Dirty Little Town

by stones


Chapter 3

Present

He promised he would come everyday.

But he didn't. She shouldn't have cursed Naruto because of it but she couldn't find the strength not to. The floor was cold on her feet and the metal bench made her back incredibly stiff, so stiff that she felt that she would just shatter with the tiniest movement. Because of this, she stayed still, complaisant and observant to everything around her.

The lights flickered almost every twenty minutes, twenty minutes that she counted in her head. There was a fly that hovered around the corner of her room but after she woke up from a drowsy sleep she found it dead on the floor. And if she was quiet enough, she noticed, she could hear the walls whisper miserable secrets to her, secrets of all the people they have seen, the many lives they have seen broken. And sometimes if she held her breath at night and everything was completely silent, she could hear raindrops on the roof, saving her from the babbling white walls if only for a while.

The fifth day that she had been there Ino had tried to come to her, so she had heard. But it was still not decided what to do with Haruno Sakura so she remained waiting, humming patiently in hopes of something to come. Like an unwanted pet, she was kept aside in a cage.

Salvation seemed to come just when she was about to go over the edge. She was mumbling to herself, humming every once and then. Anything to fix her loneliness. He had taught her a trick. Yes, he had. What was his name? Kisame. That was it. Though it was unintentional, he had taught her this. Yes, he had. Think you're not alone and you won't be. Talk and someone will listen. Listen and you'll hear something.

She shut up as soon as she saw blonde hair and an encouraging smile that somehow felt lackluster and washed out. He winked at her as she stood in his presence; his grace fill the room.

"Naruto."

"I'm working on it, Sakura," he said. "I really am. Pretty soon this will be over, okay?"

She nodded, not from belief. Anything to make him close that pretty mouth of his that seemed to become tainted with each naïve statement he let spew from it. He wrapped his arms around her and told her it was okay. And he thought she believed it. That was why she was crying wasn't it?

But the tighter she squeezed him, the more she realized she couldn't morph him into anyone else and some things really were impossible.

"Look," he said, laughter already in his voice. "Something to make you feel not so lonely, right?" He held out his hand and she slowly took the picture from him, careful not to let her finger sprints touch the glossy side. "That old lady didn't think it was a good idea."

"Maybe it wasn't," she commented, turning away from Naruto to look at the picture more. There was her as a younger girl, baby fat still sitting on her cheeks. There was Naruto, silly as ever. Sasuke, dare she say, looking worse than her imagination used to lead her. And Kakashi, towering over them. So tall back then.

"You're not going to have seizures or something every time you see him, are you?" he asked, tearing the picture from her hands before she could react. She watched as he bunched it in his hands and she made a sound of protest. Shocked, she observed his angry face, sharp and piercing eyes digging into her. "It's fucking pathetic."

"What was that for, Naruto?"

"Why have you been letting him do this to you?" he pressed. "What has he done to you?"

"It's not like that anymore, Naruto," she defended.

"But it was."

And it was. She couldn't deny that. But what had bothered her wasn't Sasuke's presence in the picture or even the thought of him. What had truly had her disappointed was her chubby cheeks, the way they bunched in the picture from her smile. Her shiny, white teeth set in a joyous grin.

What had disturbed her was the fact that she was so clearly happy when she shouldn't have been, when everything around her had been fake. What had scared her was how blind she had been.

"To remind me of home," she repeated. "That's what you said."

"Yeah," he mumbled, more calm now, she noted. "It was the only thing familiar from your apartment."

"My apartment," she thought out loud. The corner of her lips twitched, excited and anxious. "Is it…?"

"It's not yours anymore," he told her, trying to wear an apologetic smile. He tried to laugh. "You couldn't just expect it to hang around waiting for you, could you?"

"I never really thought about it," she replied honestly.

He nodded as though he already knew the answer. Before she could ask where her stuff had been stored, he had told her he needed to go, that their time together was limited but sooner than later she would be out of there.

When he left she took the crumbled picture that had fallen to the ground when Naruto finally dropped it and straightened it out. Kneeling, she pulled it against the edges of the bench. When it was getting darker, she began to tear bits and pieces off of it. Slowly she ripped everything off until it was only her and Sasuke. Tilting it and looking at it with squinting eyes, she made a few more touches.

