Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto and make no money from the publication of this story.
Devouring Time, blunt thou the lion's paws,
And make the earth devour her own sweet brood;
Pluck the keen teeth from the fierce tiger's jaws,
And burn the long-liv'd phoenix, in her blood;
Make glad and sorry seasons as thou fleet'st,
And do whate'er thou wilt, swift-footed Time,
To the wide world and all her fading sweets;
But I forbid thee one most heinous crime:
O! carve not with thy hours my love's fair brow,
Nor draw no lines there with thine antique pen;
Him in thy course untainted do allow
For beauty's pattern to succeeding men.
Yet, do thy worst old Time: despite thy wrong,
My love shall in my verse ever live young.
25 years before…
When he found her she was laying face down in a pile of smoldering books.
The air was busy with ash, pieces of page still alight floating about, the words being reduced to kinetic energy in one glorious instance. It was severely perverse to him, this destruction of words, the razing of knowledge.
Kakashi quickly picked his way over the heaps of burning paper, the hunks of spine and cover and leaf simmering and consuming themselves. Sakura's supine body seemed discordantly round and soft among all of the sharp angles and hard edges.
His toes blistered from the drifts of hot ash, but the mask he wore over his mouth and nose guarded his lungs from the churning air.
He was a little surprised to find her in whole pieces. The explosion had ripped apart the majority of the library's structure and all of its contents. What remained was only the burning carcass of the frame, its jointed bones exposed to the bitter night air, its papery skin nearly roasted away.
Her survival might have been just chance. There was a mangled desk lying askew a few feet away from her prone body. She must have found shelter under it.
"Sakura!" Kakashi crouched down.
He didn't want to move her. An explosion with enough force to disembowel an entire building could easily break bones and sever spinal cords. But the walls were coming down around them and the floor was strewn with paper fuel.
The air was filled with the song of creaking and snapping joints.
When she did not respond, he acted.
One hand easing under her neck and the other gripping her round hip, he pulled gently. Her small body swayed and she was soon lying on her burned back, her expressionless face exposed fully to his eye.
A visual survey served no purpose other than to establish that she did not look alive.
His long battle-torn fingers sought for the point on her neck that would tell him the truth- find the hollow in the center and slide an inch down. Underneath her smoke-dyed skin he felt it, a gentle push against his finger, like a small winged insect had flown down her throat and was now flapping its wings about.
Somehow still alive.
A groaning behind him from one of the beast's ribs buckling warned Kakashi that he did not have much time. The smoke was starting to gather lower, having already filled up the large space above.
Things were about to come apart.
With as much caution as he could summon, Kakashi eased Sakura into his arms. Her head lulled back over his elbow and one thin arm hung down abandoned, her forearm charred and blistered from shielding her head during the blast.
Still crouching low with his burden, Kakashi quickly reached his free hand to the scroll pockets on his chest. The third from the right contained the one he needed. He flipped the buckle and the scroll tumbled spring-like out onto the sooty floor. It unrolled itself instantly, revealing long tails of delicate seals. Kakashi bit into the skin of his thumb as the edges of the paper began to curl in from the heat.
The smoke around them trembled. The roof began to scream in pain as it fell into itself.
Kakashi slammed his bleeding hand down on the paper, and in an instant, they were gone.
They tumbled back into existence three miles upwind on the roof of a bakery.
Next to a vent cap lounged a blissful Pakkun, taking full advantage of the warm tar roofing and the delicious odor. It was early evening and the lingering scent of the day's baked goods was still floating upward through the ceiling. It smelled like sweets and flour and baking powder.
But when Kakashi suddenly appeared in a violent haze of smoke, the little pug sprang up on his haunches, his peace disturbed.
"Boss, did you just…"
Kakashi collapsed forward onto his knees with a thump, though he managed to keep his cargo from tumbling out of his arms.
"…teleport!" The pug's voice was gruff with alarm.
Kakashi's chin hung down towards his chest as his shoulders dramatically rose and fell.
"Why did you do something so reckless?"
"I had to… They were probably …watching," he justified through syncopated breaths.
