Note: Dude, I don't even know what this is, but I think I like it. Feedback and constructive criticism is mucho appreciated. Thanks for reading!

The Art of Breaking Nails

by stones

The first time she heard of him was when she was mopping up a mess.

She had overheard it as she shared a moment with the blood, mind deep in conversation with the cells, bending over and scraping the floor. As her glasses dipped lower on her nose, she stood and straightened out her back, dropping the sponge she had been holding. It dropped to the floor with a sickening noise, full of blood and tears. It smacked against organs, bits of pink flesh.

She had not been interested. Not in him, anyway. More or less, she was interested in how he looked. Day after day she was surrounded by darkness, by death. Even her hair, on her head in a disheveled mess of deep red, reminded her of what she lived in.

That was why she had always petted his silver head of hair as he whispered sweet nothings in her ear, rubbing the soft skin of her waist, and kissing the rise and fall of her chest. Inwardly she smiled at the false pretences, laughed in the face of romance. On her face, however, remained a scowl, reminding him that he held no place in her heart, or more importantly her mind. He knew this, but he pretended. He was always a gentleman. Polite was what Kabuto was. A shimmering hope, mocking her through dark rims.

Crazy was what she was. A walking contradiction.

She loved the job, loved the gore that came with it. She adored the power, the keys that dangled in her pocket as the animals in their cages foamed at the mouth, eyes drowning in want. She would never trade the screams, the flinches, and coughs, a product of metal, syringes, and fluid, for anything.

She loved it and that was what scared her. She loves it and that is what still scares her.

It was not a rare occurrence to have to tear her eyes away from Orochimaru, the wonderful plays he put on, the amazing miracles he created. The way his fingers moved were so smooth, like water, and just like that he could manipulate. He could destroy. He could create. And she watched, fascinated, as the experiment twitched into a seizure and screamed in terror.

"Karin," he said to her, words so very monotone, so deep, but a fine piece of music nonetheless. A simple, four-note, piano piece. "Go ahead. Enjoy."

She liked simplicity.

She jumped to attention, hands grabbing for anything she could as she stepped forward. Eyes stared in shock. He was behind her, breath in her ear, as she made her own masterpiece, never as good as the master's. She didn't know what she was doing, but for what she was doing, she didn't need to.

"You don't want this," she would tell herself as she scrubbed her hands, the water holding tints of pink. She scrubbed until her skin went red and even then she scratched. It wasn't until the blood appeared under her nails that she remembered she was human. Her tears were clear. "You don't."

She did. In this way she lost everything.


She tried his name out on her lips.

The sound was barely audible and held a curious sort of tone laced around suspicion and predestined hate. The word was ugly and sounded heavy, too much teeth clenching, too many hissing noises. The faster she said it, the more it morphed into an angry growl, an original spilling from Orochimaru's mouth; and that was what Sasuke was, just another creation of Orochimaru's, another careless gesture.

The first time she saw him was when he was just a boy.

"What?" she snapped at him. He was staring.

"I'm just passing by," he told her simply.

The answer was so simple. Simple but unrealistic in every sense.

She gave him a look and could right away tell that he was not affected by her blunt attitude, her piggy nose as she scrunched it at him. "To the dungeons?"

He didn't reply, but didn't care to hide his stare. The red of his eyes reminded her of sickness, of throwing up and falling in love.

"Just passing by."

"Then pass," she whispered to him.

He brushed passed her and she looked back, a part of her angry and a part of her jumpy, because she was just a girl and he was stuck with her forever.

She did not love him then.

It is strange and odd, and perhaps a little annoying, the way life tends to play itself out. Now she wears the colors and symbols of all that she used to hate. Dark sky, red clouds. Something that is supposed to mean freedom and hope, defiled by mocking blood. She stands behind him. The sun bounces on the lenses of her glasses and hides him from view, an angel hidden by an unwanted light. So far from reach.

"What?" he asks. It is only then that she realizes she had been staring.

A cloud rolls by, hiding the ray of light and she sees his red eyes. They remind her. She holds on. The sun does not show again for the rest of the day.

"I'm just looking," she responds quickly.

"At the graveyard?" he asks, an irritated tone in his voice. It is not because of her answer, or at least she hopes it isn't. They are standing on sacred ground, soil drenched in the blood and sweat of those buried within it. There are ghosts in the air, hidden between the clouds of fog that crawl up her glasses and blind her. Death and Sasuke have never been friends.

"Just looking."

"Then look," he tells her, stepping away.

What he says is annoying but he says it well.