Pinching the top corner of the photo with her hands she ripped Sasuke's forehead off. She dropped it to the ground and held the picture up to look at her work. What she saw was a smile. Green eyes and pink, flushed cheeks. She saw dark hair and deep eyes. Suddenly it didn't feel so wrong.

The day after, she was moved into a different cell. It was definitely more comfortable, she noticed. She wasn't completely secluded and she could see outside of the barriers restraining her. There were bars that separated her from the world. She wrapped her arms around them, listening as the person next to her tapped his or her finger nails on the metal. She would never see the face.

At night, they turned off all the lights and the only thing she could see were three beams of white that flowed from the moon, through the windows, and onto the cement floor in the hallway outside of her cell. She tucked her arms back in and wrapped them around herself. The hall looked dark, and the moonlight so scary.

She had been here before.


Past

It was unfortunate that she had been caught spying after having done it so well for the past week. It all started after she shook herself from the fright of Uchiha Itachi and just having run into him. She sat down and thought long and hard. Kakashi had mentioned finding her target's background and Itachi was the closest she could get, wasn't it? 'Everything is connected somehow.' That's what he said. And that's what she thought about as she set out for him.

It wasn't difficult to stay one step behind them, to stay in an inn next to theirs. She had stayed out of their sight but they had always been in hers. As she observed them, she noticed the immense gravitational pull that the older Uchiha had about him. The way he walked, the look on his face when he thought. It was all memorizing and she couldn't help but find she would find herself staring, trying to ignore the push that pressed on her back.

She had not slipped up once. She followed as they quickly went through town to town, not staying for more than a night or two. It was quite hard to keep up with them and wondered what the rush was. They looked determined, barely pausing or scoping out towns. They were just on their way, just traveling.

It had been exactly two months that she left Konoha and it was starting to show. As the Uchiha and his partner had breakfast one day, she stayed off on a bench and tightened her shorts. Her shirt hung on her thin shoulders and she lifted an arm, noticing that even though she had been outdoors her skin was looking pasty and cold. Her stomach growled as she counted the last of her money that was diminishing quickly. Making another hole in her belt, she tightened it even more.

When they had stopped at night, oddly in the middle of a forest, she stayed a bit of ways off and started to do a light work out. Anything to gain her muscle back and keep her standing. There were a few hundred pull-ups on a tree branch and sit-ups that never seemed to end. In between stomach pains and gasping breaths, she reminded herself of what would happen, what was waiting for her if she could just toughen up and make it through this.

It was odd to say but she felt a feeling of safety because of the two men camping only a few miles off. Had someone come by, heaven forbid looking for her, the Akatsuki pair would surely be curious and help her out right? Lying herself down on the damp grass, she imagined they would come to save her, that they shared some kind of connection after she had been following and observing for such a long time. They had to feel it too, right? She couldn't be the only one. Fate didn't work that way, after all.

About an hour after she fell asleep, she awakened when her nose began to itch. Moaning, she rubbed it absently and rolled over, face against the dirt. She could have fallen back asleep easily though something in the back of her head itched. Eyes still closed, she sensed the air around her, the general aura it was emitting. And right away, as the wind blew against her hair, she knew someone was around.

Initially her first reaction was to think of Sasuke. But that wasn't right, was it? An image of the older Uchiha flashed through her mind and she tried to remain calm and alert. The chakra she felt in the area was strong without a doubt, but why raise attention if there was a chance they were just passing and could easily look past her?

That had been thrown out the door when she felt the presence come closer and closer. Now that it was so near, she could feel there was more than one person. Opening her eyes, she scrambled from under her worn blanket and dug her nails in the dirt as she scooted away. On her way, she had grabbed a kunai that had been tied around her leg. She stumbled onto her feet and clenched her fists, planting her feet firmly on the ground.

Especially at her weakened state, she couldn't see herself fighting to her full ability, something she would need fighting against the Uchiha and his partner. For crying out loud, they didn't get into Akatsuki for their looks.

"Who is it?" she whispered into the dark, keeping her hand holding the kunai behind her. It was silent enough around them for it to be heard.

She felt herself hold her breath as a bush before her shook, some leaves falling to the ground. A foot stepped down on some branches and the sound of them snapping made her flinch, imagining the branches to be her own bones. She had expected a dark figure, face hidden behind a cloak, eyes hidden by hair.

