Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto.
Warning: Contains violence, gore and strong language.
"Hi, I'm Inuzuka Kiba! What's your name?"
"I'm Aburame Shino."
"Wait, Aburame? Isn't your dad like, some famous bug expert or something?"
"Yes, he's an entomologist."
"No… I said he was a… a bug expert."
"Oh. Isn't that what I just said? My mom's an animal doctor. She says she's going to get me a puppy for my fifth birthday! That's in three weeks! I can't wait. I've already picked out a name and everything! Akamaru—that's what I'm going to call my puppy. Do you have any pets, Shino?"
"I have a collection of approximately two hundred and forty seven termites. At last count, at least."
"That's… cool. I guess. Do you take them out for walks or something?"
"No. If I let them out of their container, they'd probably destroy my house."
"… Oh. That sounds… nice."
"No, not really. It kind of creeps me out that you keep bugs as pets."
"Wanna be my new best friend?"
"Okay then! It's settled. Just don't get your pets near mine, okay? I don't want my puppy to have fleas."
"You mean termites."
Die, Everyone's Doing It
Chapter 4: Deadstar
Surprisingly, it was Hinata that broke the silence.
"W-What?" she whispered, her stammer for once not caused by her nervous disposition.
Naruto looked at his girlfriend, looking pained. He walked up to where she was sitting and kneeled down, pulling her into a tight hug and saying, "I'm sorry. I'm so, so sorry."
"What happened?" I asked harshly.
"I—I needed to go to the washroom earlier," Naruto explained, pulling away from Hinata. "But the ones on this floor were out of order, and the floor below doesn't have anything. So I had to go to the ones on the second floor, and Shino—he offered to come with me, 'cause he said it wasn't—wasn't safe to go by myself."
"We got there, and everything was fine. Then suddenly, like five zombies came out of the cubicles and started attacking us. There was one behind Shino who smashed his head against the wall, and he must have fainted or something, because then he was on the ground even though I kept yelling at him to get up. And like, then three of them came at me, so I was too busy fighting them to notice that the other two must have dragged Shino away somewhere, 'cause when I turned around, he was gone. I tried to find him, but he was nowhere! Like, they must have taken him back down to the first floor or something. God, I know I shouldn't have left the room. I should have just pissed in a bottle or something, I am so, so sorry—"
"Forget it," I said quickly, already getting up from my seat. "Come on, we have to go find him—"
I turned around to find Sasuke's hand on my shoulder. His face was impassive, but I was close enough to see that his gaze was worried.
"What?" I spat. "So you're suggesting we abandon him—leave him with those—those things? Fuck knows what they'll do to him!"
"Or what they've done to him already," Sasuke said quietly, tightening his grip on my shoulder. "You know they never save their food; once he left Naruto's sight, he was gone."
"He's right," Neji added. "I'm sorry, Kiba, but we just can't risk everyone's safety when he's most likely already…"
I looked around the room, trying to gather some support. Hinata was sobbing her heart out on Naruto's shoulder, while the blond was torn between siding with me and protecting Hinata's safety. Sakura was fidgeting, staring determinedly out of the window and avoiding my gaze. Shikamaru and Ino exchanged glances before looking at their feet; I suddenly remembered that they had lost their best friend too, not long after we hoarded ourselves up in the school—
"I'll do it."
Everyone turned to look at Temari.
"I'll go with Kiba," she continued, getting up from her spot on the floor. "I'll go with him to look for Shino."
"No," Neji said quickly. "It's too dangerous. We don't even know if he's still alive—"
"We don't know that he's dead either," I snapped back.
"Look, Neji," Temari said calmly. "I get what you and Sasuke are trying to say, really. But—but there's still a chance that he's alive, and… and come on. Wouldn't you be doing the same thing as Kiba if it had been Lee or Tenten out there instead of Shino?"