Suigetsu is leaning against a tombstone, staring at the two before him. Behind him he can hear Juugo, talking to the birds, though Suigetsu knows he speaks to himself. He mumbles, sings, and laughs. But Suigetsu cannot condemn him for it. Everyone gets lonely sometimes.

"Well," he starts with an over exaggerated sigh, "if w'ere done here, I'd like to get going."

"No one cares what you want," she hisses at him, turning away from the old bones behind her.

"There must be more," Sasuke says and everyone turns toward him. "She couldn't have been alone."

Karin looks at the girl thrown like a sack of potatoes near the tree. Unconscious, but breathing. Dreaming of skies and past times. Her face is dirtied but hidden by matted hair, clumped together with grease and dirt, of sweat and struggles.

"We should tie her up now," she suggests, trying to make her gaze seem condescending. Her glasses are tipped to the bottom of her nose as she tilts her chin up. She is looking down, because she can't be on the same field as the girl. No, she can't. "Before she wakes up."

This girl had just fought her past, lost to the present, and forfeited her future. They are more alike than Karin thinks.

"We'll do it when we find camp," Sasuke mumbles, speaking to the group, addressing them quietly though they all heard his hidden yell, his authoritative grip over them that is slowly wavering for they owe him nothing. "She'll be out of it for some time." His steps crunch leaves. His steps demand. "Let's go."

They follow like sheep, watching as their shepherd hoists the pink-haired girl over his shoulder. Her hand falls limp to the side, her head rolls on his back lifelessly.

"Sasuke," Karin calls out. He turns toward her and she can see the girl's arm swing back and forth behind his back. "Why don't you leave her?"

He, in turn, says nothing. Once again his back is to her and she can feel Suigetsu's eyes glance curiously at her, wondering about the question and pondering the avoidance. As soon as Sasuke disappears into the trees, Juugo follows. The mumble that had served as their background music is gone and Karin can hear her head pound.

"Don't fall behind," she hears Suigetsu tell her solemnly before a whoosh of air blows past her. He is gone.

No, she can't fall behind, has to keep up. But before she leaps after them into the trees, she turns back to the graveyard. The fog still hangs low, creating a cold blanket of mist throughout the barren ground.

She imagines the bodies below the surface, the people that were no doubt mediocre. But she recalls tales and she recalls fantasies and she sees the battlefield. The ninja from the Great War, the captains and pawns. She gives light to the simple graveyard, home to some rogue farmers. She gives them something more because this is what they deserve. They all deserve something more.

She sees them fall, she sees them cry. There are bodies, hundreds, thousands of bodies littering the ground. The stench is horrid, stale, and unique-- so much blood. The rats swarm the corpses, thousands, millions of rats. They gnaw, consume the bodies, their dreams, their hopes, their so-called honor.

She can only wish to have been there.

She pushes some dirt with her boot. The soil is the dead, the world is what has been. What is left? Everyone has their enemies, their fights, but in the end, they all die together and they lie in the same ground. Before she mistakenly allows herself to think of this foolishness, she is already in the air, sensing Sasuke's chakra.

They follow like sheep. He leads like an incompetent god.

They move quickly for a while. Time moves even faster. It always does.

The place they end up at is a small house. It is white, but the wood is so stale, so old that it has a yellow tint to it. Bugs and termites have been eating at the foundation, destroying it from its base. It still stands but barely. The door is darker than the rest of the house, a dangerous portal marred by pounding rain. It sticks from rust and lack of use, but with a heavy push, Juugo manages to get them in.

"Tie her up, Karin," Sasuke instructs her once he beckons Karin to follow him and leads her down stairs into a room. A wine cellar, she guesses, because she can see the brilliant carpentry, the alcohol that waits for lips. It's dusty inside and fills her lungs with dirt. It brings her back to a time, and she feels welcome and comfortable.

Like she was born for it, Karin ties the girl up, making sure not to get carried away. The girl has lost enough blood already and Sasuke does not want her dead.

"What will you do with her?" she asks him, moving the girl's head so that it droops downward. A small trickle of blood rolls down the girls lip's. She wants to show Sasuke how ugly the past is, how incredibly unappealing it should be, how it makes no sense to desire it. How they are in fault to want what was.

"Whatever I please," he answers. "Keep alert, Karin. For any chakra."

"I will," she promises him as she always does. He knows he has her loyalty, her utmost attention, but he questions it, questions her, just to hear it. It's nice to be reminded sometimes.