The person that came out however proved to be just as scary. And she didn't know whether or not to be relieved that the figure had not been Itachi. The person stood before her, gender completely unknown. A mask covered their face, blank and dull, it looked like death itself. Someone had come from behind the first, posture more relaxed and observing. She knew who they were. Hunter-nin.

"Usually we wouldn't waste time for those like you," the first had drawled out, voice low. Definitely male. "But being the Hokage's apprentice, there are many things in that pretty little head of yours we're not willing to let go. That makes you kind of important, you know?"

Sakura didn't speak only glanced around her small camp quickly. She had some weapons hidden on her naturally, but all her food, supplies, and money were scattered on the ground. If she were to run, which she most likely would have to, they would be lost. She knew very well she couldn't fight. She couldn't be naïve and stupid to think she stood a chance in this state.

"And normally we don't play retrievers," the one behind the man growled, also male but voice lighter, more calm. "I can't say we like it either."

"Special orders," the first mumbled. "Now come like a good little girl. You've wasted enough of our time. We'll take care of you, all right."

They were still posed for a fight meaning they did see her as threat though their derogatory comments said otherwise. Good, she thought. She wasn't the Hokage's former apprentice for nothing.

"Pathetic actually," the second mumbled, rubbing his feet into the ground as he glanced around. Sakura couldn't see his face or his eyes, just the mask craning around. "That you had only gotten this far. Not very good at running are you?"

She clenched her teeth, telling herself to remain quiet.

"Or maybe you're looking for something," he continued. "What's taking you so long?"

The second's shoulders had relaxed. Her not moving or saying anything, pretty much just standing like a deer in headlights, had given him a false sense of victory. She might not be taking them down, but she sure wasn't going to go down without a fight.

She regulated her breathing and kept calm. Remembering the notches on her door, Naruto's skin against hers, and Sasuke's apology so many years ago, she finally moved. Flinging her arm forward, she sent the kunai toward the one standing in the front, not caring to see how it went. Right as it left her hand, she turned and jumped into the trees.

Just as she suspected, they were behind her in a matter of seconds. Her plan: get to the Akastuki partners and raise awareness. Even if they weren't going to help her, it would certainly prove to be a distraction and maybe help her get away.

They were only a couple miles away and her feet were moving faster than she could ever remember. Her whole body was moving on its own. The adrenaline pumped through her veins and helped her just as much as her chakra flowing to her feet. They had managed to make a cut on her arm with a kunai. Yelling out, she clutched her arm and continued. It wasn't long before they had gained on her.

A large body had slammed into her, knocking her into a tree. Her head hit it hard and her vision had blackened for a moment. It felt so light yet heavy at the same time. She groaned as her back hit the ground, someone else falling on top of her at the same time. Kicking up, she managed to connect her foot with his stomach, sending him back and away from her. Rolling around onto her stomach, she began to crawl away, still fighting unconsciousness.

Someone had grabbed her ankle and began to pull her back. She struggled and kicked, relying on pure instincts at this point. She felt her hands being scratched by rock and gravel as she dug her fingers into the earth, desperate to hold on. She could feel him hovering above her. Yelling out, she managed to overpower him when he grabbed onto her arms to turn her over. She was still on her stomach. Pulling her knees to her, she wriggled another kunai out of its holding and sent it behind her, only caring that it would hurt him in some way.

It had. He groaned and cursed before grabbing a fist full of her hair.

"You think that's going to stop me?" he growled into her hair, pulling it some more. Her scalp burned and her head ached, begging her to just give up and let go. He pulled again, effectively twisting her so that she was on her back, looking up at him. "I've dealt with much worse and I'm going to bring you back. I don't care if they don't even recognize you."

That's when the person had delivered a blow to her face. Her head recoiled to the side and she could feel blood rush into her mouth and through her lips. She cough and choked on the liquid, spitting it out on the person on top of her.

She flinched when she heard someone land from a jump right above her head and she could just imagine them looking down at her, not disturbed by the abuse, a result of being used to much wore. They were the ones who brought the heads back to the village, weren't they? She shouldn't have expected anything else.

"Is she knocked out yet?"

"Almost."

"Stubborn bitch."

She felt the man above her back away slightly, giving her some more breathing room. Shaking her head, she moved her hand to search for another weapon. There was one around her waist, wasn't there? She couldn't seem to remember.

Someone stopped her hands and held onto them, tsking at her as if she were a child having done something wrong. Her eyelids felt heavy and she let them close as she rolled her head back and forth. Heavens, she was in so much pain. At the moment, all she wanted to do was sleep. She felt someone caress on her stomach and cold air hit her skin.

