still, taking care of Sasuke (and caring about him) was instinct to Sakura. Too many wishes upon stars had been spent praying for his happiness, for his health, so he could return to them sooner.
There was no denying it: Sakura had missed him. Even if she had tried to deny it, bury and trample and discard those long-dormant feelings, her so strived-for apathy fell to pieces when it came to Sasuke.
You, she told herself, are an idiot.
"I'm going to sit here and make sure you don't poison Sasuke." Karin's obnoxious voice broke through Sakura's thoughts, and the green-eyed girl could hear the my before Sasuke's name. Hah, Sakura scoffed inwardly.
"I honestly don't care what you do," she remarked to Karin. Whore, she added in her mind. Looking at the wound, Sakura got up and filled the bowl with lukewarm water, bringing the soap and washcloth with her. When she returned, she began to clean the dried blood from Sasuke's side, then got to his wound, which was a long, jagged rip. Sakura didn't ask what caused it and Sasuke didn't offer any information. Once she was sure it was clean, she poured some hydrogen peroxide on it, just to make sure. Then she began to stitch the wound closed. If Sasuke was in pain, he didn't show it. Instead, he kept his eyes closed throughout the entire process, but Sakura knew he was hurting.
After the worst was over, Sakura had to bandage his wound. To do that, she needed to reach around him—continuously. She warned this to Sasuke, knowing him and his rather large personal space bubble, but he merely grunted, so Sakura began to bandage his wound. There was no sound from Karin, and when Sakura turned her head, she discovered the redhead was gone. "She left while you were stitching," Sasuke's voice breathed in her ear, and the hair on the back of Sakura's neck raised.
Afraid she would stutter, Sakura merely settled for nodding and continued to bandage his wound firmly. Doing this practically put her in Sasuke's lap, and Sakura prayed to whatever deity was out there that she wasn't blushing. Her fingers, however, were trembling, if only slightly. "I'm sorry about this," she muttered, trying to make herself forget how close she was to Sasuke, so close she could smell sweat mingled with soap and shampoo.
"It's fine," Sasuke responded. Although she couldn't see him, Sakura could feel the weight on his stare on top of her head. She bit her lip. Why was he staring at her? Was he trying to make sure she wouldn't mess up? Did he think she didn't know how to do this?
Her hands were still trembling, but this time it was with anger. "Focus, Sakura," Sasuke told her, and she felt his warm breath against her ear again. All her anger went out the window, and Sakura ducked her head down farther.
"Sorry." She said, and tried her best to speed this up, though she was incredibly careful that she was efficiently wrapping the wound. Once she was sure it was bandaged correctly, she ripped off the end, wrapped it around the first bandage of the last round—the one below where it was ripped off—and tied it tightly. "Alright, you're all done." She told him, crawling off the bed and shaking out the ache that had settled in her arms.
"Aa." Sasuke said, looking down at his now-bandaged torso. He grabbed both his bloodied shirt and the towel beneath him soaked with blood and some hydrogen peroxide and tossed them into the hamper in the bathroom. Returning, he grabbed a clean shirt and put it on carefully.
"If you pull those stitches, Sasuke, I'll kill you," Sakura warned him intensely, shaking a finger at him. Sasuke's reply was to smirk.
"Have you had dinner yet?" he asked, and Sakura blinked.
"No." He nodded and left abruptly. Sakura raised an eyebrow, then shook her head. Walking over to her futon, she sighed heavily and leaned her head back against the cool wall. Sasuke's body had been littered with scars, some long, some short, some clearly clean-cuts, and the list went on. Sakura could name every mission that Naruto had gotten a scar on—hell, she could probably say who was on the team at the time. She couldn't, however, say where Sasuke got his own scars from.
A/N—Hey, guys! Sorry for the long wait—my life has been SUPER hectic. As an apology, this chapter is over 4,000 words, which is longer than what Becca and I usually write. I, unfortunately, am going to be more than busy for a while, so I'm not quite sure when chapter 9 (remember, Becca writes the even chapters, I write the odds) will come out. Hopefully before school ends, but we'll have to see, since I have HSPA in a week and a half my road test for my license in April, and SAT's in May. After that I need to study for finals. If you guys luck out, I might be able to release chapter 9 right before SAT's.
Also, just a little tidbit: perfidy, for those of you who don't know, means treachery or betrayal.
Don't forget to leave a review!