He steps out of the room and she looks at the girl. Her hair is dark, almost red looking in this light. Karin brushes it out of her face and stares as the girl mumbles in her deep sleep. She holds onto her sleeve and wipes the blood from the girl's lips.

She can barely see it against the black of her clothing. But she can smell it when she presses her nose against it and inhales deeply. The room is old, the smell is fresh.

Silently, she begins to treat some of the girl's fatal wounds. This is Sasuke's past. Without his past, there is no Sasuke. Without Sasuke, every trace of what was is gone.

Sasuke and Karin: they are one in the same.

The first time she touched him was when she saw him leaning against the wall, cradling his arm close to his chest.

When she tried to touch him, he swatted her hand away. Her fingers hit the wall beside him with great speed and her knuckles cracked. She hissed and pulled back her hand, about ready to jam it into his nose. He looked at her though, really looked, and she relaxed her body.

"You are not a ninja," he said to her. This sounded like a statement, a clear fact. He knew so much.

"I'm not," she agreed.

"What are you doing here?" he asked her. Without a pause, she grabbed his arm and pulled it away from him. There was a large gash, a huge cut. His red blood dripped to the ground and it looked sick, disgusting, peaceful. The hair on his arm stuck together, a gooey mess.

"I could ask the same of you," she told him. He didn't take it as an attack, not at all. He mumbled something about waiting for Kabuto to be done with a prisoner; training had been hard. He had earned this cut. Funny, that he should have earned it.

"I'm going to become strong," he mentioned after she dropped his arm and he pulled it back to himself, wrapping his other arm around it for protection. He held it like a babe.

"Aren't we all," she replied with a smile.

Kabuto arrived shortly and stood between them, turning Sasuke away by placing a hand on the boy's shoulder. Sasuke left willingly but shrugged off the hand on his shoulder.

"To the examination room," Kabuto instructed him in a low whisper, dark eyes never leaving the boy until he was from sight. Silently, he turned to look at Karin. She glanced at his face, saw his mocking smile, the dreadful feeling it left behind. She fed on it.

"What?" she asked him.

"You like him, don't you?" he whispered to her like a child. Bending slightly to come to her height, he placed a hand on her hair. His grin grew wider and he ruffled the red strands, tickling the skin behind her ear as he placed his hand on the side of her head. "Don't you?"

"I don't like anything," she responded.

Later when she lied in his bed, naked and cold, blankets wrapped tightly around her body, she closed her eyes and listened. Kabuto, a polite yet vengeful man, a gentlemen yet angry child, liked soft things that climbed to a climax, an angry boil, then quietly descended back to normalcy.

Memories like this play classical music in her head-- piano, violin, and a soft, yet powerful feminine voice. A different language, incomprehensible in the regular sense, yet so easily understandable. He usually played music after they had sex. It soothed her in between white sheets as he sat up in bed, right next to her, and stared at the wall across from them. The grey, concrete wall. It turned into his own world, in his own mind.

She recalls telling him, time and time again, "I'm only a girl."

And she remembers so much clearer, him turning to her and saying, "I'm only a man."

He never held her after, cuddled her so close that she could hear his heartbeat. She didn't want to listen to it; here they were all immortal, here they lived in a hell. It was their heaven.

They know the girl is awake when they hear gut-wrenching screams.

Sasuke is the first to get to her. She is the second. The rest do not even bother.

It's silent when Karin gets to the last step and when she enters the room, she knows why. The girl is in shock, her fingers shake wildly. Sasuke only stands before her, a ghost from the past, a memory come back to haunt her.

"You need to rest," Sasuke tells her once she begins to hyperventilate, choking on the air inside of the cellar. The girl looks around. Karin wants to tell her she is not dreaming, but she is fine observing quietly behind Sasuke. "You need your chakra to heal yourself."

"I won't!" the girl suddenly screams, almost making Karin flinch. Almost. "I won't!"

"Why won't you?" Sasuke asks.

"For what?" Sakura spits.

After the girl is locked in the cellar and given time to settle down, Sasuke orders Karin to undo the girl's chains. Karin is hesitant, but does it. The girl's wrists are red and irritated and she rubs them absently, kneeling on the dusty ground. When she stands, though she struggles, the spot where she sat is clean. The dirt had clung to her thighs.

"You're a dumbass," Karin tells her as she watches the girl take a few steps, her legs wobbly and baby-like from the little use. "Why don't you heal yourself?"

"It's nothing to worry about," Sakura mumbles. She tips her head back and breaths in the air, ending it with a light cough. "It's not my first priority."