The man had lifted both her outer shirt and inner tank top. She felt his rough fingers glide over her abs and travel to the kunai strapped to her waist. She felt him remove it before there was crinkling in the grass. He had thrown it away from her. She whimpered and flinched, head pounding, when she felt his hand on her cheek, fingers smearing the blood.

Her eyes flickered open, eyelids only open halfway. She couldn't even see the mask he was wearing. There was only his silhouette, made by the moonlight behind him.

"I love when they're like this," she could hear him say. Looking away she tilted her head away from him though he just followed, running his fingers through her hair, making her scalp burn. But the way he was touching her felt soothing and relaxing. Absently, she leaned towards him. "So determined in the beginning. Just show them where they belong and they curl up like a little kitten."

"She's going to get it for stabbing you like that," someone had said above her, laughing. She felt her fingers twitch, her body coming back from her daze. It was recovering.

"We'll search her thoroughly when we get to a safer spot," the one right above her replied, still petting her, voice husky and low. "There were more signs of chakra around."

"They disappeared," the other commented. "Maybe they decided to avoid us?"

"Maybe," the one above her replied before taking his hand away from her. Subconsciously she let out a moan, missing the warmth and comfort it was giving her. She felt his arm slide under her back. Quickly, he hoisted her up and over his shoulder. Her head began to pound again as it rolled around lifelessly, making her neck sore. "Maybe not."

Forcing her eyes open, she saw the ground. She listened closer and realized that as they began to walk the other man had taken the lead and the one that was carrying her had fallen behind. At first they had taken their time, walking as they pushed their way through trees and bushes. She stared at the ground, the footprints they were making.

It wasn't long until she saw familiar ground. They were walking back to where she had set up her sleeping bag, most likely to gather her things and perhaps burn them, erasing any sign that this ever happened. She tried to remain limp and fool them into thinking she was unconscious or perhaps so dazed that she didn't know what was going on. Not jumping the gun, she figured she would give it one last shot when they arrived at her things.

As they walked she thought of her future: of her and Sasuke, her children, her home. She thought of her past: wide smiles, chubby cheeks, and foolish hopes. She thought of her present: her goal to find Sasuke, to restore what was, to fix everything. And she'd be damned if she let these pricks take that away from her.

"Here we are," the one holding her said, breath heavy from his injury. She had no trouble looking as if she were in pain for the fact that she really was. Her lungs burned with every breath she took and her head rattled. The world around her was blurry and hazy.

She was set down next to a tree, a little too rough for her liking. A thick branch dug into her back but she let it be. The man who had been carrying her crouched down and pushed her hair out of her face.

"Look who's up," he murmured mockingly. His fingers lingered on her cheek and she let them. Closing her eyes, she groaned. "Poor thing."

She looked up at him and behind, watching as the other man gazed down at her bag, clearly confused. Before she could see what the matter was, the man before her grabbed her chin and forced her to look at him.

"Hey, look at me," he instructed in a whisper. "For the next few days, I'm going to be what's most important to you. You understand that? I have you right in the palm of my hands. Look at me."

She mumbled lazily, staring up into his mask. Inwardly she felt the urge to spit at him, do something. It wasn't the moment, however, and she only nodded, complying as he pulled her forward and laid her on her back.

"We were instructed to bring you back," he commented, hand going to hold the wound on his stomach. She could see droplets of blood run down his hand as he did this. "If we could find you," he added, reaching out and wiping his blood on her cheek. "Look at the mess you made though."

She swallowed a lump in her throat, a chill running down her back.

"If I wanted to, I could wipe you out of existence," he murmured. "They would never know."

Clenching her teeth, she waited. She had been nervous at this point. It was nearly impossible not to be. Not only was there the fear of going back to Konoha, this mad man could possibly kill her, taking everything away. Not today, she repeated in her head. She couldn't die today.

His hand reached her forehead where he wiped away the sweat that had accumulated there.

"Hot?" he asked. "Let's cool you down."

Her fingers twitched, body begging to move as his hand reached down and clenched her outer shirt. With a rip, he had torn it. Her tank top underneath had remained intact and stuck to her from the sweat and blood.