For a fraction of a second, I could have sworn I saw Neji's lavendar eyes glaze over at the mention of his former friends. They were some of the first to have been turned into zombies. But just as quickly as that moment came, it went, and Hyuuga Neji went back to being cold and impassive.
"Fine," he said, his tone less harsh than before. "But only you two, okay? And don't bother getting into any fights or anything; just see if he's okay and bring him back if he is. If not, don't idle around and come back up here as soon as possible. Got it?"
"Aye aye, captain," I said, mock-saluting him. He didn't seem very impressed.
"Thanks," I muttered as I shut the door behind me. "For the support and everything."
"Don't mention it," Temari said as we made our way towards the staircase. "I owe you for that pep talk last night, anyway."
Hm. Maybe Temari wasn't so bad after all.
We were silent as we descended the stairs, opting to go right when we reached the bottom. Temari took her stance behind me, and we walked forward—or backwards in Temari's case—covering the entire floor. When we had searched the whole floor and found no sign of anything living—or undead—we tried going to the floor below.
When we heard nothing—not even the mindless drones of the zombies—I panicked. If anything had happened to Shino, if he was—if he was already gone…
"They've probably taken him to the first floor," Temari whispered from behind me. "Come on, let's go."
I felt Temari pat me awkwardly on my back. I appreciated the gesture.
"It'll be okay," she said. "He's probably already woken up and is fending off those other zombies. So really, let's hurry up and go help him, yeah?"
I turned around to get a good look at her. She was a year older than the rest of us—same as Neji—but weeks of sleep deprivation, physical overexertion and a lack of a proper diet had left her looking half her age.
But her eyes were soft, and understanding, two words I would have never associated Temari with before. Gone was the brash upperclassman who I only ever heard yelling at Kankuro or lecturing Gaara in the hallways. Instead, she had been replaced with someone whose mouth was not set as hard, whose voice brought comfort rather than lashings, and whose eyes crinkled whenever she laughed, however infrequent that was.
Suddenly, I understood why she was the only one Kankuro's angry little brother would listen to.
"Let's go," I said, turning back around and walking briskly to the stairs that led down to the first floor. "You're right, he's probably down there. Think he would be as far down as the ground floor by any chance?"
"Who knows. Those zombies can be pretty unpredictable." I could sense the light smile playing on Temari's lips.
"Better hurry then," I said, returning the gesture, and rushed down the stairs.
We quietened our paces as we reached the landing of the first floor, knowing we were going to run into some zombies whether Shino was with them or not. Although the majority of them hung out on the ground floor, the more… mobile ones occasionally ventured upstairs to get a change of scenery. The top floor was always deserted, as was the third. It was almost like they were afraid of the altitude or something. Either that, or they couldn't be assed going that high up. There were few zombies on the second floor, if any, but one particular encounter with some there was enough to tell us that the ones that did appear on that floor were the ones to watch out for. It was almost like a test; the higher up you could go in the school, the higher up in the zombie hierarchy you were.
Thank God we hadn't seen any on the third floor yet. The second floorers were bitches enough already.
"I don't hear any screaming," Temari noted.
"Shino doesn't scream," I murmured, scanning the area. "He's just—"
"Shush," Temari started, grabbing my arm from behind. "I hear droning. There must be some around here."
Before I even had time to reply, she had pulled me behind a corner, clamping her free hand over my mouth, presumably to stop the undignified yelp I would have no doubt made, and cautiously glanced around, peering around the wall before hastily retracting her head and pulling us as far back against the wall as we could go.
Seconds later, we saw half a dozen zombies walk by, dragging their feet as they went.
Along with someone else, too.
Seven Months Earlier…
"Is it done?"
"Needs a bit more time, sir. In a few more weeks—"
"You will not be here. The longer you stay with us, the higher the chance of someone finding out you're here. And this company cannot afford to be associated with you. You understand this, don't you, Orochimaru?"
The man, Orochimaru, smirked and gave his employer a mock-bow.
"Of course, sir. Just like how this company cannot afford to be associated with you."