"The ones… who blew up…library."
"What?" the pug ran to the southern face of the roof and leaped up onto the ledge. In the distance he saw a cloud of smoke rising into the evening sky like a great black sail over the sleek fleet of modern buildings.
When Pakkun returned to his master's side, Kakashi had regained his bearings. He lowered the still body from his arms and onto the warm roof.
Sakura didn't move.
"Is she dead?" the pug asked quietly.
Her face was as still as granite. Kakashi leaned over her mouth. A small rush of air tickled over the shell of his ear.
"Not yet," he answered like a blunt knife.
They both sat stalled for a moment, one overcome by immense relief, the other extreme worry.
"I need to roll her over." He didn't want to do it. He knew how charred her back was and that he didn't have the capacity to do much, if anything, about it. But infection was quick to set in with burns.
"Where are you going to hide her?" Pakkun called as he scrambled over to Kakashi's stashed rucksack and pulled it open with his mouth. He rummaged inside for a moment before grabbing a corner of a blanket between his teeth and tugging.
Kakashi turned her over slowly. "I don't know. My contacts have gone underground. And I have no idea where she's been staying."
His fingers formed five seals and then he placed green-glowing hands over Sakura's blistered back. He could manage to sterilize her burns at the very least, though his energy was flickering and wavering as it licked over bubbling skin. The long distance teleportation of two bodies had charged an expensive toll from his chakra reserve.
Pakkun dropped the green blanket at his master's feet and watched the flickering light of his chakra with disapproval.
After making less than adequate progress, Kakashi halted his healing. They were unacceptably exposed up on the roof now that he knew Sakura could be a target. Though, if she was being watched, pursuit was unlikely. Even if the bomber had seen Kakashi rush into the burning building, he surely hadn't seen them exit. There was no need to flee the city for safer harbor just yet. Sakura definitely wouldn't survive a journey in her condition and the option of abandoning her to a hospital was ignored.
"Let's get inside," Kakashi mumbled as he wrapped the blanket over Sakura's back and gathered her into his arms again. He carried her to a derelict sky light and smashed one foot through yellowing glass. The large pane crumbled away like sand and fell down into the dark shop beneath them.
He stepped off the ledge and gracefully fell into the quiet space.
When his feet touched the ground it was soft yet firm. Pakkun landed smally behind him with an 'oof' and a sneeze.
"Flour sack," the dog huffed.
Kakashi used the filtered evening light to locate an electric switch, flipping it on quickly with a nimble elbow. Overhead fluorescent bulbs sprang to life with a hesitant hum, illuminating what surely was the bakery's old kitchen. Stainless steel and a fine dusting of white powder covered every plane.
He carried Sakura's still body to the center of the kitchen and laid her face-down on a large, metal work table.
"You can go," he directed his summon without looking away from the girl's back.
"Well, take care of her then," the dog gruffly replied before vanishing.
After a small nod to no one, Kakashi washed his hands in a huge steel sink and then got to work peeling Sakura's melted shirt away from her mottled skin.
A cursory search of her hip bag provided Kakashi with no clues: her small first aid kit, a modestly filled coin purse, a key on a ubiquitous bank keychain, a ball point pen, a broken wrist watch, an empty leather-bound journal, and a thick, old book. But, strangely, no weapons.
Kakashi arranged her belongings on a countertop in a straight line.
From her first aid kit he withdrew a vial of smelling salts. After contemplating for a moment he also pulled out an alcohol pad and a syringe filled with morphine to forestall the pain.
It was time to wake her up.
With sure hands he sterilized a small circle on her upper arm, its pinkness appearing discordant surrounded by the rest of her blackened skin, and then slid the needle in and pushed the plunger all the way down. It was the best he could do for her.
He gathered her wrists into one long hand and squatted down so that his face would be level with hers when she awoke. The cap of the vial was pulled off by his teeth through the mask and then held directly beneath her nose.
Sakura started on her next inhale, her head jerking backwards slightly. An exhale and then another spasm.