"I could finish you," he replied. "After I've repaid you for this, of course. I could finish you and no one would ever know. Unless, of course, you're willing to persuade me otherwise. But first, we're going to have to knock you out." She began to wiggle but he stopped her by leaning down, his mask to close to her face, further digging her into the fallen tree branch under her back. "Don't worry. We'll finish this in the morning."

He hit her in the stomach with a great force and she gasped, choking on the air around her. She couldn't see his face but she was sure there would have been a smile. He raised his hand, ready to strike her in the head. But a voice had stopped them. She whimpered from relief.

"Something's wrong," the other man yelled.

The man in front of her turned for a moment. "What?"

"Her things are in the bag," he replied.

They all knew what this meant. When they had stumbled upon her, her things had been scattered all around the ground. Someone had found her things and someone had gone through them.

Seeing that they were distracted, Sakura found the thick tree branch behind her and gripped it. She slowly sat up on her butt and the man sensed it. He turned his head to see what she was up to. At that moment, she yelled out and swung the branch, hitting him right in the face.

His head wiped to the side and she heard a loud crack, probably the nose or neck breaking. She hoped it was the neck. He turned back to her and she noticed the impact had sent his mask flying. What she saw truly scared her.

His eyes were dark, same as his hair. There was blood dripping down his nose and running past his lips. His lips were parted, teeth clenched. There was pure rage coming from him and it was all directed on her.

"Bitch," he cursed, inching closer. She crawled backwards until she was pushed against the tree. Her hand searched the ground for a rock, another branch, anything. His hand shot out and grabbed her neck. She gasped as he tightened his grip, cutting off her air. "You're dead."

Before the man could say anything else, there was a big roar. He had let go of her neck and she instantly reached up to touch it. It was sore and tender, bruising soon to come. Sakura closed her eyes as the sound vibrated through her head, causing immense pain. She could tell there was dirt and dust in the air because as she tried to breath, she sucked the dirt in, causing her to cough. Squinting an eye open, she could barely see anything through the thick fog.

She could hear rustling movements and yelling. Once the air had cleared, she stood, leaning against the tree behind her. Coughing, she wiped the blood away from the corner of her lips. She saw the two men who had come after her, already in a fighting stance in front of her as if they were protecting her. But no, they were only insuring their prey. Before them was a fallen tree, cut through the middle.

Her eyes continued to move till they landed on a new man, sword at his side, big grin on his face. And there was something she recognized all too well. A cloak, black and red. Dumbfounded, she was surprised her plan had worked. They had come to inspect, hadn't they? The Uchiha and his partner had arrived. And that's when he walked into view, casual and calm, face hidden behind his tall collar. Uchiha Itachi. She caught his eye for a moment before he looked away.

"I didn't interrupt something, did I?" his partner asked.

"What's your purpose?" the hunter-nin without the mask asked with a hiss.

The large, blue skinned man grinned wider. "Looks like you're having trouble over there," he said, nodding his head toward Sakura. "She doesn't look like much but your face is telling me different."

"Leave," the hunter-nin replied simply.

"I think I'll stay," he said smugly.

The other hunter-nin with the mask snorted. "Don't tell me it's the Uchiha. Uchiha Itachi, right?" he sneered. "Your head is wanted too."

"If you can't catch Pinky over there," Kisame started, "you'd better not even try."

"Why are you so interested?" the one without the mask butted in.

No one verbally answered. However, there was a rustling noise as the Uchiha moved his arm within his cloak then revealed it, only to throw something on the ground before them. Sakura inwardly groaned. It was her forehead protector, the Leaf symbol engraved in metal.

The man snorted. "Traitors will be dealt with accordingly."

"As will spies," Uchiha Itachi answered. She shivered at these words; they were the first she heard from him. His voice was deep and filled her with fright and relief at the same time. It was odd. His voice was exactly how she imagined Sasuke's would be.

They all turned to glance at her quickly. The hunter-nin curious and confused, the Uchiha emotionless behind his high collar, and his partner, Kisame, amused.

"Spy?" one hunter-nin asked.

"She is my target," Itachi continued. She froze at these words. "Leave."

"She is ours," the man replied. She wanted to call the man an idiot. Couldn't he see he was already injured? There was no way he could fight against two Akatsuki. But perhaps they would play the same card. Run not fight. It was the smartest thing to do.