The other man nodded, choosing to ignore the sarcasm laced in Orochimaru's words. He scrutinised the pale scientist before saying, "That's right. No one outside the board of directors can know either of us are here."
"Must be hard though," Orochimaru prodded, grinning. He walked over to his desk and began filing away some of the papers. "I mean, this is your company, no? To have someone else as the figurehead, to have the company named after that someone… And who do you think will get the credit once all our plans are complete?"
"I trust Kisame completely," the young man said, folding his arms. His voice was calm, but it was apparent to Orochimaru that he had hit a nerve.
"Is that so?" he murmured. "Still, it must bother you that—"
"I don't care about the glory," the man cut in. "I wouldn't have done what I did in the first place if I did."
"Then what did you do it for?" Orochimaru asked, intrigued. He turned back around to face his employer, eyes focusing on the crisp suit the other man wore, marvelling at the contrast between its sophisticated style and the man's youthful features.
He looked almost perfect.
"I don't think that that's any of your business," he replied, eyes narrowing slightly. "All you should concern yourself with is the task at hand. This is taking far too long. I want the completed product by the end of the month."
"But that's just next week—"
"Do you have a problem with that?"
"I—" Orochimaru began, then paused. Getting angry, especially with this man, would do no one any good. Choosing his next words more carefully, he said, "With all due respect, sir, these things… they take time. To rush any phase of this would be fatal. I understand the position you are in, sir, and I understand why you want this process sped up. But it will not help any of us. So just… give me more time."
The young man stood silently throughout Orochimaru's speech, and continued to do so once he was finished. Orochimaru tensed under the man's gaze; how could someone so young be so formidable? He wanted to study this man, take apart his brain to see how each and every part of it functioned, how it could have possibly made this man who he was today. His control, his apathy, his thought processes; Orochimaru suddenly felt a strange want—need—to know how his mind worked.
As if his thoughts could be heard aloud, the man shifted and turned around, making his way to the door without a word.
Just as Orochimaru thought he was given the clear, the man halted, reached into his breast pocket and took out a business card, leaving it on a nearby table.
"Don't waste my time, Orochimaru," he said, so quietly, it was almost a whisper. "You'll regret it if you do."
With that, he was off.
"Come on," I hissed once Temari took her hand away from my mouth. "Look! There they are, they have Shino! Hurry up, or—"
"Don't talk so loudly," Temari interrupted, elbowing me in the gut. "Listen, we have to approach this carefully. We can't let them see us, or fuck knows how many reinforcements they'll call in. Let's follow them, quietly, and see where it takes us. I doubt they're going to suddenly stop and start eating lunch in the middle of the corridor."
She let go, and together, we crept up behind them, making sure that we were close enough to still be able to hear them moving about, but far enough to make sure they couldn't smell or hear us.
"They're going into one of the old geography classrooms," Temari whispered.
I glanced at her. This was it. If we couldn't get Shino out now, then we would never be able to.
"Okay, so here's what we'll do," I said, turning to Temari. "Soon as they're all in, we'll run in after them, slam and lock the door behind us, and kick their asses. They'll wish to fuck they never attacked Shino and Naruto. Sound good?"
"The geography classrooms have metal tables and chairs. I think those will do."
"Hm. Not bad," Temari commented. "Oh look. They're in now."
I looked at the door. Sure enough, the last of the zombies had just gone through.
"Okay," I said, my heart pounding in my chest. "Okay, let's do this."
I sprinted to the door and rushed through, Temari close behind. When I heard her close the door and lock it behind us as quietly as she could, I grabbed a nearby chair and positioned it in front of me. I could see Shino's body lying on the ground nearby, untouched, his captors having been distracted by our sudden appearance.
"Shino," I called out. "Shino, can you hear me? Wake up, dammit!"
I got no response from Shino, but the other zombies took it as a cue to start attacking us; I heard Temari yelp in surprise before grabbing a chair herself and rushing to defend herself against three zombies who suddenly pounced on her. I didn't have much time to worry about her though, as I felt something grab my ankle and pull me down.
