The Great Exchange
Chapter Eleven: Taking Back Sasuke
Sasuke fell to his hands knees, his heart pounding in his ears as he forced panting breaths, fighting against the stomach-churning urge to vomit. The others' similar noises echoed in his ears, but it meant they were still conscious. However, this thought was crushed the moment he heard two heavy thumps, and managed to turn his head enough to see Suigetsu and Juugo lying unmoving.
H-how…how did he do that?! Only Uchiha can use the Tsukuyomi…
The answer came soon enough. There'd be no way the twisted Sannin would have sat around for years without carefully studying every little detail of his prey. He probably created ways of his own invention to unlock bloodline abilities, planning to use them once he made the body his own. And now he inhabited one of the most deadly biological weapons in possibly the entire continent.
"Karin," he heard his own voice say in an almost oblivious tone. "I am cold."
A patter of footsteps, and Sasuke regained enough strength to focus his dizzy eyes upwards as Karin carefully placed a white robe around his body's shoulders. Then the nausea overcame him again, and he swallowed feverishly, tasting the sour sting of stomach acid in the back of his throat.
His eyes fluttered open in surprise to hear Naruto's voice. Naruto was conscious! Risking another pounding headache, he forced his head up enough to see it was indeed Naruto, also down on his hands and knees, but still conscious.
"Strange," Sasuke heard his own voice muse, "I only expected one to remain."
"N-no!" Sasuke forced out as he watched his body step purposefully over to the defenseless Naruto. "Oroch-!"
A white-hot spasm of pain tore deep into his temple, turning any remaining words into a groan of pain as he clutched at his forehead. But even through the rush of warm blood to the ailing area, he caught the sickening thunk of a foot connecting with a ribcage, and Naruto's pained whimper as he slid across the floor, his hands at his solar plexus.
"So weak," Sasuke's voice stated in a disappointed tone. "This is the fox that destroyed Konoha? And this," Sasuke flinched as he felt his own eyes turn to him, "is the last great Uchiha?"
"Sh-shut up!" Sasuke forced out, his body trembling as he forced himself into a kneeling position, battling the dizzy headaches that followed. "Y-You're nothing b-but a com-mon th-thief!"
His trained senses picked up movement a mere nanosecond before he felt the blow to his abdomen. Had he still possessed his old body he might've tensed to take the hit, but Sakura's soft stomach wasn't as protected. He lay, gasping in acute, throbbing pain for an aching moment before a strong, calloused hand closed around his throat and lifted him, unhindered by the weakened fingers that clawed feebly at what had once been his own forearm.
"Look at me, Uchiha," his own voice said softly, with an obvious smugness. "This is what you claimed you had nothing more to learn from. This is what you tried to destroy, seeing only a liability."
His clenched eyes opened, and once again had a mental flinch to see his own pale, smooth face staring back at him as its grip on his throat remained unwavering.
"I told you your body would be mine," the voice continued, Sasuke's mind refusing to believe these words were coming from his own lips. "And it is everything I could ever hope to be. Thank you for taking such good care of it."
His last word was enunciated with a tighter clench on Sasuke's throat, before dropping him heedlessly to the floor and looming over his pain-wracked form.
No, Naruto… he could only say in his mind, She can't hear us now…Stop bringing attention to yourself and he might spare you…
"You just won't stop, will you?" the Sannin muttered as if in mere annoyance. "Karin, put him to sleep for me."
"Y-yes, my lord!" Her voice betrayed her confusion at his referral to "Sakura" as an Uchiha. Sasuke's stomach churned to hear Naruto groan once, then go silent.
"There's little point in keeping you alive now," the Sannin's tone now turned to him. "I won't make the same mistake and let you live longer than I must. But I'll give you the privilege of last words."
"…Screw…you…" Sasuke choked out.
"Very well." A metallic clack signified an execution weapon had been produced. "Goodbye, Sasuke-kun."
Blackness was everywhere. I couldn't see, I couldn't feel, I couldn't smell. But I could hear. I heard short, gasping breaths, and a single, rhythmic pounding of a human heart.
Then I heard voices accompanying the breathing and beating. Men and women's voices, both familiar and stranger to me. All were sad, upset, miserable, and in pain.
"Can't you stop it?"
The voices grew louder, rising until they screamed their words at me, begging me to stop whatever was hurting them. I wanted to scream back, but I had no voice. I had no lips to scream with. I had nothing, even as the voices faded to whimpers and the pounding heartbeat grew slower, then faster, then slower. Ever-fluctuating.
