Sasuke's Apocrypha.

Those who believe in death as the end know nothing about life.

Before the darkness, the pain had come.

It was so great and shocking a pain, that one of the few coherent thoughts he had was that the greatest astonishment of all was that he had survived it. The feel of teeth sinking into his skin, Then the pain had come out of nowhere, seizing both body and mind in a grip as strong as spider silk. (He ought to know. He had tried his best to break it. Tried and failed, repeatedly.)

It had been beautiful. That was the most terrible thing of all.

It had been filled with colors, that pain, so bright and shining that they had blinded him. Then darkness had come. But not before the colors of that pain had incapacitated him, wreaking their havoc along every separate nerve ending in his body, seeking them out, as if the pain itself was a creature with sentiency that far surpassed his own, as though it coursed through his blood like his overwhelming hatred. In the darkness, he had time, however. Time that was given to him by trapping him in this beautiful and terrible place.

In the darkness, the pain receded. A lesser pain, a greater pain, the pain of memories replaced it. He struck out mentally, fighting to free himself of this cage. And soon enough, the pain was back. Great, rolling waves of it, so strong, he felt as if it would tear him apart. His head pounded with the effort to keep it clear. Lights as bright as torches danced before his eyes. Nausea, thick and choking, clogged his throat.

He reveled in it all.

The pain was glorious. The pain was beautiful in an entirely different way from how it had been before. Then it had signaled his imprisonment. Now, it was the harbinger of his release- and of his revenge. He could feel his body spasm; feel a cry rise up from his chest, sharp and piercing as a knife. He kept his voice to himself, wrapping his arms around his body and hugging the pain to him like a long lost child.

He loved this pain. It was proof he had won.

His eyes landed on his teammate, Sakura, the damage done to her, and he stood up. He could feel it racing through his veins, the power of that pain. It was stronger than the most potent drug, more intoxicating than the finest wine, and it seared him from the inside out, cleansing like fire. Almost, what he felt now made up for all that had come before it. Here was power beyond all reckoning. Finally, he would have his revenge. Just the thought of it made his hands want to tremble.

No! I will not give in to weakness, not even the weakness of my own desire. Instead, he willed his hands to steady, strengthening his hold on his resolve. Slowly, carefully, he controlled his voice enough to turn to Sakura.

"Who did that to you?" He demanded. He was moving again before his ears really registered anything, moving Naruto and Sakura away from the blast zone. He was moving again, his foot planted firmly on the chuunin's back, twisting and breaking his arms. His mind filled with thoughts of torture, blood and pain.

Blood. So beautiful is this elixir of life, still warm as it flows through him with the beat of his heart… Sasuke could hear the flow of the blood in the arms he held then released.

He hated Sakura!!

Despite himself, with her embrace, he could feel the curse mark recede. The power screaming in his veins lessened. He could feel his mind go blank, and then fill with one overwhelming thought.

It was not enough. It would never be enough.

He needed more.