And that was when it began. The one with the mask pounced forward and in the corner of her eye she saw Itachi simply…disappear. If she wasn't so caught up in the moment, she would have paused to notice how creepy it looked. Before she could think of anything to do, she felt someone wrap an arm around her waist and jump into the trees, carrying her along. She looked down at the hand that gripped her and followed it to the shoulder, the neck, the face.

He was still bleeding from when she cracked his nose. Grunting, she began to wriggle in his hold, slowing him down. That was when she heard a loud crash behind her. It was Kisame, no doubt, hacking away at trees. She stilled, knowing he was coming after her. Suddenly, being carried away didn't sound like such a bad idea.

Unfortunately, they hadn't gotten far. The man carrying her was losing energy, having already lost a lot from chasing her and Kisame had caught up quickly. She yelled and ducked when she saw something large come at her quickly. The man holding her jumped to the ground and she looked back up at the tree they were just on and saw Kisame's overly large sword stuck in the tree where her head had just been.

She tumbled to the ground along with the man carrying her. It was her that hit the ground first, her shoulder roughly colliding with the ground. What had made it worse was that the hunter-nin was right behind her and he fell on top of her, digging her into the ground. Her shoulder cracked and she knew it had been broken. Kicking and crawling, she got out from underneath him as he slowly got up, clutching his now broken arm.

"There's more where that came from, kiddies," Kisame grinned, landing not too far from them.

Sakura stood shaking, her muscles and bones aching, begging her to just give up and lie down. And for a moment, she thought about it. But there was no time for that. Instincts kicked in when Kisame jumped towards her. Flipping backwards, she managed to avoid him but he quickly reacted, faster than she could have. He swung his blade and it caught her shoulder, nicking and shredding her skin easily. A huge loss of energy was felt too. She fell backwards, squinting as his shadow swallowed her.

"Finally," he grunted. She didn't know what he had meant but didn't seem to care. Right now, saving her skin seemed more important.

He raised his sword above his head and she thought he meant this to be the finishing blow. And it very well could have been. As he grinned, she closed her eyes, ready for the end. But it didn't come. She heard grunts and groans. Opening her eyes, she was shocked at what she saw.

The hunter-nin had come from behind and done something, perhaps a kick or punch, that sent Kisame's sword flying. She looked to the side and noticed it had been stuck in a tree. Still frozen from fright, she looked at the two fighting with fists. Had that just happened? The hunter-nin had saved her from Kisame's sword, had saved her life. She didn't want to know the reason behind it. She was only glad he did it.

Getting up, she could see the hunter-nin was losing his stamina and the blood gushing from the wound she had given him was worse than ever from the movements he was making. Jumping towards Kisame's sword, she decided it would be best to get that death trap away from the fight. It was his strong point, wasn't it? She grabbed the handle and pulled but it wouldn't budge. Clearing her throat, she began to run her already low chakra to her hands.

He must have heard her struggle to get the sword for she felt him land beside her. Stumbling away, she watched at he grinned and put his hand on the hilt.

"Aw, how cute," he mumbled, pulling it from the tree with ease. The tree groaned before it fell backwards, brushing up a huge cloud of dust. "You want this?" he asked, patting his sword.

She didn't answer only turned tail and run. Someone was behind her and she could hear his panting. It was the hunter-nin. She stumbled into a slow run, her body not letting her go further. The hunter-nin was behind her, leaning on her for support. She felt her eyes burn with tears of guilt and hope. None of this was ever supposed to happen. It was supposed to be easy. Fate should have lead her to Sasuke. Where was he now?

She turned to the hunter-nin and held his shoulders, standing him up. Kisame would catch up soon and what would they do then? She was honestly making this up as she was going, but splitting up would increase the chances for one of them to get away. She was just about to tell him her plan when his eyes got wide and he gasped.

Screaming, she stepped back. He was clutching a kunai wedged in his chest, where his heart was. Covering her mouth, she watched as blood flowed through his lips. He coughed, splattering it all over her. She turned her head when she heard someone step towards her and her heart sank. She couldn't see his face. His eyes glowed red. It was almost like the devil himself. Feeling sobs rise in her throat, she turned and ran.

The trees lined up on either side of her, trapping her within a narrow trail that seemed to go on forever. She kept her eyes straight, tried to keep calm and attentive. But all she could see was a darkness ahead of her, an overpowering black hole that she was heading straight for. Averting her eyes to the side, she caught a glimpse of movement. There was a rustle of leaves but no color besides washed out gray and black. Then it was silent. Still running, she listened to her heavy breathing and clutched her stomach, nausea traveled up her throat. Having lost her breath, she stopped in her tracks and crouched, trying to catch some air.