On the third inhale she moaned and her eyelashes fluttered.
"Sakura, wake up," he commanded.
Her neck pulled back away from the open vial and her wrists twisted weakly in his hands.
"Open your eyes Sakura."
He saw a peek of green under her pink lashes. She blinked a few, slow times and then her murky gaze shifted to his face. Her lips moved noiselessly, but he knew what she was asking.
"Yes. It's me. You are badly burned. On your back. "
She tugged at her wrists and showed him rows of white teeth through a grimace. "No. Your forearms are burned too."
Her eyes closed again, like she was surrendering. "Hey. Hey! Sakura, wake up."
"I gave you a dose of morphine. But that's all there is. You have to heal yourself. Right now," his voice was stern.
Her jaw was hardened and straight with pain. Her lips trembled. She looked at him distantly, as if she was at the bottom of a river looking up, as if she couldn't breathe.
"Right now," he repeated. His breath wavered slightly.
The clock on the wall told him that four hours had passed. Sakura was sleeping on the table like a corpse. With his constant commands she had managed to heal the worst of her wounds, though he was sure there would be dramatic scarring that only her most focused techniques could have prevented.
After she passed out again, Kakashi had gently propped her up into a sitting position, with her bare breasts pressed against his vest and her bare cheek pressed against his mask, and wound a long spool of bandage around her torso and arms to cover the fragile, shiny skin she had knitted.
And then he had laid her back down and waited. The digital clock on the wall blared the time at him steadily. He sat on the tile floor and incrementally shifted his gaze between Sakura and the clock. There was no ticking from the electric timepiece, but the feeble in and out of her breathing seemed to give beat to the passing minutes just as well.
In the frozen room, with the frozen girl, Kakashi felt as if time could have stopped.
To distract himself, he played with a kunai he had withdrawn from his bag, twirling it around his index finger, flipping it from palm to palm, and balancing it on point on his thumb nail. His sensei's weapon had heavy sentimental value, but it was also extremely useful. It acted as a buoy which he could use to pull himself out of rough situations. His intuition had served well him again when he decided to leave his bag, and subsequently the kunai, behind with Pakkun before seeking Sakura out.
Up on the wall, a nine shifted to a zero. Kakashi's attention shifted back to the girl.
He pulled himself up from the ground slowly, his body stiff from not moving. Sakura did not stir.
Desperate to distract himself, Kakashi studied the parade of her items again. The pen worked well enough when he scribbled on a box of corn starch. The watch did not work at all. The leather of the empty journal was soft and of good quality. The book was old and filled with small, intricate script. Kakashi indifferently turned through a few pages then set it back down. He had given up reading a while ago.
Above him the air conditioner churned to life, working hard to hold back the thick summer heat outside. The room kitchen felt even colder and emptier.
Abandoning the search for a suitable distraction, Kakashi turned to study Sakura. Her chest barely rose and fell, her lips were sealed closed and stretched thin, the slope of her nose and arc of her forehead stone still. Her hair and skin were covered with ash. She looked like a weather-worn statue.
At the sink Kakashi filled a mixing bowl with warm, soapy water and then pulled a checkered rag from a drawer. He set both down on the table on which she slept.
"Sakura?" he murmured hesitantly.
She did not stir.
He dragged the rag up her neck, along a cheek, and across her brow. The water ran down her skin in elegant curves. He tenderly washed the soot from her chin, her neck, her forehead.
He wanted to leave no trace of what had happened on her motionless face.
An abrupt cacophony of a siren from outside tore through the soft silence. Kakashi jerked.
His Galatea opened her eyes.
The searing blare of noise filled up all of the space in the room.
"It looks like they've started again," he observed, looking down into the girl's cumpling face.
"...safe?" Sakura struggled out in a gritty, burdened voice.
"Yes, we're safe." He placed the cloth back in the bowl of water and stepped back. "For now."
A/N: The sonnet is 19. The sonnets will be integral to the development of figurative language in each chapter as well as the central theme. Thank you to those who have reviewed and given their support. I hope this chapter didn't fall short of your expectations.