"What is?" Karin asks, scoffing. "Sasuke?"

"He's all I have left," Sakura says before she leaves the room. Karin lets her, knowing Sasuke is waiting upstairs.

She looks at the ground, the dirty floor, the clean patch, the blood on the cabinetry. She gathers a bucket and sponge and scrubs.

For old time's sake.

When she gets back upstairs, the girl is crying in the corner and Sasuke is sitting on the couch, just staring. Karin doesn't want to ruin this moment, so she observes silently. The girl's nose is running, her eyes are red, and she shakes as her sobs push through her. Sasuke stands and leaves the room.

At a loss for words, Karin grabs the girl's arm and hoists her up. The girl kicks and screams. Karin curses at her and uses words to make her cry more. All the way up the crooked steps they climb and Karin finds a room she think she will claim. The girl is more than willing to fall onto a bed when Karin pushes her toward it.

The girl has run out of energy. Her blood that has not yet been washed off her pale skin gets on the old sheets. Karin guesses they're already full of stories; might as well add more. Sakura only hiccups softly, her hand rubbing tiny circles on the rotten wool of the blanket.

Karin, seemingly stoic on the outside, lays down next to the girl.

"Why do you cry?" she asks.

The girl sighs next to her and pushes away Karin's hands when she attempts to sooth her by petting her hair. She does not say anything. They lie in the dark.

"My best friend is dead," Sakura tells her after an hour. Karin thought the girl had been asleep. She does not turn in surprise, however, and stays on her side, back to the girl. "What's your excuse?"

Karin, confused, reaches up and feels tears on her cheeks.

The first time she hit him was when everything was gone.

Kabuto was dead. She didn't cry because she could only stare. Silently, she crouched down and lied against him. He wasn't breathing, his eyes were blank. She closed her eyes and shook her head as she buried it against his chest. There was the piano, there was his smile. There was that dreadful feeling, the feeling of being mocked and trampled on. There it was. She opened her eyes and breathed in his scent, his blood on her lips. It was there no longer.

She hummed as she laid his body on its back. It was his favorite piece. She hoped she could only do it justice. She would never hear it again.

She couldn't find Orochimaru's body. She couldn't sense it. Anything. In one of the cell's, she threw up three times. Everything had just fallen through her fingers like sand. Her fingernails cracked from the hold she had. Now it was nothing.

When Sasuke had come, demanding her to free the prisoners, she jumped at him and managed to punch his nose.

"I'll kill you!" she yelled at him. "I will!"

He held her arms, easily restrained her, for her fit soon grew into tears and her tears soon grew into sighs. And she leaned against his chest. He held her there. His heartbeat calmed her.

"Let them go now," he whispered in her ear.

"I can't," she answered.

She remembers Sasuke telling her things she can't seem to recall now. But more importantly, she can still see his eyes, the way they looked at her that day. She drowned in them, stayed a float while she could. Gasping for her last breath, she handed him the keys. She would never hear them again.

The first time Sasuke slept with her was the night she had gained everything back.

He was rough, so unlike Kabuto, and yet exactly the same. She held onto him tightly and got down on her knees, praying things would be the same. She opened her legs quite readily, whereas before, Kabuto would have to work to do so. It was a game they had played. Karin would laugh at him and he would tell her with a smirk that she'd have hers in good time.

She hoped that time was now.

In his hair, she saw Orochimaru. In his hands, she saw Kabuto. His eyes reminded her of blood, his skin reminded her of rot. In his heart, she found herself. All of this still remains true. They hold onto what was. Sasuke's life is one of living with his back turned to the future, facing the past, running for something that cannot be caught.

He moved against her in hasty movements, and she had to lay her palms flat against the ground to steady herself. Her knees had scrapes and her palms were scratched.

Karin wakes up next to Sakura.

She doesn't remember if she had dreamed.

"Sasuke is mine," Sakura whispers when Karin turns over.

Karin shakes her head and laughs because this statement is so naïve.

"What are we waiting for?" Suigetsu asks her.

"The girl," Karin answers him.

They sit on the back porch. The sun is rising, laying a gold blanket on all that is around them. It is raining, but the drops can't be seen unless you catch them hitting the rusted bench in the back yard.

"For her to do what?" he snaps back. "Do a dance? Perform a miracle? What is she going to do?"

Karin shrugs because she's not entirely sure.

The last time she had seen Sasuke was yesterday but she isn't particularly worried. Had he been given the chance to run away, run away from everything, he might have taken it. But as it were, curiosity ate at him just as it did everyone else. Sakura was inside the house. He would be back.