She looked around. Dark everywhere, completely silent. She blinked when a light had caught her eye. Looking up, she noticed speckles of white, the moon pushing through the leaves. Pushing herself to the side, she moved out of the moonlight and into a shadow. Groaning, she started to push chakra through her fingers and onto her wounds, eyes feeling heavy as a feeling of drowsiness overtook her.

Crouching and hiding within the shadows, she begged her breathing to quiet down. If only she could lose them, she would change everything. She swore it. If she could only live past tonight she would repent for the wrong she did. What was wrong she wasn't sure. But she would find out. She would. She swore on it.

She completely froze when she heard footsteps. Still in her head, she begged and begged. But there was no mercy, she supposed. For even though it was too dark to see her rolled up in a small ball, someone stopped right in front of her. Backing up, she opened her eyes wide, noticing how incredibly heavy they were. Her arm ached, her lungs throbbed, and her head was blacking out.

Before she bid the world sweet dreams, she seemed to have stumbled upon hers for right before her eyes completely shut, she saw red eyes. Red eyes that had to be Sasuke's.


Present

The next morning he had come. Her world seemed to brighten when that happened.

He gathered her into his arms and squeezed her so tightly that she had to nearly gasp for air. Overexcited, he was. Proud to have done such a thing for his friend. She too wrapped her arms around Naruto and held him close when he told her what he had pulled. She would be out of the cell, chakra sealed and privileges gone. But at least she'd be out of this hell. At least she'd be out of this cage. Never mind the wall surrounded the village.

He had managed to get set as her guardian, with of course, a probation officer at hand for when it was needed. But she laughed with him, saying it wouldn't be needed. After some paperwork was signed and the details ironed out, it was well past midnight and already another day. Young and just begun, it offered a chance for new opportunities.

He opened his apartment door to her and she had to steady herself on the door frame as a wave of memories and nostalgia raked through her.

"Come on," he whispered to her as he guided her, arm over her shoulder. "You've have a rough day."

She followed him as he lead her into a bedroom, the only one. His.

"Naruto," she started, turning to him. Her stomach felt sick, remembering all the wonderful moments she had shared with him and all the disgusting ways she had messed it up. Her mind quickly jumped. She recalled another man, arms never around her, but he laid in the same bed as her. Backs turned to each other yet she was always completely comfortable. It was odd how a cold man like an Uchiha could unintentionally spread so much warmth. "I can't--"

"Yeah, I know," he said with a nod. "I'll sleep on the couch."

"No," she started to protest before he pushed past her. She turned and followed him with her eyes as he opened some drawers and pulled out t-shirts and shorts. Grabbing some, he held them out towards her and she took a step closer to grab them. "You've done so much."

He stepped closer to. She looked up and smiled as he flicked away a strand of her hair from her face awkwardly before shrugging his shoulders and smiling. "It's nothing."

But it was. Nodding, she cuddled the clothing close to herself, taking a deep breath as she took in his familiar scent. "I feel awful," she added.

He let his fingers fall from her hair and down to her cheek where he rubbed it with his thumb absently. Smiling, he said, "You should."

She grinned at how real and truthful his response was.

When she had finished changing and crawled into clean white sheets, she started to pray. At first she didn't know whom she would pray to or if anyone would even listen. She settled on praying to every god, thinking that one of them must exist and perhaps one might take a moment to hear her out. She found it hard to feel comfortable under such immense scrutiny.

As she closed her eyes and drifted to a heavy sleep, Uchiha Itachi had just woken up to stomach pains. His face remained emotionless as he coughed silently, clutching his side. When it had passed, he then laid back down and glared up at the gods that he knew couldn't have existed. He cursed his father that was probably watching this, his mother that for some god damn reason must still feel heartbroken about her baby boy. Closing his eyes, he fell asleep under the eyes of no one important.

Naruto couldn't sleep. He could only stare at the wall that separated him from Sakura, the one thing that was keeping him sane at the moment. Though it was only a foot or so of wood and plaster, he couldn't have felt farther.

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A/N: Yay, we're getting deeper into the story and I hope you all like. Uhm, lots of words and jumping all over the place. Please review if you have the time, thank you! :)