My shoulder crashed into one of the tables as I fell, sending a jolt of pain down my side. I bit my lip, fighting back a cry, and, ignoring the searing pain in my left arm, brought my chair up with both hands to smash it down against the zombie's head.
It grunted and let go of my foot; I took this chance to leap up and punch another oncoming zombie in the face before elbowing its head down against the table behind it. I heard the zombie at my feet grunt again and try to get hold of my leg, but I grabbed the table behind me firmly, pushing myself up with my arms and tucking my knees into my chest, before lashing out and bringing my heels down onto the zombie's skull.
My feet hit their target with a sickening crunch, and when I landed on the ground again, I had to take care not to slip over the slime that coated my shoes.
Ew. Zombie brain juice.
It was like an out-of-body experience. Although my adrenaline was pumping and my reflexes were as sharp as they had ever been, I found myself completely detached from the scene, almost as if I had been watching it from above, one eye on the zombies, and the other on Shino.
I rushed over to him---almost crashing into a few tables on the way, thanks to the brain gunk—relieved to see he hadn't been zombie-fied.
"Shino!" I yelled, reaching down to grab his shoulders. "Shino! Wake up! We need to get out of here!"
I tried everything; shaking him, slapping him, even getting a nearby bottle of water and pouring it on his face, but nothing happened.
"Ha!" I heard Temari cry in triumph, presumably having defeated all three of her attackers.
"Come on, Shino," I murmured, turning his head to the side.
I placed two of my fingers on his neck, trying to find a pulse. When I didn't get anything, I grabbed his hand instead, putting my fingers on the inside of his wrist.
"Shit," I breathed. "No. No. No, this can't—for fuck's sake, Shino—Shino! Get up. Get up now, Shino, you stupid asshole, don't you dare—"
My vision became blurry, and as I blinked, I felt warm liquid running down my face.
I was crying.
"Shino, get up," I said stubbornly, trying to control my voice from wavering too much. "Hurry up, we have to get out of here before more of them come—"
My words were cut off by Temari's scream, and as I turned around, I saw a zombie grabbing her neck and shoving her against the wall, unmoving despite her kicks to its abdomen. I suddenly remembered; we had seen six zombies walk past us with Shino, and had only killed off five of them.
"Fuck," I swore, getting up and rushing over to help Temari.
"Kiba! Help!" she choked, clawing at the hands around her neck.
The zombie leaned in to take a bite out of her shoulder just as I reached her. I grabbed it, pulling it off of her; she collapsed on the floor, gasping for breath, as I picked up a nearby shard of broken glass and dug it into the zombie's forehead. It stopped struggling, its glazed eyes becoming even more blank and I turned my attention back to Temari.
"Are you okay?" I asked her, reaching my hand out to help her.
She shrunk away from me, curled in a sobbing heap against the wall.
"What is it?" I knelt down, moving closer to her despite her pleas, and lifted up her chin.
"Kiba," she started, before breaking down again.
I squatted in front of her, puzzled, until I saw what had happened.
"Temari," I breathed, looking at her, horrified.
There was a huge chunk of her shoulder missing. All I could see was the blood seeping through her clothes and her shoulder blade showing through the rip in her shirt.
"No," I said, my voice quivering, as a new wave of grief overcame me.
I was too late.
Do I still need to say this? Thanks again to Annie Sparklecakes for always being the best beta in, well, the world. Except not. Because I thought she was still banannieberry at first. & I know she only does this so she can get in my pants.
Sorry for the long wait, guys. A few things here and there happened; got a new computer, which took some getting used to, then school happened, as have university applications. Plus, I needed to figure out where I wanted to go with this, since even though I had a vague idea, I didn't know. But now I do, so, you know, if I ever use the 'writer's block' excuse in future, then it's a lie.
But you really didn't need to know that.