"You're not threatened by her?" Suigetsu asks. "The Queen Bitch isn't scared her crown is gunna fall off?"

"No, I'm not," she tells him seriously.

Even though he cannot run because Sakura is in the house, she knows it is not Sakura that keeps him bound. It is his desire for what was, his extreme want to get it all back. His denial that he wants it in the first place. In this way, Sasuke is hers. He'll never escape. Juugo comes toward them from a group of trees, mumbling.

Suiugetsu leaves and Sakura takes his place. She sits next to Karin on a white bench and the two look over Juugo as he ventures around the yard. Every once in a while, he twitches and looks over at them, paranoid because he does not trust them. He does not trust anyone.

"You were mumbling in your sleep last night," Sakura tells her.

"Was I?"

"You were," Sakura says, pausing to turn to her. "You were dreaming. What was it?"

"I don't remember," Karin tells her truthfully. "Maybe it's this one dream--I have it many times."

"What about?"

So Karin tells her since the girl is curious. Many nights she had this dream and many nights she had shrugged it off, deeming it unimportant. But now that the chance is here, to talk and think, she welcomes it. She tells Sakura how she dreams she is walking through a dark house, a traditional style one. She is dressed in a dark colored kimono. She is walking until she gets to a door and she knocks quietly. Sasuke is the one that answers the door and he just gives her this smirk-- sometimes she thinks its welcoming, something she thinks it's mocking and cruel. But he closes the door on her shortly after and she can only stare at the wooden door in front of her eyes.

"What do you think it means?" Sakura asks.

"It's painfully obvious," Karin mumbles. "Sasuke is rejecting me."

They sit quietly for a while and Juugo eventually wanders far enough so that they can't see him.

Sasuke returns shortly after. He stalks up to them and without a word, grabs Sakura by the arm. He is determined, Karin thinks, as she sees his hardened eyes. He tugs Sakura upstairs and Karin follows into the living room. She imagines herself burying her own face into those pink strands, holding those hands down so she can not hit, holding the girl close so that they might become one. She listens quietly. She can hear that the girl is struggling.

Aren't they all.

The first time she had seen him cry was when he finally killed his brother.

She came to him that night and found him in the fetal position, lying in his bed.

"Sasuke, you coward," she mumbled, curling up next to him in the bed. She wrapped her arms around him and he cuddled into her chest like a baby. He shook. He trembled. He cried.

"Everything is gone," he groaned once he had settled down and they both lied in the quiet, the only sound was the swish of the wind outside.

"What? Did you think killing him would bring your family back?"

He didn't say anything and didn't need to because she already knew the answer.

"There's more to work for," Karin replied. Close to being a lie.

"We will attack Konoha," he told her for the hundredth time. She knew it was for payback, for taking his family away from him. For making him kill his brother. And she understood this because in some twisted way, maybe subconsciously, he thought this would bring everything back.

"I understand," she said as she pet his head.

They fell asleep, listening to each other's heart beats because they were only human. This was their hell.

Karin found her, eyes red and mouth agape in exhaustion, lying in bed. Karin sat next to her and didn't say a word. It was Sakura who first turned around and gave the red-haired girl a look.

"I thought about your dream," Sakura whispers. Karin doesn't look to her, but continues to gaze forward at the wall.

"You were the one closing the door," Sakura continues, making Karin tear her eyes away from the wall.

"Were you not listening?" Karin asks because the girl has it all wrong.

Sakura shakes her head. "It was your dream, your fantasy. You were the one closing doors."

Karin looks at the girl's naked shoulder, her skinny collar bone, her dry lips as she speaks, voice so soft that it is almost lost in the air. She rolls from the bed and gets up, picking her clothes up from the floor, breathing deeply, a sign of cries to come.

"Why don't you leave him?" Karin asks as she watches her.

Sakura pulls her shirt over her head but says nothing.

Karin barely knows the girl but she can tell a lot has changed.

Karin watches as Sakura cries into Sasuke's shoulder. He is sitting on the stairs of the back porch, elbows on his knees, fingers laced together before his face. He does not move to comfort Sakura, but perhaps she's not seeking it from him.

Karin listens as Sakura mumbles, mostly incoherent drabble. She is not even sure that Sasuke is listening, but Karin sure is, as well as Suigetsu standing inside of the house, looking out the dirty window. Sakura must have said something that makes him mad for he stands up, grabs her by the wrist, and flings her to the ground before him. She lands with a heavy thud and looks up at him, desperation in her eyes.