The panting breaths went on, in tandem with the heartbeat. Together they sounded in, out, in, out…the sounds of life. A breath and a pulse.
I…wanted them. And so, they became mine. Air filled the empty spaces where my lungs should have been, and a cadenced beating started up in my nonexistent chest.
It wasn't enough. I wanted life in all its completeness. I wanted living, breathing flesh. I wanted seeing eyes and feeling hands and running feet. I wanted that which was but an elusive slip of memory, dangling before me if I had the hands to reach out and grab it.
I wanted to be alive again.
Sasuke cracked one eye open, having tensed in expectation of the finishing blow. What he saw startled him: his possessed body kneeling over him, its silver-handled knife still clutched in a white-knuckled fist, its face still drawn in a murderous grimace.
But…he wasn't moving. The only motions were a soft trembling that wracked his frozen form as beads of sweat formed in his forehead, his pupils contracting as if in pain.
"Wh-…what?" the Sannin spat, glaring furiously at "his" disobedient body. "Karin! I can't…Finish them for me!"
"Y-yes, Orochimaru-sama!" the girl replied, producing some bladed weapons of her own and turning to stride over to Naruto's unconscious body when-
The scream in his own voice was blood-curdling enough without Sasuke having to witness his face contorting in exquisitely detailed agony. The knife fell, clattering to the floor beside him as the Sannin clutched at his head, his breaths reduced to panting.
"Why?" he choked, clawing at his forehead, "Why are you…still…there?"
I was in darkness again, but not the void of nothingness. This darkness was musty, smelling of rancid meat, and with the texture of damp clay. This darkness tasted of dust and dried bones. This was the darkness a living person would experience.
My hands could move. I felt them, flexing my fingers, before they curled into fists. Power, restrained as it was, coursed through my arms, causing my continual heartbeat to quicken its pace. The damp clay-like darkness tightened its grip on me, but I tensed, and lashed out. My entire body went on the offensive. I squirmed, I kicked, I thrashed, all the while with liquid clay smelling of sour meat molding to my writhing body.
The ground beneath me shook, and the clay stilled for a split second. With a sudden withdraw of my arms, I grabbed the smelly, damp darkness in front of me, and wrenched.
The darkness tore like a paper screen.
Even in his weakened state, Sasuke managed to force his aching body to sluggishly push itself away from the screaming Sannin, all the while keeping the mortified Karin in his sights. Whatever was happening to him, Orochimaru wasn't faking his anguish. Veins stood out against his flushed, sweaty skin, and his hands had taken to clawing at himself as if trying to tear something out from inside him.
"Get back!" he shouted at thin air, "You wretched scum!"
Another tortured scream preceded him falling to his hands and knees and dry-heaving, shuddering and changing from flushed to ashen-pale.
"No," he whispered, eyes wide and glazed, "No, no, it's my body now, mine, all mine, get back in your cell, go away, go…"
"It's Sakura…isn't it?" Sasuke forced a hoarse mutter, "She's…fighting back…."
"Shut up, you stupid boy!" his own body growled at him, "She's dead!"
"…No," Sasuke continued, managing through twinges of jabbing pain to push himself up enough to make eye contact. "She's…escaped your hold…She's killing you."
He coughed violently then, ignoring the flecks of blood that dripped from his mouth. The Sannin glared at him for a moment more before his eyes rolled back in his head and he let out a slow, but nonetheless unsettling, groan. Sasuke had heard that sound once before, but the man who'd made it had succumbed to a gaping wound and shrugged off his mortal coil within seconds after…
For a moment that seemed to stretch into hours, the body of Uchiha Sasuke was still. No more noises came from it, no more muscle spasms wracked it. It didn't breathe. It didn't move.
For that single moment, it was as lifeless as a corpse.
But then, with a gasp for air as if holding its breath, its eyelids fluttered, and its irises were visible again, however dulled they may be. All conscious eyes were on it as it trembled, slumped to the ground, but then forced one knee up into an exhausted kneel as its gaze met Sasuke's.
It looked up…and smiled sadly at him. Without even thinking, the corners of his mouth twitched upwards, and he gave his trademark smirk to his own face.
"Long time no see…" his own voice breathed, "Sasuke-kun."
"Wh-wha-?!" Karin's voice shattered the bubble of silence. "What's going on?! Orochimaru-sama?! What's happening?"
I glanced over my shoulder and sent her a withering, icy glare. "He's dead," I spat at her, "And you're going to join him once I get the feeling back in my legs, you filthy traitor."