"Don't you understand?" Sakura cries. "Tsunade, gone. Kakashi, gone. Naruto is dead."

Ah, so that's why. Karin blinks as she continued to look on. Sakura is only left.

Sasuke does not look at her but paces back and forth. He is scratching his chin, thinking harshly. His tongue runs over his lips erratically. Karin knows why he is unhappy. It is so justifiable.

"Leave," Sasuke hisses at her, finally fully turned. "Leave and don't let me ever lay eyes on you again or you'll regret it."

"How can you do this?" Sakura yells, slowly getting up, keeping a suspicious eye on him because she can't lie and say he isn't scaring her. "You're all I have left. I am all that you have left."

"You'll regret it," Sauske pushes further.

"If I leave, I won't go back to Konoha," Sakura mumbles, voice cracking as she starts to cry. "I have nothing there. You won't find me. Ever."

"Good," Sasuke says, turns around and leaves, brushing past Karin once he reaches the door. Karin looks back at Sakura and sees her crying on the ground. But before long, she picks herself up, wipes her eyes and screams.

"Fuck that!"

She turns to look at Karin, eyes asking for help. But Karin can do nothing but shake her head and say, "Sasuke is mine."

She cries for another hour, perhaps thinking that Sasuke will rethink this, that he still longs for her (because hadn't he only a few hours ago?). Karin and Suigetsu walk away, this story so old to them. When Karin goes to see if the girl has stopped crying and if she maybe wants some tea, Karin sees that Sakura is gone.

She is surprised and respects this. She silently wishes she could do the same. It takes someone strong to be weak.

It's only noon. And Sakura gives up.

Karin never sees her again.

She finds him in his room later that night and she walks in. She sits on the edge of his bed as he stares at her.

"I'll kill everyone in Konoha," he says. "I'll destroy everything."

And so he says. She knows he is afraid that he has lost everything, that the present is not supposed to be so. That the past says it should be better. And since he cannot control what is, he will destroy what was. Karin is unnerved because Sasuke is her past and he is breaking.

"Everything," he hisses.

Soon he falls asleep and she turns to look at him. He is serene as he lays in the bed, his lips formed into an Orochimaru-like sneer. She leans forward and brushes his forehead with her fingers. He wakens but does not stir, allowing her to do this. And she figures she'll do it one more time.

For good old time's sake.

She climbs on top of him and pulls his shirt off. His eyes are lidded, heavy as she does this, but watches as she pulls her own shirt over her head. He holds her waist and grabs her fleshy love handles. She leans back and begins working on taking his pants off.

He whispers again and again, "There will be no trace of that village once I'm through."

She whines, "I'm only a girl."

He says, "Hiding as a woman."

Later that night, Sasuke wraps his arms around her. He is suffocating her. There is Kabuto in her ear. There is Orochimaru, hands in her hair. There are the screams, the tears, the smiles, the sneers. It's all so close, yet so far. No matter how much she scratches, she claws, she can't reach the light nor can she tame the beat. There is the music and the grande finale. Before the notes can dwindle to nothing, she pushes away and leaves the room, clothes in her hands. In her head, a piano plays softly and she shakes as she listens.

In the hallway, she can't seem to stand and she falls against the wall before sliding to the ground.

It's already midnight. And she gives up.

That morning, before the sun is even up, she finds a bottle of gasoline in the tool shed outside. She uncaps the lid, takes a deep breath and lets the toxic fumes consume her completely for a moment. Then she is inside the house, dumping the liquid everywhere, making a trail to the front of the house.

The four of them stand outside as Karin lights a match and throws it onto the trail of gasoline. It catches fire, runs to the house, and sets the wood to flames. It is bright and their faces are glowing as they watch. Her skin is itchy, incredibly hot from being so close to the heat, but it is a good stinging and she does not back away.

Suigetsu is the first to turn, followed by a reluctant Juugo. She looks to Sasuke and notices he is staring at her.

"What?" she asks.

"I'm just thinking," he tells her.

"About what?" she continues. Her nose does not scrunch, her glasses do not rise because of her swollen cheeks. She looks at him, blank face, fire in her eyes, matched by his.

He shrugs only slightly. "Just thinking."

"Then think," she replies quietly.

She turns and jumps into the trees and hears him right behind her. She looks back, a part of her annoyed and a part of her overjoyed, because he is just a boy and she is stuck with him forever.

She does not love him now.

Six months later, Naruto comes stumbling home to nothing.