I turned back to face Sasuke-kun, and couldn't help the tears that formed in the corners of my eyes. He looked ridiculous in my body, covered in blood and dirt and who knows what else. The smirk on my own lips looked laughable.
Before I even knew what I was doing, my trembling hands had reached under him and lifted him, surprising me with how light he was. Holding myself was a strange experience, to say the least, but somehow…it felt natural in Sasuke-kun's body. His muscular arms seemed perfectly adapted to gently pick up a small, female form and hold it carefully upright like a breakable doll.
"Sa-…-kura…" my own voice whispered, accompanied by a wince as my hand brushed one of his wounds when letting go of him, "I…can't heal…"
"Don't worry," I told him, "We're getting out of he-"
My words were cut off as something in my stomach churned, wriggling inside me, and shot upwards. I barely had time to turn my head to the side before I was on all fours again, my stomach heaving as what little I'd eaten that day was emptied onto the bloodstained floor in front of me.
"S-Sakura?!" Sasuke exclaimed weakly, placing a hand on my shivering shoulder. I couldn't answer him, another surge of nausea resulting in another sickening deposit of my last meal onto the cold tile floor. "Sak-kura, what's happening?"
Through my stomach-turning queasiness, I knew what was causing it. The hyperdrug they'd injected me with was reacting, possibly to the death of the only one who could control it. Now it was either being expelled from my system…or it was killing me, slowly and painfully. Counting all evidence from before, it could only be the latter.
"K-Karin…" I managed to pant, "Anti-…-dote…where…?"
"There is none!" she shrieked at me, obviously not reacting well to her plans falling apart at the drop of a hat. "You'll die!"
I felt Sasuke stiffen beside me. "You don't…want that…" I told her, trying to play off her weakened mental state. "Give me…and…you'll only get…jail time…"
"Sakura…" I heard Sasuke whispered in disbelief. "You can't be…What have they done?"
"There's no cure!" Karin repeated, though I could see her shaking at the thought of her precious Sasuke-kun actually dying. "None!"
"He showed you…" I said through a sudden onslaught of dizziness, "a secret…right? He said…backup plan…just in…case…"
Just as with the tranquilizers they'd used on me, I felt my diminished strength vanishing bit by bit, like water escaping from a puncture in a jug. My vision had gone blurry too, reducing Sasuke-kun to a blob of pink and red and my own arms to pale lumps in front of my eyes.
"Karin!" I caught the minute traces of pleading in Sasuke-kun's roughened voice, "Go get it!"
Though my vision was shot, relief washed over me to hear a clatter of footsteps trail off to parts unknown. This time it was my turn to collapse in a powerless daze, but to my surprise, I felt small, feminine hands tugging my head into a lap I'd never thought I'd ever be laying my head in. My eyes managed to wearily open, and my blurred gaze filled with pink.
"You're a foolish girl," my own voice muttered softly. "A foolish…stubborn girl…who gets herself into trouble…and nobody can help…"
He was beating himself up…for not being able to help me.
"Thank…you…Sas…" I couldn't finish. I felt water dripping down onto my face, drop by drop. Warm, salty droplets, falling from the mass of rosy blur above me.
"You stupid, idiotic, annoying, foolish…brave girl," he said, and I could hear the rustle of his hand wiping at his eyes. "You shouldn't…do these things…"
I smiled weakly. "I made…you a promise…" I whispered. "I'd bring you…back safe…And…I'm sorry…"
He was silent, but I felt a soft, little hand gently stroke my cheek. After the creepy, possessive fingers of Karin and Orochimaru, this little gesture was everything I imagined it to be.
All I felt then was an ice-cold chill, stemming from somewhere inside me and spreading, feeling as if encasing my bones in frost. My leaden limbs could do little to fight it as it spread, the icy chill slowing the heartbeat that had saved me in the first place until it barely moved, my eyes closing against my will.
"Sakura…" Sasuke's voice called, "Sakura? Sakura!"
Even as the ice conquered me, I felt his hands shaking me by the shoulders, his voice seeming to grow fainter and fainter even as he shouted more and more loudly…
My chest tightened…and my heart slowly…ground…to a stop.
Wow, how many months was that? Sorry to say, but school has to take priority over fanfictioning. I really wish it didn't though. Le sigh. School sucks.
To placate you all, I'll do a little dance. -dons SOS Brigade uniform-
"It's just a jump to the left."
"And then a step to the right."
"With your hands on your hips."
"You bring your knees in tight!"
"But it's the pelvic thrust
that really drives you insa-a-a-ane!"
the Time Warp
(Choice of song entirely unrelated to future events in this fanfiction. I'm not THAT lame :P)